On Monday June 29, the Rabbitos are playing the Knights at Energy Australia stadium. Michael Janson leans forward willing Mad-Dog McDougall into the clear, Michael’s Alpha underpants (high) and his belt line (low) separating, like a cheering mouth, as he does so. Sitting next to him is Anthea Delaware sporting a Knights t-shirt, super-tight blue jeans and slip-on black-and-white flats. But it’s her complexion that draws you in. Peaches and cream. She’s 25, but by the skin of her face, she looks 16, or 13, or possibly 11.
When McDougall is in the clear and has options to choose from, Anthea digs her polished nails into Michael’s thigh – then releases when McDougall passes to Keith Lulia who passes to Steve Simpson (playing his 200th NRL game) – who scores. And Anthea rises, and she punches the air. And Michael’s underpants go crinkly has he does likewise. Punches the air, opens his mouth, and makes not a sound.
Once the game is over – 25 to 20 to the Knights – Anthea and Michael re-settle in front of the Millionaire quiz-machine, with its tag – “Lock it in Eddy” – and its promise – “Win $80 Instantly!” They discuss their answers in a whisper, press their buttons, and lose.
While they’re doing this, the video Juke Box of the Cumbersome Viceroy Hotel plays “Rock with me”, from Michael Jackson’s album Off the Wall – “I’ll dance you into day … rock the night away…”
This time last week, the non-footy discussion at the Viceroy was around the approaching shortest day of the year. The winter solstice. Which, in winter’s case, is a misnomer. Solstice is a Latin compound of Sun and Stillness for those long days, when our very own star seems to hang in our sky forever. Using that same word for the shortest day is less than a carry-over. It’s just dead wrong.
Heavy Helen and Happy Larry see eye-to-eye on neither Michael Jackson nor stimulants. “There’s not a fuckin’ lot of point to men,” says Helen, “But a man who can’t be a man – what’s the fuckin’ point of that?” Larry can’t remember a Michael Jackson song title or a lyric – just the shiny toes of those shiny shoes and that zig-zag body pirouetting the lighted footpath as he follows the fictional footsteps of Billie Jean.
“And why would you want to be whiter?” says Helen. “When all your best bits are darker than your other bits!”
Larry’s head is still screwy from his last line of coke. “Michael Jackson,” he says, “didn’t want to be whiter – he wanted to be lighter.” Shiny shoes. Glittering glove. Moon walk.
Just like in “Don’t stop till you get enough”, Jackson’s 1972 cover of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t no sunshine” begins with this cheesy monologue. And then the 14 year-old boy sings…
“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, and this house ain’t no home, any time she goes away.”
A lyric that would have been as meaningless to him then, aged 14, as it was the day died, aged 50.
Having lost at Millionaire, but won at Monday night football, Michael Janson and Anthea Delaware walk out the doors of the Cumbersome Viceroy, Michael taking the opportunity to deliver a gentle pat with his right hand to Anthea’s left buttock as they exit.
And as the doors close behind them, Michael Jackson, 14, and still dark as the day he was born, does this peculiar thing – he leaves the lyrics that Bill Withers gave him, and sing’s – “ain’t no sun” “ain’t no sun” “ain’t no sun”.