The Story of Danny Dunn

The Story of Danny Dunn by Bryce Courtenay Read Free Book Online

Book: The Story of Danny Dunn by Bryce Courtenay Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bryce Courtenay
Tags: Fiction, General
the back verandah of the pub remained empty, despite it being a free shandy day. Brenda was shocked. She had come to regard the women as friends and confidantes, but the empty seats symbolised a general disapproval. The women were appalled by her decision; they could never have afforded and would never have dared to make it themselves, and some thought she was giving herself airs.
    Opportunities for working-class boys in Balmain were few and far between: they could excel as sportsmen or be selected to go to Fort Street Boys High School. It ultimately meant the opportunity for a decent job in the city, a clean job where you wore a white shirt, collar and tie, shone your shoes every morning and came home with clean fingernails, or with an honourable ink stain on your second and third fingers where you held your Croxley fountain pen. On a rare occasion it meant a scholarship to Sydney University. Even by proxy, Fort Street and sport made a big difference to how folk felt about themselves.
    The alternative for a young bloke who wasn’t super bright or couldn’t kick a football, swim like a flaming porpoise, race a bike at the velodrome or go ten rounds in the ring at Rushcutters Bay Stadium was to follow his old man into the Colgate-Palmolive or Lever Brothers soap factories, the iron foundry, the ferry repair workshops or as a trainee crane driver at Walsh Bay. That is, if he was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship and didn’t end up as a common labourer shovelling shit and guts at the Flemington abattoir, working at the chemical factory or as a labourer on the wharves, repairing the roads or, worst of all, working on the coal loader.
    Danny was already at Fort Street and clearly a superior athlete; to most folk such good fortune would not only guarantee their son’s future but their own as well. Publicly the men denounced Brenda for denying the community the reflected glory of a favourite Balmain son’s fame, and the women protested by staying away from the soiree. But Brenda maintained a stubborn silence on the subject.
    The water-polo delegation assembled on a vacant block behind the backyard of the Hero of Mafeking around four-thirty one Tuesday afternoon. A Hero regular among them was sent to coax Half Dunn out of the pub, so as not to alert Brenda, who would probably give them the benefit of her acerbic tongue. Half Dunn, who only left his reinforced stool to take a piss, would be urged to slip out the back of the pub to the meeting spot in the vacant lot.
    The plan wasn’t quite as simple as it seemed. Half Dunn weighed over twenty stone, and by four o’clock already had eight schooners sloshing around in his enormous belly. A thirty-yard waddle in the late-afternoon sun was asking a fair bit. Then there were his two-tone patent-leather shoes to consider; they were for display purposes only, not for walking on rough, stony ground.
    However, Half Dunn knew he couldn’t refuse the invitation, for if he did, he’d look weak as piss. Furthermore, while everyone knew and accepted that Brenda ran the pub and made the business decisions, it went without saying that a man was still the boss in his own home. Brenda never put him down in public and so the delegation would have no reason to suspect any different. This was, after all, a family decision, not pub business, and they had every right to assume that, as her husband, he could come down on her like a ton of bricks; certainly demand she change her mind.
    Half Dunn made it to the vacant block, panting heavily, his shirt wringing wet, pale-blue eyes blinking away the stinging sweat under his brilliantine-darkened ginger brush-over.
    â€˜Yeah, good on ya, Mick. Thanks for coming,’ Tommy O’Hearn greeted him.
    â€˜I’ve scuffed me fuckin’ shoe,’ Half Dunn replied, looking forlornly down at his left foot.
    â€˜Yeah, righto. Spot o’ polish’ll fix that,’ O’Hearn replied, glancing at Half

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