The twin cab ute cuts through backroads,
dodging and not dodging wallabies
on the way to a small
where everything tends to be loose, occasionally violent,
and familiar. There’ll be dancing, life.
We’ve already started drinking.
Helen’s behind the wheel.
I once had an affair with her.
She says little, just laughs with the rest of us,
while we go through our routines of
motion and nowhere.
Egg stirs Joe about being injured all the time.
Each one of us takes turns joining in.
“You played, what – three games this season?”
“Made of Lego.”
“What’s your ambition for next year? Seniors? Reserves?
Two games in a row?”
Joe won’t be swayed from listing
“I kicked a five against that top team,” he insists.
“Before you did your ankle…” Lythgo gets into him.
Somehow we start talking about
how bad or otherwise our dads beat us.
Mine only clocked me twice, so
was the least.
Lythgo says, all dry and awkward;
“I swear, the happiest day of my life was when
I figured out I could run faster than my father…”
We piss ourselves!
It’s only 10 o’clock, but as far as lines go, we know
nothing will top it.
Not one of us had a bad father.
We were ratbags, when we did cop one we were
gagging for it.
There’s no complaints,
yet none of us would do it
to our children.
Not that we have any yet.
So we cruise, winding tracks looking for distractions,
that don’t end with the local
Lythgo’s mood fluctuates. He’s only a few days
out of hospital
from when Rodey shot him with an
for farting while he was trying to sleep.
“You serious?” I say.
“God he shits me,” Lythgo moans a little.
The pellet bounced off a rib into his gut,
could have gone through kidney or liver.
He tells me he’s lucky.
Rodey will probably be there tonight, drinking.
Him and Lythgo will share an awkward beer.
A few laughs, resentment.
The gravel track coughs us out on the main road,
we need a piss stop so Helen pulls over.
Egg and I fall out as if our doors are
Joe stays in the ute.
“Give me the footy,” Egg says, when he’s done,
but Joe won’t let go of it.
“Give!” Egg insists.
Lythgo has the best bladder of all of us. His piss goes forever
while Egg and I lob kicks
through the pitch back at each other.
We laugh and drop a lot and hold onto a few,
and chase one onto the road just as the only other car
all night is passing.
He stabs one that bounces off my chest. We laugh more,
then he roosts one up.
It catches the moon,
three-quarters full, all dented and perfect,
before sliding down by what’s left of the Milky Way.
In that moment,
out from horizons and ute headlights,
I can see the ball,
and silver-lined rolling paddocks,
and the ti-tree filled boggy marshes,
and old wooden cattle run
just past the intersection.
Can hear the hoot of a
lone barn owl,
the otherwise still.
In that moment I’m not in my 40s,
and don’t feel awkward and alone on a mountain.
I don’t have to yearn for romance.
I already have it.