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On the Rice Trail: Mr A Cruises North

--- oOo ---
Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls
        married impossible men?
              Robert Graves
              A Slice of Wedding Cake

I've seen the devil of violence and the devil of greed
and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars!
these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils that swayed
and drove men- men, I tell you. But as I stood on that
hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of
that land, I would become acquainted with a flabby,
pretending weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless
folly.
              Joseph Conrad
              Heart of Darkness

--- OOO ---

      Yessum good mornin' ahh! Gibbo you silly prick.
      Here he was back at his old mum's,
that fibro cottage in Ashwood where,
after all night in a cab, you just went into your room,
caught a touch more Gibbo, stoked a chillum or five,
spun out, read up on facts and,
until late afternoon, crashed out.  Then, maybe,
made yourself around to M and Leo's.

*

Why were all these men cruising with
good women?
               Where had he first met M? Brisbane?
If that was the town what had he, she and anyone
at all been doing there? Mullmixing? Chillumstoking?
        'Cruising?' M had once suggested,
calling it straight-as-that! Like M always did.
How he loved that lady, any lady who could announce
Shut up, pack the bong, light 'n' pass it'!
        If only he could have truely cruised with M;
if only he could have cruised with that good woman
Terri, Terri the hooker, who wanted to cruise,
sure, but not with him.
        How that girl loved hearing about GÔa
'n' Lanka 'n' Chang Mai! But, once she quit
the game and got off speed, he only saw her cruising on
to a big house in Patterson Lakes,
or rather some dull prick who owned it.
         Besides, how's a working girl heading twenty five
and jangling off her tit quit speed?
                                And speed
was a man, a very bad man. Terri would
no more quit Him than M would quit Leo:
her very fine man who had to be respected;
her very fine man who had to be protected:
for although Leo knew a bit, thought at times
and enjoyed just about the lot, Leo never believed
what you were telling him. Leo wasn't meant to.
                                            Oh well,
just bring 'em over blocks of the darkest hash
and let what really happens, the facts,
stay hidden with him.
                           Jack was as close as they'd get
to the facts and Leo had made it pretty plain:
Jack wasn't to be seen again.

*

There's that moment you walk in somewhere and it's you
telling you I know it! I know this place!
Well at four/nine he did: this was the pro's flat:
the pro's where, that summer, hardly out of short pants,
late of the stormwater drains, he'd been The Kid,
their mascot: yeah, them: Iris, she was always great,
and Desley, the other one.
                                    Hey Jack,' he told him,
when Jack was back working in Melbourne again,
'I've these friends, never guess where they're living:
where I met you...'
                             (Where he'd met
that deadshit Bernie Millar, and learnt what to do
whenever you copped the over-matey hard word.)
         He never thought I've just the friends for you!
but with anyone welcome at four/nine
why shouldn't his very latest meet his oldest?
         Why? 'Sorry,' Leo told him soon enough,
'but that Jack's just another seedy opportunist.
You brought him once and once passed.
But twice is much too often.'
                                           That phial of amyl
proved okay, and even talking a bit too much
to M, but listening to Jack elaborate
'I can get you, and I mean this, anything:
think of it and think on it: anything...'
you knew you could never explain to Leo
There's those who'll defer to Jack and won't
to anyone else. But he heads nothing,
and he runs nothing: like you he knows people
and people meet.

                        Taking a night off driving
just to be with friends at four/nine
(Benny might be down from Sydney,
or Karl the lawyer, almost always a dozen more)
there he'd be: grilling 'em and drilling 'em
('Well!' sighed Leo, 'if this is paranoia,
it's good natured paranoia!'):
who was stuffing his economy and why;
who (and even more why) was stuffing our economy;
how two times, two times (coming home from
Chaing Mai first then Lanka) two times
he'd cruised his hash right past the armies
of The Man: there may be a third
but never the unlucky fourth!

                                    Leo of course
could put a stop to even that!;
'Be a good lad and please help Lady M
to grind some mull.'

*

                         Crashing at Mum's,
crashing at Leo's, cruising Melbourne, cruising
the rice trail, pick-ups, deliveries, and listening
to passengers, working it out, it-all-out:
sometimes he just wanted to say
Leo, M, anyone who'll possibly attend.
You don't know, you are never to know,
but outside here there's so much evil now.
I need this place, this four/nine,
for just like those old times it's even better
than Mum's.

                Y'see, this is what The Man has,
and I have not: only that gift to say
'You 'n' you empty your pockets!'
'You 'n' you bend over fast!'
'You 'n' you right in the slammer!'

         But what a gift!

*

People met all right.
Last night, after not so many months, Cap'n Midnight
climbed into the cab: yeah The Cap'n:
if all Port Phillip Bay were smack
hey, wouldn't he be one old sea dog!
And if the very least you could do with
all the Cap'n Midnights was to loath 'em,
there had to be an admiration for that nerve
announcing Now now now's the time: fantasy
stops being fantasy!
(Or the utter truth behind
The Jeweller laughing to his mates If we last that long ...
which had to mean If we live tonight ho ho...
Now He was one who knew the truest winners
had to be those who, when finally shot out of this world,
would still remain: a full dead grin, gleaming back
So, think you've won, eh? Scarier than living.)
         Well last evening, driving Cap'n Midnight,
The Cap'n got around to figure, then to finger, him.
'Taxes?' he spruiked. 'Don't say you're paying taxes?'
Hey, Mr A! The Man? Getting too greedy is he?
Then try our bank.' (He named his bank.) 'The ultimate
non-bank.' Everyone used non-banks now. Why?
Since today everything is almost legal,
non-banks made 'em even legaler.
'Don't you get it Mr A?' Then, since his trip
was turning the Cap'n Midnight Riddle Hour
'When is a bank not quite a bank
but even better? When it's a non-bank!"
         Yes, everybody non-banked now:
a broad platter of professions and institutions:
Americans of course and even The Man himself...
Taking so much of Cap'n Midnight,
unsolicited financial advisor, hectoring from behind
(as if he was being truely chauffeured) you had to
turn on your radio.
                                   Gibbo was on your radio:
Gibbo was never off it now.
                                                       'You ever hear,'
Cap'n Midnight asked 'anyone like him, like Gibbo?
No-one in Aussie is better than ol' Gibbo eh?'
(That clown must've been on something eh...
even over the air couldn't you almost hear
him sweatin' it?) 'Bet you Gibbo banks
the non-bank way, hey, hey, Mr A?'
         Yessum, last night it was unproductive
to sneer back What's this 'Mr A', Cap'n Midnight?
Instead he just suffered it, demanding
'These non-bankers, who are these non-bankers?'
         War heroes turned Christians turned businessmen.
'...imagine a Guns-for-Jesus acumen
that makes You rich and face it, Mr A,
your kinda dealing wasn't designed for riches.
How many runs you done?' The Cap'n asked.
         'None for anyone, two for myself: hash blocks,
smokin' material,'
                         'Well face this too:
you're hardly even a cog in our machine...'
                                                             But Mr A
didn't mind Hardly even that. Yessum, it suited him.
Whose side was he on? His own.
For no-one else was. No-one else could ever be.
And if one day he might be the man for
the man for the man for the job, he could play at that.
         'Debts 'n' taxes? Debts 'n' taxes!' Cap'n Midnight
was onto a refrain which had to end 'Mr A,
we can take over all your debts 'n' taxes.
You see,' he grooved into an explanation,
'there's our merchandise and there's our paperwork.
Well,' he proposed, 'the latter, if you want,
is Mr A's. Treat yourself by taking it north
to Lacy. Kim runs the classiest of acts,
he will reward you. Kimbo...' Cap'n Midnight paused.
'Kim Lacy? Lacy commences things,
then gives it all, all of us, a cover.'
         Aussie total should've known the rumours:
like how when Kim Lacy and Kevin Joy were
just beginning, some idiot amateurs thought they'd raid
these new boys. Then, seeing how much there truely was,
they swallowed sharp. apologised and left.
         Lacy, you gathered, had been a someone once,
('Yeah,' Kim would sigh, 'a someone else:
The Shire Free Press Young Businessman Of The Year!)
He certainly was a someone now:
exporter, importer, wholesaler, retailer, not quite
the Emporer of Patpong Road (yet). What are you,
Lacy?
         All of the above then add some more;
never a client but.

*

                           He'll be tall this Lacy:
Dennis Lillee mo and tinted glasses,
who puts out he owns (part owns) a bar,
adding he's '...Into gemstones.' (since someone
has to fit this self effacing combination).
Though on the phone he presumes and leads with
'Mr A?'
         This requires a pause: 'What's with this
Mr A?'
         And Lacy, believing his charm
is built on every word that can be mastered
is bounding back, explaining: 'The Cap'n told me how how
you're okay his very words were Mate mate
he's Mr A-one
the best and so you're Mr A and hi hi!'
         You shouldn't mind the fawning
and you don't, but Lacy sounds preposterous.
Still, he's why you're in town, can tell you anything:
'Mr A come over, we'll treat you like the king
you are.'
         'Soon, maybe, but all I need right now's
a shave, a shower and a chillum to stoke.
Yessum and a nap maybe.'
                                         Then meet Kim tonight '
...at my place Crazy Horse!'

*

                                            A tuktuk's hailed.
There's some Kiwi shearer sharing it,
and all he talks about is Yellow cunt.
I bin waitin' months f'this.

                                            As someone could be
disgusted (and that's their business) so someone else
will be bemused, another blasé;
if they don't understand they should:
how the worst is constantly available: its limits
are never to be reached.
                                       The shearer knows
Crazy Horse, cobber, and The Horse is prime!
That and The Fucfuc.'
                                       Then,
after disposing all the passports, US dollars,
travellers cheques, it's time we got acquainted
with mine host: him and everyone.
         Something, you guess, happened to Lacy, once,
something amazing/ maybe remarkable/ probably respectable/
certainly desperate. With all his
Who doesn't want to be liked?
Lacy has that kind of charm you know
turns sour. Weak? No just banal;
and we're in for an hour of trying a touch
too hard, of being told who's just right
for Mr A.
                    'This here's Porn...'
                                                    'Here's what?'
         'Here's Porn...' who also has a brother up the road ...
         But Mr A's not so taken with brothers, brother,
well not tonight nor ladies neither;
though that time will arrive.
                                          Till then
Porn listens, he pays her to, knowing
unless she turns wildcat, she always will.
One day soon of course she'll ask
'You take me to Aussie Mr A?' and
'My brother also?' and 'What do Aussie have?'
         Aussie have the lot!
                                   That night though
she just takes him some place to smoke,
to smoke for starters, and getting excited he explodes
but Never mind that! sweetly.
                                           Returning, Lacy joins them:
and here's the news: Jack is going Asian:
'...heading north to manage the drinks part
of my bar.' Then Lacy asks him
'You know Bernie Millar then?'
                                               He does.

         Well Bernies over at The Fucfuc. The whatwhat?
         'My other place. Need an introduction?'
          By now it seems obligatory to answer
in something like a code
(even if it's merely for yourself):
'Bern's been like an ~ to me. For decades.'
                                                               A re-
introduction?
                   'Don't bother, I'm not into uncles.'
         Mr A, you come back?' asks Porn.

         Yes he'll come back, though this is what
he'd rather hear: 'Go on, tell us, in one word why?'
So he could admit 'Porn I'm in all this for just
one word, pleasure!'

                              It's heading four, he hasn't truely slept
in thirty six hours.
                              Your friend, they say,
is leaving.
                 My friend?'
                                    It's the Kiwi:

he's blown-out stoned-total and suggesting
'Next time we share a tuktuk to The Fucfuc.
hey cob, hey?'
                              Yeah!

         Next afternoon Lacy starts proposing things:
seeing you he tries a little bow,
pretends he's flustered, starts speaking fast.
'Mr A we we could use you more eh Mr A?
Then you could use the bank. And now there's Porn.
Like her don't we? Y'see,
we've this silly fat kid, little more than
a school girl really, who's flying back for us.
If things stuff up we have to mind her.
We have to mind her anyway.'
         It's within a fortnight. Think on it.
         And within these weeks he thinks all right:
of Porn. You couldn't do much else:
for this isn't a case of 'liking' now, they're cruising!
They wake to it, see out the day and need we
mention the nights: sometimes he just has to
roll her over, other times Porn plants herself on top
and won't get off.
                          The shearer's still abroad.
Don't tell the cobbers back in En Zed
but over at The Fucfuc he's discovered
(rediscovered?) fellas. But that'll pass,
This is dream country.
                                  And you are stoned.
Seems now you're always stoned.
You're writing letters and you love that.
                 Dear Leo/M
         and all at four/nine...
                                  there's us and there's them;
         there's me and there's The Man.
         Guess what but, if any life ever had a plan
         this shmuck's got his. Her name? No I won't reveal
         her name.
                  I've got this job though: it'll be a steal
         what I'm to do... just hop on a plane, fly,
         land and wave this little fat chick byebyes.
                  Did you know that The Man is cranking
         up his wheels for me? Tell you where I'm banking
         one day.
                  Am I taking care?
         Up to a point who isn't, yeah,
         but beyond that, nup...

*

                                         He ripped it up.

*

         Kevin Joy and his Joy Boys:
Lacy, Cap'n Midnight, The Jeweller,
with all their legends, loonies, bitplayers, backup staff,
were, really, just the world;

with those like Jack, like him: shitkickers anon,
the support who just got paid by those who came into
very very recent mounds of cash. You there
in that Hawaiian shirt, even though it's mid-July,
y'see this parcel? Take it to Brighton/ to Coburg/
to Werribee/ take it to where it belongs!

                                                            Delivering,
even driving, for these people, you just walked through
a mirror, turned around, looked back at The Man
and waved.
         Kevin Joy had done that all the time,
and Kevin Joy was no loonie, yet. No, he was still a legend.
                                             That last occasion
he was declared not guilty (and for an hour
just had to be alone) guess the cab he caught,
guess who drove the great man round.
                                                         Yessum,
drove but hardly met him. Sorry,
I've done nothing, know no-one and just
drive taxis: sometimes I had over packages
and get to know ... everyone!

                                              (Knock knock.
          Who's there?
                               Don't ask who ask what.
                                                                      Well what?
         Y'pile o' rock.)
And you might hope to avoid them
but they were business and knowing yourself as that much better
you felt great.
                            Once,
when he'd to drive a load of all that scum
over to The Jewellers No more workin' for the rich man
sang Cap'n Midnight, Easybeat fanatic
Gonna change that scene some day!
Yeah, Cap'n Midnight, richman who already had:
wasn't that almost the time he threw half a carrybagful
onto a bed in Elwood, stared Jas 'n' Mick
right into their irises and announced:
'No-one sucks quite like junkies, so suck,
suck hard and move it!'
                                    But, by then,
all the Joy boys had made enough to cause
(even better afford) such gestures, such rumours, such legends.

*

         And very soon, alias whoever-he-was,
not merely workin', but flyin', spyin' and who knows
dyin' for these rich men
Mr A would be up in Business yep
in Business! earning his smoothest ever ten g:
hardly a twelve guage Winchester but riding shotgun
on Patty the overweight dropout.
And, with a few choice blocks hidden
on himself, once he'd made it past The Man
this time, that was it: no more runs.

*

         'But yessum, everything is shrinking, 'he told no-one,
'everything is shrinking: even friendship,
particularly friendship, and all this sure aint
friendship.'
                  Everything was shrinking; except love though,
for the world had to be advised on that one:
'Yeah that one, love: for I have found somebody,
somebody I can cruise with. This lady's looking after me
like she'll not look after any Kiwi shearer.'
         No Kiwi shearer, no Bernie Millar,
no men anywhere on the planet
would ever give this girl the kind
of firm sweet lovin' Mr A knows his Porn deserves!
         Oh Mr A! Who is kidding Mr A!
Soon you'll be heading home,
on Patty's first run, as chaperone.
And that's long past taking The Cap'n on one of his
midnight rambles, now isn't it?
If your Porn and all her love is good enough
she'll wait, she'll have to. Take your hash blocks
right away, this final time, and run.
All else is poison!

                                Yes he knew
Kim Lacy/ Cap'n Midnight/ Kevin Joy
your mob is far too big for me.
Join you one day, I'll be joining death the next.
(Or I could make an even swifter dash
to the scaffold, and tell the cops.)
Wanna shotgun Kimbo Lacy?
he didn't ask
anyone but himself Well try the shearer,
try that dumb shearer; then have him sweat out
a few choice small runs to make him think

Oh wow I did that?! Next
let him try the merchandise (he will have
anvway, that's what goes into legends)
and then, rounding off the pattern, the lady.
Very soon that Kiwi's gonna need the lady.

         For, over a decade now, all along the rice trail,
you'd hear this chant developing
One woman, mate, Just gotta meet one good woman.
Then I clean up my act.

         In these desperate nowadays even Kim Lacy
mouthed something like it (though how cleaner
could that act become: wasn't his the purest?).
Just one woman, one good woman, man.
Then we streamline, we rationalise and we expand!

*

Well soon Lacy would have to: for The Man
had deigned to meet The Yellow Man
(only the best now bought The Yellow Man);
and together with The Rich Man all three,
nothing was surer '...are gonna come down
on us, the hash block small timer shmucks,
hard! Hard! Hard! Get out!'
he ordered himself, 'Mr A get out!'
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