The Drifter | Nick Lachmund

A nomad roams the Great Southern Land, always on the run.


 

The Drifter

By  Nick Lachmund

For The Evacuation Infatuation Award


 

My mother’s hand lightly brushes my cheek as she sings to me.

“My child will always be with me,

No matter the time or date,

I know that I’ll always love thee,

And that love is forever your fate.”

I awake with a start. Hotel room. Scratchy old sheets. Ugly blue wallpaper. I must be in Adelaide. I arise and my day begins.

“Spare a dollar?” An old bum asks me as I approach the pub. I ignore him and enter the establishment.

“Pint,” I say to the barman without looking at him. I survey the bar, looking for my mark.

“That’s seven bucks,” the barman replies gruffly. I drop some gold coins on the bar and decide to walk around and get a better look at the crowd.

“Buy ya a drink?” An old woman with skin like leather asks me as I finish my pint.

“Sure,” I reply casually. It seems that my mark has found me for once.

A few drinks later and I get my chance. She goes to the ladies and leaves her bag behind. I scan the room for witnesses but no one watches me. I take out her purse and find a healthy wad of cash. I take most, but not all of it. I learnt a long time ago that leaving someone with no money will make them desperate to find you but leaving them with little money will just make them angry. I leave the bar quickly.

I feel my mother’s hip in my back as she sits on my bed. She continues to sing.

“If I lost my child, what would I do?

The answer’s plain to see,

I’d stab myself until it’s through,

And my child would be with me.”

I awake with a start. No sheet. Old brown doona cover that smells like bleach. White walls with yellow stains. I must be in Brisbane. I arise and my day begins.

I find a club that’s open early or late, depending on your perspective.

“Scotch and coke,” I ask the barman with my eyes fixed on the bar. A burst of pain appears out of nowhere and runs from my head to my toes. I feel myself falling. Fade to black.

My mother pats my arm as she sings.

“When we meet again, in that far beyond,

My child and I will never part,

Ours nights will be short and our days long,

 And our eternal bliss will start.”

I awake with a start. Head banging. Sitting on a cold metal chair. A bright room with a man on the other side of the table. I don’t know where I am. I think I’m in trouble.

“We haven’t officially met,” the man, a tall, tough looking character begins. “My name is Peter. And you are?”

“Jordan,” I decide to lie. “Jordan Kempton.”

“Well Jordan, I didn’t think we’d meet again.”

My concussion seems to instantly lighten and my wits return. I focus on the man across from me and a memory whacks me. He was my mark once. I’ve broken one of my golden rules. Never return to the scene of a crime. I’ve visited so many pubs and clubs over the years that they all look familiar.

“Now, I’m willing to make you a deal.” Peter says, interrupting my frantic thoughts.

“What sort of deal?” I ask.

“A simple one.” He leans forward, resting his elbows on the table and staring at me intensely. “I’ll let you go, without punishment, if you tell me your real name and story. As long as it’s an interesting enough story.”

I consider his offer for a few moments. I notice a bulge under the Peter’s jacket and I realise that he has a holstered gun. He’s not a man to be trifled with, it would seem.

“My real name is Sarah Laurence. I’m from Melbourne. I ran away from home when I was thirteen because,” the words catch and I bite hard on my bottom lip. I’ve never spoken these words to anyone and it’s harder than I thought.

“Please, go on.” He says eagerly.

“I ran away from home when my mother tried to gas me and her. She wanted us to die together, to get away from my dad. But it didn’t work and she left me behind. I started running to get away from my dad. And I haven’t stopped.”

A cold tear lands on my warm cheek. I don’t dare to lift my eyes from the table and look at Peter. I hear him stand and walk away from the table. When I look up, he’s gone but he’s left a door open for me. I’m out the door without further thought. In my game, one learns early to not overstay one’s welcome.