Tells are important. The sweetest things. They go to the very core of what matters, without breaking the world.
A person that looks you in the eye when they greet you.
A date who comes to your place for dinner and offers to help.
Someone who dodges their shout.
A person who, when walking with you, commands your dog.
A baffled, crooked grin.
Someone who asks if they should go outside your place to smoke, someone who asks if they have to go outside to smoke.
Even babies have them, so do animals. Sometimes, often, a country does. Take their collective stance on boat people, for example. The attitude, or lack of, with which they sing their anthem. The way their sports people celebrate.
Sometimes a State has them.
I was raised in Victoria, but in my adopted home, Tassie, we still call each other ‘cob’. How good is that?! Not the American “Guys” or “Buddy”. Fuck, I hate ‘Bud”!. But something Aussie, laconic. Cob can’t be puffed up.
With seasonal work, and writing gigs, I have to take the ferry back to my motherland, the mainland, each summer. The ground crew in Melbourne sorta get shitty, about everything. They grunt. They’re over it, and you.
One time, I when I parked my ute in the boat, I stepped in some dog shit, left by a fellow traveller’s pet. I asked a car marshal bloke if I could use the hose beside him to wash it off. He looked at me as if I was an alien, was humourless. Talking to/helping me wasn’t a part of his job! I just grabbed the hose.
In Tassie, once, I was running late. Last to arrive. One of the customs people asked me to pull-up to the waste bins and empty the fuel from by chainsaw canister. While I was doing so she asked about my dog, who was poking her head over the tray.
“Half husky, half Sha Pie,” I told her.
“What a corker,” she crooned, giving it a scratch.
One-by-one the other customs people finished and made their way over to admire my dog.
“She’s a ripper,” a big bloke smiled. “I had a lab a bit like that.”
“Come everywhere with you, does she?” another customs lady asked, also giving it a scratch.
“Um,” I looked at the boat, as it fired it’s engines up.
The first lady glanced over her shoulder. Travellers, industry, staff, our Highway 1 on water, ready to roll.
“Eh, don’t worry, it can’t leave without our nod,” she said. “Tell me, what does your pooch eat…”
The handful of us talked a bit more.
The man who flags the cars into their proper lanes walked by, about 20 meters off, towards a small cabin, throwing his reflector vest in, job done.
“Just follow the fence line down. Look for the big floating thing, Cob,” he said as he passed. “By the way, grouse dog.”
I should move to Melbourne, really. Everything about my vocation is so much harder from Tassie. At times, to stay verges on career knee-capping. But, for now, home is still where my heart is.