Usually we took turns but sometimes Foggo wanted her to himself. Once he called it, that was it.
Foggo had the car, so he was the boss. It belonged to his dad, but his dad was dead. Foggo was also the biggest, though Willy was catching up. Everyone thought of Foggo as the biggest, anyhow.
China wasn’t Chinese. His mum was Malaysian or Maltese or something. His dad was Vietnamese, and everyone knew he made drugs. Speed and E. There was a weird thing where China didn’t talk about it, and none of us had ever seen Mr T at work, but everyone knew. It wasn’t just the kids. All the parents said it, too.
Nicky was the smallest but he had the most to say. He had this way of cracking you up just by looking at you. I reckon he was the smartest of the lot of us, but he never let on.
Willy’s family had a dishwasher and an Xbox. His parents taught at the Catho school. He was the sort of kid who used to be scrawny and cop shit for it, and then he got bigger and won best and fairest three years in a row.
On Fridays we’d pull up outside the pub and the girls’d be standing outside waiting for us. You could have your pick. Foggo would drive by and look at them all huddled there, like a police line-up, smoking and touching their hair. If he didn’t see anything he liked he’d bite his thumbnail and say, dogs, fucken dogs, mate, and we’d all agree, and we’d roar out of there. On to Maccas or the river or someone’s house, if we knew there was something going on.
The trophies were China’s idea. I didn’t really get it. It wasn’t like we ever looked at them. Mostly they went in the console or the glove box, but a few things—like Casey Grimes’ gold necklace with the cross, or one of those detachable bra straps we think came from Steph Horsburgh—a few things, we hung from the rearview mirror. The gold cross creeped me out. It was only the size of a five-cent coin, but at night it glinted under street lights.
I also thought it was weird that none of the girls ever asked for her shit back. Like, maybe Courtney Wyatt didn’t care she’d left her undies on the back seat of Foggo’s dead dad’s car, or maybe she was too embarrassed. But I was always surprised about Casey’s necklace. She went to school with Willy’s sister. I saw her around a bit after that night we took her for a ride, but I never saw her with another cross. Probably her mum or dad gave it to her. Shit like that made me feel bad, but it wasn’t the sort of thing you could say to the other guys.
I used to think we never did it with girls who didn’t want it, but one time there was a chick said we’d forced her. ‘Chicks are like that,’ Fog said. ‘They feel bad afterwards, so they try to make it better for themselves.’ That’s what my dad told Mr Wye when we all got called into his office after school that time. Willy’s dad was mad as a cut snake, but the rest of the dads just laughed. China’s old man didn’t even show. It was stinking hot that day. I remember the wormy track of sweat down the side of Mr Wye’s head. Afterwards we rode down to the river. Something must’ve spooked us a bit, because none of us spoke till we were there. Then Fog laid down his bike and said, ‘She wanted it,’ and we all went, Yeah, and Fog said, ‘Fat cunt. Just about had to roll her in flour to find the wet spot,’ and we all said the way we remembered it till we were sure it was right.
Foggo had this way of testing us. When we skated he’d get us to do bigger
and bigger tricks. He wasn’t the best at it—Nicky was—but he had no fear. When we started getting over skating, since none of us could do that many tricks anyway, he began to light the ramps on fire. He’d pour petrol in a ring on the ground, or dribble it in a line along the concrete benches in the park where we used to try darksliding.
He made things more exciting just when we were getting bored. Like one time I was dumb enough to tell China I thought Despina Vasilakis was hot. He told Foggo. One night we’re all drinking on the oval and Fog pulls up with Desi in the car. We all sit around on the cricket pitch. For some reason we’ve got extra grog, and we’ve done some nangs, and we’re all fucked. Desi’s sitting across from me. I can hardly look at her, she’s that beautiful. Her breath comes out in clouds. She’s got half a smile on her face like she’s waiting for the end of a joke. She whinges once or twice about the cold, and finally Willy gets a tarp from the car to put around her. Whenever she reaches for the bottle she makes a plasticky rustling sound. When Fog starts kissing her I’m pissed, but I know I’m gunna get my turn, so I’m waiting. Thing is, Desi’s hard work. She’s drunk and real floppy. Once she even spews everywhere—mostly on herself and on the tarp, but Foggo’s lucky he gets out the way in time. When it’s my turn her face is pressed to the grass, in her own spew. I’ve got two fingers in and she’s not even looking at me. She’s making this whiny noise. The guys are watching and I can’t get hard. I have to get myself going. Fog and Nicky are pissing themselves. When I finally come it’s a relief. Desi probably won’t remember it but I won’t forget it, because I really wanted to do it different with her.
She had frizzy dark hair that she made straight, but there were always these
little fluffy baby hairs round her forehead. Killer legs and this huge smile. Now when I think of her, it’s Bundy vomit and blue tarp. After school she moved to Melbourne to go to uni. She was really smart. Her undies were white with a satiny yellow rosebud, smaller than my fingernail, on the front. China nicked the flower. He hooked it into the clip of the bra strap. Seeing it made me feel crook, so after a while I put it in the glove box with some of our other stuff.
The last time it happened there was nothing for us to keep. Foggo, Nicky and I were cruising, waiting for Willy to finish work, waiting for China to answer the phone. We parked out the front of the bottle shop. Foggo went in. Nicky and I waited underneath the lit-up sign. Nicky kicked at the pebbles. His fidgeting drove me mental. I watched Foggo talking to the guy behind the counter.
He came out holding the plastic bags. A lot of Jimmy, a pack of cigarettes, plus whatever else he’d stuffed down his pants. He held out his hand for money. I looked over his shoulder at the guy behind the counter. He waved at me. I didn’t wave back.
‘I got an idea,’ Foggo said. He sounded like he did after one of his crazy sprints up the guts, kicking one on the fly from outside fifty. He was fast for a big guy. ‘You wait here. I’ll be back. Tell Willy we’ll meet him at the park.’
‘Fuck, Nicky, the one near the airfield. The one we fucken always go to, you dumb cunt.’
‘How the fuck’s Willy gunna get there?’ I asked.
Foggo shrugged. He opened the car door, stood with a hand on top. ‘Just tell him to meet us. It’ll be a surprise.’
‘At least give us some durries to have now, cunt,’ Nicky said. Foggo threw him the whole pack, then pitched two tinnies at me. He chucked them overarm out the car window so hard I almost dropped them. The car roared off and I thought, He’ll get pinged by the cops.
We walked up the road to the payphone and called Willy. He was just finishing his shift at the IGA. Marissa Markovic answered the phone and Nicky chewed her ear off so long I had to put in another forty cents. I heard her laughing down the line. We walked back to the bottle-o car park and started to drink. Nicky was talking shit. He got up and started to pace a bit, toeing at the pebbles below the lit-up sign again. I said, ‘Fuckssake, Nicky, can you keep still. You got a worm or something?’ He just laughed.
‘Can’t help it,’ he said. The white bits of his eyes were shining. He was hopping from one foot to the other now. ‘What, you gotta take a piss, mate? Fog’s gunna love that, fucken ballet dance.’
‘Stop tryna be him, cunt,’ Nicky said. But we grinned at each other. I liked Nicky even when he was a pain in the arse.
We’d finished half the pack of cigarettes by the time Foggo got back. I heard his car ages before I saw it, hole in the muffler. He pulled in by the bottle shop. He stuck his head out the window.
‘Fuck you been?’ Nicky called.
‘Had to go to the servo,’ said Fog. He was doing a smile that made him look nuts. China was sitting next to him. I stomped my empty can of Jimmy and yanked open the passenger door. Willy’s sister was in the back. She was still in her striped school dress and rugby jumper. I saw she’d pulled the sleeves down over her fingers.
‘Where’s Will,’ she said. She looked right at me. White-blue light on her, the kind of light that shows up your veins. I got a bad feeling in my guts. I tried to make my face say sorry.
‘Settle down, Missy,’ Foggo said. ‘I told you already. He’s gunna meet us.’ ‘I don’t believe you,’ she said. Her voice was like cut glass.
Fog looked at her in the rearview mirror. He raised his shoulders. ‘All right.
Don’t.’ He turned to me. ‘You gunna get in, or just stand there?’
I got really mad then. She wasn’t even the sort Foggo liked—big tits, big bum. Girls that looked like women. Missy was tall but narrow, like there were parts of her that didn’t realise they were supposed to grow. She kept her nails short for netball. And she was too young to hang out the front of the pub. Fog was only doing it to fuck with Willy.
‘Fog,’ I said. ‘This is fucked.’
‘I don’t care if you’re gunna be a pussy, but either get in or don’t,’ Foggo said.
‘You going or not?’ Nicky said to my shoulder blades. I walked around to the passenger side and opened the door. China got out with a shitty look on his face and slid in the back, and Nicky followed. Missy was pressed right up against the window like she couldn’t get far enough away from either of them. China passed her a tin, but she wouldn’t take it.
‘He’s just being friendly,’ Fog said. He was still watching in the rearview mirror. The gold cross was spinning and sending off points of light.
‘Where are we meeting Will?’ Missy asked.
‘He’s being friendly,’ Fog said again. ‘No need to be a bitch about it.’
He pumped the pedal so fast my neck snapped back, hit the part of the seat where the headrest should’ve been. He saw. He smirked. I wanted to kill him.
Willy was already there when we got to the park. I saw his mum’s car, which he wasn’t meant to borrow on Friday nights. Fog rolled down his window, revved the engine.
‘We going to the airport?’ Willy called. He didn’t even look in the back seat. Fog gave him a thumbs-up and floored the accelerator again. Willy’s lights flicked on and he followed us up the road. The airfield was closed for the night. They’d re-fenced it all about three years before. Used to be you could only get in if you climbed through a hole in the cyclone wire, but then one time we brought equipment and cut the padlocks on the side gate, and either they hadn’t noticed or they didn’t care, because they never fixed it. Missy went, Jesus, fuck! when we went over the ditch. I reckon her head coulda hit the ceiling. China got out and pushed open the gate. He took a piss standing by the fence.
We parked on the runway, the two cars side by side. Willy got out grinning.
He was in the scuzzy trackies he wore to work, and he looked extra lanky. ‘You boys been up to much?’ he called. Then he looked in the back seat of
Foggo’s car and saw Missy. ‘Fuck’s this?’
‘Thought we could do something different, eh?’ said Foggo. ‘I’ll smash your fucken face in.’
‘What’s the matter? You don’t want a turn, mate? You wanna sit this one out?’ The car door swung open and Missy fell out onto her knees like a stroke patient. I didn’t even see her get up, she was that quick. She just took off sprinting. Her dress was hitched up around her undies. Her hair had come loose. It was flying behind her like a flag. She didn’t need to run that fast. Fog would’ve followed through if she’d stayed there, but he wasn’t the sort to chase a girl down, usually. Willy ran after her, then stopped, like he knew he’d never catch her. He yelled her name with his hands cupped round his mouth, then he turned to face Foggo.
‘You fucken dog,’ he said. His fists rained on Foggo’s face before Foggo thumped him in the guts. Willy doubled over. I heard the air go out of him. But he stood up. He and Foggo circled each other. Fog’s nose was bloodied, but he looked massive. I’d been thinking Willy was catching up to him. I’d forgotten Fog’s mongrel rage. He could swell to twice his own size.
Willy swung wildly, like he’d never been in a fight in his life. He clipped Foggo’s jaw. Foggo drew back once. He smashed Willy in the side of the face, and that was it. Willy went down. He put his hands over his ears and lay there. Fog was kicking him in the ribs, in the guts. Finally China and me got it together enough to pull him away. Fog said, Get the fuck off me. He stood over Willy. He picked him right up by the shoulders, headbutted him. Willy fell to the bitumen again. Then he and China got in his dead dad’s car and drove off.
Willy was face down. He turned his head a bit. His spit was gluey. I counted six teeth sprayed on the ground.
‘Can you turn off the lights?’ he said at last. His mouth didn’t move right. There was blood coming from his ear and his eyebrow was split. I went to his car, switched off the headlights. Nicky was sitting by the driver’s side, elbows on his knees. I chucked him the key.
I lay down beside Willy. The asphalt was holding the heat of the day. We were close to the fence, near the only section crowned with barbed wire. There was a shredded plastic bag caught there, flapping. ‘Where do you reckon she went,’ Willy kept saying, but real quiet.
I don’t remember who drove home. Probably me. I don’t remember what Willy’s parents said about his fucked-up face, one eye swollen shut, or the next time I saw Foggo. We all came apart after that.
The story is Missy went and hid in one of the drains. She was there for two days. No one had any idea where she’d gone. I dunno what Willy told his parents. On the Sunday night there was a bad storm, first real rain in almost a year. The drains flooded and she nearly drowned. Some old bloke found her by chance when he was out looking for his dog and drove her to the base hospital. Later she said she’d wanted to run away because she’d had a fight with her mum. That’s what I heard, anyway. Willy’s family moved not long after that. Someone said Wodonga, someone else said over the river, far as Griffith. Must have been a fair distance, because I’ve never run into him playing footy for anyone in the Mid Murray League since.
Nicky got done for arson around that time and went to juvie. He disappeared for ages, and when he came back he was a chippie with a wife and three kids. I see him round sometimes. He’s quieter these days, Nicky, and you never see him without his family. His missus got him going to church. Once in a while we’ll have a beer together.
China moved to the city after Year Eleven. None of us knows what happened to him. I used to say *Good day *to Mr T whenever I saw him until he died last year, but I never asked about China. I had a weird feeling they stopped talking. Foggo had some rough years. I think it fucked him up when his dad died.
But he came good. Last I heard he was a senior constable working at the Swan Hill station.
These days I’m with Naomi. There are times she won’t open up for me, and I know it makes her feel bad. I say, It’s okay, baby.