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guns on river street

There were two of them, both men, both wearing white shirts and dark blue slacks, polished shoes – no ties – lanyards around their necks and each had a holstered Glock 22 .40 caliber semi-automatic ten-shot pistol hanging off his belt as they walked past me and into a cafe.

Big blokes. No-nonsense. But with guns?

It’s 12:30 pm in Ballina and a bloke’s sitting on a seat outside the frock shop next to the cafe and waiting on the little lady to buy a blouse when he sees these two lads coming by  .. so he waits for the biggest of them to emerge from the cafe with a meat pie in one hand and macchiato plus cream in the other and points at him with his right-hand forefinger like it’s a pistol barrel.

The gunman stopped dead. Waited.

‘What’s with the gun?’

.. pause

‘You mean what sort of gun?’

‘No. What’s with the gun?’

‘Meaning what?’

‘Well,’ sez I, ‘it’s lunchtime in River Street Ballina on a sunny day, and you two blokes are walking around wearing guns. Howcome?’

For that I got a half-shrug.

‘Tell me,’ sez I, ‘do you feel any different when you walk around without a holstered gun hanging off your belt?’

‘Not really.’

He seems like a good sort of bloke, even though he’s eight-foot high, weighs 120 k’s, looks like he could run fifty miles without raising a sweat then shoot ten people dead in rapid-fire auto mode.

I had to ask.

‘So who needs shooting around here?’

Another shrug.

‘Terrorists, armed robbers – that sort of thing.’

Admittedly, Ballina has had a few unnecessary deaths lately, a fistfight gone fatal, two blokes hitting a drunk drunk way too hard for his poker machine winnings, a drive-in jewellery shop smash and grab. I mean, what regional town doesn’t have its local dramas?

Add to that his coffee’s going cold and I know he’s had about enough of chatting with some unshaven old codger with uncombed hair and wearing a pair of very old thongs and who has nothing to do all day but ask strangers a lot of silly bloody questions.

About that time the little woman exited the frock-shop with a good-sized load of merchandise bags. Saw me talking to a man wearing a gun and stopped halfway out of the door. Probably thought I’d been sprung for growing all those illegal dandelions up on the farm.

That’s when the big fellow told me he was part of the Correctional Services Tactical Squad. Said he had to wear the gun at all times when he’s on duty.

Even when ordering a pie and coffee to go on River Street in Ballina on a sunny day.

I watched him walk away.

He was swaggering. I guess the weight of a Glock does that to a man.

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