An Inner City Incident


Some years ago, maybe five, I put my 1965 XP Falcon up for sale. A neighbour, S, bought it almost immediately, for a few hundred dollars – then left it sitting outside my place for weeks, maybe months. At some point he took the plates off it but still didn’t move it. I found out later that his girlfriend, for whom he had bought the car, had some family trouble and they had to go down south for a while. Anyway, one night, I woke up to the familiar sound of its engine starting up; and next morning it was gone. Hot-wired. Stolen. S was quite upset and I felt somehow complicit, even though I’d done nothing wrong. I said I would look out for it and, twice, thought I’d seen it driving the streets of, first, Haberfield and then again in Summer Hill – but each time I failed to get the number plate. Well, today, driving up Smith Street on my way to a hardware store in Leichhardt in search of a bolt to secure the shade of a faux Tiffany lamp I’ve acquired, I glanced sideways into the open door of a garage I’ve never really noticed before – and there was the car. The White Lady, as we used to call her. The hardware store was closed and on my way back I called in to the garage, on the pretext (sound) that I need a new mechanic. My old one closed his shop (a bad back) a few weeks ago. It was without doubt my former vehicle. I recognised the stickers on the back window but, even without them, I would know her anywhere. Her upholstery has been immaculately restored. The hub cups are gone. A new sound system. Someone loves this car as much as I once did. I spoke to the mechanic (Chinese) and he pointed me to the Boss (also Chinese). They both said the car belongs to ‘a customer’; the Boss said he’s had it two years and the owners are keen to have it back. Maybe next week, he said. I came home and rang S . . . he was excited, incredulous, determined. Rang the police. Rang me back a few minutes later, asking for the Rego #. I have an old photo of the car, taken by a Red Light Camera on Parramatta Road, way back in the 1990s. With the help of a magnifying glass, and the faux Tiffany lamp, I deciphered it. RXD 079, not that it matters. What will happen now? I don’t know. I was always a bit cross with S for not driving the car away as soon as he bought it. I was pleased to think that its new owners were giving it the TLC it needed, that I was not able to extend. But – the law is the law and it really isn’t theirs, it’s his. There are many other ramifications I won’t go into now but one thing stands out: what a small world it is. I mean the inner city. I mean the life I live, played out almost entirely over these small acres. Two years! Just around the corner! Immaculately restored! And . . . illicit. I should perhaps have done nothing at all. 



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