cliffy’s dogs and family business.
There’s a legend up here that had some young hippy-hair throwing out baby clay-balls from his van as he toured the back roads between Federal and Mullumbimby in the sixties.
He fitted about a dozen hooch seeds into each fertilised ball and chucked dozens, no, hundreds of the potent little missiles here and there along the Coolamon Scenic Drive. That was Derek, the yank, who also invented the name for the road because in his day it was one cool fucking scenic drive, man, but if only you kept your eyes on the side of the road.
Now his name is Cliffy and he lives south of Wardell in about five acres of rusted sheds, old brick homes, twenty-year parked cars and massed fields of blossoming Kaffir lilies growing under the shade of his mulberry trees. These lilies he sells from time to time from his home down there, up a long narrow drive and past a pair of ridgebacks chained to either side of the track.
Another dog is running loose beside the car, a mottled half Dane and half Ridgeback with one albino eye and a big mouth, more dogs are nearby and the air is full of their voices but they are out of sight, and there is no way Cliffy I’m getting out of this car until you walk your frail old bent body amongst these hellhounds just to show us that they respect old age and old friends.
Cliffy is about eighty. His legs look like something left too long in the sun holding up tomatoes. Up close his eyes are dim, and rheumy, and if we could piss on each other’s boots like we used to fifty years ago in the back garden of the Great Northern it might take a while.
There is a new mob of green parrots arrived in his trees lately and one of them is keen on him, flies down and past his head when he’s talking to a customer, inches close, then glides up onto a branch closeby and has a natter. I’m talking down the prices for a gross of his flowers and he’s talking to a parrot in a tree.
Such a pretty girl, flashes of underside colour like a dancers’ petticoats when she flies overhead, the temptress, and Cliffy long past being tempted.
The homes that are around us – the just visible brick and tin dwellings with busted-up old cars half hidden under weeds and flower pots and all parked around the house walls – have unshaded windows all blank and sightless dark. Like a drowned mans’ open eyes.
Granddaughter in that one he says, pointing to one, and a sister over there, pointing to another, and the dog’s barking never ceases, like some kind of warning to the old man to shut up.