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168 • sissy Where the great wandoo forests abut open farmland, there’s a sense of possibility that can corrupt as much as stimulate mystery. The edge effect has implications that police and locals are all too conscious of. Casual dope smokers get ideas into their heads, and think about the depths, the center, hiddenness and obscurity. Statistically, it’s males who get busted growing dope plantations in the forest, but this is a story about the enchanted queen of plantations, Sissy of the dope world. From her small farmhouse on a rundown horse property of no more than a hundred acres, but snug against thousands of acres of state forest, Sissy sent her “boys” out into the ocean of scrub and ghostly trunks of white gums to plant, nurture, defend, and harvest premium heads of marijuana. A natural girl at heart, she eschewed the easier hydroponics bonanza for good oldfashioned outdoor dope. She sold it by the ounce, the pound, the kilo. She’d done it for years, and never looked like being caught. And when various crops and various boys fell to the law or to rivals, she came out smelling of roses. Westdale 169 s i s s y Sissy recruited her followers—her “assistants”—in a variety of ways. First, by advertising for farmhands. Low pay, but free room and board. Second, by inviting strangers at the pub home for a “smoke” if they looked the type (and who’d say no? She wasn’t a beauty, but was “unusual,”“compelling,” even “hot” and enticing). Third, by giving lifts to hitchhikers, especially backpackers from elsewhere in the world, out on the bush roads looking for casual work and adventure. Raj met her while backpacking after finishing university. He was from Sydney, but had studied in India and Cambridge. Raj was on the eternal journey around Australia, and wanted to get “off the beaten track” as much as possible. He wanted a change—no, changes. Constant difference. He was sick of “the same.” He knew he’d go back and become what everyone expected of him, but for the time being he was taking the chances, the “anythings that go.” He told Sissy as much when she picked him up in her four-wheel drive. She sussed him as a smoker straight away and threw him a deal bag full of Thai Buddha. She’d imported this one, paying for it with her homegrown. Roll a joint, she said, there are papers and tobacco in the glove box.You’ll find a lighter there as well. Raj didn’t need telling twice. He took liberties (which she liked to see) and rolled a “three papery.” Phew, instant hit. It was a solid stone, but he could handle it. Would you like to come by my place to meet the boys? They’re from all around the world. Otherwise, I can drop you into town. Raj wondered about the “from all around the world,” being as Australian as anyone, his parents’ parents Sikhs from New South Wales. But he looked at Sissy out the corner of his eye, beguiled by her radiance, her sweetness of intent, her green, almost feline eyes. There’s no prejudice in this flaxen-haired woman, he said to himself, she’s just generalizing because I am a backpacker on the road. No worries, mate, he said. Then: Yeah, sure, that’d be great. I’ve got time on my side—it’d be great to see your place, he said, arcing up the joint, inhaling, then passing it over as etiquette compelled. 170 j o h n k i n s e l l a You’re a sweetie, she said.What’s your name? Raj, he replied, and with that the next leg of his journey was decided. He quietly congratulated himself on his good luck. It’s a random world, he said, euphoric with dope and company. • Raj kept an eye out for any rival as soon as they left the bitumen and hit the gravel. A pair of old wagon wheels stood sentinels on each side of the open gate. Horses in poor condition dragged themselves around the paddock to the left, and the odd donkey chewed stubble in the paddock on the right. The vehicle crunching along the corrugated drive didn’t deter or disturb them at all; they took no notice. Wagtails picked insects off their backs. They don’t look too well, Raj said. The driveway seemed inordinately...


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