Chapter Two

Charlie's Place

The next morning we shifted the truck to Charlie's. It was a gorse covered patch of land surrounded by native bush.

The only sign of human activity was an old Toyota station wagon parked under a large macrocarpa. Try as we might we couldn’t see any evidence of his house.

We levelled the truck, popped the side out, and had a quick cup of tea before heading off to put some possum lines out.

When we got back that evening, we found Charlie sitting on a stump next to the Toyota, smoking a cigarette.

Get many traps out?”

Yeah, 4 lines, seems to be a bit of sign about”.

Charlie stood up, examining the butt of his cigarette for a few seconds, before flicking it under the car.

I could tell Sue was about to say something about the health hazards of smoking and gave her the evil eye.

Sue frowned at me and wandered back to the truck.

Again there was a long awkward silence. Neither Charlie or I am good at conversation.

This time the silence was broken by half a dozen children chattering and laughing as they walked along the road. They stopped when they saw Charlie and our truck.

Hey, Uncle, that your truck?” exclaimed one of the older boys.

Na belongs to this fellah,” he said pointing his chin in my direction.

Oh, , who’s he?”

The boys' words seemed more like an accusation than a question.

His names Bryan that’s who, and I’m keeping an eye on his truck”. Charlie gave them a look that spoke volumes.

Some of the children snickered as they resumed their journey, once again filling the air with their words and laughter.

I smiled at Charlie, “ Thanks for looking out for us, I’d hate to have the truck broken into”.

Charlie swatted a large white bug that had landed on his thigh, “It's not you I’m looking out for”, he said, not taking his eyes of the smashed bug.

It was obvious that the conversation was over, so I joined Sue back in the truck.

Charlie went back to his stump.

It was a moonlit night, and Charlie sat smoking for hours. Sue invited him over for a meal, but he declined.

Just before we went to bed, we heard the door on the Toyota slam shut. We could hear the springs squeak as Charlie made himself as comfortable as you can in a car.

It took me a while to get to sleep that night.

Guilt does that.

 

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