Something very bizarre and quite scary just happened to me.
I was walking home from the park, where I’d taken the dogs for a walk.
I was feeling good: iPod in my back pocket, headphones hooked over my ears, scarf swinging from my neck as I power-walked my way through the falling darkness. The dogs trotting at my heels.
Crossing the main road to reach my street, a battered steel-blue car rolled across my path, drawing to a swaggering halt just over the pedestrian crossing. Smoke spluttered from the front as well as the back of the car, giving it the appearance of floating on a dirty grey cloud. The elbows of the twenty-something men in the car were jutting from the open windows.
As I gingerly walked around the car, I shot the men a dirty look. As I met their eyes, they nodded at me, as if to say ‘hey, nothing personal’.
Continuing on down the footpath, I noticed another carload of similarly aged men. Scruffy around the edges men. Some of them were inside the car, others were crowding around it, leaning on the roof, looking in, talking earnestly.
The steel blue car roared around the corner and on down the road. The men leapt into the car and roared off after it. A few steps on: another carload, another similarly battered car, another group of earnest men. A big man in a flannelette shirt approached the car and began bashing on the door, yelling. Another man flew out and ran past me, just a few metres away, directly across my path – heading for the Yarraville Oval. The big man followed, brandishing his fists, followed by the rest of the men in the car.
I was frozen to the spot, dogs uncharacteristically still at my ankle, not sure what to do or where to go. Behind me, in the dimming light, kids F’s age and older were whizzing back and forth on scooters on the skate ramp. F played there at this time nearly every night last week.
I walked on.
Implausibly, another carload screeched to a halt just in front of me, its passengers spilling out in an angry army of blue denim and testosterone. I could hear the shouting over the Brit-Pop feeding from my iPod to my ears. This time, I kept walking, eyes focused ahead, not looking directly at anyone or anything. For a few moments that felt much longer, the angry men were facing each other off on either side of me and the dogs. As I walked, they rushed at me – but really at each other – meeting in a tussle at my back as, like the Ever-Ready Bunny, I kept going and going, until I reached home.
I am really, really glad that F was at his dad’s tonight.
I told the Husband about all this on the phone when I got home and he shed some light on events. He recalled that there was a house next to the oval and the skate ramp where carloads of denim-clad gangs used to hang out.
'Oh' I said. 'So, that would be the house that burnt to the ground the other week.' The one that was left as a charcoal shell. The one with bizarre padlocks on the gates, despite the fact that there seems to be NOTHING THERE to lock up. The one that had police tape all over the front fences after the fire.
I'm guessing the fight might have had something to do with the fire the police were investigating. Never a dull moment!