You may recognize this story from this blog, over a year ago. Since then, it’s developed to a publishable state, been published, and been forgotten. In the absence of any other content, I’ll be running this in installments on here over the next couple of days…
We’ve been hammering at the Outback highway since dawn. Red dust and spinifex grass run to the horizon in every direction, forming a long ribbon of alien terrain under a technicolour blue sky. Craig hasn’t said a word for the last six hours. He’s already played both his Elvis tapes and is saving Jerry Lee Lewis for the all-night drive back. On the way home from a shooting trip you’ve got to drive all night so the meat doesn’t spoil.
We turn off the paved road into dirt tracks that lead us deep into the bush. Soon, we pull up to a long corrugated tin shack graced with a concrete slab porch. Two giant refrigerators sit out front like fat metal marshmallows dotted with faint crimson stains.
“Go on, pick your room, mate, just not the one with me cooler in it,” Craig orders. “I brung that up special.”
My bedroom has a low metal cot and a foam mattress. Red dust covers everything: my bed, the table, the toothbrush and wadded-up tissue the last guy left behind. A table scarred with the cuts from a million knives, stained with oil and dried blood, sits next to a dusty generator out on the front porch. Imagine an abandoned prospector’s cabin on Mars, or an axe murderer’s holiday home.
“Craig, this is so cool,” I shout. “It’s the most godforsaken place I’ve ever seen in my life!” I mean it with the sort of artificial exuberance my friends back home in Richmond use to describe roller-skating, duckpin bowling or their supposed love for Journey. You know the tone.
Craig grunts “Call it what you want, mate, but it’s me fuckin’ life, and I like it.”
Embarrassed, I stutter out an apology. I later learn it’s impossible to hurt a ‘roo shooter’s feelings with a bunch of tiny words. And as I’ll discover when I chop the paws off of my first kangaroo, its blood spraying into my eyes and open mouth, my own life had already become more different than I could ever have imagined.
Richmond, Virginia is the sort of town that’s friendly to boredom and torpor. For a couple of years after college, I scraped by on nine bucks an hour, did my laundry at my parents’ and claimed to be a writer and musician.
After a major lifestyle hemorrhage wherein I realized how closely to squandering my twenties I had come, I donated my drums to the thrift store, sold my records and my van and bought a ticket to Sydney.
Within an amazingly short amount of time, I had a girlfriend on the other side of the continent and one of the most beautifully isolated cities in the world. It was a dream come true—my frustration and loneliness suddenly replaced with the picture-book perfection of life on a foreign beach with a gorgeous lady by my side.
Then I ran out of money.