I took the fillets out of the fridge, peeled some off and threw them into a plastic bag lined with spelt flour and salt. I rolled the fillets around inside the shopping bag, spilled the fillets into a hot pan full of spitting olive oil, and threw the plastic bag and leftover flour into the bin. I wondered what he’d think about that last bit. Fresh limes squeezed over sizzling fillets. A sprinkle of salt.
The last time I saw Krispy he’d earned his moniker with his demeanour and daily damper bowl. That was ten years ago. I saw his car yesterday, pulled over on the track while I was looking for karri hazel sticks to hold up the purple beans I’d planted. He was looking at his phone at the ‘you’ve got range’ spot.
I flew past him, recognised his red beard and intense orange/crazy glare, stopped and did a whining reverse until I was back alongside his car window, grinning.
He jumped out of his car. His Bali shirt was unbuttoned and his chest and leg hairs covered in fine black sand. He gave me a huge big smelly hug, which was odd but welcome because he’d always been so shy.
He’d been on a trek from the Chesapeake Road to an isolated lake where he reckoned he’d seen more birds than ever in his life. Camped overnight. Walked back the next day to his car. Someone who’d been looping Australia for decades, recently living in the Daintree and eating red bellied snakes.
He’s a wanderer and a true bushy. I’ve never worked out his past, only his present. That’s how it’s always been with Krispy. You see him. He’s there, on a beach somewhere where you are camping and you eat damper and trench-baked kangaroo tail with him and it is excellent and then, after he’s smashed up the guitar with the twisted neck and thrown it in the fire and disappeared down into his peppermint hollow behind the beach, you won’t see him again for years. I’ve never known him to have a dog, although he likes dogs. He collected boats and canoes and beaches instead. There is something quiet and hurt and hermitty about him. I’ve always liked him. He likes to keep to himself.
I asked him back to my house for a feed and a cup of tea.
I cut up chilli cheese into cubes and looked at him.
“Has it got chilli in it? Then, nah,” he said.
“How about I just give you the knife and some tomatoes and veges and stuff.”
He nodded and cut up the tomatoes into chunks. He started on the fennel bulb. My bread had gone mouldy so we didn’t do bread. I squeezed a lime over the frying mullet and sprinkled on some more salt.
“Where’d you get that mullet? You been netting?” He shouted, not used to the timbre of his own voice.
“Shush Krispy!” I said.
“Ah. Sorry mate. Been in the bush too long. Stuff just comes outta me mouth.”
I picked some coriander and rocket from the garden and put them onto plates. Balsamic. Pepper grinder. Cutlery.
“Oh.” He said. “I’ve know how hungry I am now, smelling that fish cooking. Been eating raw nuts for days. Best energy count per gram, raw nuts. But dehydrated! I can just feel me getting hydrated again.” It was hot and he took another swig from his hot pink water bottle. “That was a huge walk.”
“One of your headlights isn’t working, just in case you enter the metropolis,” I said. “The passenger side one, I think.”
“That’s good to know mate. Thanks.”
I swear when I put down that plate of fresh mullet, tomatoes, rocket, coriander and fried fennel in front of him, Crusty wolfed the whole lot in twenty seconds flat.
I looked at his empty plate.
“D’you want some more?”
“I’ll wait a while,” he said, “see how it goes down.”
Maybe I won’t see him for another decade. Who knows.