Saturday Night at The Duke

Close-up photograph of fabric pattern on flannelette shirtIt’s 8am, a crisp winter morning. 11C outside. I drag a battered flannelette shirt over my t-shirt — a shirt that’s now 12 years old, I remember.

I bought it at Gowings when I first came to Sydney, and it’s still wearable, more or less. Where will I buy everyday clothes now that Gowings is gone?

The shirt smells of smoke. Why is that?

It’s not the acrid stench of cigarette smoke, but the dusty odour of burnt wood. Eucalyptus. A bushfire? Ah, no, I remember now. Sitting by the open fireplace at The Duke Hotel… red wine… the memories flood back as the coffee kicks in…

“What are you writing?” asks a gravelly voice.

A tall, thin lad with long greasy hair has spotted the newspapers spread across the table between me and the Snarky Platypus, the open notebook, the pen in my hand. The page is empty.

“Nothing, yet,” I reply.

The lad is drunk. Very drunk.

Stinkingly shit-faced drunk.

He looks a bit like a younger, thinner Tex Perkins, only more dangerous.

“Let me write something then,” he slurs as he grabs the pen and starts flipping pages. “I’ve just come from Silverwater.”

“Reason enough to celebrate then,” I say.

The Snarky Platypus says nothing, sips his wine.

Photograph of notebook pages, reading: THIS IS YOUR MIND

I notice the lad’s got a friend with him, somewhat less drunk. We exchange a knowing glance as the lad writes boldly, aggressively across a double-page spread:


And he underlines it. And again. And again and again and again and again — stabbing the page repeatedly until the pen rips right through the paper.

He stops, picks up the notebook and stares at it curiously for a few moments, surprised at his own aggression.

Suddenly a woman’s voice says “Can I write you a poem?” and her hand takes the notebook. She’s young, neatly dressed and coiffed, well-educated, bright-eyed and perky. “I’ll write a poem,” and she starts jotting down what she hears as the drunken lad rants to us, his friend, to everyone, to no-one in particular.

This is what she writes:

Explain the whole universe.
Which big cunt.
It’s coming around.
Peter Jackson died about the cunt.
But happy and healthy.
There’s all different Peter Jacksons.
We’re all happy.
What’s going on down there?

She explains that this is her technique. She listens to conversations and as soon as she hears a phrase that sticks out she writes it down. Then the next one, then the next. This is her technique, but I’m allowed to use it if I like.

In thank her, and tell her that her poem will be on the Internet in the morning. I ask her name so I can give her proper credit.

“Amala,” she says, “A M A L A,” assuming immediately that I’ll need to have it spelt out. “Groom, G R O O M for Mary.”

Amala Groom, there is your poem, on the Internet as promised.

“Another drink?” I ask the Snarky Platypus? “Here or somewhere else?”

“Somewhere else,” he says. He downs the last of his wine and we leave.

4 Replies to “Saturday Night at The Duke”

  1. magic!!!
    best thing writen ,since i was in silverwater!!

    [Stilgherrian writes: In theory I shouldn’t publish this comment ‘cos the email address given was obviously a fake, but what the heck. Thanks for the compliment, sir!]

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