Vignettes — #13
More than two hundred people are gathered on the steps of Parliament House, huddled under umbrellas and shrinking into hoodies in the drizzle. They have their backs to the impressive colonnaded façade as they strain to hear the words coming from a small public address system, which is competing with the ebb and flow of the rush-hour traffic.
Cam is passionate in his speech about the need to protect the remainder of the old-growth temperate rainforest. He is talking mainly to the already-converted, but hopes that some of the commuters heading for the train will stop and listen — unlikely in this weather.
A few members of parliament stand, sheltered, between the massive columns at the top of the long, broad flight of steps. Cam beckons to them to join the group in front of them, but they shake their heads — they are reluctant to mingle with the plebeian masses and, in any case, won’t risk getting wet as well as risk hostility.
There isn’t the enthusiasm in the crowd that would have been there on a warm, dry evening. Once Cam has finished speaking, most of them disperse quickly. A small number organise to repair to the shelter of the pub across the road. Cam promises to join them after he has taken the sound equipment to his car.
He takes a shortcut through a laneway, sweating under his load despite the weather.
“Do you need a hand, Mate?”
Cam half twists and sees a man in mismatched clothing and a days-old growth on his face. He’s not sure how to answer.
“It’s no trouble,” the man says. “I’m stronger than I look.” Silence. “I’m not going to run off with your stuff.” More silence. “My name’s Henry.” He extends a hand, but Cam has both his hands full.
“Hmm, okay then. Thanks.” Cam nods at the things precariously balanced on top of the amplifier. Henry gathers them up.
“I’m Cam. My car’s down that way and around the corner.” He sets off with Henry following him — he turns his head occasionally to make sure.
When everything has been locked in Cam’s car, he starts back towards the lane. Henry holds Cam back by his arm and says, “You don’t have to walk me back home, Mate.”