Almanac Fiction – Daz Cooper Chapter 1: Summer dreams

Roll on summer, roll on. Roll on summer, roll on.
This beach has seen it all before. Summer rolls on.

Morning cloud cover is burning off; it’s gonna be a hot one.
Daz leans on the treated pine fence.
There are a few here, he thinks. At the beach.
Not even lunchtime.

The treated pine feels smooth under his palms. He fingers strands of galvanised wire, slowly rusting despite the galvanising, which act to hold up the fence. Daz plucks at the wire. Thwack. Thwack. He can’t see her.

He stands taller of a sudden; yawns. Adjusts his sunglasses, there at the top of the cliff. A light sea breeze shifts his fringe. He could be in a movie. Or in a music video.

But Daz is not in a movie. And he’s not in a music video. He’s standing here, alone, in the summer holidays at the beach. It could be worse, he thinks. (Where is she?)

Daz squints behind his sunglasses. It’s gonna be a hot one. He leans right into the treated pine rail now; and scans the beach population (who is here?). Local campers are scattered on the sand below; in the water. He spots Johnno and Amy. Terrible couple. A bit older than him. Worlds away, socially. Headstrong cock of a man. Apologist of a woman. What does she see in him? (“Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street.”) He spots old Nick the widower, sitting still, radiating perspective. And kids dart around. Always the kids.

It’s a Thursday. You wouldn’t know it. But Daz knows it, for Thursday means a cricket training night. It will be taking place at the club, which right now is about 80km away. And will be a selection night.

A fly disturbs Daz’s equilibrium. His gaze momentarily leaves the various blues of the sea, the sky, the horizon and he locates the fly. Whack. A March fly. (That was lucky. Little bugger.)

At this moment, Daz is a very long way from cricket in the suburbs. In a literal sense, he needs to establish a way to travel to training, avoid his neighbour who is among the top five most annoying living creatures in the world and decide whether to stay up in town for the Saturday (game day), or return to the beach in between. In a mental sense, Daz is ill-prepared, for he thinks of nothing but her. Was there life before her? Oh, boy. What was his suburban life, anyway, if not something to escape?

It’s been five days since first sighting her. But still. The days are long. And nothing slows a clock like longing.

In fact, on this very morning, Daz has made this walk from his tent to the beach here, for the one true purpose of spotting her. True, he had picked up a stick found on the track. True, he had played his full repertoire of front foot and back foot shots while climbing the sand dune path. But his mind hadn’t been on the job. (She is magnificent).

A sea breeze lifts four gulls, floating over the low dune tea trees. They seem to hover, legs akimbo, wings bent slightly. Daz imagines flying. How good would that be?

A pride of young fellas approach Daz’s vantage point, chattering obscenities. They’re his age, he’d guess. But the talk is all conquest and exaggeration. Daz turns his head to the left. Away from the steps. Away from anything to do with these guys.

It’s been an ordinary season. Opening the batting in the seconds. A couple of 20s. A 34. But not much else. He’s averaging 13.26.
I’ve been batting well, he thinks. Staying in. Doing the team things. But then, 34 shouldn’t be the highlight of a summer. Things will improve.
Daz nods to himself, thinking of that knock in beach cricket last week. Or was it the week before? Gong had been bowling smoke. Sure, Gong had been using a tennis ball in the campground. But that pull shot. How good was that?

She is so beautiful. That hair. Her walk. The way she plays with her little brothers. Her laughs. Oh, she laughs. And the way she brushes hair from her eyes. Yes.

Daz remembers that pull shot.
Back, swivel, crack.
His feet. How it all just seemed to happen. It was automatic. Like Ricky Ponting. Like he was Ricky Ponting.

And just like that, a new club was in his golf bag. A new string was on his bow. From now on, he had the weapon to fight fire with fire.

A city family bustles down the sand and shell path. Oblivious to their own eccentric appearance. They have driven down for the day; fresh out of the car. Sneakers. Socks. Pale skin. Boogie boards, enormous bags, paraphernalia. They’ll be splashing and cavorting all day, heading home later tired and burnt.
“Sam!! Give it back! Mum, Sam took my spade!”

That first pull shot had been no fluke. No one-off.
Since that first one, Daz had been seeking opportunities like the sea eagle seeks the barramundi. Ever watchful, ever hopeful, ever ready to swoop.
Crack! goes the rubber ball, skipping quickly, rising fast from the water’s edge.
Crack! goes the tennis ball over the communal brick toilet block.

A freighter ship looms into distant view, making for the city.

But that highest score of 34 Is not to be denied. Daz reckons that he’s probably wasting his time with the cricket. There’s a tiny and diminishing flame holding out for Australian selection. And then she’s there. In his mind. Again. Ahhh.

Today, Daz tells himself, today I will meet her. Today I will talk with her. I’ll meet her. We’ll meet each other. We’ll meet and I’ll say something entirely memorable. Something that anchors me with affection forever in her mind.

A bearded man carrying a drinker’s stomach climbs up from the beach with effort. Drawing level with Daz, the man gives him a nod. “It’s all in front of you, sunshine.” And on he struggles.

Daz can’t spot her here on the beach. She’ll be at her camp. An uncharacteristic decisiveness grips Daz in the wake of bearded guts man. (If he can do it, why can’t I?). Daz will head back there now and do it. Just say g’day. (It can’t be that hard. It’s all in front of me.)

The sky above is a piercing blue. Crowded with dreams. And there in the bright summer sun, a boy’s dreams of Boxing Day Test selection are swamped by a boy’s dreams of being known and even of being loved by a girl he’s yet to meet. Gulls waver in the unsteady breeze. This beach has seen it all before. Summer rolls on.

Roll on summer, roll on. Roll on summer, roll on.

=
To

Chapter 2: Back to school
Chapter 3: Swimming sports
Chapter 4: Cricket training, dreaming
Chapter 5: Hip and shoulder

About David Wilson

Weary driver; prone to moments of blindness. Noodling away at The Footy Almanac since 2013. Twitter: @e_regnans

Comments

  1. DBalassone says

    Wintonesque.
    Well played ER. Love the Joe Jackson reference (the story of my youth too).

  2. Thanks very much DBalassone.
    Gorillas remain everywhere. Incredible.

  3. Loved it ER. There I was on the beach at Port Noarlunga, dreaming of Dougie Walters and Gillian Hart, when you threw in a discordant Ricky Ponting. Bloody whippersnappers.
    Well at least that shows they are universal dreams. Loved the way the narrative darted and wandered.
    “Radiating perspective”. Grand – you should be a writer.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Superb ER. Can so relate to Daz.
    Nothing like realising you can play the pull shot. Took me until my early 20’s. Wished I’d discovered it earlier. Probably look for it too much. But there’s not many better feelings than smashing the ball through mid wicket with a horizontal bat.
    Will there be a part 2? Hope so.

  5. Thanks PB.
    That’s very generous.
    Yep, a needless pop culture reference dates it.
    That’s very helpful.

    G’day Luke.
    It’s still a great moment.
    The pull shot.
    I found it one summer.
    And first game back after the break, played one in a game.
    So rapt.
    Four to square leg.
    Bowled next ball.

  6. Keiran Croker says

    Great piece ER.
    The pull, hook & cut were the stalwarts of my openers armoury. Not much between point and mid on on my wagon wheels.
    Always awaiting that opportunity to drag one from outside off through mid wicket. Waiting on opportunities….

  7. Ah, a boy, the beach, cricket and a girl. That’s summer. The pull shot is the best rush for a batsman, and the inswinger which collects middle and off for us gentle medium pacers. Cricket and dreams. Perfectly matched. Because every season between eight and nine hundred young blokes can realistically hope to play in the AFL, but only a dozen can don a baggy green.

    I enjoyed that Dave. Thanks.

  8. A girl. Always a girl.
    And the beach, the beach.
    And of course cricket, which lends itself so well to fiction.
    Great stuff, e.r.

    “Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street” is one of the grey lines in popular music.
    Along with “She’s filing her nails while they’re dragging the lake.”

  9. Paul Kelly once said, in an interview, ‘First comes sport. Later on there is sex, and love.’ Daz, on the beach, is contemplating all three, of course. A touch of Tim Winton, a slice of Steven Carroll, a dose of Paul Kelly, a lot of David Wilson. Good stuff.

  10. Thanks all.
    Opportunity knocks.
    Opportunity always knocks.

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