Petie Hyde and Mark “Parko” Muscat had a fistfight. It was at a party out at James “Gibbo” Gibson’s farm outside of Stawell. Some words were spoken, Parko swung his fist around a bit, but there wasn’t much in it. It seemed like the damage was probably more emotional than physical. So when Petie stormed off into the night, I figured I should probably go with him. We didn’t really talk about much. The walk was about five miles.
When we got into town he’d calmed down a bit. I left him at the taxi rank down the bottom of the mall and began to walk back out to Gibbo’s place. At the top of the mall, across from the Commercial Hotel, I saw three or four guys run out of a basement flat. I’d been in that flat before – it used to belong to a friend’s older sister, and we’d go there when we wanted her to buy us beer.
A girl stepped out of the flat. I stopped and watched her for a while. There was something not quite right. She started swaying. I asked her if she was alright. When she didn’t reply I walked a bit closer. She was bleeding.
I lay her down on the concrete. She was trying to say something. I looked at her wounds. They didn’t seem too bad. She was clutching at her stomach. I lifted her shirt a little, just to reveal the area around her hip, and saw the great gaping hole in her flesh. A couple of inches higher was her tattoo – a lightly drawn outline of a horse’s head.
I talked to her a little bit, held her hand and stuff. Before too long the guys came back. They’d called an ambulance. There was a guy still down in the flat, waving a kitchen knife around. No one knew what to do if he came out. We waited for the ambulance to come. The station was about seventy metres away, further up the hill.
About half an hour later I left her with one of the guys to go get a cold cloth from inside the Commercial. When I came back the ambulance guys were picking her up. I sat down on the kerb and watched. One of her friends went with her.
The cops came and took my name. Melissa Wilmott came out from the pub and put her arm around me. Before too long I remembered that I’d left all of my stuff out at the farm. So I walked out to the edge of town, then started running. I was a bit healthier then than I am now, and used to run in and out of town pretty often. It wasn’t such a big deal.
When I got back I saw Gibbo’s mum, Nan. She asked me what was wrong. I can’t remember what I said. Somehow she hooked me up with Kimmy Muscat and Lynley Hoiles, who were catching a cab back into town. They dropped me off near home.
It was mid afternoon when I woke up. I told my parents I had to go to police station, but wouldn’t tell them why. They’d heard some talk already, and had a vague idea of what was going on. They offered to drive me, but I decided to walk. It was a nice day outside.
Her friend from the ambulance was inside the station, waiting to be interviewed. She recognized me from the night before. She had followed the girl all the way into the surgery. The hospital was understaffed. They didn’t have enough hands. The doctor kept asking her to press down in different places, to hold together different parts of her friend. There was so much blood, she said.
We let the conversation lapse.
The doctor came in. It was my doctor. He looked at us, and shifted awkwardly. There was nothing we could’ve done, he told the noticeboard behind us. Her injuries were just too serious.
Her name was Kim, which was the name of my Canadian girlfriend. I can’t remember her last name.
The next day I went to school. It was a stupid decision. Aside from a cursory hug from Lynley, no one acknowledged what had happened. It was hot. When the end of the day came I walked up towards the mall, stopping to take my shoes off on the way.
My teacher Jeff Cameron must’ve seen me out of the staffroom window. He stormed out the front doors.
Where are your shoes.
They’re in my bag.
Put them back on.
It’s after school hours, and I’m off school premises. I don’t have to put them back on.
Put them back on.
I’m sorry Mr Cameron, but no.
I continued on my way. He said something triumphant, then stormed back inside.
When I got home that night my parents told me I’d been suspended. Deliberate disobedience. My punishment was a day. I took a week.
The next fortnight was school holidays. I rode my bike in the mountains, wrote, slept.
Two weeks later, just as school was about to go back, my grandmother died. My dad asked me to be a pallbearer. I declined. I took another week off.