Possum Wayne has sold his house and left the village. In my childhood he would have been described as ‘not quite the full quid’. That was how mental dysfunction was perceived. Or someone like Jessie, my adopted mother would say, ‘he suffered from the nerves’. She suffered from the nerves. Although, on further thought, it was mainly women who got the nerves. Men were ‘a few bob short’. Influences of patriarchy and the Great Depression?
We first met Wayne when we used to come down to Blackball for Mayday. After he lost his job he hung around the local Unemployed Workers’ Rights Group (hard to know where to put the apostrophe). He’d worked for some tourist attraction and had seen a document which revealed that his boss was getting paid a lot more than him, so he urinated in the goldfish tank and killed the fish. He got the sack of course. Thereafter he was focused on injustice and it drove him paranoid, or depressed, or both.
He was homeless and after we bought this old house and were still in Wellington, coming down here for the holidays to renovate, we let Wayne live here. His was a simple life. He didn’t bother about heating. He trapped possums, walking off into the hills in his bare feet. He lived off possum stew and water cress (a pretty good diet); that’s how he got possum attached to his name. At night he listened to his Heavy Metal records, He was into conspiracy theories. Then the possum supply dried up thanks to 1080 and he started to bring stuff home from the dump. That proved problematic – as the rubbish accumulated.
He comes from a farming family so had a trust fund. When we moved here he bought himself a house on the main road. The old lady who had lived there had been a miner’s wife and was a bit paranoid that people would steal her ton of coal which was delivered each year free of charge. She’d also sent away a young woman doing the genealogy thing when she came knocking, for the family had been ‘bloody scabs’. Maybe paranoia infected the house, for Wayne became increasingly ‘unwell’ when he shifted to the main road. He felt exposed I suppose. He’d no longer say hello. He had a dog which was becoming old and Wayne would stride through the field staring fixedly ahead, the dog trying to keep up.
Then he attacked a neighbour who owned several roosters and that involved a court case. One Christmas he took to standing in the middle of road staring through binoculars. That seemed odd enough to warrant a visit. He told us to f-off but stopped standing in the middle of the road.
He rode his bicycle into town a couple of times a week, then took to riding on the wrong side of the road. He would veer back at the last moment. A death wish or playing chicken?
I worried that he would do something really crazy. Thank God there is no easy gun access in this country. But it never happened. He held it together. He spent an awful lot of time inside his own head.
Anyway, now he’s sold his house and has gone off with his eighty grand. No one knows where.
In a curious way, we’ll miss him.