‘So we goin’ to the pub,’ Jim asked over the rim of his Tooheys New.
‘Yeah,’ I said, taking a swig of mine and meeting his gaze. ‘Let’s go.’
‘All right, I’ll just pop next door and get my wallet,’ Robbie said. He disappeared out the back door to jump the fence to his place, and climb its stairs.
Jim and I walked through the house and out the front door, deposited our empties in the yellow-lidded wheelie bin out the front and stepped out onto the road.
‘Bloody Palm Beach Pub hey?’
‘Yep,’ Jim agreed. ‘Should be about as shit as usual.’
‘Wouldn’t have it any other way.’
We walked south a short distance along Jefferson Lane and listened to small surf breaking limply on Palm Beach’s shore. We were gambling a hungover sleep-in on its quality being nothing we’d miss in the morning. We took a right into 11th Avenue and stopped in front of Robbie’s place; a two storey, five unit block with his fronting 11th, backing on to Jim’s place and shouldering the not so busy Gold Coast Highway. We introduced flaming tobacco to the night and, a little drunk, starting coarsely yet good naturedly encouraging Robbie to hurry up.
‘C’mon Rob, fuck’s sake!’ Jim roared up to the unit.
‘Yeah, Christ man we’re sobering up out here!’ I contributed. We laughed and tried to convince each other a night at the Palmy Pub wouldn’t end up being 5am at a Surfers Paradise or Broadbeach bus stop, as it sometimes did. It was warm, but we really were sobering up and keen to get moving.
‘The hell’s keepin’ you man!?’ Jim asked the darkness.
I took a drag and sniggered while exhaling. Glancing to my right, I noticed a group of about 10, maybe 15 people in the beach carpark. ‘Shit,’ I half-seriously thought, ‘group of people hanging around 11th on a Friday night: they’re probably up to no good.’ The group was walking toward us. About four of the males had bandanas over their mouths. I nudged Jim. They walked up and the pack separated; the four bandana-clad men moved toward each of us. One in front and the other walking behind, like hyenas moving to encircle a wounded animal. One of them, all black curly hair and equally dark eyes wearing a red patch work handkerchief stepped forward eye-to-eye with me. ‘Our friend says you pulled a knife on him,’ the fabric moved.
‘Fuck,’ I thought. ‘Man, we didn’t do anything.’
‘That’s not what he said.’ Jim was at this time staring down a bald, serpentine eyed specimen, I noticed in a stolen glance. The rest of the group – straight backed yet spectating boys and girls turned side-on – watched with indifferent and slightly hungry eyes.
Robbie came silently from his stairs, motioning for us to leave. As I turned I saw Serpent swing right for Jim and miss; my eyes continued 180 degrees.
‘C’mon guys, let’s go to the pub and have a drink,’ I feebly reasoned, hearing glass smash behind me. An intense pressure crushed my skull from the rear-right.
They ran across the highway without looking anywhere but straight ahead, for the modern day fortress of the service station. Car horns heralded their passing before they reached its bug infested fluorescent lights. Breathing heavily, they stopped, looked each other in their eyes and said at once: ‘Where’s Colin?’ They turned and saw what I could not feel: a limp figure being kicked and punched. Unconscious, being picked up from the grass on the southern side of the avenue, and thrown into a street-sign pole. They looked at each other again.
I could feel hands grasping frantically at my t-shirt and, feeling the pain in my head, instinctively threw myself from the ground like I was desperately trying to stand upright on a nine-foot wave about to throw me onto reef. And bolted west across the highway briefly bathed in a passing van’s headlights and bellowing horn. I ran half the next half-block then suddenly veered left, hoping for a fenceless side of the house I’d chosen, convinced they were behind me to finish the job. I threw myself at the side gate but it might have been a Roman fort; I clutched at the top of its neighbour’s fence but could not get a grip. Someone flew past in a blur of white, calling my name. I found them both on the corner of 11th and Cypress Terrace, fixed on my approach. As I reached them I felt my head with my right hand and it came down cold, covered in liquid – blood.
‘Jesus’, Jim stared at my hand.
‘I gotta get to the after hours clinic,’ I started running for it, six blocks away.
‘Stop!’ Robbie said while grabbing at my shoulder, stopping me as I reached Seventh Avenue. So we walked there after they convinced me running would only speed the bleeding. And it pumped across my shoulder in a sticky cold mess during the walk, all thought of what we’d escaped gone; all thought bent on reaching the clinic, and just how much blood I’d lost.
‘You’ll have to sit down and wait,’ the hateful repetetron behind the clinic’s reception said.
‘Fine,’ I said, conscious enough for anger, ‘I’ll just go off an’ die in the gutter.’ The door flew open
I called home when I got outside, and dad’s initial reaction was anger though eventually agreement he and mum should venture into the dark quagmire of Palm Beach’s night time CBD. Repetetron decided upon second-thoughts the blood covering my back gave me priority over sniffling and coughing waiting-room dwellers and finally I found that local GP’s operating table and lay there fighting to keep night from falling on the faces hovering above me.