Since the Haberfield base closed, I've been walking to and from Croydon each day I work. Takes a bit longer and it isn't quite as nice a walk - no bat shrieks in Ashfield Park, no rosemary at the War Memorial - but it's still okay. I go through the back streets, past suburban gardens where chrysanthemums and dahlias grow, until I reach the traffic arteries again. There, yesterday arvo, as I went to cross busy Milton Street against the lights, I saw a book with its pages fluttering in the middle of the road.
Scooped it up as I passed, it lacked both front and back cover but all the matter of it was there. A sampler, from the 1990s, one of those books a publisher puts out which anthologizes bits and pieces from other books they're promoting. A selection from Ruth Park's Playing Beatie Bow was included, it's a time travel adventure set in The Rocks now and a hundred years ago. They were all Australian authors. I placed it carefully down on the corner post of the brick fence on the other side of the road and carried on.
Origin night, I was expecting it to be busy, with mean or boisterous drunks but it didn't quite turn out like that. Traffic was bad early and I broke one of my rules and became exasperated ... calmed down after a while. Later, when the game began, an eerie quiet descended on the City, people all over town glued to their TV sets. As soon as it ended, just after ten, the radio went crazy. Worked a bit longer than I usually do on a Wednesday, mopping up punters on the inner city outskirts then headed back to base.
I was walking home down Liverpool Road, that part where the Ashfield shops are mostly derelict, before you get to the top of the rise and go down the other side to Summer Hill, when a woman stopped me. I've been seeing her round a bit lately, perhaps she's a street person or a resident of one of the homes that sprinkle the area, I don't know. She looks Polynesian but could as well be Asian. Anyway.
Excuse me, sir, do you have the time? she said. I looked at my watch, angling my wrist to catch the dial in the ambient light. It's midnight! I said, somehow delighted to see that it was so. Oh, she said gravely. Twelve o'clock, on the dot. Afterwards, I had to look back to see if she was still there, walking away down the otherwise deserted street.