W>J<P Newnham



Ray-The-Roo, the razor blade whip man, a gin jockey, brick layer; a hunter with S.A.S. commando qualification: an expatriate pom with hostility stamped in burning brands on the memory of his homeland.

“It might well be me motherland

But I hate the stinking cunt what bore me;

I fookin’ hate it!”

Ray-The-Roo, whippet thin and wiry, toothlessly articulate; lips that churn and spit words gracelessly with precise comic timing: he’s got a yarn or two.

“And true god; fuck me if it’s not the truth!”

Me and Ray have nailed ourselves to the front bar at Kirbys’, for the duration as the hot Katherine sun is warming up to another session. We are tapering off, or so the story goes [we keep telling ourselves], but the heat is on for OP rum and we’ve got the taste.

“These blackfellas don’ mind me drinking here, see?

Cos’ if the did I’d have me little black diamond; Joyce,

Have words with all her cousins and brudders and uncles and

They’ fix ‘em up quick smart!

He sings out to a young aboriginal man:

“Hey Bunji’; how ya’ doin?”

“Hey Ray……

You got fi’ dollar for me Bro’?”

“Piss off ya’ black bastard!

I got nothing! Look; no money!”

He Pulls My Coat:

“Ya’ Gotta’ Piss ‘Em Off Quick Ya’ See?

All of Joyce’s cousins and brothers and sisters

And the whole fookin’ tribe’ll try

And put the bite on me if they think I’m cashed up.

G’wan’ Piss Of With Your Humbug!”

I went fishing with Ray and Joyce; all throughout the country that belong Joyce’s family: not walk-about way but all loaded up on a Land Rover 74’ Defender with Ray driving standing up as he navigated the path through gullies and wash-outs, through river beds gouged in the soil and bedrock by wet after torrential wet.

“This my country now too!

I’m with Joyce and this is her country

And my country: she’s showing it to me; teachin’ me.”

For three days we just sit on the river and fish; cooking our catch fresh on the hot coals. We drink billy tea and make damper and roast onions. Our days are shaded by trees and soft sand mattresses our backs at night. We are like children without time as birds sing spirit songs and Joyce sings the night time songs of Dreaming:

“This country?

My mothers’ country!

Her mothers’ country”

My Dreaming!”

For three days I dream it too. Waking night time as celestial rubbish hurtles like fire tongues across the star pocked sky. Fruit bats weep like broken women and I too cry with the beauty of it.

Ray-The-Roo gums on the toothless apparitions of the past and present and we notch the air with exquisite lies:


I fookin hate it when them fookin’ mosquitos bite me

On the nob-end and I joost’ wanna’ grab me fooking

Foreskin and stretch it right up over me fookin’ head

And go like;


Scratch me fooking ball bag till I near bleed to death!”


“True-Fookin’-God: You-Ay!”

[Joyces’ Yarn]

“One time

We bin’ drinkin’ that rumbo there;

Ray-The-Roo say he bin’ hungry gutted and

He gunna’ eat that mangy ol’ dog there.

I don’t believe him and go to bed.

Wake up morning and there them dog feet;

Stickin’ ou that fire there.”

“And a good fookin’ feed and all!”

We gather up mobs of small sand frogs from under river slate and sludge and wait tied to hand lines for the fish to bite. The catfish sing strange squeaking songs as they land; mouths open round, hooting alien underwater melodies and threnodies.

Joyce says:

“Look out for them spikes there!

Him sting you and OOOOOOOOOOOOH

You bin’ cry all day and all night:

You hand swell like this!”

A busy crew of ants perform indelicate surgery on the fish guts and heads, renovating them and storing them away for future reference. A green python tests the gentle air with rapid split tongued staccatos; a goanna basks in the sun.


About the writer:
WJP Newnham hitchhiked around Australia working as barman, bum and waiter, slaughter hand, deckhand and master, spending 25 years working in the Northern Prawn Fishery. He has travelled extensively in Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Japan and speaks marketplace Indonesian with some fluency. He is the winner of the 2016 The Lifted Brow’s Experimental Non-fiction Prize. His numerous short stories have been published in Nocturnal Submissions, Overland, The Lifted Brow, Meanjin, Westerly and Horror Sleaze Trash [to name but a few].

Image: “Untitled” by Ferrandis Issaev, Spain.