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LIZ ELSON

Egg on his Face

We had a new guy on the night shift last week. He was real quiet, hardly said a word to anyone. Just smiled and nodded and said ‘yeah’ or ‘no’ like. It wasn’t like he was stupid. He cottoned on to the work quick as. Me and Joe reckoned he was just out-of-sight up himself. He had some sort of scars on his face and a bit of a limp. On Thursday night, when we was all going off at tea break, he was hobbling real bad.

‘Hey, Frank! What’s up with your leg, mate?’ I said.

He just shrugged.

‘I broke it,’ he said and sat down with his tea.

‘That’s no good, mate,’ I said. ‘What happened?’

Frank took a few slurps of his tea and didn’t answer.

So Joe thought he’d wind him up a bit and we were joking and making a few remarks we shouldn’t have about Scarface and Hopalong Cassidy, but Frank wasn’t rising to it.

I opened my snack box. Maggie had made me a couple of ham sandwiches and a hard-boiled egg.

‘So, mate,’ I said, ‘what do you do for fun at the weekend?’

‘Not much.’ He looked away.

‘Is there anybody in there?’ I asked, as I tapped my egg on his noodle.

The egg bust, but the missus had short-changed the cooking time. The inside of the egg was still soft and the yellow was running down Frank’s face. Joe was falling all over the place laughing and Frank went bright red and stood up and whacked him one, straight to the jaw. Joe reeled back and sat down hard and the tearoom went dead quiet. And then the bell rang and the belt started up and we all went back to our work.

Friday night Frank didn’t come in – maybe he was throwing a sickie, maybe he’d quit. We didn’t know, didn’t care either. He didn’t fit in.

Saturday we had a barbie at our place. Maggie’s sister, Karen, was down from Palmy, staying with us for a few days. Joe and his lot came over, and Maggie’s mum and dad and a few of the cuzzies, so we were quite a family crowd. It was a beaut day, all the kids were happily running around and the beer was flowing nicely. I heard Karen ask Joe how he got the bruise on his face, so he was telling her all about Frank. And she looked kind of thoughtful.

‘Was he quite a tall guy, good-looking, with a little mo?’

‘Yeah, and some scars on his face. Walked with a limp – but he could pack a punch!’ Joe said.

‘I reckon that could be Frank Patterson,’ Karen said. ‘Poor guy.’

‘What’s so poor about that stuck-up arsehole?’ I asked.

‘He was our Joanne’s teacher a couple of years back. He was really great with the kids, but he left after he had a terrible accident. He was driving home from church one Sunday with his wife and three kids. Anyway, they come round a corner and some idiot going like a bat out of hell comes round the corner on the wrong side of the road. Frank’s car went up in flames. The doors were jammed and people could hear the kids screaming inside. A farmer ran to get an axe but it was too late. Frank was the only one they got out and his legs were badly smashed up.’

Everyone had stopped talking. I looked at Joe. He was as white as a sheet.

‘Another beer, mate?’ somebody asked.

‘Yeah. Thanks.’ I ripped the tab and sculled the beer and opened another and downed that one too. Then I went inside to the bathroom and was as sick as a dog.

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