There are about six outside eating tables at the Doma in Federal NSW, a sushi cafe inland from Bangalow and overland from Mullumbimby, a stones’s throw from Byron and upland from Ballina. East of Lismore. North from Alstonville. A little south west from Brunswick.
Most everyone comes to Doma for a feed at some time: hippys dippys wantalots and generally speaking the washup of anytown anywhere on the far north coast.
In the queue in front of me is a thin, dark-eyed young woman wearing a plague of tattoos, behind her a man whose belly overhangs his work shorts, behind him a young woman and her daughter, a baby girl about two years old, just able to waddle away from mother and over to the steps that lead down to the outside tables.
‘Don’t go down there, hon,’ mother calls and the baby waddles back and grabs a handful of her skirt.
I’m sitting in a back corner, waiting to pick up lunch.
That’s me, I’m the bloke who likes sushi every other day.
Mum moves up a notch as somebody gets served and baby comes back my way, heading for the steps again. On the loose. She looks at me, I look back, she smiles.
There’s a small open cabinet down here and a bowl of stuff for anyone who wants something to spice up their Japanese lunch, sachets of this and that, a bowl of ginger. She, the baby, reaches into the bowl and takes what her fingers are able to grasp then heads for the steps.
And after a shaky descent she sits on the third step down, lays the colourful sachets beside her then chooses one to put into her mouth, the green one, and chews on down.
Mother is ordering as a hippy child with skin like alabaster joins the line and the baby pouts up sour as the sachet she’s biting into squirts a little soy sauce into her mouth. She puts it down and chooses another sachet, the yellow one, and lifts that to her mouth.
Mother is pushing all her credit cars through the gizmo, trouble there, and the alabaster is beginning to fret at having to wait so long as two men of suspect longings join the line and I can’t leave this kid doing what she wants to do so I get up, walk down the three steps and gently take the yellow sachet from the baby girl’s hand.
‘You don’t want to do that,’ I say.
The innocent one looks at me again, not alarmed, just curious.
This one was the wasabi.