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by Hugh Morris (Dags the Drover)

Mac eased the throbbing V8 Ute into the car park and chose a space well away from the assortment of four wheel drives, work trucks, and other cars scattered around the parking lot. He was pretty impressed with the paint job and didn’t want it adjusted. He slid out of the moulded driver’s seat, smoothly closed the door, and stood back with a fat sense of satisfaction.  Then he headed into the pub.

The near new Ute sat low and square on its modified suspension and low profile tyres. The chrome mags, custom skirt, and factory-fitted fibreglass tourneau cover finished it off in fine style. Aussie blokes take a lot of pride in their vehicles and any bloke who rocked up to the pub in this Ute sure would be the envy of the locals.

Tony Macpherson, known simply as Mac to his mates, had arrived at the pub about on time this Saturday arvo. Drummer, his mate, whose actual name was Rod Drummond, was late, because he wasn’t there already.

Being late to the pub was very un-Drummer.  Drummer might drag his feet at work Monday to Friday.  He might offer to pack and unpack the dishwasher regularly and actually do it occasionally.  He might even wash his wife’s car once or twice a year, whether it needed it or not.  But he was never late to the pub on Saturday to watch the game on the big screen TV with his mate Mac. Of course, this was before it was normal for everyone to have big screen TVs and Wii’s and things at home.

Mac bought two beers from the bar (the Sports Bar at the Royal).  One was for him and the other was for Drummer.  He walked through the few other regulars to the back wall and placed the beers on the high standing table. He pulled two stools round behind the table up against the wall with full unfettered view of the big screen, and started on his first.

The commentators were running through the players – who was in, who was out, what last week’s injury count was, what the team doctors said, who the ref was, who’d done this, and who’d done that, etc.  Where was Drummer?

Mac pulled his phone out of his pocket, flipped the lid, and brought up Drummer’s number on speed dial.  There was no answer – just the normal crap about being busy and leave a message and he’d get back.

The game was about to start so it was getting serious.  Mac decided to send a text message.  “WairRU.”  Mac held the phone in his hand and stared at it intently, as if by doing so he would make it respond.  However, there was no reply.  Naught, zip, nothing, none, not at all.

Mac thought for a minute.  Mac was pretty bright.  He’d been to Uni.  So he knew how to figure things out.  “Something must be wrong,” he thought.

The ref’s whistle blew, the kickoff was kicked, and they were into it.  Mac felt a bit funny watching the game without Drummer.  A bit like, well, disloyal, really.  But what could he do?  So he watched it anyway.

He finished his first beer, left Drummer’s on the table, and went to buy another round.  As well as being bright, Mac was a man of principle:  “Ya can’t drink ya mate’s beer.  That would be just plain wrong.”  That was one of Mac’s creeds.

Johno, one of the other regulars, who was also sitting with his back to the wall just on the other side, looked at Mac and said.  “Where’s ya mate today?”

Mac shrugged his shoulders and took another sip.  As well as being bright and a man of principle, Mac didn’t say much.

The game went pretty much as games do.  Someone played the ball, dummy half passed it, someone caught it and got tackled by half the opposition.  This theme was repeated by each team with minor variations.  Occasionally, they’d pretend to have a scrum just for a bit of light relief and everyone knew that in the end, one team would win and the other team would lose.

Then there’d be the post mortems – one on TV which was civilized, and one in the pub which wasn’t.  But they weren’t up to that bit yet.

Just before half time Mac heard, just through the big glass sliding doors, the familiar drone of Drummer’s Ute pulling into the car park.

Drummer was proud of his Utes.  The one he had before this one, being a relic of his younger days, still had a “ROUND UP YOUR MATES.  The Deniliquin World Record Ute Muster 2002” sticker on it, as well as a “Yass B & S Fine Wool Ball” sticker, which wasn’t repeatable in respectable company, when he sold it.

Mac watched as Drummer strode up to the glass doors.  He thought Drummer looked a bit dark, but then he remembered the doors were tinted. The doors slid open and the bloke doing the striding, whom every one recognised as Drummer, strode straight over to Mac, still looking dark.

Mac was about to say something when Drummer pulled back, his right fist clenched, and let Mac have it.

Well, time stood still for a moment.  This wasn’t your average Topless Girls on Friday Night, bikies kinda pub where you’d expect a bit of biffo.  No, this was a respectable normal family pub.  So a bloke king hitting his best mate on Saturday arvo while the footy was on was a bit unusual.

Mac, who was just as surprised as every one else, struggled to get to his feet and tried to find his composure.  The table was on the floor, along with three glasses of beer (one of Mac’s and two of Drummer’s) and Mac’s stool half on top of him.  Drummer looked darker still and let Mac have it again, this time with words.

“What sort of a mate are ya?” said Drummer ripping into him, his voice clearly strained.  “You know I’ve been drooling over that V8 Ute down at the Holden dealership for weeks now and you go pinch it from under me nose just when I got the dough together and the missus on side.  Of all the low-down things for a so-called mate to do.  So that’s it for me ‘n you, ol’ pal, ol’ buddy.  And by the way, you better stop hang’n round my missus, too, or I’ll really sort ya out – YA GOT THAT?”

With that, Drummer swung on his heels, marched straight back out the open sliding doors, kicked in the driver’s door on Mac’s “new Ute” as he walked past, jumped in his own and roared out of the car park smoking up the back tyres as he went . . . again.

Mac, still a bit stunned, stood there for a whole minute, rubbing his jaw with his right hand as he tried to brush the rest of the spilt beer off the front of his shirt with his left.

Johno, who’s always pretty quick to work out what’s going on, leaned over and said, “Looks like Drummer’s a bit upset, mate.”

“Yeah,” drawled Mac at length.  “ ‘E’s gunna be more upset when ‘e discovers it was his missus who got me to go buy that Ute for ‘im, so no one else could, because he was working away this week.”


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