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Authors: Daniel Ducrou

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The Byron Journals

BOOK: The Byron Journals
3.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Daniel Ducrou is working on the Aboriginal History of Fitzroy project and the Smith Street Community Plan.
The Byron Journals
was shortlisted for the 2007 Australian/Vogel Literary Prize and the 2008 Premier's Literary Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript. Daniel lives in Melbourne.


Daniel Ducrou

The paper in this book is manufactured only from wood grown in sustainable regrowth forests.

The Text Publishing Company
Swann House
22 William Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Copyright © Daniel Ducrou 2010

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

First published by The Text Publishing Company, 2010

Cover design by WH Chong
Page design by Susan Miller
Typeset by J & M Typesetting
Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press

For Oliver, with love.








































‘I think I was born into the wrong city.' Andrew buckled up for take-off. ‘Definitely the wrong family.' He watched a plane accelerate down the runway, its fuselage shimmering in the heat, behind it the Adelaide hills lining the horizon. ‘Maybe I'll join a cult when we get there and disappear for twenty years.'

Benny reached up and adjusted the air conditioner to blow on his face. ‘I'll get back and everyone will ask: What happened? And I'll just shrug and say: “Andrew has a new family now, a new home in the rainforest.”' Andrew nodded. ‘Probably a new name, too.'

‘Perhaps something big and powerful,' Benny said, spreading his hands and laughing. ‘Like…Himalaya.'

‘Nah,' Andrew replied. ‘Maybe…Breeze…Or Zephyr. Something that disappears without being noticed.' He pushed in his earphones and scrolled through his playlists. As the plane taxied towards the runway, Henryk Górecki's ‘Third Symphony' heaved to life, slow, dark and beautiful. He felt like he could survive anything with this rich, potent stuff pouring through him.

He lost his stomach when the plane lifted, then again when they bumped through turbulence. Górecki's first movement soared upwards with him. Wisps of cloud streaked across the window and he slouched in his seat, glad to see the city fading behind him. He watched as the suburbs broke apart, releasing their grip on him, and gave way to patchworked farmland. Exhausted, he closed his eyes and drifted towards sleep.

When he woke two hours later, they were sliding over the rich green farmland and sub-tropical rainforest of northern New South Wales. Small towns joined by gleaming belts of river passed below them, until they neared the edge of the land, and the Pacific Ocean emerged from the horizon: immense, blue and wonderful.

Ballina airport seemed more like a converted warehouse than any kind of permanent operation. Through the window he could see cattle grazing in the paddocks beyond the fence line. While Benny waited to collect his surfboard, Andrew turned on his phone.

Think, Andrew…Don't make things worse. Dad.

He deleted the new message and shouldered his backpack. When he turned, Benny was walking towards

him, talking to a surfie who must have been in his midforties. He had broad shoulders, dark skin and a glazed indifferent look in his eyes.

‘Andrew—this is Shadow,' Benny said. ‘He's offered to drive us to Byron for thirty bucks.'

‘My van's out front,' Shadow said.

Andrew turned to Benny and shrugged; they grinned at each other and followed.

They piled their luggage onto a mattress in the back of Shadow's rusted white Hiace van and squashed into the front seats. The floor was littered with take-away food wrappers and the air stunk of damp towels and weed. Neither of the seatbelts worked. Andrew and Benny left them hanging loose at their sides.

‘So, Shadow…' Benny said as they drove the arcing road towards the exit. ‘Where's the best place for me to surf?'

Shadow glanced at him and smiled. ‘For you?'


Shadow didn't take his eyes off the road. ‘Tourists usually stick to Main Beach or The Pass.'

Before Benny could reply, Shadow turned up the volume on his stereo and the van filled with pounding bass and a kaleidoscopic flood of synthesizer.

They hit one hundred along the coast road and Andrew lowered his window, letting the air gush over him. It was different from the air in Adelaide, thicker and heavier. He drew a deep breath and started to relax. Beaches flashed by, surfers sitting on their boards out past the breakers. The road wound through cane fields, then old growth eucalypt forest.

Byron. Andrew felt the buzz of the place straight away. The main street was jammed with traffic and the footpaths were packed with Schoolies. Shadow stopped at a zebra crossing near the supermarket and waited for a group of girls, laughing as they struggled to control a shopping trolley stacked full of beer and cask wine. One girl, wearing a bikini top and a sarong, and streaked with sunburn, caught Benny checking her out. She winked and continued with her girlfriends.

‘Did you see that?' Benny shouted over the music. ‘Did you see the way she looked at me? I think we had a moment!'

Andrew laughed. ‘You definitely had a moment.'

Shadow gave them a pitying look.

‘Do you think she was a lesbian?' Benny said. ‘Do you think she would at least kiss another girl?'

‘Yeah, probably,' Andrew replied. ‘I don't know… Why not?'

Benny's laughter turned into snorting and Andrew grinned, shaking his head. There were young people everywhere, many with their shirts off and barefoot, moving between the surf shops, cafés and travel stores; it couldn't have been more different from Adelaide. They turned right at a roundabout and a faint drum rhythm spilt through the window. Andrew twisted in his seat to catch a glimpse, but his view was blocked by a wall of bodies. The van gathered speed along the esplanade and the ocean flashed blue between the casuarinas.

Shadow hooked a right opposite Clarkes Beach Caravan Park, lowered the volume on his stereo and drew to a stop. ‘So lads,' he said. ‘Are you lads after any weed?'

Benny turned to Andrew and waited for him to take charge.

‘Maybe,' Andrew replied. ‘How much is it?'

‘Three fifty for an ounce, or two hundred for half.'

It was a rip-off but Andrew didn't care. ‘Outdoor or hydro?'

‘Pure organic outdoor, my friend. I Reiked the plant every day throughout the budding cycle.' He looked at his hands and smiled. ‘It's brimming with the universe's infinite love and energy.'

Benny mouthed
to Andrew and tried not to laugh.

‘Wait till you smoke it,' Shadow said, catching Andrew's eye. ‘Then you'll understand what I'm talking about.'

Andrew took out his wallet. ‘We'll take half an ounce.' He counted the money while Benny extracted thirty from his wallet for the ride from the airport.

Shadow unlocked a red toolbox by his feet, pulled out a zip-locked sandwich bag and tossed it to Andrew. It looked a bit light—but he didn't say anything. He opened the bag and the air swelled with the passionfruit and foot odour stink of the weed. Benny bit his lip and looked around nervously as Andrew rolled a thick bud between his fingers, smelled it, then dropped the bud back in the bag, sealed it and stuffed it into the top of his backpack.

‘He might have been a cop, you know,' Benny said, as Shadow's van took off up the street.

Andrew shook his head. ‘Cops can't set you up like that. Otherwise it's entrapment.'

Benny nodded, his brow furrowed. ‘And where'd you get the cash?'

‘Dad gave it to me.' Andrew hesitated. ‘As a bribe.'


Andrew looked away. ‘I walked in on him…with someone.'

‘Shit, Andrew.' Benny lowered his surfboard to the grass. ‘Who?'

‘An Asian girl—about half his age. One of his students.'

‘Doing what?'

He closed his eyes and exhaled through his teeth. ‘Fucking, Benny…What do you think?'

‘Jesus…Are you okay? What happened?'

‘The girl started crying, grabbed her clothes and rushed out the back door…Dad pulled on his shirt and pants and—get this—started yelling at me.'

‘About what?'

‘Well…he was pissed off that I wasn't at my music exam. I yelled back and told him what an arsehole he was and tried to push past him but…' ‘What?' Benny paused. ‘Did he hit you?'

For a moment, Andrew considered telling him they'd had a brawl—it would have been a good way to explain the bruises on his back and ribs. ‘No. He grabbed me and said that he was proud of me for studying so hard. He said I'd make a great musician one day. Then he opened his wallet and palmed me a wad of cash.'

‘How much?'

‘Doesn't matter. A stupid amount. He said: “For your holiday in Byron, but don't tell your mother.”'

‘About the money or the girl?'

Andrew shrugged. ‘Exactly.'

‘What an arsehole.'


‘You're going to need to smoke as much of this weed as possible to erase those memory cells.' Benny laughed uneasily. ‘So that's why you were so wasted when I got to your house?'

That was only part of the reason. Andrew picked up his backpack. ‘Just don't tell anyone, all right? I'll fucking kill you if you tell Richie.'

Benny avoided his gaze, nodded and picked up his bag and surfboard.

The apartment sat a block back from the esplanade, halfway between town and the lighthouse. The living room had white tiles, a low ceiling and cane furniture. Not exactly luxurious, but it was theirs for the week. The screen door wheezed and clicked shut behind them. Richie, Benny's next-door neighbour from Adelaide, pushed up off the couch with a stubby of beer in his hand. He was a stocky guy with cropped orange hair, freckled skin and a gap between his front teeth.

BOOK: The Byron Journals
3.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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