Jack Batstone is at the roulette table with a plug in his ear and hardly any hair on his head – sitting there bent over an A4 pad and scribbling calculations so dense, so miniature they reminded me of priests and temples and The Holy Writ of Mysteries etched in arterial blood by a starving zealot hallucinating in a stone room chuckled out of a granite cliff a thousand feet vertical above a river centuries dry in a country that knows no rain.
Jack Batstone, last seen haggling with Scott Dillon in his Wellington Street shed about the price of a water-heavy, dinged-up balsa pigboard.
Last spoken to in the Astra Hotel one Saturday morning when the girls would sling an old sheet behind the bar to catch the uncounted money and daytime drunkenness stood for joy.
Graduated out of Waverley College with a perfect Leaving Certificate Maths III paper and naught else but memberships to the School of Arts in Bondi Road and the South Bondi Boardriders club.
Now sitting on a stool in Jupiter’s Casino watching the luminant roulette scoreboard above the wheel that has red-eyed the last dozen winning numbers and every time a new one is added he bends to his pad and adds another five lines of minute script and every twenty minutes he bets and even when the croupier pushes over another stack of chips Jack is figuring newer moves.
Winning the money is nowhere near the spike of getting the sums right.
The plug in his ear plays Koyaanisqatsi: he lives in a backstreet motel in Broad Beach and sometimes he will take home a leftover hooker when the table turns sour.
Jack is nearly seventy-five and his two stale rooms ache with dead air and neglect.
He sits on on the crusted sheets of his unmade bed and risks another rebuff, this time from an old friend whose only intimacy will be a handshake goodbye.