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a short wick

11 am. Today.

By the counter, a big man.

Beard / shorts / boots / singlet / open shirt – both hands on the counter as the old one roams up with his can of coke, morning paper and three bottles of no-name chardonnay at six pops per each which is better than anyone gets at Dan Murphy in Lismore. Rely on that.

There’s a vintage hidden in those plain-labelled bottles, the sommeliers hunt them down.

The young girl behind the counter is enduring her first day with the shop’s decrepit scan software and two soft calling mobile phones.

Pulsing.

The big fellow looks over as the paper goes slap, the tin goes clack and all three bottles go plonk, plonk, plonk on the counter top.

‘Bit thirsty are you, mate?’

He says, and looks at me with dull inattention.

This is up from Byron, the Federal shop: Al has sold a book and disappeared with the takings. I’m ready for this bloke. Time to go fishing.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I’m just sayin.’

‘I’m just asking, what do you mean?’

Dull inattention to full beam searchlight eyes in three seconds.

‘Jesus Christ!’

Now he looks away, at the counter and his pile. The girl is working at it, them, one by one.

‘No need to bring him into it.’

He slowly turns his big angry head and gives me the two seconds of a punching man’s warning.

But what the fuck, he’s double my size and I’m double his age.

‘This is your conversation mate, but we do things differently up here.’

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