It had been one hell of a summer. Forty plus, day after day. Dusty winds dropping in like farts waiting to be lit. All the farming families were umming over whether to cancel their usual summer retreats to coastal digs some hours down the highway. Just in case of anything. Not so much for the houses, which could be rebuilt, but for the animals. Curtis was a bastard but he did keep us all lively in the heat. Every night he would pop in for a couple of beers. Sidling up to one of the women, he’d say, ‘If you buy me a drink, you can ask me anything and I’ll tell you.’ Curtis had a knack for knowing other people’s shit – who was fucking whom, who was in trouble with the cops. So it worked a treat.
Curtis had no shame about paying women for sex. He hogged all the midnight shifts at the abbatoir for the penalty rates. ‘I need the extra cash’, he’d say down the pub before clocking on, gesturing to his dick with a sharp thrust. Often during smokos he’d have a crowd of younger blokes hanging on, as he talked about the different girls, what they looked like, how their mouths felt on him.
So when we found out he’d left town the week before Christmas with Sal, Karen’s eldest, we were all pretty surprised. It was no secret that they’d been keen on each other for years, but Curtis being exactly the kind of cunt he was, nothing had ever come of it. Karen was fuming. ‘I knew something was up with her, but I thought it was that bloody spliff. What’s she thinking. When she comes back here crying she can forget about asking me for nothing.’
That was the end of it for ages, then in late March one of the harvest blokes came in with a newspaper clipping. ‘It’s Curtis,’ he said. ‘He’s got hitched.’ There they were, right there in the social pages of a town a few hours inland. Done up all traditional, Sal in white and Curtis having scraped himself into a suit. I recognised something new in his face. He was in love.
We kept that clipping up in the bar for a while, and it sort of made us feel like he was still there. During quiet moments, someone would inevitably say, ‘Wonder what Curtis would reckon’, then the reminiscing would begin. As time went on, it got harder to keep all that up though. New talk took over, new faces. By the time the next summer came around, the clipping was yellowing and faded. I had to throw it away. It was sticky with beer, and covered in drawings of ball sacks.