Black Jack Steele
My name is Steve Simpson, and I want to tell you about my friend, Jimmy Brown?
“Woohoo!” yelled the young cowboy as he stood in the doorway of the Uranus Lawn Bowls Club, waving his hat over his head. I’ve ridden her to a standstill and have established a new personal best. Woohoo!”
It was just before ten o’clock on a Friday night, and the place was full.
“What are you talking about?” one of the club’s patrons asked.
“I’ve been fucking Jimmy Brown’s wife since ten o’clock this morning, and I’ve cum in her and on her seven times since we started. That’s a new record for me; a fact I’m sure she’ll support. Unfortunately, she can’t speak on my behalf at the moment because she’s over in my caravan park cabin and she’s out for the count.”
The attention of all the club members was on the flashy young braggart, so no-one noticed one of their number disappear into the men’s dressing room and slip out through the rear door.
Every town and village throughout Australia usually has two things: a community swimming pool and a lawn bowls club. Smaller or poorer communities may only have one of those facilities. Whether it is a swimming pool or a bowls club will often depend on how many kids live in the town and the general feeling of the parents of those children towards them.
With my experience of that particular town — I had the misfortune to be based there, with plans to stay for three years — I’d say that the vote would have gone towards the bowls club option. Most of the parents I’d had anything to do with during my stay, didn’t give a rat’s arse about what their kids got up to or who they got up to it with.
Being one of the more affluent towns in the southern New South Wales region known as the Riverina, Uranus had both a swimming pool and a bowls club. It also had a hotel. The trouble was that the publican, Pat Ryan, was a cranky old prick who wasn’t known to be a people person. Go figure.
His wife, Sioborn, though, was his complete opposite. She was one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet, and she put on an excellent meal in her dining room. Unfortunately, even her enviable reputations couldn’t counteract that of her husband.
What added to Pat’s downwards-pointing profit projections was the fact that he insisted on employing barmaids who were just like him. I’m sure it was the barmaids at Uranus’ Royal Hotel who were the foundation for the rumour that, ‘the barmaids in that part of the country have been known to eat their young’.
It should come as no surprise, then that when looking for an enjoyable night out, most of the residents of the town would head to the bowls club.
The town of Uranus sat on what was once — back in the old stage-coach days — the crossroads between four larger towns. Although small, it was steeped in history and had been a meeting place for many of the bushrangers — outlaws, to my American friends — who roamed the area around one-hundred-and-fifty years earlier. In more modern times, instead of stopping to change horses or feed their passengers, those who visited Uranus usually did so because it was on their route to somewhere else. They were simply passing through. As a consequence, Uranus was known far and wide as the arsehole of the world.
So affluent was the little town, however, that in addition to a swimming pool, a bowls club and a pub, it also had a large man-made lake and a caravan park.
The caravan park sat alongside the lake, and its owners — the local council — had installed four new, two-bedroom cabins so that those travellers who did decide to stay, would have somewhere comfortable to spend the night. The cabins were also used by members of the local farming and grazing community — the squattocracy — when they’d stay in town.
The squatters formed the membership of the town’s ‘other’ social organisation; the exclusive and secretive Uranus Lawn Tennis Club. When they’d decide to stay in town after a function or during a weekend-long tennis tournament, they’d stay in the caravan park cabins. There was probably no foundation to the rumour that they were not averse to sharing, and that they’d been known to squeeze somewhat more than the normal bed capacity into those cabins on such occasions.
They had their own bar at the tennis club courts so didn’t frequent the bowls club. They were seen in the dining room and bar of the Royal Hotel, however.
Up until the night of Scottie McFadden’s announcement, the only member of the bowls club who didn’t know that Jimmy Brown’s wife was the town bike was Jimmy Brown, himself. The poor bastard thought that the sun, moon and stars were sourced from her backside — Jimmy didn’t use words like ‘arsehole’. He loved her with a passion that very few women ever received.
If Jimmy Brown had one failing, however, it was that he was almost invisible. He was one of those people who could walk into a bank, demand money, then quietly walk out without anyone having noticed he was ever there. He was so nondescript that even the teller who had handed him the money from her drawer probably wouldn’t have been able to describe him.
That was why he was able to leave the club that night without anyone noticing. In fact, most of the patrons would not have even remembered he was ever there.
He worked for the local council as its tradesman carpenter; a position that was ideally suited to both his skills and his solitary personality. He wasn’t the lowest man on the council’s totem pole, but trade qualifications weren’t as highly recognised in local government circles as they were in other industries.
He could have earned a much higher wage if he were to move away from Uranus, but Marleen wouldn’t hear of it. And what Marleen wanted, Marleen got. Which is why in addition to his council job, Jimmy had to work on most afternoons and most weekends to make ends meet. There was no recreational downtime for Jimmy Brown, just different work. But he never complained.
“A change is as good as a holiday,” he’d once told me.
I liked Jimmy, and I had noticed he was there that night. I’d even had a chat with him. I’d seen him come into the club, but I’d had to search him out. I finally found him tucked into the corner of the bar out of everyone’s way. He was very shy, was Jimmy.
He’d told me that, as it was his rostered Friday off, he’d spent the day doing a bit of carpentry work out on one of the grazing properties. He said he’d left home before daylight and hadn’t returned until after dark. His sixteen-year-old daughter, Mary — he and Marleen had been married for almost seventeen years, and they had four children — told him that their mother had left home that morning to go to work and that she hadn’t returned.
According to him, his daughter had told him that her mother had to clean the caravan park cabin that had been occupied the previous night. She also had to prepare the three vacant cabins for occupancy that night. Apparently, there was some sort of tennis club function scheduled for the weekend, and all three were booked for Friday and Saturday nights.
She had also told their daughter that once she’d finished at the caravan park, she’d be heading off to do a bit of shopping and housework for a couple of the older ladies she’d been helping out for the last couple of months. She’d told her that she could be a bit late getting home so it would be up to Mary to look after her younger brothers and sister. As was happening more frequently, there was no mention of making sure that her father was cared for, so he’d had to see to himself when he’d got in from work.