I would love to see every young person in Australia have a year off alcohol.
Sydney summer blowfly buzzing lazily among the vertical blinds.
And he is sitting and dreaming of what has become and what he wished for when once a boy.
It is hot as Mike Walsh jokes with Burt Reynolds on the TV trying to convince another corralled American movie star how damn good Sydney really is.
The Midday Show a cooling sauce to the baking oven he sits in.
‘I’ve been meaning to get down there for years.’ Burt mumbles in his best Smokey and the Bandit drawl. ‘Peter Allen keeps telling me how the kangaroos hop down the suburban streets.’
He blinks and tries to laugh at Burt and Mike but it is so hot.
His Sydney summer in the suburbs is melting streets, sweating factories and red, rattling trains.
The beach and the Sydney Opera House is a postcard away and he cannot afford the stamp.
Queen Elizabeth’s smile mocks him.
Still a convict.
A train goes past the sheet iron, back porch swirling the dust as it settles on the sleeping dog in the yellow yard.
A tennis ball wrapped with red electrical tape.
A boy’s Slazenger cricket bat leans on the red, brick dunny at the back.
Flies inspect the yellow grip and they fly into the shadows.
A younger fly loses its way and gets through a fraying hole in the fly screen door.
Down a shrouded corridor, the hall carpet worn in the middle, like a path between sandstone rocks.
The little, black fly finds its way to the lounge room and a waiting sandwich.
Kraft cheddar cheese, Meadow Lea margarine and white Tip Top bread congealing together.
Next to the man’s tapping fingers, wedding ring, blisters and rough chewed nails catching cracks.
‘Don’t they know how hard I work?’
Dust on the fake gold, picture frame of her and him.
Brunette hair parted in the middle.
Her grandmother’s wedding dress.
A teenage memory before her swollen belly emerged.
Their gorgeous baby boy but the beer and the fighting stole her smile and broke her heart.
Two kids smiling meekly under a billowing dress during better times by the water at Sussex Inlet.
She staring bravely and he, somewhere else.
Bingo and sermons at the Catholic Church.
‘Two fat ladies – 88.’
Priests fiddling with altar boys and altar wine.
Games of Monopoly and Scrabble.
A pack of cards.
Chipped Waterford crystal tumblers.
Watching his father’s shadow in his angry, raging heart.
His last slap jolted her enough and it shook him to his core.
Closed fist into her right breast, where their daughter had suckled.
‘You fat, sad, gutless man.’ she said. ‘I loved you. I stood by you. Even when your sister said to run’
Too many tears cried.
The well was dry and his last shred of pride gone.
Her gentle spirit battered by an open, calloused hand.
The Daily Mirror is turned to page three and folded on the lounge.
A picture of a blonde in a white bikini holds a flag and a can of beer.
Australia day tomorrow.
Smoke and mirrors.
The weekly wage spent on greyhounds and horses, trying to win back a promise this tired man has never known.
And he is alone.
For good this time.
She left with the kids back to her Catholic Mum and Dad.
They can’t understand.
‘Till death do us part. He will stop my love.’
“But he will kill me Mum.”
The Catholic wedding vows mean nothing and she dare not tell the school.
The prejudice oozes from the polished, wooden floors of the Nun’s office.
Christ’s message of love shrouded in black robes and a bonnet.
‘Who is she to judge?’
Vows of chastity to a God born in a Jewish desert far from the white, Australian sun.
He can see one of her hairs on a cushion at the end of the lounge and he tries to wish her back.
But how do you tell someone you love them when you cannot love yourself?
How do you ask for forgiveness when the promises become a curse?
So he goes back to the pub and the long bar and beer and his mates where he forgets, and the blonde, brassy barmaid looks at him with forlorn longing hoping that he may be different.
Different to the man that hit her last weekend.
Bruises fading under Best and Less briefs.
So, here he sits in his chair in the lounge and the crumbling, mortgaged shack.
Watching the Midday Show.
His thinking jagged.
Like his life.
Swimming in fantasy trying to connect to his heart but the words don’t match the sentiment.
They jumble and collect in his chest like a jigsaw puzzle turned upside down on a tie dyed, shag carpet.