Sunday, July 15, 2012

Night Work

In and out of mobile range at the fishing camp, a text message came through from a someone who has been my friend since we were seven years old. She lives in the city five hundred kilometres away and we haven't contacted each other in twelve months.
Springsteen blasting, joyful tears and memories of us and our first tastes of delightful and inspired freedom. Yay! Thank the lord for u beautiful girl & our crossed path.
I'd given her my vinyls when I ran out of record players and started having babies.

I answered her, walking down the hill to get some reception:
How sweet! Had a Springsteen moment myself this week. 

Out at Pallinup fishing. Sideways rain, leaking tent and not a handsome fisheries officer in sight.

Then I went back to the fire and stood with my back to it, warming up from the river chill, still drying out my woolen jumper from the morning's effort. A four wheel drive crept down the gravel track, boat trailer clanking along behind.
"Hello," said Old Salt. "Nine o'clock at night. They're up to no good."
"I'll go down and tell them where our nets are," I said. I didn't want amateurs chopping up the nets and fouling their props in the middle of the night.
Old Salt nodded at me.

When I got down to the riverbank, I walked towards the cars' headlights. Two doors opened and slammed shut. The motor was still running.
"Hello Sarah."
I shielded my eyes against the lights but all I could see was two looming shapes coming towards me. That's when I turned on my head lamp.
"Er. Hello there." Oh boy. Serendipity. Or ... just ask and you shall receive. Or ... trust in the universe and she will provide. Whatever the hippy philosophy, it was cranking because two handsome fisheries officers stood before me less than four minutes after I'd invoked them.

"What are nice blokes like you doing in a place like this?"
"We're heading up to the Paperbarks for a look around," Brad said as he patted the dog and then he asked lots of questions about who was about the inlet. I asked lots about who else was catching what elsewhere. (See, I'm learning ... and Grievous' Bro has lotsa fresh squid by the way). The journalist in me was just aching to jump in the boat with them and go up the river to scope out clandestine poachers. What a great story. But I knew they would say no. Like I have written before, fisheries officers and commercial fishers are the Montagues and Capulets of the southern seas. Plus, I work for a clandestine poacher and that makes the whole scenario kind of complicated.

They launched their boat, strapped on the night vision goggles and started the quietest little outboard motor I've ever heard. I went back to the camp and sent this message to my old school mate, fourteen minutes after the last one:  
Ha ha. You wouldn't credit it but they just turned up. Amazing.

I went to bed. Lay awake listening to the whales and read Rearranging the Dead Cat by Bruce Pascoe. Hours later, I heard them load their boat, no talking, shouting, no clanking of oars and anchors. Even the winch must have been oiled. Their headlights glowed against the walls of my tent as they drove away.


  1. God, how do you stay warm in this weather in a bloody tent. It's bad enough living in a heated house at the moment.

  2. I'm a bit in love with my swag!

  3. Dirt music has fish poachers, although I think you would need to have swum nude to match that.

    1. Okay, okay but I did like that book. And luther knew what he was doing. Swimming in any state at pallinup is just Wrong this time of the year.