Cup Day

 

by Andrew Starkie

The Retreat beer garden roared when they jumped in the Cup.  Stubbies saluted the air.  Smoke from the bbq clouded the TV screen.

 

By the time the field had gone past the post for the first time, some had returned to their huddles and beers.

 

The rockerbilly band were standing in front of me waiting for their late arvo slot.  The female lead turned her back completely on the race.

 

‘I was chased by a horse once,’ she informed everyone.  She had bright lipstick on her teeth.

The bass guitarist nodded.

 

‘Never forgiven them.’

 

‘I’ve never ridden one,’ the slicked quiff added with a slurp of his pint.

 

I drifted off when the field was in the back straight.  Cup day is like Christmas or the grand final.  I go all reflective.  I think of past Cups.  What was I doing?  Where was I?

 

I recalled warm, anticipation filled Cup eves, helping dad with the butcher shop sweep.  Lying on the lounge room floor, leaning against dad’s big shoulders, pulling names out of a beer box.

 

Mrs Harrison… she’ll like that one.

 

Mrs Lee…. ooh, good one.

 

Murph from the fish shop…. no hope!

 

In ’83, Brother Nangle – Don’t tangle with Nangle – put the tranny on the shelf inside the classroom window and we caught the closing stages.

 

Kiwi’s gunna beat ’em all!!

 

The caller’s voice shook with the enormity of the run.

 

Earlier that year, the same window shelf was covered in ash the morning after Ash Wednesday’s bushfires had turned Western Victoria red then black.  I could never work out how – the windows had been closed all night.  A chill that went through me.  I never read an article or watched a news report from Black Saturday.

 

I returned to the present with the field entering the home straight in a V-shaped formation.  Jockeys looked from side to side and lined up as if in an equestrian event.  Half the field could’ve won it.

 

In the end, a flared nostril got it and the beer garden roared again.  Except for two blokes under the screen who didn’t budge.

 

Later in the front bar, Mick Thomas’ mandolin spoke of love left behind and tall ships fighting rough seas in search of the Great Southern Land.

 

I walked home at the end of the day.  The Sun awoke from a long slumber and gently stretched her long arms.  Sydney Road was a colourful, rattling gorge.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Andrew,

    I miss the Retreat. A wonderful pub.

    Thanks for the read.

  2. pamela sherpa says:

    Beaut article Andrew. If only Cup day was a holiday everywhere in the country. I had to work but managed to flick on the radio and listen in.

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