ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact

Somewhere in the City of Melbourne, a young man is heading to the races not knowing that it will be he who graces the cover of tomorrow’s Herald Sun.

The young man is about to get separated from his friends in the general admission section of Flemington Racecourse. Not because he’s from Brisbane and his old iPhone XS has gone flat – but because a perfect storm is brewing inside him.

His mates put a can in his hand at 8 am. “Drink this up,” they said. He did. They had some back at the hotel while they got ready. He was just happy to be included. He had another can waiting for the cab. They had another in the cab while they praised the driver for letting them.

“You’d get shot for less in Queensland,” they told the cabbie.

“You’re a sick cunt, mate.”

They stopped at a pub near the race track to drink some more. They drank some more. His mates, who are that way inclined, started to get stuck into their bags. Another thing they insist is better in Melbourne. Christ almighty, he’s taken the top off another schooner when the next tray of pints lands on the table. “Come on, mate. You have to take four gulps, five max, to finish a schooner. Drink up.”

After four or five drinks at the pub, they’re on foot, walking into the racetrack.

He’s a stranger in a strange land. There’s nothing in his stomach except for heavy beer and two slices of buttered motel bread. Being a Queenslander, the full-strength Victorian beer has snuck up on him. He went to take a piss about an hour ago, and none of his mates have turned to wonder where he is.

He’s currently outside on the concourse, looking at his phone with pursed lips and glassy eyes. With his last lucid thoughts for the next couple of hours, he wonders how this has happened to him. How did he get so drunk so quickly? Where is everyone? Where was he staying again?

The young man decided he’d go back to where he last saw his mates. But he didn’t want anyone to know how drunk he was. So he went to get another beer but decided it was just safer to pick one up off a table and keep walking.

He thinks this is where he last saw his mates. For some reason, a brass band version of Percy Grainger’s ‘Irish Tune from County Derry’ starts playing in his head, and he enjoys a private, stoic moment alone in his mind as the cheap alcohol tide finally rises above the lips and mouth of his consciousness, and his soul gently slips under.

An hour later, a nice older man and his wife appear above him with a policeman. The policeman takes his glove off, creates a fist, and begins to rub firmly on the young man’s sternum. He wakes up.

“It’s OK, mate,” says the policeman.

The young man puts his hands in his pockets and feels the buoyant relief of finding a phone and wallet still tucked inside. To his relief, he still has them. He tells the policeman and the older couple he’s sorry, and they help him up.

He looks at his phone and they ask him where he is. He asks them where he is, saying he’s going back to the hotel. He goes back to the hotel to see half of them already there.

This evening, he’ll go to sleep a second time today, but in the morning, he will see himself in a different light.

More to come.


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