GEORGIA TREE was born in Subiaco, Western Australia. She studied Creative Writing at Curtin University and she completed a Master of International Relations and National Security. She currently works as a Senior Adviser in the Albanese Labor Government. Her memoir, Old Boy is the story of her father’s addiction, resurrection, dumb luck and love. Read on for an extract.
‘Are you right to drive, Grant?’ he asked, chucking me the keys.
I wasn’t drunk. But I still didn’t have my licence back. In fact, I thought there was a letter back at Mum and Dave’s about an appointment at the licensing centre for the next week. If I got caught again it’d be another six months. I was still on parole.
‘Yeah, no worries,’ I said.
It’d been raining, but it was that time of year where it was just starting to get warmer and the air smelled like school holidays. Royal Show weather.
Stirling Highway was quiet and getting dark. Everyone must’ve been at the game. Peter lit a cigarette and rolled down the window. I turned on the radio.
With two minutes left of the third term, the Tigers had managed just one minor score after half-time.
‘Swans are killing us,’ said Peter.
I pulled into the right lane but there was a car, and I swerved left just as the road bent at Wellington. I corrected but it was too late, and I collected the footpath and my foot was flat on the brake and my head whipped forward as the car was stopped by a lamppost. I couldn’t feel anything. I looked over at Peter. His body was limp, head face down on the dash. I ripped the car door open and ran to a house where a lady was opening the front door. We weren’t far from Mum and Dave’s.
‘Quick, get an ambulance,’ I think I said.
The lady ran inside. I looked at the car and at Peter limp over the dash. I imagined blood pouring down his face. I imagined I heard sirens. I felt a hot trickle down the back of my neck and tasted metal in my mouth.
And I ran.
I didn’t know where I was running except away from the highway. I thought I was running to the river, but I was still not sure what side of the road we’d been driving on. I didn’t know where I was running until I was banging on the front door. Charlie’s place. Susie answered the door.
‘What’s happened?’ Susie asked, steering me inside.
It smelled like Sunday roast. The leather couch felt cool against my back.
‘It’s clearly an accident, mate. It’ll be okay,’ said Charlie.
‘I don’t want to go back inside,’ I said.
Susie nursed me like one of her Graylands patients, patting my forehead with a damp flannel. Charlie lit me a cigarette.
‘Your old man is a copper, isn’t he? He’ll be able to help.’
‘You don’t know my old man.’
Susie lightly ran her hand along my shoulders, left to right. The touch of her hand tracing lines across my back was all I could feel in my entire body. I held on to that.
‘Is he home?’ Charlie asked, patting his keys in his pocket.
‘No, they’ll be at the footy club.’
‘Hope he’s not a Tigers fan.’
Charlie laughed, and picked up the cream telephone with the long cord from the desk, carrying it over to the table beside me.
‘Well then, he’s already had a shit day anyway. Give him a call.’
I called the Claremont Footy Club and asked for my stepfather and Dave came and picked me up. He came without Mum. I didn’t say anything as we drove to the Claremont Police Station, but Dave talked at me – telling me what to say, telling me what not to say. He didn’t want me to go back inside either.
‘You won’t be getting your bloody licence back anytime soon!’ he said as we pulled into the car park, the familiar chequered blue sign waiting for us.
I thought he was enjoying it. It must have been a shocking game. I was glad I called him.
I’ve returned to that place in my mind too many times to count. The cream phone. Charlie’s laugh. Susie’s hand on my back.
Within a year Susie would die in a car accident herself, and Charlie would be on death row.
But I didn’t know that then. That night they really saved my skin.
Learn more about author Georgia Tree and her book HERE.