We sit around the kitchen table like Jesus and his disciples, except there are only six of us and Jesus is drinking too much red wine and swearing a lot. There’s Jayne, Simmo, Sally, Geraldine, Flinty and me. And Bernie, of course: our Jesus. We’re the BackTrack Crew and I’m the latest ring-in to this gang of youth workers.
Bernie’s eyes burn bright but look troubled all the same. For the past week he’s been busy talking to the media about his most recent youth-work initiative, the Iron Man Welders. Now he’s going through a moral dilemma about being seen as the “boss man” of BackTrack, the spokesperson with all the answers.
He takes a swig of wine. “It’s hard for me when people ask, ‘What is it?’ Fuck, I don’t know.”
At the head of the table, Simmo shifts his half-moon glasses down his nose and moves his chair in closer. His black beanie makes him look like he’s about to organise a bank heist. “BackTrack’s a group of people doing shit for youth. I’m here because I like the idea of helping you out,’ he says. ‘Are you worried it’s too Bernie-focused?”
Simmo shrugs. “But I see BackTrack as being Bernie. Some bastard’s got to be the leader.”
Bernie runs his fingers through his wavy hair. Although he spent much of his youth as a stockman in Central Australia, his skin is clear and unlined, his face boyishly handsome though he’s approaching 40-years-old.
He glances around the table. ‘Most of you have known me long enough to know that I’m great at flying off on tangents and having all this passion, but if you lot weren’t writing the grant applications or helping out where you can, then it would be nothing – just someone with a lot of passion running around chasing his fuckin’ tail.’
Maybe so. But he’s the one with all the ideas, the ones that work.
“Can I ask a question?" Sally, his sister-in-law, looks like she wants more order in this meeting. "Don’t we have a mission statement or vision or something?”
Bernie gives her a wry smile. “We do that every time we get together, every time we get pissed.”
Sally laughs, shakes her head like she should have known better.
This is an extract from Griffith REVIEW 28: Still the Lucky Country? (Text Publishing) www.griffithreview.com
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.