The phone rang, and Michael, half asleep, stuck his hand out from underneath the quilt and felt around for the vibrating handset which he knew was somewhere on the floor.
‘m’hello?’ he said, his eyes still closed.
‘Are… are you sleeping?’ said the voice on the other end.
‘I was.’ He groaned and sat up. ‘What’s up?’
‘You know that Boat trailer I was telling you about?’
Michael rubbed his eyes and peered at the clock on his desk. ‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Phil, it’s 11am and it’s Saturday. Why are you even awake?’
‘I was up at 6am – already had five cups of coffee. Gotta keep moving, got things to do,’ said Phil. He made a clicking sound with his tongue. ‘Anyway, can you?’
Michael swung his legs over the side of the bed and rubbed his eyes with his right hand as he carelessly held the phone with his left. ‘Can I what? I just got up, man.’
‘Can you help me with this trailer thing?’
‘Yeah, the Boat trailer. I need to go have a look at it before deciding whether to spend money on it or not.’
Michael walked over to his computer and turned it on – it wasn’t as if he was going to be able to sleep. ‘Can’t you just do that online?’
‘Nah, gotta see it in real life, full size. See if there are any problems with it.’
‘So why do you need me?’
‘Because you know about this sort of stuff. You’re good at spotting details and shit.’
Michael stared at the ceiling and scratched his stomach, turning the idea over in his head before making a decision. ‘Yeah, alright, I’ll give you a hand,’ he said as he tried pulling on a pair of jeans one-handed. ‘But you owe me lunch. Where are we going?’
‘Port Wakefield, see you in ten minutes!’
‘Port Wakefield? That’s two hundred kilometres away!’
There was a click as Phil ended the call.
‘That dirty bastard.’
Phil’s car was a clapped out shit-box with a custom exhaust. It sounded like a cement mixer full of nails and looked like it was held together with hopes and dreams, if dreams were made of duct tape and car bog. When Michael opened the passenger-side door it fell off. He was left holding the handle.
‘I see you bought a new handle,’ he said.
‘Yeah, it’s good, hey? Just slip the door back on its hinge could you?’ said Phil.
As Michael re-hanged the door Phil turned up the volume on his stereo.
‘GOT A NEW STEREO,’ he said.
‘I KNOW!’ said Michael, ‘IT DOESN’T HOLD THE DOOR ON!’
‘YEAH! ABOUT TWO HUNDRED WATTS!’
They both nodded at each other, content that the messages had got across. Michael slammed the now-fixed door and turned the music down as it had already rattled the rear-vision mirror free from its mount.
‘So why are we going to Port fucking Wakefield, man? Can’t you just be like a normal person and suss it out online or something? What new information are you going to gain by driving all the way out there?’ asked Michael.
‘Told you on the phone, man. I have to see it full-size, otherwise I won’t be able to make a wise purchase,’ replied Phil.
‘Remember, you’re buying me lunch.’
A short while later they were rattling along the highway, just shy of the speed limit. Michael stared out the window at the salt bush that dotted the landscape and tapped his foot to the music coming out of the stereo. Despite hating long car trips, he did like this part of the country – it was colourful, textured and interesting. The occasional dead tree dotted the landscape, every available branch weighed down with optimistic bird nests.
‘What do you suppose the birds think when they build those nests?’ Phil said, interrupting Michael’s day-dreaming.
‘The birds. What do you reckon they’re thinking when they build a nest out in the open like that?’
Michael looked out the window again and paused. ‘I reckon they’d be thinking “You’d have to be mad to drive to Port Wakefield to check out a trailer which you can look at from the comfort of your own home.’
Phil laughed. ‘Alright, fair call. But, really, what about the nests?’
‘The birds probably think “this is a nice spot to build a nest; lots of sticks for the frame, lots of saltbush for the mattress, lots of leaves to hide its position. Yes. This is a killer spot for a nest.” And then summer rolls around, all the leaves fall off the tree because it barely rains out here, and they say “awwww fuck. This is a stupid spot for a nest.” Then their wives leave them because of their poor decision-making skills. They then start hanging around dodgy pubs, drinking from the pools of spilled beer, quietly warbling their sorrows to anyone who might listen.’
Phil just stared at the road ahead. ‘That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.’
Michael stopped tapping his foot and turned the stereo down. ‘So what’s so important about this trailer? I still can’t believe I’m coming all this way out here to see it.’
‘It’s important. It’s a trailer for the Boat. You know how much I love the Boat, even though it isn’t ready to launch yet. I’ve spent heaps of time researching it, put heaps of energy into analysing every moment of its creation, and I just need this last piece of the puzzle to fall into place. I wanna start enjoying the Boat as soon as possible, so I need all the information I can get.’
Michael nodded and started tapping his hand on the window sill to the beat of the now-subdued music. A few seconds later the door fell off.
‘Please buy a new car, Phil,’ said Michael as they struggled to re-hang the door.
‘Why? There’s nothing wrong with this one,’ said Phil with a genuine look of shock on his face.
Michael stared at him, and then stared at the patchwork of repairs which covered the car. ‘Mad Max could’ve built a car better than this, man.’
‘Um, yeah. No shit?’ said Phil. ‘Mad Max is a genius.’
‘Mad Max is a character in a movie, mate,’ said Michael.
‘Yeah, I know. And he’s a genius.’ Phil bent down and examined the door. ‘I think the hinge is bent.’
‘Do you have any tools?’
‘Nah. Tools are for pussies.’
‘So we’re going to be here for another two hours?’
Phil scratched his chin with one hand and shielded his eyes from the sun with another. After a few seconds he pointed to some rocks a short way away.
‘Give me a hand moving those, could you?’
A few minutes later Phil had set up a makeshift anvil and was beating the daylights out of the damaged door with a large rock. He’d stop every couple of hits, assess the hinge, then beat on the door some more. Michael spent the time skipping pebbles across the road.
‘You’ll need to buy me two lunches. Good ones.’
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Bang. Bang. Bang. ‘I think it’s fixed. Give me a hand.’ They carried the door to the car and had it fitted in a couple of seconds. ‘See? Who needs tools when you’ve got a rock?’
‘People with better cars than yours, mate.’
An hour later they were nearing their destination - the change in landscape indicating they were close to the sea. Salt bush had given way to small shrubs and trees, and seagulls flew overhead. Michael marvelled at the effortlessness of their flight. ‘I think I’d like to be a seagull,’ he said.
‘Why?’ said Phil.
‘Because seagulls don’t ride around in shit-boxes like yours.’
‘That’s because seagulls can’t afford cars. They’re birds.’
They passed the ‘Welcome to Port Wakefield’ sign and slowed down. The car shuddered as the brakes engaged and the smell of burning brake pads filled the car.
‘I really hate this thing, Phil,’ said Michael.
‘Yeah, I gathered that.’
Phil eased into a petrol station a few kilometres down the road and switched the car off. ‘I’ll be back in two seconds with lunch.’
Sure enough, he was back a couple of minutes later with a couple of pies and a bucket of hot chips. He handed them to Michael and started the car. ‘We can eat them when we get there. We have plenty of time before it gets dark.’
‘This doesn’t count as one of the two lunches you owe me. This counts as dinner.’
Michael just stared at Phil and pointed at the passenger-side door.
They barely spoke as they waited in the car park of the only establishment left of its kind in the state. ‘Why do you suppose they closed places like this down, Mike?’
‘Because places like this are shit, Phil.’
‘How can you say that? Look at the size of this place!’
‘And look how empty it is. Seriously, why did you need to come out here to see this? You said you wanted to see it in ‘real life’, but this isn’t exactly ‘real life’, is it? I mean, come on, seeing it out here is exactly like seeing it at home.’
Phil scratched at a bit of rust on the car’s bonnet. ‘Nah, it’s not the same. If you look at the image online like you’re suggesting you’ll notice that it’s all shit. The image quality is terrible; you can’t make out any detail at all. You have to see it up-close on a big screen to get the full effect.’
Michael stretched out along the bonnet and up the windscreen. ‘I can’t believe I came out here to see this. This is mental. I swear, mate, if this movie trailer isn’t everything you’ve made it out to be, I’m going to be seriously pissed.’
Phil made himself comfortable on the car’s roof. ‘I sure hope they play it tonight.’
The lights dimmed, and the only sound that could be heard was Michael grinding his teeth.