restricted access rule in favor
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125 • rule in favor It was great to see his mate after all those years. They’d “done time” at uni together, worked their way through law school.We’re both from the wrong side of the tracks, Ron would joke.And he knew he could make the joke. His wadjela mate was sensitive enough to leave it at that.What are you doing here? his mate asked. Come to see justice done, said Ron . . . And you? Got a case this morning. Then they chatted about their uni days, London, Cambridge, Perth, mutual friends. They clicked right back into the old patterns of conversation, but Ron’s lawyer mate had to cut it short saying, You know how it is . . . got to find my client . . . catch you later . . . Ron was there for only one case to be heard that morning, but he sat and listened to the earlier cases out of professional curiosity. He wasn’t sure when his mate was due to appear as he hadn’t thought to ask him about the case in the swirl of reminiscences. But it was for this case, the third of the morning, that Ron was in court. He’d been curious how it would go, for Northam 126 j o h n k i n s e l l a a lot of reasons. His mate appeared and gave him a wry smile. Ron stared back, nonplussed. The accused looked at Ron, who was one of the few people in the magistrate’s court, but didn’t recognize him.That wellknown hatred of “blacks” didn’t even bubble to the surface as the accused remained blank-faced, waiting for the business to be over. Ron laughed to himself, thinking with bitter irony: But then, I am “hard to pick,” as he might say. I could pass for white if I wanted to. And I left the town a long time ago, and have rarely been back. Ron was, however, glad to be back home. He’d wanted to be with family, but work took him overseas for years, and his boyfriend was sick, and Ron hadn’t wanted to leave him. His boyfriend had died a year ago in London, and Ron had returned straight home.The accused thinks he “owns” the land that is my people’s. He doesn’t remember that he chased me time and again from around the edge of “his” lake. But I was a kid then, and to him an Abo was an Abo. Even our wadjela mates who played with us were tarred with the same brush. It makes me sick to put it like that, but all the gloss of racial harmony you hear these days is crap. The town was racist then, and it is now. He watched the accused and waited for the verdict, which he knew before it was made. Ron’d heard what happened from the kids just the night before. That old white man shot his gun at us, Uncle.We were by the lake. Like Dad says he did when he was a kid—going for a swim in the lake. And when you were a kid, Uncle.We got away like you. He’s an old man. There’s something wrong with him. Ron had known the accused for a lifetime. A Big Farmer from an Old Family. One of those families all his people around the area remembered. Ears cut off. Murder. It’s handed down, generation on generation. The accused never went on holidays, rarely left his farm. That was his reputation, and he was proud of it. I was born on my land and I will die on it, he said. He always spat when he said “my land,” the accused did. At its center was a freshwater 127 r u l e i n f a v o r lake—an important freshwater lake. Rare around there. It was going salt, like all the freshwater, but you could still just drink it. Fed by creeks and runoff from a big granite rock face. Ancient place. So the kids went out to the lake when they could—they’d ride their bikes out and hide them in the bush and trek across to the lake for a swim. Sometimes there were speedboats on the lake, and then the kids headed home. The speedboats and their owners and all the others that came with them were from the city. They had an arrangement with...


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