By Wayne MarshallUnpublished Manuscript

Frontier Sport

Judges' comments

In Frontier Sport, Marshall embeds a strong sense of joy in stories of folly and wonder. Each individual piece is remarkable in its own right but collectively they form a cohesive narrative about Australian life and culture.

Marshall uses satire to great effect, rendering memorable and surprising stories that reimagine masculinity. He stretches the short-story form to its very limits utilising both stylistic invention and absurd humour. 

Portrait of Wayne Marshall

Wayne Marshall

Wayne Marshall is an Australian writer and musician. Work of his has appeared in Going Down SwingingIslandReview of Australian FictionSeizureTincture Journal, and other places.

He is the co-organiser of the Peter Carey Short Story Award, and lives in the town of Bacchus Marsh with his partner and two daughters.

Extract

The Yowie's Visit

It was late afternoon by the time the Yowie left the forest and began making his way towards the town below. Already, only a few footsteps out from the safety of the gum trees, he felt anxious. What if the townspeople didn’t like him? What if they thought him too tall? Too hairy? Too yellow-toothed? There was also the possibility that at the first sight of him they’d drop what they were doing and hunt him, in cars and on foot, firing their guns until he lay dead in some paddock or ditch.

The whole thing was a risk, no question.

But how much loneliness could one soul be expected to bear? It had been – how long had it been since he’d discovered Big Blue by the stream, her body savaged by dogs as she’d gathered the morning’s water? He’d lost track. The only thing he knew for certain was that his life of solitude since her death had become unbearable. Yes, in a way she was still with him. He’d cleaned her out, on the night of her murder, and in his grief stuffed her hulking body with grass and pebbles and the purple flowers she was always bending to smell. She was up there now, in the darkness of their cave, perched on her chair of rocks. But how he pined for living, breathing company.

The Yowie reached the bottom of the hill and lumbered through the industrial estate on the edge of the town. Factories glimmered in the sun. A giant chimney belched smoke into the sky. The Yowie looked left and right, searching for his first potential companion and soul mate. But there was no one.

Soon he entered a street lined with peeling white houses. Readying himself, he practised the words, those human words the men greeted each other with, whenever they came into the forest to hunt or camp. ‘Gidday, mate,’ he said, extending a furry arm and shaking an imaginary hand. ‘Gidday, mate. Gidday, mate. Gidday.’

When he heard a rustling sound in a yard two houses up, the Yowie sucked in a breath and quickened his stride.

‘Gidday, mate,’ he said, arriving at a low fence. He offered a friendly hand.

A dog exploded from the bushes, almost taking his hand with it.

The Yowie tumbled backwards onto the grass. The small brown and white dog went on barking and baring its teeth, hurling itself at the fence.

Despite his size, the Yowie used violence against other living creatures only when absolutely necessary. Big Blue, until her death, had been their primary hunter, leaving him to maintain the cave and forage for fruit. But as he sat there, knocked on his backside, something dark and ugly boiled over. He gritted his teeth. He rose to his feet. He went to the fence and clubbed the animal on the head – hard, as hard as he could. There was a shattering of bone and the dog yelped, collapsing to the dirt.

The Yowie came suddenly back into his skin. Anxious fingers crowded his lips.

‘Little Benji? You okay out there?’ It was a man’s voice, calling from inside the house. ‘Little Benji?’ Footsteps pounded the floorboards.

The Yowie took off, keeping watch over his shoulder.

‘Little Benji?’ The front door smacked open.

The Yowie ran, sweat beading the fur of his panicked face.

‘Little Benji?! Dear god, Little Benji, no!’

When he dared look back, the Yowie saw a tall white car approaching. He slowed to a walk, trying to act casual. At his back the car braked, then stopped, right beside him. There was a hiss and a door opened. The Yowie turned slowly to meet his fate.

‘You off to the ball, mate?’ A grey-haired man with a high-pitched voice sat behind the wheel. In the seats were as many potential companions and soul mates as the Yowie could count on both hands. They paid him no particular attention, absorbed in their phones. ‘The Desperate and Dateless, mate. That’s where you’re headed, right? We’re running free shuttle buses there all day.’

The Yowie looked in the direction he’d come. The man was on his nature strip now, cradling a dark bundle in his arms.

The Yowie stepped on board. ‘Gidday, mate.’ He offered the driver his hand.

The driver reached out and shook it. ‘Shit, you’re a big bloke, aren’t ya? Better watch your head. Low ceiling in here.’

Before the Yowie could think of finding a seat, the door clapped shut and the car sped off. The driver took a sharp turn and the Yowie toppled into a seat. Beside him was a man. He was fully grown, but compared to the Yowie he seemed the size of a child. He wore boots, jeans and a collared shirt buttoned down to reveal a tuft of brown chest hair. When he noticed the Yowie fall in alongside him, he delved into the esky at his feet. Passing him a can of beer, the man said, ‘Here’s cheers to tonight, mate.’

The Yowie smiled, accepting the drink. Up ahead, the tall buildings of the town centre came into view. In his ear, the voices of two women were like excited birds.

He was on his way.

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