Monday, February 20, 2017

The Seal Wife *12


It took fifteen minutes to arrive at the area where local fishermen had seen the so-called illegals the previous day. This was granite country again and the stone peppered mountain rose into the sky ahead of them, the nippled breast pointing back towards town.

“Why didn’t you go out in the patrol boat and apprehend them?” Asked Trappey.
“It’s in Perth, of course,” said Stuart. “Nobody knew what to do when they realised how far south these guys were. It’s never happened before.”
“What about those toothfish poachers?”
“The whole north is ready for boats,” said Cowie, ignoring Trappey. “They’d get shipped straight offshore for processing if they landed up there. What gets me is how they managed to get this far south without being spotted.”
“It’s a vast area,” Arkie said. “Europe is so dense with traffic and yet customs still miss a lot of boats.”
“Take us out a bit, Trappey,” said Stuart. “Then if we can head east again and ...”
“I’ll do a grid that will cover some ground, you happy with that?”
“Sounds good.”

The last time he’d been out this way, it was the break up weekend. Two years ago now. They camped at the spot around the mountain from the inlet, where parking bays were neatly laid out with gravel and there were no fires allowed. Of course, they hadn’t realised that until the ranger arrived to take their camping fees and told them to put out the little brush wood fire they were just about to cook dinner on. It was a cold afternoon and they ate muesli and some apples and sat up late into the night, trying to communicate. In the camp beside them a bunch of city ferals thumped away on drums, communing with the nature spirits. “Give them a break,” Hazel said. “They probably live in squats in the city. They must be so happy to be out here.”
He told her that once they got their degrees, they’d all be ‘out here’ with their dreadlocks cut off, selling real estate to sea changers or implementing ‘coastal control’ programs. She hated his cynicism but he’d seen it all before. She was so much younger; she could have listened to him. Instead she melted away from his life – no she didn’t melt at all. She did not melt. She got sadder and sadder and thinner too.
Then one day and too late, he noticed that her skin was clearing again and her eyes looked brighter. When he came home from the spotting flights, she was waiting with dinner, smoothing her shirt down over her jeans. It happened quickly after that. He wasn’t ready for it. They went camping together, for what he thought would be a revival of their dirty weekends along the coast. He wasn’t ready at all when she told him that she’d been sleeping with Andrew for the last three months.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Seal Wife *11


He glanced at Andrew as he climbed in and decided to ignore him. Once they had taken off and were flying over the glittering harbour town, Stuart introduced everyone again. “Gordon – Trappey, this is Arkie, she’s the consulting anthropologist with Immigration.”

Arkie reached over to shake his free hand. “Pleased to meet you Gordon,” she drawled.

His stomach lurched. Scandinavian. What a voice! She purred like a beautiful engine. He glanced quickly down to her long, folded legs and those heels.

“This is my brother, as you must know,” said Andrew. Arkie nodded at him, a complicit smile twitching her lips. “Arkie asked me yesterday if I wanted to go for a ride,” he explained to the suits. “I don’t know how kosher that is but seeing as my brother’s at the helm ...”

Stuart happily raised his eyebrows at Andrew. Cowie ignored him and went back to his notes, marking sheets of paper one by one.

“So. Who are these guys?” Trappey asked.

“We think they’re fishermen,” Stuart said. “Definitely illegals. We need to ascertain whether or not they are fishing and if so, what they are targeting. We think they’re Indo’s but they could be anyone who just bought the tub off the Indonesians.”

“They could be asylum seekers,” said Cowie.

“This far south? Nuts.”

“Queue jumpers,” said his brother. “They should wait their turn like every other poor bastard.”

“It’s never that simple, Andrew,” Arkie said gently. Trappey didn’t mind who she spoke to or what she said, so long as he could hear her voice. “Some people are desperate. Anyway,” she glanced at Stuart, “it’s not illegal to claim asylum.”

Andrew nodded sagely and Trappey knew he hadn’t slept with her yet.

He flew in an arc around the arriving coast, lowering altitude to take in the cliffs where a fine spray from the Southern Ocean misted the heath lands. Here the cliffs were limestone and rather than wearing the headlands into balding granite outcrops, the sea pushed and crushed the softer stone until walls rose straight up from the ocean.  The sea glowed ultra marine blue but he knew that on their return, when the wind blew up and grey clouds rolled in from the south, that the sea would change to a gun barrel grey chop. It was that time of year.

They moved from the cliffs to a long stretch of white beach with reefs breaking the calm water away from the swell. A tribe of dolphins surged around inside the reef where the sandy bottom turned the water turquoise. Their urgent moves made them look like they were hunting.  There would be a school of pilchards down there, or perhaps some herring. He’d been hired by the Land and Sea mob once to track a school of herring that the dolphins pushed along the coast for twenty miles, the tight knot of fish gathering in tonnage all the while, like some diabolical ball of piscine fluff, until the dolphins pushed the school into a shallow corner of the harbour and fell upon them in an orgy of gluttony. He was reminded of kelpies with sheep, or hunting dogs. They behaved in the same way.

He tried to shake away his hangover but he knew he was left with it for the rest of the day. His lungs ached, front and back, and sometimes the tips of his fingers twitched and felt numb and tingly. It was a two week bender now and he was getting embarrassed tipping bottles straight into the recycling bin. He put them in cardboard boxes first and dropped them in carefully, so the neighbours wouldn’t hear the ringing of glass. No visible vessels of his addictions – except himself. The house was constantly being cleared out of bottles and yet there were always more and the ashtrays kept filling. He could hardly keep up with himself. Sometimes the hangover was the best part because he didn’t have to think too clearly, just sit in his own muck and feel the amorphous glob of his guilt in some vague kind of way. A not so merry, merry go round.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Seal Wife *10


Trappey thought all kinds of things during his long night, sitting alone at the scarred table with only a bottle and the genie curl of cigarette smoke to keep him company. He saw his brother, in the house across the way, ushering another inebriated girl over his threshold after the pub had shut. He was a slick character all right. No sense of right and wrong. What to do.

There was that job on tomorrow. Staying up all night and drinking probably wasn’t the best preparation for it. He switched off the lights and put a rag under the leaking kitchen tap, so the noise would not keep him awake and thinking any longer. It seemed no amount of quiet faucets or alcohol could stop him thinking these days but he made sure he tried his damndest.

Their father had left the houses to his two boys, perched on the mountain above town, more than twenty years ago when he’d bought out his neighbours and dreamed of establishing a Trappe and Sons fiefdom overlooking everyone else. It didn’t quite work that way of course. The old man, now enjoying what is gently termed aged care, would have been mortified had his marbles been intact, to see the concrete tilt up, Tuscan-style monsters that blocked the harbour views and shut away the sun. The two Trappe abodes perched between the monoliths, sporting rusted gutters and the resulting rotten weatherboards, trying to blend in like quaint little garden sheds amongst all that grandeur and fake wrought iron.

He lay in the bed that smelt only of him and no one else and stared at the Baltic pine ceiling, smoking one last cigarette. Finally he butted out in the orange carnival glass bowl and tried to think of nothing. How do you think of nothing? He tried to think of nothing and then not to think at all.

At the airport in the morning he met the two suits who stood waiting for him in the car park. One man toked on a tailor made and looked at the wispy clouds through squinty, reckoning eyes. The other looked younger but closer inspection showed him to be a healthy fifty year old sprouting a rooster ruff of grey blonde hair that would back chat any brush.
“Peter Cowie – Immigration,” said the toker.
“Rowan Stuart – Fisheries,” said the rooster.
“Gordon Trappe – Trappey,” he shook hands with them both.
“And how are we today?” asked Cowie.
Trappey grinned and shook his head. “Ask me later mate. Right now I think a good fuck and a green apple would kill me.”
Stuart laughed. “Well, that’s ... encouraging.”
“Don’t worry mate. I know this coast better than anyone.” It was no idle boast but it felt like it this morning and he left them awkwardly to prepare his charts and chat to the guys inside.

On the tarmac, the first person he saw when he’d run out the Cessna was a woman. She walked towards the plane is slow, thoughtless steps, her head and her thumb bent over a mobile phone. Tawny hair fell over the square shoulders of her jacket, her legs were cased in tight black jeans and she wore high heels. Shit, he loved heels on tarmac.

She lifted the phone up to her ear and at the same time the two government suits emerged from the building with – his bloody brother. The woman and his brother saw each other, both with phones pressed to their ears, and started laughing. Trappey couldn’t hear anything over the engine but he could see what was going on.