Most of them have been up real late the night before. Worrying about bills, rubbing their hands over their eyes, rolling in their sleep, and trying to return to sweet nightmares before the sun breaks their windows. It soon becomes another day. Then they have a shave, and soak in hot water and put on their smiley face for the kids in the morning. Their wives know the trouble, the Dollar, but say nothing. It’s an early start, down at the dusty cemetery in the middle of the new suburban street. Utes pull up playing tinny rock and roll, and they sit silent smashing egg and bacon rolls, dripping yokes onto fluoro yellow vests. The crew numbers between five and seven depending on cheap liquid hangovers.
The buzz of the flies soaks in.
“You ask for it crisp?”
“Doesn’t taste too crispy. This is shit.”
“I asked for it… Not my fault…”
But no one else can be bothered complaining about the bacon. The first thing they do is start cleaning up the rubbish. Black plastic bags and long silver spikes come out. A whiskey bottle’s been smashed on the face of a proud stone angel. The ripped paper wrapper hangs and blows around its’ neck.
“Go get the gloves.”
Shane stands and stares. Wondering what the worms will do to his body when he goes. Wondering if anyone will come to the service cause his mother will probably be gone by then. Wondering when –
“Shane, go and get the bloody gloves!”
Phil sits on the side of the grave and lights up. He’s hanging for dope. Has been since he kicked off it almost three years ago. And working community service in these graveyards doesn’t help.
Jesus Christ is that how it all ends up, dirt? What, with a bunch of ratbags pulling chocolate wrappers off six feet off dirt above you? Give me the flames anyday. Then they can spread my ashes on-
“I got the gloves Phil.”
“Good. You get me a pair too?”
“Nah, you said go get the gloves, so I got some for me.”
“Fuck, Don’t worry about it. Just start picking up that glass.”
“Whre wrou! Sexeee!”
What’s going on?”
“Pair of panties…”
“Shit. Where’d you find em Jimmy?
“Over there, by that dirty rusty copper fence thing.”
“Give us a look.”
A wiry red haired fist inked with two blue dots on the knuckles holds up a white stained shiny black g-string.
“Little present for the missus.”
“Bullshit, he’ll be wearing them later himself.”
“Fuck off Frank ya spastic!”
“Back to work.”
An hour – in between smoke breaks – later and the litter’s being tied up. Pull string backed gasoline hedge trimmers are lifted from the utes’ tray.
“Just do over by those ones over there. Rest look pretty good.”
Electric games come out. Hands rubbed through hair. Chewing, and the click of lighters. See through plastic wrap torn. An esky of ice. A flask of coffee. Talk turns to failed football bets, false fuck stories and violent mind fiction.
“Nah, I coulda smash ‘im easy!”
“Sure ya could mate. Right after he knocked ya teeth into ya guts.”
“Alright. Back to work then eh?”
Rest of the afternoon’s quiet in the graveyard. Black rings under eyes now as drag rake grass and fill bins. Cars blast past. Thoughts of nothing but home. Finally it’s three oclock.
Phil looks down, and all that is caked beneath his nails is dirt.