It was possible, if you knew the nature of the Echo’s walls, and had enough patience, to hear old sounds return, and glimpse scraps of the past stitched like patchwork onto the present. After the glasses were cleared away and the tabletops wiped; once the jukebox had exhausted its hurry-up-and-go-home selection of thrash metal, country and Celine Dion; when the lights were dimmed, the door closed and the barman’s footsteps had faded away; there, in the gloom, the walls of the pub began to resonate.
Night after night’s jazz, blues, laughter, the clink and occasional crash of glass; every belch, every shouted argument, every phrase on the tenor sax had been absorbed into the old walls, along with cigarette smoke and the tang of beer. They emerged in any order, or none. A giggle and a whisper from the 1970s followed a sour diatribe about the new girl who’d started last week. If you were lucky you could hear whole songs, perhaps even entire sets from the early 40s, or the chirruping of the birds that had been the pub’s only inhabitants during its derelict years.
Sparks, this year’s edition of Sydney University’s anthology of new writing, was launched yesterday at the Coop Bookshop by the poet Mark Tredinnick. Among its prose and poetry is my story, ‘The Echo’, excerpted above. Sparks is published by Darlington / SUP and available now.