Rick was following before he knew who this guy was, launching himself from the scream – “My bag!” – later attaching the voice to Melanie. He couldn’t make out the guy clearly. The thief was just space ricocheting off all those bodies. The reverse of pin ball.

Beforehand, Rick had been carrying the wickets. Todd had called. He and Melanie invited him for a picnic. Snaggers, sangers, tinnies and a few overs. The beer got warm quickly. He only managed one. They were carrying the rest home when the guy snatched Melanie’s bag. He dropped all but one wicket and gave chase.

Now, he had a fix on the thief. Jesus, the guy was dressed for the part. Tight jeans wrinkling around stick kegs, an Acca Dacca t-shirt from when Bon was still alive. Total junkie. Probably smacked out of his mind right now.

The roads hardness shuddered up through Rick’s legs. His ankles hurt. His knees joined in. Thoop-dum, thoop-dum. No one got out of the way.

The thief broke from the crowd at the intersection. He headed straight into the cars crawling into motion. His escape was a fixed line down King Street. Rick was closing in on him.

His joints were cement. His breath was hot thick slime.  A sea urchin was growing in his side. His legs windmilled from under him. After the Union Hotel was a side street. No, still straight on. Where to? Sydney Park? What then? Up a chimney stack?

“Okay, okay,” the thief managed at the last block of the street and threw the bag to the ground. The effort kept him doubled over. He breathed out all that was in him. Rick crouched to pick the bag up. The thief remained, hands on thighs. Words were still too much work, but he could stare. Fuck that, Rick thought. He should be running away. The thief’s breathing was keeping him steady. Rick couldn’t wait all day. At least he had the bag. Melanie would be impressed. It certainly showed up Todd.

His two  friends were coming toward him, jogging, walking, jogging again. He threw the wicket down on the footpath – it wasn’t needed any more; he’d saved the day – and walked toward them. They started running his way, running faster. The wicket’s clatter was the last thing he remembered hearing.

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