3rd Dressed for a Wake

‘We can’t bloody sit out here all night’ Jo said, raising his voice above the music and laughter coming clearly from the balcony above. ‘I want to be in on it.’

‘Yeah. A sad night’. Mick said. The bastards are real keen to put the wreckers in. Ninety years and Cairns Ports will just tear it down for nothing. The greedy bastards want to own all Cairns’.

‘Well, no one can save it now.’ Jo said.

Sitting on their dingy among others tied up on the sandy beach they passed a joint back and forth and looked longingly at the action on the balcony above.

It was almost full moon and the receding tide lapped back and forth, the noise of the gentle ebb and flow of the water masked by the music and laughter drifting down from above. The smell of the wet sand mingled with the sweet smell of the marijuana.

‘It’s supposed to be a pretty flash gig’ Jo said, watching a girl in a short black dress and high heels negotiate the old stairs. ‘A bloody dress code, and at this stage.’ He looked down at their cut-off jeans and faded Tee shirts. ‘We should have gone out to the boat for some gear.’

‘Well we didn’t.’ Mick said.

‘My God this place has seen some action,’ Jo said. ‘The best dance floor in Cairns, they recon. Sunday avo and the oldies would take to the floor. One, two, three, one, two, three. A wonder they didn’t fall and break a bloody hip.’

‘We missed the best times though,’ Jo continued. ‘They recon thirty boats would be jostling for the start line and the Navy boat sitting off the clubhouse starting the races.’

‘Yeah. And some bloody dangerous shit. Remember the night Steg dead anted of the balcony onto the sand?’ Mick said. ‘Backwards off a bar stool was bad enough, but off the balcony?’

‘They recon only being so pissed saved him.’ Jo added. ‘Flat on his back. Thought he was dead ‘cept he had his arms and legs up waving in the air and his head just out of the water. God, we laughed,’ Mick said.

‘And now it’s all going’ Jo said. ‘I bet a fair bit of cash changed hands to race that through council. Another few weeks and half Cairns would have been on the street protesting.’

‘You can bet the dozers will be knocking it down quick smart,’ Mick said. ‘Old Sue’s trying to get a crowd to climb on the roof when the demolition starts.’

‘If I wasn’t heading South tomorrow, I’d join her’ Jo said, ‘but we really can’t afford to miss the Northerly.’

‘I recon’ Mick said. ‘We should reach Dunk in twenty-four hours as long as we sail through the night. And we share the night watch this time.’

‘C’mon. You know you love the night watch mate. A full moon and nothing to do but watch out for sleeping whales’ Jo said.

‘Well, what I want to watch right now is us inside with a drink in our hand.’ Mick said.

The crowd had become pretty raucous and Mick and Jo watched their mate Pat argue with the bouncer and then make his way disconsolately back down the stairs.

‘The last frigging gig and they won’t let me in barefoot’ Pat called. ‘What does it matter at this stage.’

Mick looked down at his own bare feet splayed on the sand. ‘I recon we can fool that bastard yet’ he said. He stood up and ratted through an old plastic box in the bow of the dinghy. ‘Here we go.’ he said triumphantly and held aloft a greasy old rag and a black marker pen. A quick wipe down and soon they both had a fair representation of black thongs drawn on their feet.

‘We’ll only get one shot at this, Mick said, ‘So follow me and look confident.’ As they mounted the stairs a group of young women headed past the bouncer, laughing and jostling each other as they fell against him. Walking confidently up the last steps Mick and Jo melted quickly into the crowd on the balcony.

‘I reckon that deserves a drink’ their mate Charlie yelled above the music. ‘Clever, but if you’d called up, we could have chucked down a couple of sandals.’

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