Gaz rings and tells me he needs a lift — he’s out near St Andrews and he’s hit a kangaroo with his car.
“It’s a write-off,” he says.
I roll my eyes and leave a half a can of beer on the coffee table, slap myself in the face.
Gumtrees stretch over the narrow road. My high-beams find his silver-blue Ford Laser skewed across the asphalt at the end of curled line of skid marks. He’s sitting on the roof of his car in his Nike tank top, sucking a dart through his teeth. He holds his hand straight in the air when I honk the horn, blows a stream of smoke out his nose.
He strolls over and shakes my hand through the driver side window and says, “Thanks, boss,” his gold chain dangling in my face — a tiny gold ingot with a Scorpio symbol pressed into it.
I leave the lights on and we inspect the damage. The front of the car is bent in, bumper hanging off, steam trickling out of the radiator. The front window is smashed in and stained pink with blood. I can smell oil and eucalyptus.
I whistle. “You weren’t jokin’.”
He slaps my back. “Gimme a hand, will ya?”
I think he’s going to the rear of the car, to push it off the asphalt. Instead he walks over to the tall weeds on the side of the road, where the kangaroo lies dead and twitching.
“Grab a hold of him.”
I stand there with one hand on my hip and the other in my hair. “What?”
Gaz is already hauling the roo up, his hands under its armpits. “Come on,” his voice is strained. “I’m takin’ him with me.”
I want to get back in my car. Maybe that half a can isn’t too warm yet.
“It wrecked my car,” he grunts, tugging on the twisted body. “At least I’ll get some meat out of it.”
I sigh and walk in a slow, small circle. Gaz has that shaky look in his eyes, that glass-you-with-a-pint stare.
I take a hold of the hind legs. I feel something slippery. There’s a smell like rancid fat, unwashed wool, wet shit. I hold my breath and we struggle the thing into the boot of my Commodore.
I breathe, holding my palms out. “Do you even know how to cut it up?”
Gaz is drenched in red light. He’s stuffing its head into the spare tyre well. “I’ll google it.”
The tyres of my Commodore touch every bump and crack in the road. Gaz is smoking and his window is cracked open just wide enough to tap a spark through.
There’s blood on my hands, on the lambswool steering wheel cover. I can smell it.
The DJs on the radio are laughing at something stupid. Gaz tells me a story:
“Ya know what a roo does when it’s gettin’ chased by a dog? Mate of mine knows a park ranger — he seen it. The roo, right? If there’s a creek or somethin’ nearby, he’ll head straight for it. He’ll bounce out into a shallow bit, then he’ll crouch down. He’ll slap at the water with his paws. The dog comes along, reckons the roo is drownin’. Swims out to finish the kill.”
Gaz does the doggy-paddle with his hands.
“When it gets close enough the roo grabs the dog, stands up, pushes the dog under the water — drowns it.”
He gives me this look, like this story explains everything. I switch radio stations.
There’s a thump from the boot.
I turn the radio down and there it is again. A wriggling thump. I pull the Commodore over and Gaz reaches between his legs, finds the steering wheel lock on the floor, pulls it into two pieces and hands me one.
We stand around the boot. The engine is dead. Meat knocks against the metal.
“No fuckin’ way,” says Gaz. He grips his section of the steering wheel lock like it’s a baseball bat.
I open the boot and — a small shape leaps out.
Gaz drops the steering lock on the road. “Jesus fuckin’ Christ.”
I’m holding my heart between my teeth.
It’s a joey, a real young one. Gaz takes a step forward and put a hand on his chest.
The joey weaves a little, shakes it off — bounds away into the darkness, into the bush.
Gaz is babbling, his body tense with energy, making wild gestures and writhing in his seat. He’s re-enacting what we just saw, telling the story over and over, like I wasn’t there to see it myself. I have the windows wound all the way down and my foot on the accelerator, the rush of wind plucking his words away. I keep my eyes on the road and the glow of the dashboard. I watch the needle tick up as I roar through the night, teeth clenched.
We pull up to Gaz’s place, a set of squat, brown-brick units with a front garden of overgrown weeds. I don’t even cut the engine; I just sit there rumbling.
Gaz gets out of the car, leans on the open window, and says, “Come on, help me get it out of the boot and into the garage.”
I think of the joey, its eyes flashing in the darkness. “No.”
Gaz’s face turns sour, scrunched up and ugly. “What?”
I peel out, leaving Gaz standing in his street holding out his arms. I stop by the house for a shovel, then head back out into the bush. I don’t stop until the sun rises.
T.J. Robinson is a writer and editor based in Australia, living on unceded Wurundjeri land. He is the founder of the literary journal The Suburban Review and in 2010 he won the Grace Marion Wilson Trust Emerging Writer’s Competition for fiction.