Dusk. The easing of summer. The footpath is covered completely in smashed gum-nuts and bat-crap. Suburban pulchritude: a eucalyptus tang and the fruity smell of shampoo.
George the Greek is in his driveway, sluicing down his tinny.
The whole river, bank to bank, is visible from the top of the hill. Glimpses of cars on the other side, stripped of sound.
It’s utterly still. Pelicans stretch and settle on the lightpoles, articulating the last of the light through their pink bills, faintly glowing. A bike wheel pokes out of the mangrove mud.
Wasn’t there yesterday.
An enormous motorhome hulks on the very edge of the jetty, its bulbous white bonnet looming over a frail couple. They’re fishing. Metal chairs. Hats.
Lazy bastards. Might as well sit in the thing and fish out the bloody windows.
Closer though, and I can see heaps and coils of clear tubing tumbling out the van door. One end slithers across the stained jetty and straight up the old woman’s nose.
The man in the hat looks up at me.
You should have a rod.
Yeah? Got anything?
Not really. Just tiddlers. She got a leatherjacket.
He angles his thumb slowly toward his wife. She smiles at me. The tube moves up and down. She’s wearing slippers.
S’in the bucket, she says. Not much of a fish though. Bit small.
Hat-man cuts in,
If we don’t get another one to go with it, we’ll chuck him back in. Too much work for one little fish.
I peer at the fish in the bucket, its crescent ribbon fin quietly pulsating, waiting for a partner. Breathing.
I never realised leatherjackets were so pale, I say.
There’s a smattering of bronze speckles on its back, almost alien in their symmetry. The fish slots perfectly in the yellow bucket, nose to tail, going nowhere.
Beautiful aren’t they? Hat-man says.
I nod, slowly, and head back up the hill.