through the hotel window, mick’s $20
Richard ‘ Mick ‘ Trevalleyen* hasn’t bought a beer in the Australian Hotel in Ballina since 2009.
Skinny, black and without teeth.
Skinny and hard and very fast in a fight. Too fast.
You’ve all seen those Antakiripina kids playing Aussie Rules up in Darwin, how they float over the ground to the bouncing ball and gather it up without losing a running step – well Mick is like that when the local white lads think he’s too pissed to fight back. He has the eye in a storm has Mick, and very hard knuckles.
Now he has been banned from the Aussie for two years for brawling. Just him mind, and just for fighting back. The Slipway won’t have him inside either. Ballina is a small town.
Mick has taken a likeness to the drink, like a lot of Ballina men do, and he likes the first one early. Unfortunately the current lack of availability of both the folding stuff and consequently the commercial product has determined that he lose a little dignity in his morning routines.
We were drinking in the window seat of the Australian Hotel about 9.30 am this day, as usual, and we watched as Mick slipped past the corner and stop to ferret for anything of value from the waste bin by the side of the road.
Some men pillage these bins with both hands, citymen mostly, others use just the one hand. Like Mick, like he had recently lost something of secondary value that may have been picked up and put in there by someone just passing by.
Just picking over the top layer in the hope of a small find.
A grey-haired man rounded the corner and stopped when he saw Mick at his work, and he turned to the wall of the hotel and took his wallet out of his back pocket. Lifted out a note. Turned back to Mick and shouted ‘ Hey ! ‘
We could watch, we could hear.
Mick shifted up from the bin and looked towards the challenge as he snafted out a sticky jack of snot from his nostril with one finger – into the bin – then he looked harder at the man who had come up close. Mick with his cloudy eyes and lifetime of scars, his square shoulders, his readiness.
The grey haired man smiled and spoke, and he reminded Mick that thirty years ago he had borrowed twenty dollars from him when things were tight and they were drinking together up at the Great Northern at Byron. Earlier days, both of them young slaughterhouse hands at the time.
Been looking for you ever since the greyhead said, and here’s your money back mate – thanks for the loan.
They shook hands.
Mick watched him walk away, and shouted at his back ‘ I love you. ‘
* not his real name.