Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Banjo




Susan Eames

Banjo

Weak tea


The city sizzled in a heat so intense, spontaneous combustion seemed plausible. Banjo eased the damp waistband of his pants away from his sticky skin. He flapped his shirt, showing flashes of whiskery milk-white belly. A woman passer-by harrumphed.
“Sorry, lady.” Banjo looked at his dog. “Smell like you, I reckon.”
An Aboriginal family had overflowed from the burnt-grass verge to lay sprawled across the pavement. Their buckled supermarket trolley stood guard. Banjo stepped off the kerb to skirt around them.
“Hey, feller.”
Banjo kept his eyes down.
“Spare a dollar?”
He kept walking, eyes averted. Their spiteful cackles pursued him. The familiar depression settled on Banjo like a bruise. He should find a kinder town.
His stomach rumbled. The dog pricked its ears. Banjo’s face creased into a smile. “Tucker time?”
The dog grinned back.
They kept to the shady side of the streets. Banjo didn’t attempt to enter the Mall and the allure of its air conditioned aisles. He knew he’d get thrown out quicker than a blind wallaby. Instead, he meandered through the pedestrian area, checking the bins. The council had put little cutesy tin roofs on them, making it awkward to do a quick rummage. Banjo sighed and sat on an empty bench outside the hamburger outlet. The dog busied himself, snapping at flies and nibbling at fleas biting his rump.
It was a good spot and before long a whining child had thrown her polystyrene burger box in the bin. Banjo scooted along the bench and reached into the bin. Bingo! He shared the flabby half eaten burger with his dog; it tasted good. He tilted his crumpled hat forwards and closed his eyes. The dog fell asleep first.
Banjo snorted when a foot nudged his leg. “You can’t sit here, mate.”
Without opening his eyes he guessed it was someone from the hamburger outlet. The police would have addressed him differently. Banjo knew better than to argue. The dog knew better than to growl. They rose and shuffled away without looking up.

It was now late afternoon and the heat hadn’t abated. Banjo drifted towards the Drop-in Centre. He didn’t like the place; the sour smell of people without hope made his depression spiral. But he knew he wouldn’t be hounded out. And he was hungry.
Pete handed him an egg and beetroot sandwich. “Hotter’n hell out there today.”
“Blistering.”
 “Know something? I’m leaving. Heading south before I go troppo. Bloody rat-trap place.”
“Holy Dooley, I wish,” said Banjo.
“Ah look, no offence mate, but if you clean yourself up a bit I’ll give you a lift.”
Banjo froze.
Pete poured tea from the huge aluminium pot, giving him time. Panic scrabbled at Banjo. With an unsteady hand he scooped too much sugar into his tea and stuffed the sandwich into his pocket.
He finally spoke. “I’m a bit busy right now. Thanks anyway.”
“No worries.” Pete swabbed the counter with a raggedy cloth.
Banjo wandered out into the stifling heat to share supper with his dog.


About the Author:
Susan Eames left England over twenty years ago to explore the world and dive its oceans. She has had travel articles and short fiction published on three continents. She is currently arranging a move from Fiji to Ireland.



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