The charismatic power of my profession––past profession?–is still weaving its spell over my girlfriend’s friends. The sexy obs and gyne specialist thing. At least I was one til the good old AMA struck me off after my conviction.
No-one at the party seems to want to think about that. They’re prepared to consider me one of them, for Irena’s sake. Someone who buys shares and goes to the theatre and all that sort of thing.
I wolf down another spicy piece of barbecued chicken. I forgot the green sauce so I pile it on this time. Damn. A gob of it splats on my Bali shirt front, the silver thread soaking it up.
‘Oh, yes!’ says a chap with alcoholic rosacea, ‘I thought I’d heard your name somewhere.’ It isn’t surprising really, his forgetting, I’ve been in jail for five years. There are agonised laughs at him. ‘Quiet! Todd!’
The ambience is going south though. Pupils dilating. They’re registering what I said about the lizard suit. My greenie talk starting to ring alarm bells. They can make a joke of jail. These things happen. White collar crime and all that. Forgivable. But the greenie talk is not.
They don’t know just what the jail thing means though.
Lawyer Paul got me in under white collar crime but that was all he could do for me; low security. I still had to spread my buttocks after outside visits, to regard it as a matter of course, well almost…the men grateful they didn’t have to give me respect…it was all hi doc, how ya goin’doc…heh doc, could ya have a look at my bum, my chest, head. We were all bad boys; they could ask anything they wanted of me, the Aboriginal boys almost forgiving me for being white. Almost.
Even the guards took advantage of the fact my knowledge was free in there.
If this smart crowd of Irena’s had seen me selling my medical services like a whore just to make the men in the kitchen stop spitting in the soup...
I’d got myself on the kitchen roster because it was easy duty. My little greenie friend begged to go on it too. He baulked though when he saw men hawking into the vegie broth, casually, absentmindedly, like it was a matter of course as they stirred. He almost had a nervous breakdown. Wouldn’t eat anything except bread from then on. I knew I had to do something: offers of free prostate exams didn’t hack it. I had to promise lectures on how to have better sex.
I tried to stop the expectorating over the outside floors for Josh’s sake but the men weren’t having that, made it clear I was going too far. Their great glistening, glutinous gobs of sputum on the paths a mark of manhood among crims.
Josh walked everywhere with a habitual sob. The more he stepped around them the more the gobs came. And the more he sobbed. With tears in his eyes he grabbed my shirt one day. ‘Man. The environment can go hang. The whole planet can go to sea in a bucket for all I care. I’m not going to take any chances of getting back in here. You want my lizard suit, man?’
I took my inheritance, thanked him thoughtfully.
A lizard suit is as good a place to hide as any. As lizard suits go this one is pretty high quality. The hard backed frill at the neck permanently standing out in male lizard wary stance. The green-brown body of it, made of space age material, smoothly designed, suits my slender body.
I leave my oysters on the plate, not so keen on oysters after jail.
Irena’s face tenses, the curl of hair at her neck not cute any more.
I make one last effort at manners. Almost genuflecting towards the gossipy gold-splashy crowd milling around on the raised patio. Polite, blonded heads bob back. The elms and birches around the patio swim in and out of my consciousness, I brush past their foliage, aware I’ve failed some test.
I don’t blame them, I’d have felt the same about someone like me once.
I make it into the hall. In retreat I seem to have dwindled in size. Irena follows me.
Anger flashes through me, as if I’m running towards the lizard suit. It’s waiting out there in the van for me, I already feel my body in it. Running up towards Broome. Towards red-cliffed James Price Point, strewn with the forty million year old half-footprints of dinosaurs that traipsed up and down between ancient ocean and mountains.
I’m running towards the wide waters of the Kimberley ocean, home to the nursing humpback leviathans, growing their babies in their warm water nursery before they head south to the colder feeding grounds.
I’m pumping with intention, adrenaline finally kicking in, I’m coming back to size.
There’s little hope of saving the North from the philistines. I just want to be one of the ones who try, try to stop the dinosaur tracks from being blasted out of existence. Try to stop the peace of the whale nursery from being destroyed with the noisy welter of rig and kilometre-long pipes and container ships.
I want to stand on the shore and weep buckets of tears and tell the whale mothers I’m sorry. That I’m one of the ones who care; that I almost saved a young woman from the misery of sterility once, before the cops got me.
So that’s it. I’m going to be a greenie proper now. Sell my shares? Nah! They’ll be useful, get me into company meetings, up against the big money.
By God I’m ready to do bloody battle!
Irena and I stand in her state of the art adobe-like entrance. Her eyes flick over the green gob on my shirt front.
‘You shouldn’t be driving.’ An anxious smile comes from her, merely ritualistic, a ghost of what I realise now is defunct.