by Alice Dolling
The three of us set up camp on the big red stoop down by the Yarra. Melbourne was still largely unchartered waters in our eyes and we delighted in every discovery. The past twelve hours had involved several distinct and colourful chapters. The harrowing flight featuring scream worthy turbulence followed by our raucous squawking. Sweating and dancing at the concert, playing in the strobe lights and ignoring the performers. The crisp contrast of the empty mall off Swanston St and smoking rollies outside the GPO. Then cut to free sausage rolls, plumbers, fast car rides with loud '90s beats and a four hour stint in the smoking lounge at the Crown casino with silent Korean business men in suits.
From our stoop we reminisced about the good times and wondered what to do with ourselves. A figure moved furniture around inside a nearby riverside café. By the time we had finished scoffing at the fool, who was no doubt preparing food for the day’s business at the café, another figure had materialised.
Terry appeared out of nowhere with no recollection of his previous movements. He would later claim he didn’t remember anything until he entered our arena of giggles and recognised the opportunity for a yarn.
“Wanna have a yarn?”
“We absolutely want to have a yarn with you!” Katina recognised the opportunity to add another five hours to our adventure and Staz nodded enthusiastically in agreement. I always found myself inherently trusting both of these women in situations like this. Katina because she was a giant, tanned, Amazonian, hippie entrepreneur from Port Pirie with a long list of bong rules and Staz because in the face of danger she could summon the fire of one thousand Greek Yiayias who have just discovered tattoos on their grandchildren. On the rare occasion that these two agreed wholeheartedly on something, you could be assured it meant a good thing had arrived.
My reservations dissipated as Terry started explaining what had happened to his eyebrow.
“I motherfucken pierced it with a toothpick!” He cackled and soaked up our combination disgust/admiration like a lizard basking in the sun.
“Are you some kind of prophet?!” Katina was obviously reflecting on the mysterious apparition of our new gang member. Eyes glowing like a deranged horse, Staz stamped her foot repeatedly on the stoop to demonstrate her approval. The image of Terry’s loping silhouette making a beeline towards us was burned into our memory banks forever.
Katina’s 50g pouch of Winfield blue was known to be communal right down to the dregs. Terry was immediately comfortable with this system and plunged his tiny scarred hand into its depths and rolled himself the scrappiest durries I had ever seen. With scrunched bundles of tobacco and tally-ho shoved behind both ears and hanging from the corner of his mouth, Terry informed us that he was an absolute master painter.
“My lines were just perfect, I could paint the most straight line you ever seen. You look at a line and if it’s perfect you know straight away that Terry done it. Everyone in prison wanted me to do their line-work cos mine was so intricate and beautiful.”
“You were in prison?” Three pairs of eyes widened.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you should see the paintings I done. You’d be bloody blown away. I was such a good painter, everyone wanted me to do their line-work.” Prison is old news to Terry. He decides to tell us what he considers to be one of the funniest stories in his repertoire.
“When I was in prison, I could only do… I could only... AHHHHAHAHAHAH I could only do...” Terry was choking on his words he was laughing so much, when he eventually got the punchline of the story out his eyes we glistening with tears, a deep hearty warbling laugh was erupting from within him and he held up three fingers.
“I COULD ONLY DO THREE PUSH UPS! THREE!” Terry straight up lost it. As three young women who had never been able to, nor wanted to, achieve even one proper push up we didn’t find the story to be extraordinary. Suddenly Terry became deadly serious.
“I seen the devil.”
The whole mood of the conversation shifted and we braced ourselves for a big reveal.
“I seen him sober and drunk. The devil got muscles on muscles and the blackest eyes.”
The humour was gone and Terry removed his hand from Katina’s pouch of Winfield blue to illustrate how serious he was. We all went quiet as we contemplated what muscles on muscles might look like. I looked at Terry with congealed blood all over his eyebrow and his oversized polo t-shirt and saw his expression turn to one of pain and sorrow. We talked at length about everything, life, death, respect, past, future and of course, cold-biting.
“Youse know about cold-biting?”
We didn’t. Cold-biting is the act of asking folk for stuff, a bit like killing in cold blood, you hit them up cold. Terry was way into cold-biting. He told us about a café down by the Yarra where he used to love cold-biting. He’d seen a young diner littering and told them to pick up their trash only to be told ‘fuck off dero’. If there was one thing Terry couldn’t tolerate, it was littering. He loped his way into the café and grabbed a pair of scissors from behind the counter. Standing amongst the outdoor seating, Terry plunged the scissors into his chest and went about aggressively cold-biting everyone at the café. After being kindly asked to leave, Terry spent the rest of the afternoon dragging himself along the grassy hills of the Yarra cold-biting every “redneck knob cunt” that crossed his path until eventually, someone took offence to the gushing stream of self-inflicted bloodshed and called the police. Terry obviously considered the whole incident a grand success.
As the sun started to show, we noticed movement from the closed up café next to our stoop. A man dressed in a ragged Adidas tracksuit appeared from under the plastic awning pulling a scungy yoga mat out behind him and walked off along the Yarra looking for another spot to put himself.
Terry was suddenly reminded that he wanted to show us his best spots along the river and felt it was important that we meet his best friend, assuring us he’d make sure his mate wouldn’t crack on to us or anything. So we set off, cutting a fairly unique image. Three young women in bright, stretchy, skimpy outfits complete with doc martins and the short statured Terry with his bloodied brow and ankle length coat, all laughing and carrying on like old mates. Marching four abreast we enjoyed the confused looks of the people on their way to work, Terry casually labelling people cunts if they gave us a wide berth.
"It’s just so amazing that everything has aligned like this, and that we can have so much respect for each other y’know? Respect is so important, deep down we are all the same, we just gotta respect each other, this is so great, what a great time!"
Staz was really feeling our situation.
Two hours later we were sitting under a tree by the Yarra with Terry and his best mate Eric. Eric had sourced a warm cask of white wine and they were getting stuck in. After a few drinks Terry wanted to show us some of his cold-biting techniques. We watched as he charmed people by ambushing them at the automated toilet block. He returned with a fist full of bent cigarettes, a lighter and $5.80.
With every suckle on the goon sack I sensed we were losing the Terry we had arrived at this spot with. As his eyes grew darker, he became petulant and uncoordinated. Katina gave him one of her friendship bracelets and we extracted ourselves from the situation, promising to come find him one day.
"If my leg gets itchy then I just gotta walk. I’ll walk to a different state if I want to. I’ll walk anywhere. Don’t ever tell anyone my full name, ever, don’t write no story about me and tell them cunts my full name."
I had the distinct feeling his leg would get itchy.