Tinnies of Carlton Mid in the afternoon sun. We sit on the bessar brick stairs of the demountable, a discarded dog house sits on its side beside us, a ripped up roll of carpet moldy and flea bitten leaning against it. A concrete slab is in front, 2 by 2 serving no real purpose; black skid marks in figure eights and nines from the boys that previously called this home. They were long gone now, eighteen and nineteen from up the mountain. Destined to be deadbeats, have kids with dried green snot on their noses and tinned spaghetti stains on their shirts, a misso with big stretch-marked knockers who used to give great headies back in the day but ends up not going anywhere without her black knee length leggings that make her arse look like a pair of decomposing grapefruit.
I was there when one of them almost lost his foot. He was adjusting the tractor, its arms in the air, bucket standing to attention. He pulled a pin out that he wasn’t supposed to and the whole thing fell on his gumboot. A deafening scream, a trail of blood all the way to the first aid kit, the unrolled toilet paper scarlet within moments. In the end the AI glove – the glove that goes up to the elbows up a cows arse during artificial insemination – was all we could do for him until the boss turned up to take him to hospital. Strawberry conserve over his smashed foot to the shins in the plastic, the gloves fingers splayed out like cheerios. Serves him right for munching on hash cakes before shift though aye.
The newcomers to the demountable were a breath of fresh air at first like anyone was. Any newness, any change from Josephine with more gums than teeth who quit farming briefly to become a cleaner and then came back with twice the vendetta. Mousy blond hair down to her apple waist that ended in a rat’s tail collecting some for Ron on her toilet breaks I bet. Or Janet with the barbed wire tat around her bicep who worked like a dog just to keep the kids fed while her fella reclined on their busted upholstery with a charred bong to his lips. He’d hurt his hand during a work accident, Work Cover decided he didn’t have to work again and began paying for his mull.
And Brent was a great guy. He showed me how to make a cow fart out her side once. He stabbed a biro into her gut and the stench that came out could have killed a lion.
“Bugger’s been eating clover again. Makes her crook everytime.”
He worked through his own heart attack once apparently. Cows weren’t gunna milk themselves.
Everyone there was owed something by the world, they all knew best, better than anyone, a chip on their sun spotted shoulders – what in the fark are you here for? I appeared to make a mockery out of their livelihood, their only choice.
Anyone new was sanctuary and so Nathan and Tiff were wonderful to me just for arriving. Just for being new. Five kids before she was 27 the trooper, pink trucker cap, racer back singlets tight enough to show what the fluctuations of her belly had done. Her father had been in jail she told me, most of her life. As a little tot she had visited him and was able to recall it, the smell of it. The look of the other blokes, rock spiders and such, the five day growth and green etchings all over their skin.
“What was he in there for?” I asked cos no one else did.
Nathan liked to dye his hair copper with bleach for the toilet, shaved the sides, loved his Bundy rum. Fed it to the kids and they all got a taste for it, liked it more than the apple juice in their poppers. Got kicked out of the pub a lot. He’d start blues; puff out his faded wife beater to whatever cunt looked at him the wrong way, legs wobbly, cow shit on his jeans, ice tinking in his glass.
And so the sun is replaced with a sting as it fades. The shit on our skin is stuck to the little hairs, feels like concrete, the sleeves around our wrists smell of milk and grass burs are stuck in our socks. Tiff is putting tea on inside, clinking in the kitchen, the smell of burning snags, pink trucker cap drifting in and out of the window frame . Nathan is talking about the paddocks, a slur, he is hitting the piss hard now because he’s got an early in the morning. Their youngest leans in a nappy against his dad’s leg, head right back, emptying out the can of Bundy with both his little hands.