Sunday, April 28, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why you should leave your child on an island

When I was sixteen and desperately vacillating between Bananarama and Bob Dylan, my Dad suggested we should kayak from Emu Point to Breaksea Island. It may have been because I was the oldest child/icebreaker/every parent's freakouter -  or maybe part of the fitness training for the Avon Descent during a drought of white water down south. Not sure. Probably all of the above, bless him.

Anyway, we set off from the fishermans' jetty in the early hours while the water was still glassed off. He had one of his friends travelling too, so there were three of us. We paddled through the channel and into the Sound, along the rocks below Mount Martin and then out to Gull Rock.

By the time we arrived at Gull Rock the swell had come up and I was exhausted (fucked). Dad has this theory about body trauma that he picked up from his army days. If you are in great pain but have no available roadside assistance, then you meditate on the pain, give it all of your attention until you can formulate it into a shape. Then give it a colour. So you have a throbbing, red triangle, right? Make that red triangle the whole existence of your pain. Now, visualise changing the triangle into a circle and change the colour to blue.

It works. It does. But that day I had no visible bullet wounds nor shrapnel. I was a very ordinary, adolescent wreckage on that rock-of-seagull that is called an island. We shared some boiled eggs and water, then slid off the rocks into the sea and set out for Michaelmas and I was already hurting. It is a surging, often nasty channel between the mainland and Michaelmas Island, fraught with swells that roll in from the south and a cranky back slop. When we made it to Michaelmas, I saw him make an executive decision to leave me there.

"We'll go on to Breaksea and come back for you," he said, and I nodded, glad.
Dad and his friend walked their canoes through the water until it was deep enough for them to climb in. The last thing I saw of them was their saggy-balled underpants wriggling into the cockpits of their sea kayaks. They wove their way around the rocks and into the open sea. The back of Dad's shirt was light blue, with dark blue ribbing around the neck and arms. His shirt was pocked with a boilermaker's ladders and holes.

For three or four hours I was left alone on Michaelmas Island.
"It was probably a formative experience," I told a friend today. I was trying to persuade him to take his teenage son out there. "And it wasn't the hard yakka to get there, it was the island. It was being alone, by myself on Michaelmas Island."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Siren song from a fisher of men

Konstantin Kalinovich bookplate, from the collection of Richard Sica


Not sure who captured this joyous moment but I found it here

Dogs of the Sea, work and play

 Repentant pirates, or so Dionysus said ... dogs of the sea play in the bow wave of the Tearaway. They were massive, like small whales.

 Sit for long enough watching and nature will always put on an event for you. The dolphins below are herding a huge school of salmon into the beach. There, they harassed and stressed the salmon until they vomited up the pilchards they'd been eating. The dogs of the sea stole for themselves a fresh cooked lunch and the salmon swam away hungry (but alive!)

Friday, April 19, 2013


He doesn't know it yet but the love of Wolf's life is going away. She's heading off to Europe. She saved him when he was middle aged and he'd already lived through five families. They all had their own reasons for jettisoning him. They were renting and the new house didn't allow hairy folk/they divorced/they moved interstate. When Mum and Wolf found each other they clung together. He watched her every move and followed her about in case she left without him. Every ride in a car for this dog meant a possible reshuffling or extinction of his pack.

About three weeks after Wolf came to live with Mum, she staggered into my house windswept, teary and grey. "I think I've lost him," she said.
She'd been canoeing. She launched the canoe off the white sands to go around Mistaken Island, left Wolf on the beach. On her return, no dog. She thought he'd gone off into the bush after kangaroos and so she waited around for hours for him to come back. She asked a few people if they'd seen a rangy, brindle dog and they had. They had seen him slip into the water and swim after her canoe. At that point she thought he'd tried to follow her around the island and drowned.

I drove with her back to the beach. By then it was nearly dark. It was windy too and as we walked along the beach looking for this dog, I felt the desolation and emptiness. It was like looking for a lost child. You don't know what to do, which direction to head in. It was just awful. We talked to some residents and they promised to put up a notice on the chalkboard.
Out of Mum's earshot I said, 'You may find his body wash up. Sorry. But if you do, can you please ring us?'

We went home and I reckon Mum cried all night.
Late the next day we found a pamphlet in the letter box with his photograph. He'd walked back and overshot our house by a few hundred metres, ended up on a neighbour's verandah utterly exhausted, his paws worn to flesh. They gave him some water and food and tied him up.
It took him eleven hours to walk home. He must have a decent internal GPS because he'd lived with Mum for only three weeks and yet he still found his way the twenty or thirty kilometres home along the beaches.

So, she's going away. The last time I tried to take him for a walk, he stopped at every corner and made it plain to me that he would not continue another metre away from Mum. This is quite infuriating because I know he goes for a walk with her every day! He won't get in my car either. Mum's is the only car he will jump into without being dragged. My only solution to this conundrum and to save him from utter melancholy over the next few months is to record Mum's voice as she she is calling him up for a walk or a feed - a bit like that magpie that I wrote about a while ago - and play it back to him on the computer. Or maybe set up skype for him, so they can talk to each other while she is away.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This is me

Who I think I am ... or what people think of me.
"It's none of your business what people think of you," K said today, as I was doing the 'handover' of his boat. "It is your business what they do and say to you, but not what they think."
(He wanted me to sign a form saying I'd get off the boat after my sojourn looking after the moorings and batteries. I told him I actually had a home to go to, but he was having none of it. So then I said that while I was a liveaboard, I'd tell all his girlfriends that he'd given me the boat because I was so good in bed. Form solved.)
And there is a fragment of the construction of a personality.
For someone so outwardly bolshie, I have a way-too-fragile internal framework. I find the differences between what people perceive of me and who I think I am are vast, oceanic.

The publicist rang me on Friday about a book trailer. Have you ever heard of such a thing? It's like a movie trailer but for a book. They are coming down next week to film it. "Do you want me to come down?" says the publicist. "I'm worried you may not be comfortable with speaking lines."
"Us writers are used to sitting in a quiet room ... so acting, speaking lines?" I say. "I dunno."
She's right. I'm all over the place but the script for the trailer is just right and I have faith in it. I'm more worried that the fishermen will hate it. And the whole idea of going on film freaks the shit outta me.

I struggle with my addictions.
I consistantly forget to buy soap.
Can openers are my daily nemesis.
I'm not beautiful. Handsome maybe, but not beautiful.
I'm letting people down, close people, every day.
At uni, every time I walk in to teach a class, I think, 'They will find me out for a fraud.'

A Noongar man beeped at me as I was walking up the street. He shoved his four wheel drive into the closest parking spot and bailed me up. I know and deeply respect him as a statesman for his people. I thought maybe he wanted to catch up about something we'd been working on lately. 
Instead he grabbed my shoulder and said, "I've just been out to your shack, Sarah. Adie and me headed out that way yesterday for some cultural workshops. Adie said, 'you've gotta come and see what this Wadjela woman has built out here.' He just loves it. He said ' Look how she's made a soap holder from an abalone shell.' Both the rainwater tanks are full, by the way. But there's bees in the roof. I checked your hive, none in there."
"You lifted the lid on the hive?"
He nodded.
"You guys crack me up.  Did you water the olive trees?"
"Didn't need to. There was a misty rain the whole time ..."
We talked about what happened out there in the 1800s. The massacres and the land theft.
"That's my country," he said.

(I remember when Adie turned up while I was building a veranda. He'd walked into the shack, breathed in the feel and said, 'this is a good place, sister.' I told him about what had happened the night before as I sat by the fire.)
 "What you heard that night," the Elder said today, "that was the spirit welcoming you. You are very lucky."
He patted me again. "Thanks. That place is gorgeous. Thanks."
I was too taken aback and graceless to thank him in return.

First generation Australian.
Bad skin.
Borne of hard scrabble Irish Catholic immigrants.
Doesn't clean the sink.
Moults copious amounts of hair.
Dodgey moral code.
A forgotten cat kill under the bed.
Can't finish her thesis cos she's too scared.

There's a few narratives going on here. I can make up one persona on A WineDarkSea and another on the main street of town, another through the books I write. None of them would be definitive or in any way honest because most are only serving to plaster over my fears of being uncovered. I am big. I have big hands, big feet, big hair, big personality ... and yet I feel so small.

Friday, April 12, 2013

I'm a man you don't meet every day

Sea Meat

"I'm feeling like a seal who's been fed pasta for the last six months," I grumbled to my Mum recently. "I'm getting to the stage where I'm threatening to buy some fresh fish from Grievous."
That idea was so subversive that it forced me to chuck a line in at the channel, with Stormboy and his girl sipping tea from the thermos and eating lollies. Line fishing has nothing on net fishing from a boat. I caught one suicidal sweep and fed it to the cat.

I had lunch today (goat cheese, prosciutto and pear pizza with a balsamic drizzle) with a friend who said that our bodies are programmed to respond to their childhood diets. I haven't been netting for ages now and my body has been screaming for fresh fish. As kids we ate from the fish factory where Dad worked as a mechanic. We ate kangaroo gleaned free or cheap from the shooters in return for fresh fish. I've forgiven the pressure-cooked pumpkin and cabbage so limply lacking in love and cooked up by a careworn wife. These days, I would be happily vegetarian but for the wild meat of my childhood: kangaroo, rabbits and the fish.

While sailing from Esperence to Albany, K was 'cleaning out his veins' of salt, sugar, fat and all the other nasties. So we ate:
Oats soaked with chia seed and grated raw ginger
Salted herring (sorry K, not for you)
Poached herring
Lemon soused herring
Smoked herring
Raw tuna soaked in port, black pepper and lemon juice
Smoked tuna
Roe abalone fried up in chilli infused olive oil, drizzled with lime. Here is a photo of that feed.

Smoked bonito
Tuna green curry
Bonito red curry
Flathead in lemon sauce
Shark flakes chucked into a pan. (I missed the great shark catch -  the giant mako whose heavenly makers made Hemingway look like Justin Bieber, or so it was related to me.)
Tuna flesh. My way was to slice away the meat, flip it over and skin it, put the fillets in a pile with the rest. Then I worked on cutting away the thin strips of translucent meat that I'd neglected close to the bone. Dropped it into my mouth before anyone saw.

I consider myself cured.

Yesterday: Cape Riche to Albany

 At dawn, dolphins followed K as he came ashore to pick us up.

 Cheyne Island at Cape Riche. That tiny knob on the left side of the island is a stone lookout from the bay whaling days.

 Haul Off Rock 

Bald Island

 Bald Rocky Islands. Actually I'm not sure what they are called - just west of Bald Island. They are very bald and very rocky.

 Autopilot makes time for conversations and fishing.

"Just imagine if you came across that channel into the inlet after days and days of rough seas. Imagine if you discovered Waychinicup."
K's son laughed. "Yeah it would be a beautiful thing. But you'd never want to get close enough in rough seas."

 Cape Vancouver

Cape Vancouver and Mt Gardner.

 The most impressive Rock Dundar

 Breaksea and Michaelmas Island, left and right.

K was a happy man to sail into town, two years after he sailed away.

                                                Green Island, Oyster Harbour. Nearly home.

Apologies for the standard of photography here - and some excuses. The light was beautiful and misty from dawn to dusk, the hills and island shrouded in salt spray. I have a feeling my phone camera was shrouded in mist too.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Notes from Investigator Island

Investigator Island, it's a hard sail west from Boxer Island. We see it as the sun goes down. All day the land is a flat strip to the north with a line of clouds along the top. Southern Ocean a deep, deep blue. By the time we see the island, the strip of land has disappeared.

Searching for an overnight anchorage. "Is that the island? It's too far north."
Investigator Island lies like a seal against a red horizon as the wind still rises.

She's just flying, the Tearaway. Five knots, six knots, eight knots, nine! The wind turbine squeals and the autopilot starts stressing, trying to maintain a course with a wayward boat. At nine knots, we catch the tuna.
(What commercial fishing license?)

Three hours after sighting the island on the horizon, "it's a double peak!"
Beware the reefs to the east, sail by them, see the bombies breaking over reefs in the middle of a wild sea. Big swell crashes into the island. The sun's gone but the wind hasn't stopped. Tack around the head of the seal, close to the nose so the main don't swing on its boom and collect the wrong wind.

The roar of water hitting stone.

Then we are around the corner into a little atoll, a horseshoe capped with two dark mountains. It's quite night now. Wind coming sou westerly over the saddle. "Start the motor, so we go into the wind. I'll take down the mainsail,' says K, and I gallop obediently down the stairs to where the engine sits in a shiny pool of black diesel. I attach battery clamps to the ignition and turn a lever wrapped in red electrical tape to the right until I hear her crank. There's no clutch, there's no astern, she just goes straight ahead. I run back up the stairs to see K wrestling whipping swathes of canvas and tying them down. He heads to the bow. "Keep going ahead."

I can't see the shore, it's so dark. I can hear it. I think, I'm going to run onto the rocks but he shouted we were right, get as close as you can. Motor closer.
All I can see is the dark loom of the mountain and white spray on the rocks.
"I'll do the anchor. Get as close as you can, then cut the motor. The wind will blow us off and help the anchor grab."
Race back downstairs on his word. Unclip the battery clamp, turn another lever towards me until the motor shudders to a halt.

(I'll bypass the bit where, when I'd come upstairs, the wind had swirled into the circular atoll and was blowing us ashore, the anchor chain hurtling out under the boat and I had to grab the back of his jacket in the dark to save him going over with the chain.)

At night, the boat sounds different. Ropes creak. There is a twinkling sound like a gentle waterfall, or a leaking valve. "Are we losing water somewehere?" I ask. "What is that noise?"
It's in both hulls of the catamaran. "Magic. It's some kind of electromagnetic static ... against the hull," said K. "I've only heard it once or twice before in my life."

I go to bed with the sound of fairies thrumming the hulls. Creatures clatter on the deck above me. The chain thuds against its bridle. I listen to the shrieks and calls of penguins and baby seals. I dream strange lucid dreams. My flesh rocks against my bones.
"The wind's turned. We'll have to put another anchor out."
On deck, he shines the torch to the waves beside the boat. The rocky shore is just metres away as the boat swung on her anchor. I could see the waves, white with the moon.
"Happens a lot here," he says. "Fishing boats anchor up for the night in a sou easter, then the wind goes around to the north in the night. Everyone's had a few drinks, goes to bed. 'Ahh she'll be right' they say. Heaps of wrecks here."

I go back to bed after anchoring again, a cup of tea. Stormboy rings me at two thirty.
"I'm really crook Mum," he says. "I've just spewed all over my bedroom," he says. "What should I do?"
"Chuck some newspaper over it," I say. "Get a glass of water and a saucepan. Try to sleep."
Of course that is not all I say. There is also a few 'I love you's" and "I wish I was there right now to clean up your vomit you poor sick child." There is even a "Look, if I could get a helicopter ... (I would probably give you the same advice son.)"

I woke up before dawn. Here are bits, snippets, pixels, of what I saw.

At dawn I caught half a bucket of herring in fifteen minutes. They went into a frenzy over the kangaroo meat bait, swirled away whenever a seal slipped into the water, returned to my hook. I filletted them on the deck, salted them down and now their flesh sits in vinegared jars in my fridge.

As we sailed away from Investigator Island, I knew I may never return. The sealing gangs that I write about would have visited, the island being one day's sail from the next safe anchorage. Flinders was there too.
"He named it after his ship !" said K. "Can you imagine it. A rock. A bloody rock!"

I've been to a few wild places. This wild place already produces a kind of ache in me. Investigator Island. I know that whenever I hear that name I'll remember the night I spent holed up against the island. I'll recall my lucid dreaming of sirens and seals, that magic sound, of seeing the surf crashing beside our boat, of the sun hitting the green mountain in the morning and of those pups fighting for fun on the rocks. Herring. The sea lion silhouetted at the top of the island, yelling to his harem against the dawn.
Investigator Island.

As the day goes by

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On hitch hiking

After five days at sea as anchor wench and winch hand, one of the first things I did on land was put my back out. I managed it within 45 minutes, walking up the highway with a backpack and an esky full of fish.

We anchored the dinghy on the shores of a small holiday town and began the walk to the store. I stuck out my thumb before we'd even left the beach car park, hailing a pair of grey nomads. She wound down her window. "We've got no room in the back. Sorry!"
"Oh, they can climb on the running boards," said her husband, a dry pointy man on holidays. He was probably a banker in his real life but now he was living on the edge. I could see he really wanted to pick up the two boat people he'd watched pulling a dinghy into shore laden with a bag of rubbish and backpacks.
"But it's just not safe," protested his wife.

K was headed to the store to buy some phone credit and avocadoes, and then going back to his boat to wait out the sou-westerly. I was going home because my time on the Tearaway was regrettably up. We chatted through the car windows to the travellers and clung on to their roof racks.
"It's just like sailing!" I yelled across the roof of the car to K as he looked nervously at the four wheel drive coming in the other direction.

At the store I rang the bus company.
"Yes there is a bus leaving from Bremer today," the operator said. "Hang on, no there's not. Okay. Well there is a bus going from Ravensthorpe to Albany, going past Boxwood at 12.46."
"Boxwood's 60 k's from here."
"Well, if you can get to Boxwood, um ... no, the bus isn't stopping at Boxwood actually. It's going straight through."
"Can you contact the driver?"
"No. He's already left. Look, if you stand at the turn off to Bremer, you might be able to wave him down."
She must have been a metropolitan lass. Flagging down a bus flogging along at a hundred and ten. Right. Even if he stopped, there's no way I'd be anywhere near the verge when he hit the gravel.
So I said goodbye to K. He started fussing again.
"You can't hitch hike. It's too dangerous."
"I'll be fine."
"You don't have a gun."
"No, I don't have a gun.

It was hot. I had a hat, sunscreen and some water. I even had the hitch hiker's consolation - a tube of sweetened condensed milk - but none of these things served as an amnesiac to the old feeling of standing on the outskirts of town under the 80km sign for an hour and have locals and tourists ogle, drive past and wave. It was the most peculiar sense of rejection. I'd stick out a thumb, feeling ridiculously conscious of my bingo wings. I was eyed cautiously and then they would drive by with a merry wave. By then I'd tweaked the muscle in my back and I could feel it starting to spasm. I felt quite old, bound by gravity, by the road, and my need to get home.

Finally, someone in a white four wheel drive with government plates slowed down, only to pull into the water treatment plant a hundred metres up the road. Another four wheel drive followed it. Aghh. I pulled The French Lieutenant's Woman out of my pack. Like hitch hiking theory, I haven't delved into this book for twenty years. I suspect John Fowles was working with themes from Tess and even maybe Lady Chatterly's Lover. It is a delicious book. It smells good too.

I put on more sunscreen and thought about covering my bared arms but it was too hot to wear more clothes and anyway, my back was hurting too much to squat and rummage through my duffle bag. The two four wheel drives pulled out again and drove into town. A woman in a dusty Holden sedan who'd sped past me earlier came back the other way, stopped and wound down her window.
"Where ya going?"
"I just live up the road on a farm, sorry. But someone will be heading out of town. I'll let them know you're here."
She drove away and the two four wheel drives returned and slowed, slower this time. Creative visualisation Sarah, I thought, c'mon. A handsome lonely farmer who just happens to be heading for the city for the weekend. Tall, lean, quixotic. The horizon in his eyes.

One of the water treatment blokes pulled out again, stopped across the road from me and wound down his window. "Where ya going?"
"I can take you to Wellstead, if you like. At least you'll be on the main road then."

It's a reckoning for a woman, getting into a car with a stranger. It's an immediate sway of the power relationship over social contract observations. The resulting tension is thrilling rather than frightening to me. If I were a man, perhaps I might find my kicks on a cruiser beat somewhere just to experience that same exchange of power where the social mores are bent out of shape to fit the scene. It may sound weird, I don't know if I am explaining this well, but when hitching, I'm at my most vulnerable on the side of the road. Once I'm in the car, the relationship shifts. I have some modicum of control over my situation. If only K knew!

"I said to Steve, you know the other bloke at the plant there - " he jerked his thumb at Steve as we drove past. Steve gave a salute. " - that it's pretty unusual to see a sheila hitch hiking these days."
"There's no bus ... and I have to get home."
"I think the dangers are highly over rated anyway."
I looked at him. "I'm Sarah."
"Neil." He shook my hand. Sandy, almost strawberry hair, cut short. Bit of a goatee and a soft mustache. High, weathered cheeks. He wore mirrored sunglasses and he didn't take them off, but then nor did I remove mine. He wore his work uniform, navy blue with the department's name stitched to the breast pocket.

There is something of the satyr spirit in me and I don't know if this is usual in women, never having (to my knowledge) lived inside another woman's body and mind before. I do get the sense that despite certain liberations a woman is still frowned upon if she admits to sizing up every man within a decade or two of her own age for their fuckability. It's supposed to be a perfectly normal state for men but a subversive, predatory state for women; dangerous to the creaking machine of social relations and lacking in, um, biological discrimination. So I tend to keep any external manifestations of ideas approaching Erica Jong's zipless fuck firmly zipped. Belted. Laced up. Self immolation via social excommunication is really not my idea of a good time.
But a lanolin scent or the light catching blonde hairs on a man's wrist sets my mind awander down green gladed pathways. I'll always wonder what it would be like.

We passed paddock after paddock of plantation blue gums. The trees had been ripped out by their roots and all lay in the same direction. In the distance, two tractors were chaining down the remaining forest.
"What are they doing?"
"Ripping the lot out," he said. "Company's gone broke and the trees aren't worth anything."
"What are they going to do with the trees? Pulp them?"
"No. No. They'll pile them up into rows and set fire to them."
"That's obscene."
He nodded. "Yeah, obscene all right. There's ten years worth of good cattle pasture gone into growing those trees."
Neil owned ten acres of bush up on the hill near Dillon Bay. He pointed out the house as we drove by. He owned another house in one of the marginal wheat and sheep towns to the east as well. He told me he'd come out from England with his parents when he was eight years old and had lived between here and the wheatbelt ever since. Twenty kilometres away from Wellstead, he was talking about his love for the Fitzgerald national park and his frustrations with the current access into there. He'd slowed down to 80 kilometres an hour and seemed so happy talking that he wanted to drag it out. The sign 'Cheap 2km' passed. Recently, the owners of the store covered the 'Fuel' beneath the 'Cheap' with pictures of UDLs and beer.
"Do you want to go into the roadhouse?"
"No, just at the turn off," I said. "Just ahead there."
"Don't matter to me. I'd drive you to Albany if I could but my turnoff is 5 k's back that way."

When he handed me my pack and I swung it down onto the gravel by the side of his car, I remembered my injured back. He shook my hand again and I said it was lovely meeting him and thanks for the ride and then he turned around and drove away.
I was back in the blinding sun, with K's silly yachtie cap on, standing by a marker post, trying to ease my spine into something resembling comfort. The same old feeling came back as the recreational four wheel drives loaded with canoes or camping gear flew by me. March flies. Then I looked at my phone. The time was 11.11. Good good.

A semi pulled up with a shriek of brakes, turning out from the roadhouse, the indicators flashing towards Albany. I stuck out my thumb and he wound down the window. "Jump in."
He climbed down and went around to the passenger side. "Just gotta clean out the office for you." He didn't wear sunglasses and his eyes were very blue. He looked familiar to me in grey, lithe, middle aged kind of way. I have seen his like at boat ramps, trucking depots and pubs all over Australia.
I clambered up into the air conditioned cab and stashed my gear in the double bed behind the seats, breathed with cool relief.

Nolan was an owner driver, so he could pick up hitch hikers. "But if I crash or you fall out of the truck or something, you're not covered," he explained. "That's why the companies don't let the drivers take on passengers. Even family members have to sign a form."
He's been driving trucks all his working life. In his last four trucks, he's covered a grand total of five and a half million kilometres. When I asked him how many times he'd crossed the Nullabor, he shrugged and grinned.
"This girl, she's an '06. I shoulda replaced her by now. Every five years I get a new truck. But the cooling system went a year ago and blew the motor. Thirty grand for a new one so she's gotta work a bit longer."
Nolan does the run from Esperence to Perth to Albany a few times a week. He'd been driving since ten o'clock the previous day, though he assured me he'd slept at some stage.
"How is it on the body, all that driving?"
"Oh, it's not too bad. I'm used to it. The guys that aren't used to it, it's hard on them."
"You don't eat roadhouse food," I suggested pointing to his plastic containers of home made food.
"Nah. Three days of that stuff'll kill ya. Always have my own nibbles. When I'm in Perth I get home cooked meals. My friends, they invite me over for dinner." He looked at my uncomfortable squirming in the aeroglide seat. "If you muck about with those levers, you can put the seat up and down."
"I've hurt my back," I said. "If I can just put my foot up a bit ..." I rested it on the door's pocket. His whole truck was immaculate and I worried about my dirty feet. "I'm getting old. All I was doing was walking along the road and I did my back."
"Ahh, you've got a long way to go before you're old," he said twinkling. The way he looked at me and a few other things he said made me realise that an extra hundred k's and he'd be hitting on me.

That's the other thing about satyr spirits. We understand. Like the father who understands exactly what is going through his daughter's boyfriend's mind, we know. You know that old maxim: knowledge equals power. And so the hitcher-driver game begins. Deflection, distraction, stories, tell-me-about-your-children.

Where we must be afraid, should we ever be unlucky enough to find ourselves there, is not of the tentative grooming from a shy truckie but the raw silence of a raging misogynist who still has issues with his mother, the psychopath who leaches attack pheromones so subtle that only a potential victim can smell it.

We approached Manypeaks and the road suddenly became potholed and patched. The aeroglide chair ceased gliding and crashed my spine into every single hole. Nolan was talking about how he took his wife and kids to Vegas two years ago. "And we took the caravan up the east coast the year before that. Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast."

As we rolled down the last big hill to Bakers Junction, he said, "But she's gone now."
"Been married twenty four years, together for thirty. I don't know what happened. I came home from a job and both the cars were gone, two of the kids, bank account cleaned out. Hundred and thirty grand in the bank, gone."
"Christmas Eve."

We were entering the outskirts of Albany. He'd waited until the last twenty kilometres before he told me about his wife and he just couldn't hold it in any longer. I thought about the water treatment man and how he'd slowed down before Wellstead so he could talk some more.
"Does it do your head in? The driving? I mean, how do you drive all day and not think about it?"
"I think about it the whole way. Esperence ... Lake Grace ... Perth ... all the way. She'd been planning it for three years, she told me. Three years. So I'll think about that. Wonder who she was seeing. Think I know the bloke."

We were in the industrial area, the ugly assortment of signs and buildings that seem to be the entry statement to cities all over the world. A plastic horse stood on the side of the road harnessed in a saddle and bridle. Hardly Normal shouted two hundred dollar fridges.

I wished that he had started talking earlier. He had just started on his unhappy narrative. The computer hard drives missing with all the accounts, the bare floorboards, his lawyer in Perth fleecing him, the small town conspirators ... these hard facts both sidestepped and illuminated how his boys were coping, the one son who wasn't, his bewilderment, his paranoia and his sense of betrayal. "She still lives in town but I haven't seen my youngest boy since Christmas Day. I can't talk to her." He shook his head, nearly in tears. "I can't even look at her."

I've heard hairdressers talk about their confidentiality clauses. People open up to them as they would counsellors or doctors. This was different. Nolan knew he would never see me again so I was a safe receptacle. But his candour - and his utter grief - really shocked me.
"But I've got some good friends," he smiled then. "They've been looking out for me."
"I'm really sorry," was all I could say.

He pulled the truck into the fuel depot where he was to deliver a load of car batteries. His face was composed by the time he saw the proprietor on the forklift waiting for him.
"Nice meeting you Sarah." Then he was at the passenger side door, taking my bags as I handed them down to him. "I hope your back gets better soon. Take care now."

Doubtful Island