If you’re old enough to remember my early-90s novel Apples, you might just be excited I’m writing a new book that goes back to Windy Mountain in Tasmania. Sadly, some of the characters didn’t even make it into the next century. But others are still around — though they might take a bit of recognising 20 years later. To make their lives more interesting I’m dropping a mysterious Irish stranger into town. Here’s the opening scene.
THE big Irishman wound down the front passenger window and squinted into the darkness. All he could hear was the click-click-clicking of the cooling engine and the chirping of crickets.
‘Are you sure this is it?’
The driver turned on the light and examined a slip of paper though his coke-bottle glasses. ‘Yep, Moose, this is where I was told to drop you. The Tasmanian Tiger Museum.’
Paddy sighed and unbuckled his seatbelt. ‘Just pop the boot, pops,’ he said.
The old man turned abruptly and waved a finger. ‘Don’t dare call me pops!’
‘Well, don’t call me Moose,’ Paddy snapped back. ‘I’m not dat fella.’
‘You calling me a liar? I don’t care how big you are, Moose. You don’t frighten me.’
Paddy rolled his eyes. The ol’ fella would have been lucky to have been nine stone wringing wet, nine stone one pound if you counted that checked blue shirt he was swimming in. And he was ready to shape up? Seriously?
‘Don’t you go thinking you’re fooling anyone by stacking on that pretend accent?’
‘Wha’ ya talking about? I was born in Dublin!’
‘Have you forgotten I was the first trainer on the scene in the footy game when you did your hammy? You certainly knew the full range of Aussie swear words twenty or so years ago.’
Paddy shook his head. ‘Look, I don’t want any trouble. I’ll be getting my cases, if you’ll be kind enough to open the boot.’
Paddy got out. Although he could see now the rest of the long street was illuminated by a row of dim yellow street lights, the building in front of him looked dark and deserted.
Paddy slammed the boot and the driver roared the car into life and screeched away, leaving a stink of exhaust fumes.
Paddy waved his fist as it disappeared into the yellow murk. ‘Happy New Year to you, too, fella.’
He stood on the footpath with his two cases and looked around. Where was everyone? Would the odd sky rocket be too much to to ask?
It was nippy too, and he wished he’d dressed more warmly this morning. Fecking marvellous.
Paddy heard footsteps and turned. But all he saw were two three-metre silhouettes that melted into the dappled shadows on the other side of the road and shuffled away. Jaysus. Two people out for a midnight stroll hardly counted as revellers.