Another Night in Mullet Town (12 page)

BOOK: Another Night in Mullet Town
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So much like happiness

Saturday lunch

and I'm teaching myself

how to scramble eggs

from a cookbook,

even though I reckon

Dad's the expert,

not this glossy recipe.

Lined up on the bench

are grated cheese, capsicum,

and thinly sliced ham that I bought

with my own money

because, if you're welcoming a guest,

then you should treat them right.

Mum is doing an extra shift for double time

and Dad's at the workshop.

The table is set with napkins

and the best plates I could find,

even if they don't match.

I open the window

and smell the ocean.

Someone knocks quietly

on the screen door

and I check my reflection

in the kitchen window.

I hear Ella's voice

say, ‘Jonah',

and it sounds like happiness.

So much like happiness.


After lunch,

Ella and I sit on the lounge.

Ella leans in close

and traces a line up my arm

with her fingers.

‘My dad has a tattoo

of Mum on his forearm,' I say.

‘I'll get some ink and a needle,' Ella replies.

She squeezes my skin tight between her nails.

‘That doesn't hurt, does it?'

I think of Dad, in his workshop,

tossing a ball for Peachy.


he'll be back on the road.

Love stains.

Ella jumps up,

walks to the kitchen

and takes a container from the fridge

that she put there

when she first arrived.

She tells me to close my eyes.

I lean forward, in darkness,

and hear the crackle of something plastic.

‘Tell me what I'm holding,' Ella says.

I can smell something sweet and nutty.

‘Pistachio,' I guess.


I lick my lips.

I know it's lemon gelato,

but I joke, ‘Salted caramel.

I love salted caramel!'

Ella smacks me lightly on the arm.

I open my eyes

and she jumps on me,

pinning me down on the lounge.

We both laugh.

She leans close and kisses me,

while the gelato melts in the container.


The following Sunday,

Manx casts a line into the lake

and sits against the tree trunk

looking across the water to Tipping Point.

He doesn't turn around when I approach.

‘Let's imagine you're a mullet,

stuck in the lake,' he says.

‘There's no way out, Manx,' I say.

He spits between the gap in his teeth.

‘Someone has let a few sharks loose.

They're big ugly monsters

that take up lots of space.

What do you do?'

I shrug. ‘It's a big lake, Manx.'

‘But sharks don't just swim

innocently around

smiling at the locals.

They feed off the weak,' he says.

I think of Ella and me,

the gentle hope of skin on skin.

‘Mullet stick with mullet,' I say.

‘Maybe some are impressed

with the size of their …' He laughs.

I shake my head.

‘We trust mullet with mullet,

no matter what.'

The line screams;

it's a big fish.

Manx smiles

and indicates for me to take it.

I rush to the rod

and quickly begin reeling it in.

Manx whistles as

I let the fish play

for a minute

to tire it out

before reeling again.

It comes easier now.

A silver flash breaks the surface.

I bite my lip

and reel harder

focused only on the catch.

At the last moment,

I flick the rod

and the fish sails over our heads,

landing with a thump on the bank.

It's the biggest we've caught.

Manx grips the fish in both hands

and carefully removes the hook.

He smiles at me.


I grin back.

He walks to the water's edge,

kneels down in the sand

and holds the fish under the water;

the fish stops wiggling.

‘What's that word again, Jonah?' Manx asks.

‘Trust,' I say.

Manx releases his grip

and the fish darts into the deep.

Manx stands, walks towards me,

and wipes his hands dry

on my t-shirt.

A horn sounds from the road.

Mr Gunn waves from the Holden.

Manx takes the rod from my hands

and walks away.

When he reaches the car

his dad says something

and Manx turns,

cups his hands and yells,

‘Fish and chips for dinner!

You want some, Jonah?'

I look across the lake

for just a moment

to the row of houses at Tipping Point

before turning away,

and striding up the embankment towards

Manx and his dad.


Steven Herrick

Shortlisted CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers
Shortlisted NSW Premier's Literary Awards

My hand in his
stops trembling
for a moment.

When the paths of a runaway teenage boy, an old hobo and a rich girl intersect in an abandoned train yard, each carries their own personal baggage. Over early mornings, long walks and cheap coffee they discover, no matter how big or small, it's the simple gifts in life that really make a difference.

A life-affirming look at humanity, generosity and love.

‘Herrick is an expert writer.'
Weekend Australian

ISBN 978 0 7022 3133 9

First published 2016 by University of Queensland Press
PO Box 6042, St Lucia, Queensland 4067 Australia
[email protected]

© Steven Herrick 2016

This book is copyright. Except for private study, research, criticism or reviews, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission. Enquiries should be made to the publisher.

Cover design and illustration by Jo Hunt
Typeset in 12/14 pt Adobe Garamond by Post Pre-press Group, Brisbane
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group, Melbourne

Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

National Library of Australia

Herrick, Steven, 1958– author.
Another night in mullet town / Steven Herrick.

ISBN 978 0 7022 5395 9 (pbk)
ISBN 978 0 7022 5642 4 (pdf)
ISBN 978 0 7022 5643 1 (epub)
ISBN 978 0 7022 5644 8 (kindle)

For young adults.
Novels in verse.
Friendship in adolescence – Fiction.


University of Queensland Press uses papers that are natural, renewable and recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The logging and manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

BOOK: Another Night in Mullet Town
13.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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