everyone’s a copper these days
The Salvation Army depot backs onto a one-way laneway off Carrington Street. No cafes here, no Thai-food take-aways and no dress shops; just a narrow alleyway of shuttered doorways and loading docks. Graffiti slashed everywhere, layers of amateur paint hide the old bricks and all the windows are barred with iron.
Any commerce is done at night.
The Salvo bay is open and Frank, Mick and the Owl are sitting on crates inside, waiting for whoever to show up and unload their boxes and bags of dusty books and old clothing, battered utensils, fractured vases and ornaments, chipped dishes, mismatched cups and saucers.
They watch a grey Subaru come up the laneway the wrong way, stop and park outside. Then another car rolls up the other way and stops across the way, a blue Honda. The Honda driver waits for the Subaru driver to get out of his car before winding down his window.
‘Mate,’ he says, ‘no cars can get by with you parked there.’
The Subaru pops his trunk, looks at the Honda then scopes down and back the alleyway.
‘Then you’d better move yours,’ he says as Frank comes out wheeling a bent-up Woolworths shopping trolley.
Frank is a long stringy piece of work, about sixty plus with tattooed arms that brush his knees, unwashed hair and a desert-dweller’s beard.
He and the Subaru start unloading old books into the trolley. Eric Ambler, Chris Bonnington, Donald Westlake, John Banville, John le Carre, Tim Cahill, Richard Price – they all go in, some unread. A few 1st editions. The Fall of Singapore. The Story of Killer Caldwell.
Remnants of a library.
The Honda is unsettled. He’s parked outside his own bay and one-way isn’t two-way here. So he persists.
‘Mate,’ he says to the Subaru, ‘this is a one-way street!’
Inside, Mick and the Owl are all ears. Frank’s holding back a smile.
The Subaru drops his boot lid, looks over at the Honda again.
‘I’m only going one way.’
Then he helps Frank in with the trolley.