Jonesy started and Clive was jolted from his seat as they simultaneously looked up to see the rear fishing rods reel screaming off. What had been Clives peaceful, beloved 14ft tinny seconds before suddenly turned into a hive of activity and chaos as the two men jumped to action stations.
The calming, lulling sound of the tiny waves caressing the hull of Jenny were instantly replaced by the crashing of gear and the screaming of Jonesys reel as Clive desperately cleared the other lines while Jonesy let the Jewie (hopefully) run with the live squid bait before he set the hook.
Moments before both men had been sitting in a comfortable silence aboard Jenny, named after Clives better half, on the south arm of the Hunter River. Jonesy had been sitting quietly, unable to stop thinking (worrying) about what was happening at work lost deep in the recesses of his own mind. Meanwhile, Clive had nodded off into one of his micro-sleeps, something he had been famous for in the lunch-room and for which the boys at work had endlessly given him stick about. That was until he had taken the voluntary redundancy offered by Big Harrys Place three weeks before, of course.
Let him go mate, just that little bit longer, Clive encouraged as he cleared the last line. Now!, he shouted as the much younger Jonesy dug his heels in, pushed through his legs and heaved back on the rod.
Now the reel really screamed as the Jewie realised something was wrong, felt the hook in his jaw and set sail for Stockton. Both men grinned like schoolboys as the fight began in earnest, Jonesy following the fishs every move and Clive pulling in the anchor in readiness for what was to come.
Both men were certainly in need of a bit of good fun and excitement in the past couple of weeks. Clive had recently taken redundancy in the second round of those offered at the maintenance shop. He had been working there since he left school at 15 to take up an apprenticeship his father had lined up for him.
Forty years later and his leaving ended an association with Big Harrys that his family had enjoyed for three generations. His grandfather, having emigrated from Yorkshire, had been one of the original inhabitants of Pommytown. Clive himself still lived in a two-bedroom cottage in Mayfield, where he and Jenny had raised their three kids.
That's its mate, hes had his big run, now just keep the pressure on and let him come in.
Clive talked through the contest as he looked at his younger mate Jonesy, once his apprentice and now a valued friend.
Geez, I hope you can be so lucky when the plant shuts down, Clive thought to himself as he watched Jonesy get the upper hand on the fish.
Clive considered himself one of the lucky ones out of the hundreds of workers affected by the plants shutdown. While considering himself much too young to be retired at 55, he and Jenny would be able to pay off their mortgage with his package, have some left over, and with Jennys part-time wage from her job at the club, be able to survive. Even if Clive never worked again, they would be OK, especially as all the kids were off their hands.
Jonesy, however, was in a much different boat, figuratively speaking. At 30 years old, and having an 18-month-old baby girl at home plus another on the way, he was at a completely different stage of life. To top things off, he and Margie had just built a new house in Adamstown, plus financed a new stationwagon. This was the time of life when they had the most debt, and were meant to be knuckling down and consolidating.
However, even though Jonesy was a tradesman, at this stage he wasnt sure if he would have a job by New Years. Clive didnt envy them one bit, and was worried for his mate. He really hoped that his young fishing buddy could find more work in the area, and not have to head to the mines up the valley or Queensland as a number of their previous workmates had already done. Who knew what the closure would do to the town, let alone the prospects of two small, seemingly insignificant workers and their families?
Even though Jonesy was usually unflappable, and was having a cracking time as he saw a flash of silver near the boat, a nagging thought played over on repeat in his brain. As he pulled the exhausted Jewfish closer to the boat, he wondered if this could be the end of the good times with Clive.
Jonesy was from solid mining stock in Weston. Originally Welsh coalminers, his family had been in the area for 100 years. Although he still thought of himself as a coalfields lad, he had come to love the life the city and its beaches had offered when he moved down as an apprentice. His uncle Bob had already said that he could get him a job as a labourer up at Muswellbrook if it came to it, but it would mean a much reduced wage and four days at a time away from home, not good for a young father.
As Clive hauled in the Jewie with the landing net he smilingly looked up at Jonesy and breathlessly uttered, Wow, this thing must be three foot long, done mate.
Within minutes, both men sat in silence with a celebratory beverage, admiring Jonesys best Jewie yet. As Jonesy looked down at the fish, noticing a slight mutation on the beasts dorsal fin, he quietly said Do you reckon the fishing will improve with the Big Heavy Polluter pulling up stumps?
Clive thought for a second and then dryly replied, Who knows, the only thing I do know is that I will sure have more time out here to find out.