I worked my way through the days alone. My friend had secured a position on the grape vines, so I was left to work the rows by myself, endless oranges, thorns, pastel pink spiders, pesticide-on-the-wind. My body started giving out. I was getting less oranges in the bins every day (earning less money) and removing the aching stiffness from my shoulders required nearly an hour in the shower. One night I told him I was leaving. I said this type of work wasn’t for me. I said I thought I was suited to work that exercised my mind.
I could barely carry all my stuff but I managed to get it to the outskirts of Hilston. I sat there with a cardboard sign. It was getting dark. I figured I could always go back into town. But as I was contemplating this two young guys in a ute approached and stopped. Jovial guys in Akubras. We’re not going to Griffith mate they told me, but if it gets dark we’ll come out and give you a lift back to the pub. One of them gave me a beer. As they left I saw a car that had passed in the meantime stop, and return towards me. This driver was also somewhat jovial. I thought they were picking you up he said. Hop in.
He told me he had pioneered a fishing competition in Hilston. He said it was a landmark thing, an event that brought in tourists, tourist dollars. He said now the event had been taken over by other parties and was being run into the ground. He said the locals were never even grateful to him for all that he had done. I thought and said yes, you’d think they would be grateful.
He took me all the way to Griffith. It was a reasonable hitchhiking gamble – there is nothing between Hilston and Griffith. I thanked him, went to a phone box and bought a bus ticket to Wagga. It was 8pm and the bus would pass through at 2am. I hid all my gear near an industrial bin behind the service station. I went and bought a big mac. Then, I sat on the public bench near the service station, and waited for the bus to arrive. I began reading Dante’s Inferno. I imagined things would be different when I got home.