New England Award: Tony Sevil for The Disappearance of Buck

With my writing ‘career’ I seem to have taken the long way ‘round. I have always harboured a desire to write fiction, and have many attempts stuffed in drawers, but I have never taken writing or myself very seriously. I have written articles for newspapers and magazines, including an in depth article with photographs on a horseback ride I did through the Macleay Gorges, which was published in the now defunct GEO Magazine.I have been many things. I studied Economics at UNE back in the dark ages and later did a Diploma of Social Science. I have worked in market research, economic research, public relations, selling, taxi driving , restaurant work. I came from a farming background and have tried my hand at that. I worked and travelled in Europe and Africa. In more recent times I worked with people with intellectual disabilities in Armidale for 12 years, the most rewarding wage work I have ever done.

In the past 25 years I have been immersed in art, making works out of found objects. I have exhibited in commercial galleries in Armidale and elsewhere, and have been in group exhibitions and a solo exhibition at NERAM.

It is only in recent years that I have returned to writing. I have contributed a number of stories to ABC Open. In 2011, I did an online Creative Writing course with the NSW Writers' Centre. It was during an exercise in this course that I initially came up with the character of Alf Buccal, who morphed into the protagonist of The Disappearance of Buck. I am now pleased I haven’t taken myself too seriously, as I have found a voice, for now, in writing humour.

The Disappearance of Buck

By Tony Sevil

Its real nice of you Heather to want to hear my story for Avago Magazine. I’ve been readin’ it for as long as I can remember. You’ve written some real good stories about brick-throwin’ and other sports.

Yes Heather... Brick-throwin’s been a real big part of my life. I have won more brick-throwin’ titles than you can poke a stick at. I was Australian Champion seven times in me twenties. Better not put that in your magazine, Heather. I don’t like big notin’ meself.  I really appreciate you wantin’ to hear a bit about me life as a champion brick- thrower. Met a lot of good people through brick-throwin’ and other sports. Some good sorts too Heather. Don’t like to brag  about that though.

I grew up with bricks. Me old man was the foreman of a kiln down Cessnock way. As a young feller I used to hang around the kiln. Started throwin’ bits of brick chips around when I wasn’t much bigger than an ankle biter. Liked the feel of throwin’ you know. Just felt nice. Then when I got up a bit I got onto quarter bricks, then half, then by the time I was fifteen I could hurl a full brick more than fifty foot.

I’ve made a lot of bricks over the years Heather, but you know, I never got into layin’ them. Yeah a bit strange I s’pose. The only regret really. A lot of me mates are bricklayers. Me best mate Clarrie Sampson is a gun bricklayer as well as bein’ a real good brick-thrower. Done a lot of work around this neck of the woods and out of state as well. I have to tell you now Heather, some of the stuff I’m telling you has to be off the record. Especially the women I’ve been with. Just between you and me I had a one night stand with Clarrie’s missus, but what he don’t know wont hurt him.

Yes you can Heather. Not all bricks are throwin’ bricks. I can tell just lookin’ at a brick if it’s a good one. I guess you’ve heard that around the traps. But it was the old man who showed me. He taught me heaps about bricks. He had a special brick that he loved you know. And you know what, he gave me that brick after I was runner up at the Stroud Invitation when I was seventeen. A beautiful brick. Lovely in the hand. No one but me and the old man could see it, but it had slight indentations in the brick for your thumb and your first finger. Gave a really nice grip. It was also a real nice colour , a bit redder than your normal brick. Yeah she was a special brick Heather. I have to say I was a bit choked up when the old man gave it to me.

I looked after that brick. When I was home I always kept that brick in the dunny as a weight for the newspapers. Sometimes I would pick it up and hold it for a bit while I was sitting there. These days I guess they would say it was sort of a mediation ya know.

Throw with it? You betcha. Always threw it in the big comps. And I always carried it with me in me panel-van even if I was just travelling around. For luck you know. Always reminded me of the old man. Top bloke he was. Tom Bucchal

was real respected in the brick world. I treasured that brick. I called it Buck. That’s what they called the old man.

Yes. You heard did you? Twelve months ago me life was turned upside down.

I was over at the Prawn Peeling Championships in Coffs. I like to go to lots of different events you know. Check who’s making waves in the other sports. Actually an old girlfriend of mine, Arlene Venners, has been the North Coast prawn-peeling champion for years. Her fingers moved like greased lightning. You've never seen anything like it. She was good. Real good. We were good mates if you know what I mean Heather.

Anyway, I always kept Buck on the floor in the front of the van. Somehow didn’t like putting it in the back with all the practice bricks. That brick’s a bit like me best mate if you know what I mean. Clarrie’s me real mate’ but Buck is a real comfort if you know what I mean.

Anyway, back to the prawn peelin’. I had a few beers with Arlene after the show. When I got back into me truck to head home, I looked down to say g’day to Buck and it had gone. What the hell. At first I thought I must have left it back in the dunny. But I was certain I took it from there. Could have misplaced it or mixed it with the practice bricks, but knew I wouldn’t have done that. It was too precious

for that sort of mistake. Yes Heather I reckoned someone must have pinched it. I was real upset Heather. Hard to believe I know. I’m a grown man but I sort of started cryin’.

Well yes. I first went to the Police. But they didn’t really want to  know. Reckoned they had a lot on their plate. Other than the Police, I only spoke to me mate Clarrie about it at the time. Clarrie thought I should drop it. “Its only a brick” he said. But I couldn’t Heather. I just couldn’t. Sorry... tearin’ up a bit.

I racked me brains trying to work out who might of pinched it. I’ve always thought George Hartley was a bit jealous. And, Well, there was another reason. I sort of pinched his woman. Don’t like to boast about it but she sort of fell for me. Met her at the Shouting Championships in Alice. Crikey she could shout, but away from the comp she was as gentle as a lamb, real sensitive sort of thing. We had a nice fling but it sort of petered out. I believe she finished up with a rabbit-skinning champ from down Victoria way. I know George wasn’t happy about it all. Might have had it in for me a bit.

I guess I had a bit of a way with the ladies Heather. Don’t like big notin’ meself but they seemed to be attracted to me for some reason. But, as I said, don’t write any of that Heather. If they knew I had talked to you they would come down on me like a ton of bricks.

Fiona from Cairns was a  frog-hopping champion. She could train a frog alright. They would do anything for her. Came from a long line of frog trainers. I saw one

jump 10 foot once. Huge leap. She was sort of you know... what’s that word they use Heather. Fisty or somethin’? It will come to me...Yes that’s it Heather. Fiesty.. She would do her block sometimes. She let me have it one time when she saw me talking quietly like to Joan Boney behind the equipment shed at the showground. She really let fly. And that was it. But she had a certain honour about her and she wouldn’t have pinched me brick ... well she did know how much the brick meant to me though.

Bert Harry from Cunnamulla was a bloke I knew. Real snakey sort of a feller. Wouldn’t trust him with a forty-foot pole. He was a damn good whip-cracker. He could snap the head of a taipan with one crack. But as a bloke he was the sort that ‘d talk about you behind your back. I heard that he reckoned I cheated with me brick throwing. But I didn’t put him down as a thief. Just snakey. Besides he wasn’t into brick- throwin’ himself, but I did hear he had a young nephew who was gettin’ into throwin’.

I guess Heather its not nice to be suspicious of peopl’ but sometimes you can’t help it, especially when you lose something that’s special to you. I felt I’d let the

old man down. Buck was me lucky charm. I’ve done alright in comps since but me heart hasn’t been in it you know. I guess I was a bit repressed. A long time friend of mine, Connie Carson, reckoned I should see someone. A herpalist or somethin’. But that’s not for me Heather. I reckon you have to work these things out yourself.

I was a bloke who liked to be in the thick of it you know. Talk to anyone. Loved a yarn. But I started to stand back. Watchin’ people a lot. I remember at a comp over in Broome on Cable Beach there. I was not in the comp. I was watching Harry Barton. He was a good thrower and had been winning a few comps lately. I wondered about the brick he was using. One night when the blokes were having a few in the canteen they had set up I got the urge to check out the bricks he was usin’. I snuck over to his Ute. I was turning over the bricks checkin’ them out with me torch when Harry rocks up. “What the ... What are you doing here! Its you Alf? What the hell are you doing rootin’ around in my Ute?”.

“Well I ...I just wanted to...”.

“You look after your own bricks Alf! and if I see you near my truck again I’ll call the cops...or I’ll lay one on ya”.

You see Heather I became a changed bloke. Suspectin’ everyone. But I was determined to find who pinched me brick. The old man would kill me if he was alive...for not lookin’ after it.

I think I was losin’ it Heather. Suspectin’ people I had known for years. For months I must have watched every brick that was thrown in every brick -throwin’ comp around the country. I think I was getting a bit what do they say. A bit obessed.

It was over at the South Aussie championships.

I suddenly had this feeling about Horrie Riley. Horrie had been goin’ well too. I remember having a few beers with him down at the Tassie Championships and we got talking about bricks and throwers we had known. I let slip that I often used the special brick the old man had given me. I never talked about me bricks like that before. You see Heather I was weakening. Me mind was sort of goin’.

I remembered that as I watched him compete in the Sydney before the Royal. I thought it had to be Horrie. And I hatched up a plan.

 I knew his missus Shirley, a wonderful worm racer. She had even won at the big one over in Wisconsin. Yes Heather, some of us travel a long way to events.

Interesting over there. You can rent a fully trained worm but I wouldn’t come at that. Neither did Shirley. Yes, she was good Heather. Anyway she had always had the hots for me.  Horrie and Shirl used to sleep in the back of their panel- van when they were on the road, with the bricks piled up to one side. Anyway I knew on this particular night at Dapto after an event that her Horrie was going to the dogs that night with a few of the other blokes. So Heather, I chatted up Shirl. Don’t write this. I got her into the cot...well into the back of their panel van and

well you know the rest. But then afterwards I waited for her to go to sleep and then I quietly started feelin’ Horrie’s  bricks, running me hand over them lookin’ for those tell –tale indents on the bricks. It took a lot of feelin’ Heather, goin’ through those bricks. But no, Buck was not amongst them. Another blind alley. So I snuck out and went back to me van.

The next day I just sort of nodded to Shirley. I wished her luck with her worm in the semis.

But Heather, I wasn’t a happy man. I had been spending a lot more time at home feelin’ real gloomy. Not talking to anyone much. Not even me old mate Clarrie. Besides I heard he was off building some canteens around the place down south. I just sort of moped around the place thinkin’ I had lost the brick for good.

Anyway Heather, last week I managed to drag meself out of me misery and got in the van and went over to the Stroud invitation. Always a popular event. Thought I would make the effort you know and I heard there was a young up and coming feller. They likened his style to mine. I was feelin’ a bit shy- like I suppose Heather. I think I had upset a lot of the blokes with all me suspicions. I had sort of given up on finding Buck. I had sort of assigned to the fact what me mates had said ”its only a brick”. And I guess they were sort of right. Well I guess so.

Anyway the council had done a bit of work around the ground. It was looking real spruced up. I had a couple of beers mainly with old Hector Bailey from the Isa. He had a brick-throwing school up there and I was half thinkin’ of settin’ one up meself some time.

I went for a leak and seen they’d got a brand spankin’ new toilet block. I went into it and stood at the urinal thinkin’ about some of the nice things old Hector had said about me throwin’, starin’ at the wall, sort of just enjoying the moment if you know what I mean Heather. I had one hand on the wall in front of me, when I got the start of me life. I felt the wall. I moved me hand over the brick me hand was on. I looked. I looked hard. And I knew for sure. I knew that red.

Now you know Heather how they reckon the mafia bury their killins in cement. Well you know what. There without a doubt was Buck, firmly set in the wall. No mistake.

Well I was angry. I thumped the wall. All me frustrations sort of came out if you know what I mean. It all came back and I started sobbin’.

But then Heather I thought about it... and I thought, well...it’s not so bad. Its there for posteriority. But you know Heather there’s a part of me that’d still like to know who stuck it there.  I s’pose I may never know...and I guess Heather, what ya don’t know don’t hurt ya.

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