Paddy shifted listless in his chair. It was hot as hades in this outback heat as he glanced through an open door of the Police Station at shimmering heatwaves making his hangover even more unbearable. He hated this job and he hated the outback. It was not by choice he was here as he’d been reassigned from the comfortable living of the coast so far away it took days of stifling dusty travel over dirt roads to reach this destination. It was his penalty for displeasing the powers that be back where decisions were made and his choice had been this assignment or no job. He needed a job, so he accepted the appointment grudgingly.
He glanced at the paperwork on his desk and groaned. It could wait another day. Reports did have to be sent upstairs to the department but as no one wanted this position from what he considered to be the civilized world, apart from frequent sharp written rebukes at his tardiness he knew they wouldn’t find anyone to replace him easily.
This was the back of beyond and as he thought about it through pounding head it wasn’t all that bad for his situation. His wife had left him before a meltdown that had him out of favour with the department so he had no responsibility for family here, and he was the king of this huge outback district. He shared this elevated status though with Jocko the Pub Owner. They celebrated their joint rulership every evening after Paddy had shut up shop and retreated to the Pub for tucker and multiple pints of the amber fluid. Their comrade in arms celebration usually lasted until the wee hours when Molly who actually ran the pub put them to bed singing of their everlasting friendship until a sharp command from Molly silenced them each evening. That singing was replaced eventually by loud snoring that shook the house. Molly had long ago given up on Jocko and occupied their quarters upstairs alone, a situation that Jocko seemed vaguely conscious of.
The shimmering heat told it was mid-morning, the time Paddy’s head would normally begin to clear from a previous night celebration. Today was different, and Paddy struggled to put together events of the previous night. It was beginning to clarify and Paddy gave a chuckle. There’d been a slight misunderstanding. Their evening celebration had been joined by a couple of drovers and they’d suggested a game of cards. It was well after closing time, something that in the civilized world outside the bush would be strictly enforced by the department but here in the outback rules were made to be broken. As the evening progressed the drovers seemed to accept the same idea. Rules were made to be broken. Even in his inebriated state Paddy began to figure out he and Jocko were being taken in by these two who were, under the influence of the amber fluid, being a bit too obvious in signals they gave each other scamming Paddy and Jocko.
Paddy remembered it all now. He’d risen unsteadily and majestically to accuse them and the drovers had laughed. This had infuriated him. They were laughing at a police officer?
“I’m arresting you in the name of the law!” He slurred.
The drovers laughed in their inebriated state and stood to their feet.
“We’re arresting you too!” They shook with laughter.
Jocko interjected. “Go easy Paddy, these be important cust-mers!”
Paddy spun around in anger. “I’m arresting you too Jocko for illegal trading after hours.”
Paddy headed for the police station where handcuffs were to be found, the drovers headed unsteadily for the door when they saw Paddy was serious to retrieve their horses. Molly moved in and spirited Jocko complaining up to their quarters and locked the pub for the night.
Paddy appeared with handcuffs and a rifle and pounded on the pub door. Molly opened it and pointed her rifle at Paddy. “Go after the drovers and leave Jocko be Paddy!” She slammed the door shut again.
Paddy shook his head and stumbled down the street to his hut beside the police station. He rarely slept there. After several attempts, he started the jeep and weaved down the tarred main street hitting the dirt road on the perimeter of town at speed. He knew from experience which direction the drovers would be heading toward camp. A huge kangaroo bounced over the road in front of him and Paddy lurched to the left to miss it. When the dust cleared, Paddy found himself sunk into pebbles of the dried-out river bed. Attempting a recovery, he engaged four-wheel drive and gunned the motor. The jeep nestled further into the sand.
The noise of a crashing vehicle woke a camp of aboriginals who’d settled for a night sleep. Two of the elders crept in the direction of this noise and surveyed the scene. Lights of the jeep were still on so Elders watched and noted a relaxed Paddy sleeping soundly. They shrugged and returned to their camp.
Next morning Paddy trekked back to town and woke the garage proprietor Jed. He and his assistant accompanied Paddy back to the river in a truck to winch the jeep out and tow it back to the workshop. They smiled at the thought of selling a new battery and preparing a large repair bill for the damaged under carriage. Paddy requisitioned one of their jeeps while his jeep was being repaired.
Now he was back in his office trying to figure out how to explain to headquarters why this large expenditure was necessary. He was also feeling rueful at his foolish reaction to the drover’s taunts last evening, and his equally foolish attempt to arrest his friend Jocko. He’d had to humbly apologize to Molly that morning when it became apparent he may not be welcome to free meals at the pub any more. Fortunately all was forgotten and forgiven now.
To be continued.
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