Pavle Radonic ~ Skydiving

The neat­ness of Greg’s new digs was sur­pris­ing. At Jackson Street the bed-sit had lacked the room to swing a cat. Here in the Commission place the bed­room alone was larg­er than the whole of the ear­li­er space. On the wall above the couch three long fish­ing rods had been hung, all arc­ing across the span; the longest had to be twelve feet. None of them would have fit­ted under Greg’s bed in Jackson. They had been kept at his mum’s place in Mordy ear­li­er, along with a good deal of the oth­er items that had nev­er been sight­ed pre­vi­ous­ly. A tom­a­hawk here sat on the fridge in the kitch­enette, with­in easy reach of the front door through the open­ing in the wall. In Jackson it had been base­ball bats and pick han­dles behind the door. On the shelf in the kitchen there was a curled pho­to of an unbe­liev­able Greg in his thir­ties with black curly hair and long Latino mous­tache, beside a gal who could only have been the love of his life, Gaye dead at thir­ty-five. At Coffs Harbour Greg had slept a num­ber of times on Gaye’s grave. In Jackson her pho­to had been kept out of sight some­where, unless it had been con­signed to mum’s garage. Eve on the Jackson Street bed was familiar—the fig­ure in that framed pho­to, again not the pho­to itself. Greg told the young Italo butch­er Andrea how Eve’s father had stripped her naked and beat her in the bath with a leather belt. Later when her par­ents had aged Greg had encour­aged Eve to go back to see them while there was still time. The lads had played a pre­lim­i­nary game of euchre with a ten­ner stake. When Greg gave the word after a cou­ple of hands Andrea went to the kitchen to pre­pare the fits, one for him­self and one for Greg. The Broady Mick with four sons split from his wife was pass­ing for the moment; he left lat­er on his bicy­cle to score again, the arrange­ments passed between he and Greg too quick to catch. Without glass­es Greg had need­ed Mick to do him. (Next week Mick would escort Greg to the Optometry College in Carlton for his eye test and new glass­es.) With a belt wound around his bicep Mick had asked Greg to clench his fist while he searched for a vein on the out­side of his fore­arm, the same place Andrea used in the kitchen. Mick’s first probes with the point of the nee­dle missed the mark, suc­cess com­ing with a lit­tle spurt of blood. As before the hit, Andrea remained talk­a­tive after­ward with­out any hint of the rush. The only change in Greg had been his pac­ing about the liv­ing-room and three or four times when he went to resume his seat on the couch there was hes­i­tan­cy in the last low­er­ing in place, as if he had been uncer­tain the sup­port was still there. There was too some strict­ness in Greg after­ward in his man­ner of speech, a kind of qui­et delib­er­a­tion. That dawned lat­er think­ing about the wit­ness­ing in the room. Greg had come across ten dead bod­ies in his time, most of them ODs. One mem­o­rable among them that Greg had men­tioned before was the chap found one lunchtime in per­fect busi­ness attire stretched out behind the fence at Jackson Street by the rub­bish bins. Andrea had OD-ed him­self four times over the jour­ney from Italy-Spain-London and here. Before he had got on again he had made 110 sky dives, an accom­plish­ment duly acknowl­edged by Greg. Odd was one sto­ry Greg had nev­er told before of a break-in at a phar­ma­cy on Toorak Road. The job had been done in com­pa­ny with the famous Shuggie, a litre bot­tle over of Charlie it might have been the pair cut out of the safe with oxy. Shuggie the look­er who had every­thing, with the gift of the gab to boot, win­ning girls in any pub he entered. Afterward they had holed up for a week in the motel that had stood beside the squash courts on Canterbury Road with a cou­ple of pros. Jackson Street was a lit­tle fur­ther up on the rise over Fitzroy Street; it had been wis­er to keep away from home just then, or else Greg may not have tak­en up the place at that stage. Possibly there had been pre­vi­ous men­tion of this episode, buried and swamped in Greg’s rat­tle. Some of the streets in Footscray and around Vic Market found exam­ples of the same kind of sur­vivors as the old guys that night at the card game with the nee­dles, fig­ures who had endured tri­als and twists of fate that had marked them and dulled the lights of their eyes. In the air­brush­ing of the sub­ur­ban set­ting, even in Spotty and the wider for­mer­ly indus­tri­al Inner West, the bat­tles were hid­den and the sol­i­dar­i­ties notice­ably more flim­sy.

St. Kilda, Melbourne 2020

~

Australian by birth and Montenegrin ori­gin, Pavle Radonic’s eight years liv­ing and writ­ing in S‑E Asia has pro­vid­ed unex­pect­ed stim­u­lus. Previous work has appeared in a range of lit­er­ary jour­nals and mag­a­zines, includ­ing Ambit, Big Bridge, Citron & Antigonish Reviews.