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Authors: Jock Serong

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Quota

BOOK: Quota
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QUOTA

Jock Serong lives and works on the far southwest coast of Victoria. He is a features writer and lecturer, and was founding editor of
Great Ocean Quarterly.

textpublishing.com.au

The Text Publishing Company
Swann House
22 William Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000
Australia

Copyright © Jock Serong 2014

The moral rights of the author have been asserted.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

First published in 2014 by The Text Publishing Company
This edition 2016

Cover design by W. H. Chong
Page design by Imogen Stubbs
Typeset by J&M Typesetting

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:
Author:     Serong, Jock, author.
Title:         Quota / by Jock Serong.
ISBN:        9781922147936 (paperback)
ISBN:        9781922148933 (ebook)
Subjects:   Suspense fiction.
Dewey Number: A823.4

For Lilly,
who makes everything possible and all of it fun.

MELBOURNE

UPON RESUMING AT 2:15 PM:

MR JARDIM: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with my client over the lunch adjournment, Your Honour.

HIS HONOUR: Yes. Have you made any progress? I note your client is not with you, Mr Jardim.

MR JARDIM: She's not, Your Honour. She was quite affected by this morning's cross-examination, and despite my advice to her about the need to continue, she's been unable to come back to court, sir.

HIS HONOUR: Do you mean she's physically unwell, Mr Jardim? Do you have a doctor's certificate, or perhaps a doctor with you?

MR JARDIM: No, I don't have either of those things. Ms Woollacott indicated prior to lunch that she was substantially finished with her cross-examination. Your Honour has now had the benefit of testimony from my client as to her stable accommodation, her reha—

HIS HONOUR: No doctor, then? Your client's abandoned her application has she?

MR JARDIM: —her rehabilitation, her loyalty to her children, the support of he—

HIS HONOUR: No, no. Hold on a moment. Maybe you're not hearing me, Mr Jardim. Your client is not here to complete cross-examination. There's not much point in you making submissions to me about your client's case if she's not here. ‘Not here' says to me ‘don't care'. Now Ms Woollacott, you did indicate prior to lunch that you were, I think you said, ‘nearly complete' with your cross-examination. Would you have more questions you wanted to ask Mr Jardim's client?

MS WOOLLACOTT: I did have, Your Honour.

HIS HONOUR: And Mr Jardim, I would have thought that you need to re-examine in respect of your client's admissions about drug use and about having, well my provisional conclusion is, prostituted herself in the house while the two children were in her care. Are you suggesting to me you don't need to re-examine regarding those matters which arose in Ms Woollacott's cross-examination?

MR JARDIM: In an ideal world I would have, Your Honour, but she's no—

HIS HONOUR: She's not here, is she. Fine for me to be here, not like I've got much else to do. I'm sure you're not busy, Mr Jardim. Ms Woollacott's just passing the time. Mr Tipstaff, are you busy? No, he doesn't look busy. So we can all sort of wander in and out as we please, can we Mr Jardim? Is that how it works?

MR JARDIM: I'm not suggesting that, Your Honour.

HIS HONOUR: It's called ‘submitting', Mr Jardim. You don't suggest in my court, you make a submission or you don't talk at all. Now, what is your submission? Is your client's case closed? Because I don't think you have much choice at the moment.

MR JARDIM: No, I don't submit that it's closed. I'm applying to adjourn the matter, or at the very least have it stood down until I can check on my client's welfare and bring her back before the court.

HIS HONOUR: So it's an adjournment application. Ms Woollacott, without wanting to pre-empt the position of the Department of Human Services, you'd be making a costs application, wouldn't you?

MS WOOLLACOTT: Well, Your Honour I'd have to—

HIS HONOUR: Right. So Mr Jardim, how would your client satisfy a costs order if I was to adjourn this matter?

MR JARDIM: She can't, Your Honour. She has no money, she has no assets. She's legally aided. It's not an appropriate matter for a costs order anyway. She's not here, and there might be very good reasons why she isn't here. We just don't know. The important thing is that this court has to decide on the permanent placement of two small children, and that needs to be done in a me– measured way. She comes back to court when she's composed and completes her evidence if that's what's required, although I'm fairly sure that she's—

HIS HONOUR: You submit.

MR JARDIM: I submit that she's covered all the areas Your Honour needs to hear about.

HIS HONOUR: Well Mr Jardim, you give me little choice. Your client's not here, and you can't explain why. You seek an adjournment but you say she won't be able to pay the costs thrown away by that adjournment. You say her evidence is complete but you appear to argue that I shouldn't decide the case in her absence now. Your submissions are inherently contradictory. I mean—do you have anything coherent to say about the matter?

MR JARDIM: I suppose I have to say give her a chance, Your Honour. There is abundant evidence in front of you that she's tried. You are aware through the evidence from the clinic that she's attended on numerous occasions and she's—

HIS HONOUR: No, no, thank you. I don't want to hear your case rehashed yet again, Mr Jardim. I want you to tell me why I shouldn't decide the matter in her absence. Now I'll ask you again. Why shouldn't I?

MR JARDIM: Well what do you want me to say? Seriously—I've tried to tell you it wouldn't be fair. You're doing her a major injustice and you're treating this as a procedural chore. It's not, it's the—

HIS HONOUR: Watch your tone, Mr Jardim. I've listened to a lot of your petulance during this hearing, and I've watched you rolling your eyes and huffing and puffing about the things that haven't gone your way. That much has passed without comment. But now you can consider yourself warned: you are being rude and disrespectful.

MR JARDIM: (
laughter
) Did you ever read F. E. Smith? We're both being pigs, Your Honour, but I'm doing it deliberately.

HIS HONOUR: Oh, be original. You're not bringing your snide humour into my court, Mr Jardim. Withdraw that comment immediately.

MR JARDIM: No. I'm not withdrawing it because it should be apparent to you that it's got nothing to do with the merits of this case, just as your small-minded treatment of my client has got nothing to do with the merits of the case. What do you want me to say? What do you want me to say? Could you have cocked this thing up any worse? Bloody helpless kid and you know she's back out on the street now. You know it, don't you? You're known throughout the state as a heartless old prick and a drunk and seeing I've gone this far, your daughter-in-law's appointment to the court is widely viewed as a grubby political payoff. She's got about as much ability as you have. Today's pretty much the lowest I've seen you stoop, but it's been a rich field of excrem—

HIS HONOUR: Senior, will you have Mr Jardim removed immediately, please, and see to it that he's not brought back before me on contempt until Friday. Mr Jardim, you can take a couple of nights in the police cells to think about your conduct here today. I'm reserving my judgment in respect of this matter, and for the sake of completeness your misconceived adjournment application is refused. Yes, have him taken out, please.

MR JARDIM: Fuck you.

CLERK: THIS MATTER STANDS ADJOURNED TO A DATE TO BE FIXED. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

BARRY EGAN KNEW his way around a steamed dim sim. Warm white paper bag heavy between his thighs, cold can of Pasito wedged by the handbrake. The dusk had been still on the drive out to Antonias Beach, the ocean lying exhausted after days of southerly gales. The night falling wide around him on the way up the gravel track to the cliff top. He knew from long experience he would feel the view from the cliffs more than see it.

He pulled the ute to a halt in the carpark, the bullbar nudging at the pine railing. Rolled the radio dial between heavy fingers around to 3PF, Hits on the West Coast, and killed the motor.

Tuesday nights at Antonias. The quiz at eight and before that the secret sound. Tonight's sound was an odd hollow thump that had him perplexed until some old codger rang from down the coast to pick it correctly as someone banging out a cappuccino handle on a bin.

Not being a drinker of fancy coffee, Barry took this as one for the wankers. No reflection on him. He was a simple man and he liked very much to tell people he was a simple man. But there were things he knew well, things that snapped taut in his head like a reflex. Cars and trivia. Trivia and cars. Trivia about cars.

For most of his fifty-six years Barry had traded auto parts and hoarded information, the factual rubbish others would discard to keep their house-proud minds prim like a brick veneer. His was more of a two-bedroom hardiplank surrounded by rusty wreckage, and Lou Mantello's quiz on PF was pitched right where he liked it. Natural disasters, goal-kicking records, dodgy politicians, Bee Gees lyrics.

He had no interest in ringing in, God no. He'd tried that the first night he listened, had a rush of blood about a footy question and called in as Keith from Newport. ‘Wayne C-C-Carey, Lou.' Everyone on the coast knew Barry Egan stammered under pressure. The sniggering followed him around town for days afterwards.

He slotted home a dimmy and sucked the soy from his fingertips while Lou asked for the capital of Peru. ‘Looma…' Flecks of cabbage and pork landed on the dash. Barry's eyes roved the void beyond the cliff railing as some idiot came on air, fumbled around and finally had a swing. ‘Er, San Pedro?'

‘
Lima
, dickhead.' Enjoying the little rush of authority that accompanied his annoyance.

‘Sorry mate. Nice try, I can see where you're going with San Pedro.' Lou cut the hapless caller and lined up a very precise-sounding woman from Geelong who nailed it.

‘In what sort of craft', pressed Lou, ‘did the Japanese invade Sydney Harbour?' Anne of Belmont hesitated. Barry didn't.
Minisub minisub minisub
. He could make out the lights of the salt works now, and the faint white pulse of the lighthouse across the bay. Anne had it, it was some sort of submarine wasn't it Lou? And Lou, whose abiding flaw in Barry's opinion was his laxity, gave her the nod.

Christ. Barry took a swig of Pasito as the last dimmy performed a brief encore in the back of his throat. Anne was perking up. ‘Love your show, Lou,' she said. ‘I listen every week.'

Barry knew from long memory the low headland invisible on his right, capped with straggly ti-tree, a nav marker and a couple of Norfolk pines. Straight off the point was a channel where the boats came and went, rocking on the swell, their booms swinging through a giddy arc. As they took the corner at the point they'd settle in the water, the bow wave fading
.
In daylight you could see the deckies hosing off the work area from where Barry was. Sluicing scraps of the kill through the vents in the sides of the vessel.

In a straight line in front of him and maybe a k out to sea there were reefs, low tracts of black boulders arranged in a devilish maze. They were invisible at high tide, sometimes even low tide, seen from shore only when the tide pulled right away from the town. Then they would lie there, sullen and treacherous, the dark clusters threaded by winding passages of deeper water. The sea pulled endlessly from right to left across the reef. West to east. It had something to do with the longshore drift, as Barry understood it.

BOOK: Quota
4.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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