Ed, Ma’at, Izzy, Beav, Ron and Alby surveyed the beer garden as they emerged through the rainbow veil of the fly curtain.
The heat out there hit them collectively.
A growing crowd entered via the side gate. A busted old letch in khaki overalls collected a door charge - was comprised entirely of cackling, snaggle toothed extras directly bussed in from the most racist Chips Rafferty flicks.
The occasional sweary scuffle broke out as the throng piled up at the bar. Punters greedily filled ceramic growlers from a couple of bathtub stills set up beneath a ragged marquee. The moonshine tubs were gravity fed by a nest of pipes snaking up to the main building’s second floor and libatory origins unknown.
Vince Rando’s converted backyard was effectively a tennis court sized patch of red dirt festooned with junk auto parts and filthy plastic garden settings.
Four dusty blue tarps were pegged in the centre of the yard, a pile of rusted fan blades, crow bars, shifters, hack saws, bags of roofing nails and other weather beaten industria piled in the middle. A ring of old cars up on blocks and chook cages completed the scene.
Gates, layered with chicken wire and latched, stood at opposing ends of the yard.
The northern end was daubed dried blood red, the southern midnight blue.
Intrigued, Ed and the crew knuckled their way to a bathtub and topped up their respective drinking vessels. Alby, tan paws up on the lip, stuck his muzzle in for a solid guzzle. He was his owner’s dingo cross pitty, that was certain.
A warped pink boom box, sun faded and D-cell powered, sat on a 44 gallon drum spitting the latest regional news via a FFF-FM affiliate:
“- war enthusiasts will be out in force this weekend for the Puhwoonup Collectables, Antiques and Militaria Expo; car parking again a hot button local council election issue - ‘if I can’t get a BLEEEEP park out the front of the BLEEEEPPP post office I’m going to BLEEEEP knife some BLEEEEEP!’ says local woman, 17; Tank Crusader-Excalibur’s office hypes the launch of the ODRC platform at tomorrow’s Harvest Lunar Festival; and, in lighter news, Junk Shop Bessie, a local pomeranian, celebrated her 20th birthday tod-”
A grizzled bookmaker circulated through the crowd, tabulating.
BABALÖN planted their arses on the thrashed bonnet of an old Valiant.
Ed and Ron dragged a couple of chook cages over. Alby, who still had the remains of his goanna stump, got back to drunkenly mauling its remains.
They all sat drinking and speculating on The Gig as the afternoon cooked, the crowd swelled with even more sweaty flotsam, and anticipation built for… whatever was about to happen.
Ed had just about decided an audience with Ken Oath wasn’t worth the wait when the corrugated double gate at the back of the yard was slung open.
The packed beer garden went silent as a crimson, freshly washed ’71 351 GT Falcon ute - its roof a packed halo of spotlights, its back window festooned with hunting rifles - snarled and rumbled through the gate, parking alongside the tarp zone with a final roar.
That busted old door letch in khakis materialised tarp-side and reverently yanked the ute’s driver side door open with a flourish and a bow.
Toxxik Shokk’s ‘Wide Load Mama’ spilled out of the cab at distorted, credulity straining volume.
Ed, Ma’at, Izzy, Beav and Ron gawked.
Alby continued to gnaw.
Busted old door letch carnival barked:
“Make some noise, you filthy reprobates - it’s Ken fucken Oath!”
The greasy rabble did as they were told as Ken clambered out of the ute and strode to the centre of the tarp-zone.
There he was.
Ken fucken Oath.
Flowing, shoulder blade length mullet.
Undercut with lightning bolts, both sides.
Wiry brown four foot nine frame clad in a bloody, several-sizes-too-small navy wifebeater, grease-black boot cut RMW jeans and scabby bare feet.
Ken’s chest tatt, all fresh cyrillic ink, arced up to his collar bones:
“UNBROKEN AND UNTAMED”
He pulled a pack of Winnie Reds out of his back pocket, flicked a dart free and cupped it as he sparked. Busted door letch handed him a growler of rocket fuel from which he wet his whistle with an extended skol.
Ken was ten years old.
Clambering onto the hood of the Falcon, with a voice like gargled Rat-Sak, Ken enquired of the chockers beer garden:
“Are youse cunts ready to see some shit go doooowwwwn? Have a puuuunnnnt? Get FUCKeyed? See some farken blaaahhhdddd and guuuuuuttttts?”
The mob went fucking boonta, scuffling for the best spot at the tarp-zone’s edge.
Ed, Ma’at, Izzy, Beav and Ron edged cagily up to the back of the crowd and lurked thereon the off chance shit got any weirder and they needed to leg it.
Busted door letch was now stationed next to a jury rigged station consisting of a lever, cogs and pulleys roped up to those two gates at the opposite ends of the beer garden we discussed earlier.
“We’ve got a fucken ball tearer of a card for ya’s here this arvo,” Ken rasped. “Bookies, that’d be last bets, you dodgy cunts.”
He hopped off the ute’s bonnet and cut a path around to the tray as he spun his showman-shit.
“Today’s first throw down is -” he popped the tray and laid it flat. It was stacked with headless ‘roo carcasses, pungent and fragrant having sat out in the stinking hot since this morning’s cull.
“- what looks to be a fucken nasty little all-in to-do between -” Ken dragged a carcass across the tray by its tail in a practiced sweep, leaving a thick black smear of neck stump plasma.
“- our freshly blooded contenders -” he hauled the carcass to the centre of the tarp zone and dumped it next to the pile of rusty junk there.
Alby sniffed and looked up hopefully, motioning to claim a new chew toy.
“Easy, lad,” Ron cautioned testily.
Ed had twigged at where this was headed. He was pretty sure BABALÖN were going to do their block when they connected the dots, but he was way too engaged with the mad bush spectacle to give much of a fuck right now.
“- give it up, ladeez and gennelmen -” Ken continued, raising his powerful looking arms skyward, utilising his hereditary Rando clan theatrical suspense building skills.
The mob lost their rag.
“- for Airball! Termo! Gexayu! Minger! MARmat! Antla!”
Ken dropped both arms in a triumphant chopping motion, giving the nod to the busted door letch, who wrenched back on that lever hard.
A keening, feral shriek rose in the beer garden as those two chicken wire gates shot open, unleashing three slavering combatants from each, all no older than eight, into the tarp-zone arena.
Airball, Termo, Gexayu - from the north gate - were Team Red.
Minger, Marmat and Antla - from the south - were Team Blue.
All were starved, with sharpened teeth, caked in grime and clad in crude boiler-made armour.
They scrambled across the arena towards that roo carcass and a decent feed.
The herd egged them on, screaming at the undomesticated little bastards to ignore the feed and -
Termo twigged first.
The little beggar - he was identifiable by the brown snake’s head he wore as a pauldron on his left shoulder - harnessed his own momentum, executing a plunging knee slide past the carcass, snatching up a foot long crowbar and and snapping to his feet, spinning and snarling at his adversaries, weapon aloft.
The horde in the beer garden bayed for the first kill.
Marmat looked up from gumming the roo’s neck stump and made a lunge for a claw hammer as Termo launched a lethal crowbar swing at his head.
Ed and the crew sauntered over to Ken, who was leaning against his ute’s front bumper looking pleased with himself.
“G’day Ken,” Ed said, offering the ten year old fight club impresario a blast of a freshly rolled, very potent J.
“Ah, fucken Ed Von Satan you prick,” Ken gargled, accepting the blunt and taking a heroic draw.
BABALÖN, aghast, were huddled together, debating the sitch animatedly.
Airball, having grabbed a hack saw and a club-like shifter, was engaged in a hissing bout of bludgeoning juvie-et-juvie violence with Termo on the fringe of the arena. Antla was focused on liberating the roo’s left leg from its body using just his sheer, ravenous brute strength.
“Moving up in the world, eh?” Ed smirked.
Minger clocked Gexayu a good one to the side of the head with that bag of roofing nails. Gexayu dropped his fan blade and went down for the count, bawling.
“You know what the ‘Nup’s like, Ed,” Ken smirked back, reeking contrails of weed smoke leaking from his nostrils, the corners of his mouth. “Gotta turn a crust, right?”
He passed the spliff back as Marmat, that cunning little fucker, weaponised the roo carcass, hacking open its guts with his hammer’s claw, spilling slippery viscera across the tarp-zone. Airball and Minger went down immediately, slipping on a wave of stale warm roo piss. Termo was still up but now completely daubed in red, trying to clear his eyes of blood with the back of his hand.
Ron had Alby by the scruff of the neck now - his mongrel buddy couldn’t resist the lure of that much free feed.
Antla lunged at Marmat, his pudgy red fists curled into claws as the latter reared back with his bloody hammer cocked.
“Certainly do,” Ed hedged. “Which is why we’re here, Ken.”
Ed took a toke as Ken regarded him warily through the haze.
“We don’t fucken do anyone any favours out here, mate. Not even you.”
BABALÖN were back at Ed’s side, after his attention. Ron, with Alby leashed, wandered back into the loose semicircle.
Antla had wrestled the hammer off Marmat and was about to cave his skull in with it as Airball and Minger grappled in warm kanga piss and Termo thrashed out blindly with that crowbar and Gexayu was definitely cactus and the crowd in the beer garden reached the most fevered of bloodthirsty pitches
“Well Ken, not after a favour so much as need you back on the too -”
That’s when Ed, Ron, BABALÖN, Ken and Alby blacked out simultaneously.