5. You don’t belong here

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The Song of the Butcher Bird  |  5      Warrigal Station, Queensland

You don’t belong here


The two boys fighting behind the shed near the cattle yards were haloed in the low shafts of early sunlight, hazed in the billows of fine dust their feet were churning into the air. There were no words, just the scuffling of their feet and explosive grunts and gasps for breath as they struggled in a jerky waltz across the bone-dry, ochre-coloured ground.


Then the bigger boy ripped his right arm free and hooked his fist up into his opponent’s face, and the smaller of the two stumbled backwards and fell. As the dust drifted, the bigger boy straddled his opponent, jamming his knees painfully into the smaller boy’s biceps, pinning him, and punched down hard. The smaller figure squirmed violently, trying to throw the much heavier boy off balance. “Give up, why don’t ya, ya stupid little boong,” jeered the victor. “Ya never learn, do ya?”

Another boy ducked back from the corner of the lean-to where he had been keeping a lookout and hissed a warning. “The men are coming, Bluey.”

The bigger boy leaned forwards and pushed his face down close to the face of the boy almost totally obscured beneath him. “Stay away from the bloody yards. You don’t bloody well belong here.” He put a hand on the smaller boy’s throat to keep him pinned to the ground and pushed himself upright. “And stay away from me, ya nigger bastard. Next time I’ll break ya bloody neck.”

As the voices of the station stockhands moved closer, the bigger boy turned his back on the slight figure hauling himself unsteadily to his bare feet and swaggered away, slapping the dust out of his trousers as he went. The third boy followed, looking back furtively at the loser, now bent double, his hands on his knees, his head hanging, the sunlit dust sifting out of the air above him onto his back.

The bigger boy walked on towards the yards without a backward glance. “Fuckin’ Abo,” he said contemptuously.



 6. The London House, Grosvenor Square


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