Geoff Sinclair’s Home and Away Games- Rd 14

ROUND 14

Adelaide versus Essendon

Saturday, July 3rd., AAMI Stadium, Night

To: hoodoo.lab@gaga.gk.com

Subject: Missing you, and Go hoT Pies

My dearest Labrini

Howdy Hoodoo

Dear Labrini,

I wish you were at Huntleigh Mews right now.  I will definately be at the airport to pick you up next Monday, fit ‘n’ Well to welcome U home.

I am in a very emotional mood.  (See above.)

You will be pleased to know that your Magpies beat the Swans up in Sydney, making it nine in a row for you guys against this club.  I have read some suggestions that the Woods are still a chance to win the flag this year, because St. Kilda beat Geelong in the wet at the ‘G’ on Friday night.  The logic of this escapes me.  But it probably means the door is open for them.  Anyway, I hope not.  I am being honest, dear Houdini.  (Small joke, acceptable to you I hope.)

If C’wood win the premiership I will emigrate to Paraguay.  (Who are doing v. well in the world Cup, as opposed to Greece and Australia.)  Taking you with me, of course.  We will purchase a small farm, you can teach the tango and we’ll get Foxtel for the footy.

I’m sorry I got anxious in my last email, about your new friend Hilary, whom you are very enthusiastic about.  First I thought she was a girl, Hilary being, in my all be it limited experience, a girl’s name.  (A friend of mine in Beaumont has an Aunty Hilary.  Or had.  She’s dead by now.)  But then you tell me he’s a bloke.  That’s okay, increasingly as he’s gay.  (Are you sure?  Some kick with both feet.)  I’m trying to be glad that you find this Hilary hilarious, intelligent, compassionate and attentive.  (He sounds a bit like me, only gay.)

I am going to watch the Bombers play Adelaide with my mate Geoffrey Jones.  None of the other members of The Mob wish to go.  (Do they know something I don’t?)  The game is on Saturday night.  We are staying over, in a hotel supplied by his generosity.  It works well.  I will return to Melbourne on Sunday, and await your flight anxiously the following day.

I have had many interesting experiences associated with my work since your departure, which I long to pillow-talk with you.  Such as the time I rescued two young men from the clutches of a pistol-packin’ demented house-mate.  (All in a days work.)  Also I have been up to Tallerack – with a young woman from the apartments whom I am mentoring, sort of, you don’t know her she’s slightly crazy because her father committed suicide, so she told me – to check out the lambing and other things.  The Carters are doing a great job of looking after the place for me.

Your Magpies are playing the West Coast Evil this coming weekend.  I think you’ll win easily, unfortunately. We play the Adelaide Crows.  (See above.)  The other night, me and Tommy watched the video of our 1993 preliminary final win over the Crows, when we were down 7 goals at half-time.  You would have enjoyed it.  (Small joke.)

When Timmy Watson kicked that last goal, we went almost off our heads, like two kids.

Heaps of love and kisses

Hurry home, Houdini

Affectionately,

Assistant Manager (Outdoor Operations), yr mate Peter Rabbit

. . . / / / . . .

The swimming pool heater is on the blink.  Mrs Averling is stir-crazy because she has been taking a daily dip on account of it being good exercise.  (Through the water splashes and condensation on the window, she looks a bit like a seal.  I think it’s the expression of intense concentration on her face while doing the breast stroke, plus the swimming cap, which is very retro in style.)

Tommy took the bad news to her re the heater being unable to heat.  He told her the water was still okay to swim in, just so freezing cold no-one in their right mind would even think of going in.  Sometimes Tommy lacks finesse, not to mention people-skills.

Arnold the pool man has ginger wispy hair, he’s whippet thin and is into tattoos in a big way.  His arms are covered, and there’s even one on the side of his neck.  I can’t make out what they are on account of the wrinkly skin and the thicket of spiky hair all over him.

I take him to the heater, on level 5 of the carpark.  “What’s the problem?” he asks.

“It doesn’t work.”

“Since when?”

“Tuesday, I think.”

“How doesn’t it work?  Is there any gas getting to it?  Have you seen water dripping?”

He stops giving me the third degree and takes the front panel off.  He pokes around for about 20 seconds, and announces that the thing is stuffed.

“How old is it?”

“Not sure.  As old as the apartment block, I guess.  I’ve only been here a few months . . . ”

“Sure it hasn’t been replaced?”

“No.”

“Did you know you’ve been using too much chlorine?”

“No.”

“It’s corroded the guts out of it.”

I’ve seen another tattoo on Arnold’s hairless calf when he knelt down to rummage in his tool box, and I grab the chance to vary the conversation.  “You’re a Saints man?”

“Am I ever?”  He points his screwdriver at me.  “Was what they did to Steven Baker ridiculous or fucking ridiculous?  How many umpires are there on duty during a game?  There’s three field, four boundaries, two goalies and an emergency umpire sitting on his freckle, right?  Makes ten, doesn’t it?  Did anyone notice anything going on between Baker and Steve Johnson?  Did anyone think to report them?”

I shrug.  “Guess not.”

“How ridiculous is a 9 week suspension with a guilty plea?”

“Pretty harsh.”

“Would I disagree?  And is Riewoldt ready?  No way.”  He throws his screwdriver back into his toolbox.  “I won’t have the parts for this until Monday.  That okay?”

“Sure.  I’m a Bomber man.  Going to watch them in Adelaide.”

“Road trip, eh.  Reckon you’ll get flogged?”

“Hope not.  Long way to go for a flogging.”

“Want to know what I think?”

“No.”

. . . / / / . . .

This is my first visit to the AAMI Stadium in Adelaide.  This is the first time I’ve travelled to a football match in an aeroplane.  Normally I travel by car, train or tram, or I walk.  The only exception I can bring to mind is when Tommy the Coach decided the Beaumont team would travel to Balagundi – the longest trip for our club, about 120 kilometres – by bus.  He was hoping it would be good for morale, a team bonding experience, so we gathered at the clock-tower in the main street at the crack of dawn, because the seconds’ game started at noon, and climbed aboard Bill Suter’s school bus.  (Some didn’t get there and, of course, had to make other, urgent arrangements, vehicle-wise.)  Regrettably, the idea didn’t have the desired effect: ‘Gundi flogged us and on the way home we drank to excess and Bubba Porter started doing gymnastics and pulled the handrails out of the ceiling of the bus executing a western roll.  Plus, unbeknownst to our club officials, several girlfriends joined the playing group for the return journey, and it was a hot scene across the back seat from about the half-way mark.  Plus there were that many toilet stops during the final stage, we didn’t get home till about ten o’clock.

It was a good idea, never to be repeated.

Also, this is my first time of jumping a taxi queue.  I am normally a dogged and patient queue person.  (The English say they invented the queue.  Okay, granted, but I say we refined it to its current iconic status.)  At the Adelaide airport, Jonesy simply flagged down a taxi which was approaching the official area, leant inside the driver’s window and passed something to the driver, and bingo, we’re en route.

We received indignant looks from the queue people, many of whom were  wearing Bomber accessories.  I experienced a spasm of disloyalty.

Thus were we whisked from the airport to the ground, and I use the term “whisked” advisedly because I feel, in a minor way, a bit like a celebrity today.  I have not given a press conference, signed autographs or said “no further comment” to anyone, but I have been in an Audi smelling of newness, I have been airborne for an hour, I am on foreign soil, and I have been whisked by Abdul in his taxi.  I have no idea where this ground is in relation to the rest of the city, or indeed, the rest of the world.  Abdul drove us rapidly through suburban streets and took a heap of short cuts – which he explained to us in Arabic – and for which Jonesy paid handsomely.

Anyway, I’m here at the AAMI Stadium, and a glance tells me my fellow Bombers are pretty thin on the ground.  There’s the cluster of the cheer squad up behind the goals to my left – I bet they came by bus – and I see a few others in red-and-black, dotted amongst the sea of red-yellow-and-blue, or whatever violation of colour taste this mob wears.  I am deep within enemy lines, and Jonesy is even deeper, scavenging pies and beers from the local population.

In fact, here comes the man himself, clutching our first-quarter supplies.  (I’m drinking today, to be sociable.)  He cops a few comments from Crows supporters as he sidles along the row and plonks himself down.

He’s like a pig in swill, is Geoffrey Jones.  From the moment he picked me up outside Huntleigh Mews in his new Audi wagon – black, like a souped-up hearse – he has been totally in charge of proceedings.  He, or his secretary, has arranged all the details – the plane tickets, the seats at the ground, our accommodation for the night.  He’s making the decisions.  He’s paying for everything, it’s his party.

I get sauce for my pie, which I didn’t order, but I’m not complaining.

There’s a bloke a couple of rows in front of us who seems to have taken a shine to us.  (Maybe his eye has caught Jonesy’s thousand-dollar leather jacket.)  He’s thin-faced, as bald as, goatee-bearded and sports rings all over his head – in his eyebrows, one in his lower lip and a row along the top of an ear.  Very artistic, for a regular dickhead.  (A big one in his nose is all that’s missing.)  He leers at us, metallurgically, twirls his Adelaide scarf like he’s a sexy dancer and wants to know why we’re wasting our time coming to the game, because we’re going to get smashed.  He says it like he’s joking, and looks around for audience reaction, and sure enough his mates – 50 or 60 in the seats around, at a rough guess – oblige.  There’s neck-turning in our direction, plus a lot of grinning, such as you’d see in a circus when the Jack Russell disappears into the plump lady’s bosom.

Jonesy’s on his feet instantly, gesturing with his plastic beer bucket: “We’ve come to enjoy your company, pal,” he says.  “The travel agent told us the best seats were near you blokes.”

“Sit down,” I hiss, very quietly, tugging Jonesy’s expensive jacket.

“That’s good,” says Mr Body Piercing.  “And watch those pies, you fellas.  They sell special ones to Victorians.”

Laughter ripples around us.

I’m quietly confident we’re going to do well against the Crows.  The fact that virtually all of the tipsters in the newspaper – including the Drover’s Dog – have picked the home side is a good sign.  That sets the scene for an absolute boil-over.

I tell Jonesy I reckon we’ll be 5 points up at quarter time.  He looks at me like I’m seriously retarded, and he’s my carer.  He tells me the only chance we’ve got of winning tonight is if a virus spreads throughout the Crows’ players, or a massive fog descends over the ground and the game is abandoned.

And I thought Tommy was the Prince of Pessimism.

When the Adelaide players run through their banner, there’s a tremendous roar, and whooping and hollering and a mad flapping of flags and the snap-snapping of thousands of Adelaide palms, like the unloading at a fish market.  There’s conversations in very loud voices flying around between different Crows supporters that are for our benefit, such as one about the last time Essendon played on this ground in last season’s elimination final and got walloped by a mere 96 points.  It’s a very clever strategy on the part of the home crowd; very sophisticated as befits the City of Churches.  It has the desired effect – I feel extremely irritated.

When the Bombers take the field, the noise level registers as “polite” on the Richter scale.

Let’s go.  Game on.  Uncharacteristically, I yell my tits off to get proceedings under way: Go Bombers, stick it up ’em! (I have a coughing jag at the end, which reduces the threat impact.)

In fact, that’s my one-and-only foray into crude barracking because they are all over us from the first bounce.  They absolutely smash us, all over the ground.  It’s a nightmare.

The Crows’ pressure on us is immense.  We seem to have no idea what to do with the ball when we get it except get rid of it as quickly as possible, often to a player in a worse position.  We have Michael Quinn, an Irish recruit, playing his first – and possibly last – game.  He gives away a 50 metre penalty for seasoned campaigner Goodwin to goal easily for Adelaide.  Then we give away another tiggy-touch-wood 50 metre penalty – the umpiring insects are against us as well – for another goal.  50 metres is a HUGE penalty for a minor, inadvertent infringement, and the AFL must do something about it.

Tonight, if possible.  Like, now.

There’s goes a soft free-kick to Kurt Tippett, and another goal.

Every time Adelaide score a goal, Mr Piercing in front of us turns and holds both his arms out by his sides, with a derisory look on his face, like he’s pleading for an explanation about how simple it is to give us a hiding.  It’s extremely irritating, and his team give him the opportunity to perform like this seven times in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, we kick one goal.

Jonesy has given away exchanging banter with the local populace in favour of condescending smiles and gestures suggesting helplessness.  (Shoulder shrugs, raised palms, cocked head.)  We decide not to get more beer, because the thought of walking the gauntlet up the aisle takes our thirst away.

It gets worse when the second quarter gets under way.  They get two goals immediately, just like that – bang, bang – so the idea of a turn-around is snuffed out before it is born.  Patrick Ryder gets a goal, and the crowd around us boos.  (Generous souls, aren’t they, I suggest to Jonesy.  Quietly – my confidence is as low as the team’s.)

There is a period of about 10 minutes in this quarter when we stem the bleeding, but they still kick five goals to our one.  Jonesy and me search for words and come up with “tough to watch”, “humiliating” and “an embarrassing humiliation”.  But we’re determined to stick it out.

“We’re not leaving until the final siren,” he says as the half-time siren puts a temporary halt to our suffering.  “And I’m going to get us a beer to celebrate us being 10 goals down.”

Gallows humour, I think they call it.

Our third quarter is better, insofar as the avalanche of scoring slows.  Ryder battles hard for us, as does Lovett-Murray, Watson and Welsh.  But their tall forwards kill us, especially Tippett.  They get three and we get two, so Jonesy and me can stretch our legs and look Mr Piercing in the eye.  (Fleetingly.)  We resolve again to stick it out till the bitter end.

I know when we crack.  It is now, half-way through the last quarter, when Essendon have just kicked a goal, and the goal umpire’s decision has been overruled by an insect boundary umpire who maintains the ball grazed the post.  But I don’t know why.  After all we have gone through, after the pain we have suffered, after learning to cope with Mr Piercing and his mates for three-and-a-half quarters, I’d have thought we would be true to our resolve to stick it out.  But we don’t.  No words are spoken, Jonesy and me just look at each other, get up and leave to a chorus of derisory cat-calls.

Jonesy stops at the end of the aisle and flings one last one back to Mr Piercing.  “Sixteen premierships, pal.  You can’t hold a candle to that.”

It’s desperate, childish stuff, and gets howled down but we feel better for it.

“They’re just not as mature about their footy over here, are they?” I say as we head for the exit.

. . . / / / . . .

I stand at the window of Room 705.  It’s more spacious, more soulless and probably more expensive than any hotel room I’ve ever been in.  I’m wishing I was back at Huntleigh Mews, shooting the breeze with Tommy, running through his match statistics – beginning with a defeat of 84 points –  instead of standing here looking across the city skyline for churches, and only seeing office blocks, and car lights crawling along the bottom of the concrete canyon.

I hope the Old Bloke has remembered to put a sign on the door of the pool.  If an elderly or diseased person jumps in, the freezing cold water may cause a severe shock, causing death, or legal liability.

Jonesy is on a mission.  He’s goading me, and he wants a result.  He has had something smouldering inside him since our reunion started and he sees this as his big opportunity to set it alight.  I’m at his mercy.  The two of us in his hotel room, seven storeys up, nowhere to hide.

It’s been building.  He’s been making references to Linda all day, little jibes and jokes along the way, and he’s really got heavy since we arrived at the hotel from the ground and ate our dinner in the hotel restaurant.  Eventually, he lays out his cards: why did I attached myself to “that girl”, Linda French.  I believe he wants to degrade her, to disrespect her, and I’m trying to steer him away, to deny him the opportunity to do so.

But he’s determined, and copping a hiding at AAMI Stadium and leaving early hasn’t improved his frame of mind.

“She was my wife, Jonesy.  You don’t get much more attached than that.”   And then I provide some biography in the hope of diverting him.  “After we finished school in Beaumont, we went our own ways and I thought that was the end for us.  But we met up in Sydney in 2000, during the Olympics.  Completely by chance.  She was there, studying nursing and doing bar work to pay her way.  She was a fully qualified nurse when she left.”

Jonesy leans down and extracts a couple of cans of beer from the bar fridge, and throws me one.  He settles on the bed, plumping the pillows, leaning against the bed-head.  I’m happy to stay by the window, pretending to be absorbed in the panorama.

We rip the scabs off our beers.

“I saw her in Sydney too, once,” he drawls, and takes a swig from his can, following it with a satisfied sigh.  I can see enough of his face to register his smile, which carries a threat.  But I’m not frightened by what he might be preparing me for; I am anticipating it, and just wish I were a million miles away.  It makes me sad that he’s going to say what I expect him to say.  “Do you want to know the circumstances?” he asks, quietly.

“Of your meeting with her in Sydney?  No, but if you must tell me, you must.”

He rushes straight into it.  “I’m not sure it was only bar work that got Linda through nursing,” he says, plucking at the bed-cover.

I shrug.  “You’re wasting your time, Jonesy,” I say.

I just want to end this crap.  I turn and face him.  “I don’t know why you are going on like this, mate.  Look, I’m grateful to you for what you’ve done for The Mob this year, and what’s happened today, the flight and now this . . . room . . . I could never have done it on my own, but why are you dragging up this shit about Linda.  You can’t offend me.  I’m not going to fight you, or start howling, or storm out . . . Me and Linda had everything sorted.  When we hitched up, we left a lot of stuff behind, me and her, and started afresh.”

“Look, Rabbit, I’m not saying . . . ”

“I don’t care what you’re saying.  We had no secrets . . . ”

He smirks.

“. . . and no regrets, so leave it out.  Stop dwelling on it.”

My theory is that now he’s worth millions he thinks he can do or say what he likes.  He’s the only ordinary bloke that I know who’s come from nowhere to be filthy rich, so I’m not going to generalise about money corrupting people.  But this bloke, jumping the taxi queue, insulting my late wife . . . it’s anything goes.  In the Beaumont days, he was pretty ruthless towards some people, the weaker, younger ones including me, and he had a reputation amongst the women, but in that small community – especially the football club – there were checks on his behaviour, blokes who would take him to task if he stepped too far out of line.  Plus, because he ran a pub in a small town, he had to keep himself reasonably nice.  But now, he’s worth squillions, and he’s his own man on a big, anonymous stage.

I need to get out.  “Why don’t we go to a film?” I suggest.

“You’re kidding.  I’ve got our entertainment arranged, mate.”

“Oh yeah?  Whatever it is, I’m getting out, for a walk,” and I bang my half-empty beer can on the sideboard to prove it.

I haven’t even got my shoes back on when there’s a tap on the door.  Jonesy bounces up off the bed and answers it.  I can’t immediately see who it is, but a yellow, red and blue scarf appears over his shoulders, and a woman’s voice growls out, loudly “Go Crows! Eighty-four points! Yoh!”  Then there’s the two of them, stumbling backwards and falling in a giggling tangle on the bed.

Jonesy eases the woman off him, and they stand looking at me, grinning like idiots.  “Rabbit, this is Lorraine.  Sweet Lorraine.”

“Hi.”

Lorraine has tugged off her woollen coat and thrown it on the bed.  All that’s left is a sleeveless black cocktail dress, as short as, and the Adelaide scarf, which she’s fiddling with.  “Rabbit?  Jesus, do you have a lots of kids?” She looks at Jonesy for approval, and gives a squeak of a laugh.

I personally don’t think it’s all that funny.  “It’s Peter, actually,” I say, for the record.

This causes an exchange of smirking between the boss and his girl.  She nudges Jonesy with her hip.  “Peter Rabbit.  Oh fuck, you do pick ’em Geoffrey.”

I’m totally pissed off, but not at Lorraine.  She’s only doing her job.  She has yellow tints in her hair, and she’s short and slim with an uncomplicated, almost housewifey aura.  The tiny dress, the language and the extravagant twirling of her scarf are part of the routine.

I’m pissed at Jonesy, for assuming I’m going to be a neat fit for his plans.    What he does in private is his own affair, and if he needs to cheat on his beautiful, intelligent wife with Lorraine . . . then I guess he does.  But he can do it without me as an audience.

While these thoughts are racing through my mind, Lorraine has made a beeline for me, skirting the beds.  She does a raunchy flip of the scarf over my head, croons “Go Rabbit” with her low narcotic voice, and pulls me against her for the grind treatment.  When I don’t respond, she’s miffed, and pouts, “Cold fish.”

“Who does she remind you of, Rabbit?” Jonesy wants to know, grinning his supercilious grin.

It takes me a second to register what he’s implying.  I can hardly believe my ears.  “What did you say?”

“He wants to know who I look like, Rabbit.  Nicole Kidman?”

A flood of white-hot anger sweeps through me.  I grab the beer can and fling it at Jonesy.  It misses and cracks against the wardrobe next to the door.

I give Lorraine a decent push on the way, which sends her sprawling, and I’m around the beds as quick as.  I let go a round-arm right at Jonesy’s face.  The bastard is quick enough to deflect it with his arm.  The momentum carries us into a furious rocking clinch, and we end up on the floor.

I’m totally overwhelmed by the need to inflict injury on Geoffrey Jones, but it ain’t easy.  He’s a tough bastard, and clever.  We roll over and over, me hammering away at his head with one fist and trying to get a grip on his neck with the other.  He gets some space and uses a knee to drive against my groin and ribs.

We crash around between the bed, the bathroom and the fridge, not a huge area for two grown men totally dedicated to hammering each other.  We swing fists, we knee, we gouge, we grunt, we curse.  I taste blood in my mouth, and I don’t think one of my eyes is working.  My rib cage hurts.

Then a tsunami swamps me.  My head is drenched by a gush of freezing water.  An ear goes numb and silent, and water rushes under my shirt collar.  I realise I have released my hold on Jonesy, and I wait for him to hit me properly, but nothing happens.  He is on his back, coughing and spluttering, wiping water out of his eyes.  I get off him, haul myself to a kneeling position and look up.

Lorraine is standing over us, holding the electric jug.  “Two Essendon fuck-wits,” she mutters, tossing the jug onto the bench with a massive clatter.  She grabs her coat and scarf, flings opens the door which bangs into the top of Jonesy’s head with a sickening thump.  “Ring me next time you’re in town lover.”

She snaps the door for one last, nasty little thump on Jonesy’s head and says, as she leaves, “Don’t bother with the Rabbit, next time.”

Comments

  1. John Mosig says:

    Stunning. Surely a chapter in a book – “Peter Rabbit comes to town”.

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