Excerpt: ‘Trash-Man ♥︎s Maree’, by WP Newnham

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Photo by belpo. Image reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.

This excerpt comes from ‘Trash-Man ♥︎s Maree’ by W<J>P Newnham, which won the second The Lifted Brow & RMIT non/fictionLab Prize for Experimental Non-Fiction. The full version is published in The Lifted Brow #31.


We forget what we are capable of in our youth

We forget with age until a sudden reminder

A smell, a look, a familiar tag

Spray-painted on the back alley Dumpster that reads:

TRASH-MAN WOZ ‘ERE!

I was transported:

Back in the day: Darwin, 1987

Back in the day………

Could it really be him?

I hadn’t seen either of them

In years and had just assumed the default of

Either dead or in prison but here,

Here was fresh paint and a tag that looked

Just like it did back in the day…

I am transported:

Back in the day: Darwin, 1987

Back in the day………

……………….

….

 

 

>Upstairs at the Vic

‘Weit-Im-Bat Tumaj Wak-Wak!’1

I wasn’t even sure that Maree had spoken out loud at all—it was as if the words were only in my head as I looked at her to see if her lips had moved and then around and over my shoulder as the black-clad bouncer gave us the sneering once over and then continued his patrol. We weren’t allowed inside where the old school punkahs circu- late the tepid humidity; well Trash-Man and Me were but Maree, being Larakia Mob, had to stay out on the veranda or in the public bar or risk being eighty-sixed out into the street.

We were on the lookout for a mark, tourists specifically, to run the old dip and rip on: we were short on funds and it was looking like rain. We needed shelter, and that took dollars, unless we Submitted To The Salvos and the lock-in segregated dorms where the indignant are tossed and turned in a poverty of dreams-

 

Trash-Man Said: “Fuck that Bro; let’s go skin a lizard.”

Maree said: “Naaaaahhhhh Weit-Im…….

Sabi That Mob? Tourist…….”

She indicated with her chin towards a group of young backpackers moving to the veranda, laden with Cheap-Happy-Hour Drinks. They looked the sort: dreadlocks, tribal tattoos, T-shirts emblazoned with reggae flags and five-pointed foliage like handprints in green. Eyes up she indicated go and we took our positions; the prey clearly identified, we stalked unseen until suddenly-

We were amongst them-

 

>>Posam2

We roamed the park, a ragtag collective black white and brindle et al; Hungry Gutted Mob Too Ey? Too much goon and no food as the Salvos won’t feed you if you are drunk. The Shops in town are shut, and with no money anyway we would have only got kicked out or worse, locked up, if we hung at Uncle Sam’s3 looking to humbug a feed.

We roamed the park.

Maree [finger to lip and palm upright]

Trash-Man and I frozeStopped at the fig trees and after

 

Stooping and gripping

A yonnie4 held

Pistol gripped she

Stopped

Listened

Looked aimed and;

The stone wizzes in the dark.

THUD!

Posam5: A large Northern brushtail possum laid stunned and senseless at the foot of the Fig tree. We moved in for the kill. There was a shrill call echoing in the trees as the other possums warned each other as to danger; a kittenish mewl answered:

Maree [finger to lip and palm upright]

Trash-Man and I frozeStopped at the

 

fig trees and

Answered the mewl with a chittering

To which a joey

Detached itself from its stunned mother

And moved, all the while chittering

Towards Maree who scooped it up

She held it to her breast and

With her free hand, she wiped the sweat

From both armpits onto the Joeys’

Head and snout.

She made a pouch in her shirt:

Joey nestled at her breast.

“Babai Belang Me Oredi:

Naja-Wan Mami Dere?

Bi-Ni-Jim-Up!”6

I wasn’t even sure that Maree had spoken out loud at all—Trash-Man euthanises dinner with his blade. We transported ourselves back to Lameroo Beach where Trash- Man and I built a fire in the lee of our boulder and Maree cooked dinner, first searing and singeing the fur away before roasting the meat on a bed of embers. The meat is sweetened by the possum’s diet in the fig trees. Maree shared it amongst us according to need and kinship:

Posam nestled at her breast.

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W<J>P Newnham has been published in numerous national and international magazines. Three of his short stories—Merry-crack-mass, Gr-easter and El-greco—have been traditionally published (one chapbook, two ebooks). He lives in Brisbane with his partner and two Blue Heelers.


1. Waiting because of crow – Kriol-English Dictionary [KED]

2. possum [KED]

3. www.truelocal.com.au › Takeaways › Darwin

4. Stone for throwing

5. Vulpecular arnhemensis

6. “Baby belongs to me. That other mother there? End it!” [KED]