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for Paul Askern Man, what an induction you gave me, rolling that joint of fresh Sumatran grass on the little deck of a longhouse overlooking Lake Toba, your fingers deft and practised, while the lake sparkled tranquil below us and light faded from the afternoon sky. You were the master and I the eager acolyte, straight and wanting to bend a little, coughing with my first inhalation. Was it Ian who was with us then, the Canadian with a guitar, repeatedly playing Moonshadow as we journeyed through Sumatra, the guy who might have saved my life the day a water buffalo suddenly charged us in the middle of a field, his scream causing it to stop dead in its tracks, snorting, only feet away from us, while I was frozen to the spot, and then turn away, as if wondering whatever had gotten into its head? I forget. No doubt his name is in my diary if I could find it, and you could tell me if you were here. And that time in Brastagi, walking the main street, when I noticed children gathering behind us, more and more of them, and I turned to the two of you, tall, broad-shouldered and whispered that on the count of three we should turn and charge, screaming at the top of our lungs, the glint in your eye then, your readiness for mischief, a wildness of children scattering in panic, adults up and down the street doubled up in laughter, and days of children jumping out at us from behind walls and trees, screaming in delight, our game become theirs. You watched, with quiet delight, a knowing smile on your face as I began to giggle, as I laughed uproariously, and couldn’t stop, nothing and everything too funny for words, as I eventually took myself to lie down and sleep it off. Who can I share these things with now that you are gone? I will speak of them while I can, to whoever will listen, holding on to my memories of you, our friendship.
Copyright 2022 David Ades
David Ades’s books include Afloat in Light (University of Western Australia, 2017). He lives in Australia.
Love this “Tales from the Sixties” or seventies, the raucous joy and the downturn, mortality, the end.
Thanks, Mary. I do too!