The WHAT'S NEW! page contains the latest medical updates. If you're wondering how I'm going as far as health is concerned, this is the place to start. Latest: Wed 27 Nov 2013. 7.20AM

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My wicked start to life in Brisbane [Part 3]

   Wrong again. Be patient.
   ‘Let’s eat,’ he said, opening another stubbie for himself. I was dragging the chain sadly in the drinking department and still had half of mine to go.
   ‘What’s up? Are you OK?’ he looked at me a little dubiously.
   ‘I’m fine!’ I really was OK. ‘Mum’s given me enough food for an army here.’ Which she had.
   ‘Mine too. She always does. But I’ve converted her to tradables.’
   ‘Yes. Stuff you can keep for weeks or months, like chocolate bars. Not sandwiches and biscuits like you’ve got that you’ll have to throw away if you don’t eat them by the time we get to Brisbane. Mum's given me stuff I can eat later, or use to trade in the dorm for things I want. If I can get them past the screws…’ he grinned. ‘Which I can, anytime. I haf my vayz…’ He imitated something akin to Gestapo-speak. I did not doubt that for a moment that he did.
   I was curious about those ‘vayz’ but, as he said no more, I didn’t press the matter. Instead, I got out the pile of beautiful sandwiches my dear mother had lovingly prepared, and offered them to my new criminal partner. If Mum had seen where half of her lovingly prepared sandwiches were going she would have… honestly, I don’t know what she would have done…. but it would certainly have destroyed my cred with Mr Moloney, whatever it was.
   What she didn’t know didn’t hurt her, I figured…. Or me, fortunately. On both those counts I was probably right, as long as the long arm of the law didn’t step into the compartment doorway. In this situation we could neither run nor hide.
   ‘These are great,’ he said, hoeing into a second chicken sandwich. ‘Want another beer? There’s still a couple left. I know how we can get more later.’ I really wasn’t that keen on more-later but I simply said I was right with what I had left. ‘Want another smoke?’ He knew by now that, as I hadn’t smoked any more since he left, I couldn’t have been carrying any, which meant I was just an OP smoker at best. OP? Someone who cadges smokes off Other People and doesn’t buy them. I thought everyone knew that…. Not that I was one anyway.
   ‘Nah. I’m right.’ He didn’t care whether I did smoke or didn’t, which was fine by me.
   ‘Well, if you change your mind, I’ve got plenty. I can’t believe we’ve been lucky enough to share this compartment and no-one else is in the middle berth.’ He was right. At least it was dead lucky for him, but he was clearly the sort of bloke that things mostly fall his way. 
   ‘NOW…. Here’s the plan.’
   We had a plan? I didn’t know that. But I soon would, that was apparent.
   ‘At about 8, a couple of blokes are coming in here, for a game of cards. Do you want in?’
   Even I, naïve as a baby, understood that this wasn’t Snap, or Euchre, Bridge or 500 we were discussing. We were talking Poker, most likely, or Pontoon (Blackjack), and we wouldn’t be playing for matchsticks like at home. Real money was involved, and I didn’t have a great deal of it in my pocket. Mum had set me up with a bank account I could use in Brisbane, and precious pounds had been put in it, but I knew that me playing poker against comparative pros would be a lamb to the slaughter. I drew the line at that, cred or no cred. Those pounds had been too hard earned to be lost in a game of poker.
   ‘Poker? I’m useless at it. I couldn’t bluff my way out of…. a wet paper bag,’ I said, mixing my metaphors hopelessly. Well, using a pitiful one at least. But he knew what I meant.
    ‘No problem. There’s not really room for four in these little spaces. We’ll just play three-handed. Me and these two others I rounded up. Cut-throat.’
  I wasn’t aware that you could play anything but Cut-throat in Poker. 500, yes, or Euchre. But it seemed a very good opportunity to shut up, so I did. And he was right. The pull-down wash-basin was smack in the road of any fourth player to sit down. 
   Clearly, this was not his first on-line game of poker. On-train-line, that is. Hah hah.
   Round 8 pm, two blokes I thought were aged about 30 came in. Peter had chosen well. These were clearly not state plain-clothes gaming cops. They didn’t have that fishy, sneaky look about them. They stood and talked like bored shearers.
   They had each brought a stool with them from the dining car - the sort that lock down with a wing nut so they didn't move around while the train was in motion. Don’t ask me how they did it, but I guess it wouldn’t be that hard to smuggle them out. In fact, the best way would be to just walk out with them, bold as brass. Or, maybe, they'd just asked to borrow them.
   ‘I’ll sit on the bottom bunk,’ said Peter.
   ‘Too bloody right you will,’ said the less friendly of the two. ‘I’m not having your mate [meaning me] looking over my shoulder from the top berth.’
   I must have looked slightly injured at the impugning of my honour, but Peter grinned and said, ‘Damn! You got us there, mate. Now you’ll have my dough off me in half an hour.’ The other bloke half-smiled. No doubt about it, Peter Moloney could charm the legs off a cobra. Maybe that’s how they lost them in the first place, though there’s nothing in Indian mythology about Peter Moloney.
   I quite liked the top berth in the second class sleeping compartments. You had more headroom and it was less claustrophobic than the lower two. To go to the toilet you did have to struggle a bit to get down and up, but that wasn’t hard for a teenager as fit as I was. You could see more out of the windows too, especially the high one at the very top, and get more air – necessary in a closed compartment with three boozing smokers playing cards and doing their best to recreate a London smog. 

Illustration by Watto

   I WAS interested in the game and how Peter was playing it as I watched over his shoulder. I did understand poker, by the way. I just knew I didn't have a poker face. In that respect I was like my mother. There's a kids' game called 'Cheat' - you may have played it. The person who can lie most convincingly wins the game every time. Mum tried to play it against us kids and looked so guilty when she had to lie that she was useless at it. 
   I would have been like that in a real poker game. But not Peter Moloney.
   He was good. Once he’d worked out that one of them was a lot better than the other (which took him all of three minutes), he played the ends against to middle and let one of them take out the other, while he lay low and watched the better player’s style. The weaker player dropped out after a couple of hours, no doubt having reached his limit, and left - some ten quid poorer. The stronger player, happy with the way things were going, agreed to go and buy more beer and smokes from the dining car. I’ll call him Jack just to make it easier, though I can’t remember what his name was. Maybe I never knew it in the first place.
   He’d just come back with fresh supplies when the conductor turned up.

[Final part coming up!]


  1. Who is Watto (your guest cartoonist)?



Some iPads simply refuse to post responses. I have no idea why, but be aware of this.
Word verification has been enabled because of an avalanche of spam. SAVE or compose a long comment elsewhere before posting; don’t lose it! View in Preview mode first before trying to post.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.