Back to business

After a week or so basking in the glory of Woolgoolga (Woopi to the locals), we got back into Newcastle mid afternoon on Wednesday. Got down the creek about four o’clock as thunderheads built in the south-east; I knew that if I wasn’t quick Jambo would miss out on his walk altogether. The creek beds were dry, with a crust of mud. At Richardson Park the concrete was carpeted with fallen fig berries.

I looked under the bridge for Old Mate but there were no signs of life. Perhaps he’s finally bolted.

As I walked eastwards the wind picked up, sending leaves scuttling along the banking. Thunder rumbled like tearing metal. The only rubbish was the heavy stuff: the roadworks sign, a rusty mattress.

The lack of a recent flush and a series of low tides had led to a dryness on the concrete that I hadn’t seen for months. The down side (was there an up side?) was the effluent oozing from the gasworks and the fuel depot; recently it’s been black and bituminous but now it was a scarred, acid-burned white, like the surface of some distant planet.

I found where all the light-weight rubbish had gone to when I rounded the bend in the creek and headed down towards the TAFE. It was the usual sad graveyard of plastic tat.

As a Dungog train trundled past over the rail bridge I felt the first heavy drop of rain on the back of my neck. Within thirty seconds it was pouring and the dried muck quickly turned into a slimy slurry. I jogged up towards the bend with the Styx when who should appear but Old Mate, out of the long grass. This is where he spends the drier days but, like me, he’d been caught out. He was clutching his cushions and heading towards the refuge of the gap under the bridge, the patch of dirt he calls home, and we jogged along, he on one side of the creek and me on the other, catching up on events by shouting news back and forth across the beck.

I left him after I’d provided the usual service (the time of day, the five-day forecast, the cricket score) and scarpered back home, me and Jambo sodden, the both of us.


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