Southerly by David Haywood

23

At the RWMC with Alan Bollard

So anyway, I'm at the Richmond Working Men's Club with Alan Bollard, and there's this bloke staring at us.

Eventually he comes over and points a finger at Bollard, and he's all: "I know you, mate. I've seen your fucking face before."

The bloke's got an Aussie accent, and I can tell Bollard's just about to smack him one for that reason alone -- never mind the business with the finger-pointing -- when suddenly the bloke goes: "Got it! Alan Bollard, Western Australia, 1974. Port Hedland bare-knuckle fist-fighting championship. You won."

Bollard puts down his pint, and he's like: "So fucking what?" But he pronounces it like this: "So. Fucking. What." And he gives the Aussie this extreme psycho-killer stare. Of course the conversation dies a bit of a natural death after that, and the bloke goes off to the lounge bar to finish his drink.

So Bollard and me have another couple of pints. After a while I get to thinking about what the Aussie says, and then I'm like: "Didn't know you've been to Western Australia."

And Bollard goes: "Yeah?"

And then he's like: "It was after my Master's at Auckland Uni. S'pose I was trying to find myself or something."

Now Bollard's having another swig of beer: "It's kind of a funny story, actually. The Port Hedland championship's the biggest prize-money I ever win for bare-knuckle fist-fighting."

"They pay me in fifty dollar bills. When I get back to my hostel, I spread it out on the bed, and count 500 notes. So I go straight down to the Marrapikurrinya pub, and shout the whole bar a beer.

"It's a real hot night, even for the north of Western Australia, and I get talking to this girl with some sort of hyphenated name, like Mary-Joe or Peggy-Beth. I forget as soon as she tells me. But, you know how it is, I feel embarrassed to ask again later. So I just have to keep talking to her without using her name.

"And anyway she seems to like me, and after a bit I go: 'If you can have anything you want right now, what will it be?'

"And she says she wants to see snow.

"So I'm 23 years old, and I want to impress her, and I'm like: 'Righto then, we're off.'

"The barman's been listening to our conversation, and he's all: 'It's a long way from here to the snow, mate, hope you got a full tank.' And he starts laughing at me, which really fucks me off. But then I start laughing too -- you know, so that I don't look like a dick -- and so does Mary-Beth (or whatever her name is), all the way to the ute, where she goes: 'Are you really taking me to see snow?'

"And I'm like: 'Gotta get some supplies first.'

"So we drive to this 24-hour petrol station and I buy some booze. Then Peggy-Joe (or whatever her name is) says we should go round to a friend of a friend of hers. We spend about twenty minutes knocking on the door, and in the end they wake up and sell us a big bag of dope -- which puts a bit of a hole in my winnings, but I try not to think about that.

"And then we get back in the Holden and she rolls a joint, and I open a bottle of vodka, and a couple of cans of beer -- and we're totally out of there, mate. It's about seven in the morning by this stage, and people are getting up, and people are going to work. But we're heading south-east; we're going to the snow.

"And we drink and drive, and drive and smoke, and a bit later we stop and fuck -- which is pretty good, in my opinion. And then we smoke and drive some more. And I think at one stage I start to get a bit out of it, 'cause it all kind of merges into one -- one big blur of desert and cars and motels, and drinking and driving and smoking and fucking.

"And a bit later, a day or so later, or maybe it's as much as a week, Peggy-Beth or Mary-Joe (or whatever her name is) starts to piss me off. Drinking my booze and smoking my dope, as I see it. And then there's the whole name thing. I mean you can't go through life with a woman, and you don't even know her name -- but it seems too ridiculous to ask at this late stage.

"And I'm getting on her nerves, too. Or, at least, this is my impression from the way she keeps nagging me about getting to the snow, and how we're running low on dope. And then there are more 24-hour petrol stations, and more hard liquor and beer, and drinking and driving, and desert and motels, but not so much fucking now. And it all starts to put a big hole in my winnings, but I am beyond worrying about that anymore. And we're getting south, and it's cold at night.

"And then I really start to get out of it. The big blur gets even bigger -- like I'm travelling underneath the ute, with my face nearly touching the road, down the highway at about 190 kilometres an hour. And it's all night: one huge blur of blackness, without road or desert or anything. And in the middle of the darkness, I'm wondering: what's gonna run out first, the booze or the dope or Mary-Beth (or whatever her name is) or maybe me?

"But in the end, it seems they all run out at the same time. And I'm sick, really sick, hallucinating sick -- sick for what seems like days, heaving and retching and trembling, and coughing up stuff like cotton wool, all white and fluffy, like little bits of cloud. And I'm never this crook before, mate, no fucking way. And I'm yellow; I'm the colour of butter. Even my eyeballs are yellow. Even some of my clothes have turned yellow. Alone in this motel room, with nothing but empty beer bottles, and the smell of chunder, and a few left-over coins.

"Eventually I feel better, and I get up and go outside -- and in the distance I see these really huge fucking mountains with snow on them. Just like you see on telly. All big and white and beautiful, so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes -- or maybe it's the cold that does that -- and I think: "Fuck. So we do get to the snow after all."

"And I go back inside, and clean up a bit, and have a shower, and then I look for the motel manager. I get my map of Australia, the big one, the really big one, and I say to the manager: 'I'm a bit lost, mate , can you point to where we are on the map?' And I gesticulate in kind of a general way, so he won't know quite how lost I really am.

"And the motel bloke looks at me, and he's like: "Are you taking the piss, mate? This is a map of Australia ."

"Anyway, that's how I end up in Christchurch. After that I go back to Auckland Uni -- do my Ph.D. in economics. You know the rest."

So here we are -- Bollard and me -- sitting in the RWMC finishing our beers. And eventually I go: "Yeah, I knew it must've been something like that."

And then Bollard's like: "Hey, you know that Aussie bloke from just before? Did he remind you of Ken Done?"

I think about it for a moment, and I'm like: "Yeah, I s'pose."

And Bollard's like: "Well then, I think I'll have to go and kick his fucking head in."

Note:
David Haywood is a friend and spiritual advisor to Alan Bollard. He is willing to sell the exclusive rights to this true story to New Idea, Investigate Magazine, or as an opinion piece for The Sunday-Star Times.

   The above is an extract from David Haywood's very strange new book, 'The New Zealand Reserve Bank Annual 2010', due for release in November 2009.

His previous book 'My First Stabbing' is available here.

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