WHAT colour shirt are you wearing tonight? Gary asked.
Whats it matter? Do you think youre going to find true love there? George didnt bother looking up as he teased his friend.
Just didnt want us to look the same.
Im fat and youre bald. Its difficult to get us mixed up. Trying to ignore the remark, Gary instantly felt self-conscious and patted down his combover.
As Gary peered out of the tinnie and towards the smoking coke stacks, he wondered why they always fished here. Not this exact spot, but this part of the river. He could see the rod mill, where they both worked, and wondered why they needed to look at it on their days off. He wondered why they didnt try the lake. It had a much nicer aspect with the trees and the yachts, but then he thought that there would be plenty of time to try the lake when they closed the plant and they both retired.
He could see the rod mill, where they both worked, and wondered why they needed to look at it on their days off.
Gary thumbed through the paper and got to the form guide. He found the listed harness races at Maitland for tonight and went to race three where their horse, Krakows Girl, was in her fourth start.
Did you call Mick? he asked. I called last night, he wasnt there. I talked to his wife, replied George.
What did she say?
She said that he wasnt home and she would leave him a message. What did you think she would say? I wished Id married you instead of my idiot husband? George grinned at the thought.
Krakows Girl had run a promising third in her last race. She was caught three out for most of the trip and just had nothing left in the tank when the favourite came down the slip stream.
After reading what the paper had to say about their horse, Gary swatted a fly and said, Mick rides her too early. He doesnt let the horse get into a nice rhythm. Remember when we bought her, they said that she was the type of horse that needed to get into a rhythm. She would win because of her rhythm, not her speed.
We should have bought a horse with speed. The aim of the game is to be the fastest, replied George.
Youre the one that wanted her. I thought the gelding from Dubbo was a better buy.
They both stopped and looked out towards where their fishing lines dropped into the river. Neither wanted to jinx themselves, but both knew that their horse had a good chance at winning tonight. It had drawn well and most of the other horses were maidens who hadnt even placed.
Theyd had a good day and had caught three bream and a flathead, but the midday sun was eating up the day and it was time to go. Gary pulled up the anchor and George closed his tackle box. By the time they headed back towards the boat ramp at Hexham, the southerly had picked up and was helping to push the tinnie along.
As they turned down the river, past the bend near Ironbark Creek, George had the boat going at full speed. He didnt see the log, floating like an iceberg, bobbing up and down in the water. Momentarily his attention was drawn to a cormorant that was nesting in the mangroves, forming a silhouette with its wings in the noon sun. He didnt even realise hed gone over anything until the log went under the bow of the boat and smashed into the propeller of the outboard motor. It jagged the boat to the side and turned it back on itself. The boat went viciously to the left, up, and then tipped to its side and quickly took in water. Both men were thrown into the river. Gary hit his head violently on the edge of the boat. He sank like a brick to the mud and oyster-encrusted rocks, only meters from his friend.
After being underwater for what felt like an age, Georges head broke through to the fresh air, which filled his lungs. He tried to find his bearings, noticing that Gary was nowhere to be seen. Gary, Gary! George yelled, but his voice whimpered off, with his mouth full of silty water.
Half floating in the river like a heavy cork, his arms were sore from treading water. George looked for something to grab. He dog-paddled towards their upturned esky and grabbed it. He tried to lift his heavy frame to a more comfortable position but slipped and started to cough. He called out for Gary again but there was nothing. The edge of the river looked so far away.
George was numb and panicked at not being able to find his friend. He could feel his strength dropping. George didnt want to die. He knew death was lifes final humiliation, shedding away all dignity and pride. George tried to yell at a car on the road in the distance but each time he called out the brackish water lapped into his mouth.
Pulling at Georges legs were his shoes, which were full of water and making his hips sore. He wanted to pull them off, but was afraid to try because he might tumble under the water, become frailer and even more disoriented, and never find a way out. In the distance George could hear a motor on the river. He looked around to see what way it was going.
Later that night, Krakows Girl loomed up on the outside of the leader. As she turned around the final bend, she fell into a rhythm that she held until she passed the finish line.