Nine Fingers

Natalie D-Napoleon

Natalie D-Napoleon

‘Joo-raj. Welcome to Perth.’

‘My name is ‘You-rye’,’ Juraj replied, his tongue stuck on these new English words.

‘That’s a mouthful, mate. Word to the wise – call yourself George.’

The customs officer winked at Juraj and motioned, ‘Next please.’

When he stepped off the Villa Verdun in Fremantle Port, Juraj noticed how washed out the colours were in this place compared to Korčula, Croatia. Ten fingers grasping two suitcases, he walked on.

Five years later, Juraj was working on the Kalgoorlie Woodlines, in the heat that faded everything -- even hope. He had only saved enough for the passage of his wife and one daughter, but he had a plan. 19 gallons of claret and two cases of beer coming to camp from his connections in Perth.

‘I plead ‘no guilty’, your hon-our,’ said Juraj.

‘On what grounds, Mr. Napoleon?’

‘I celebrate a birs-day. Vine and bir for my friends.’

‘Not with 19 gallons of claret! That’s a 40 pound fine, sir.’

A week later Juraj made sure his union dues were paid and his knife sharpened until it reflected the sun. His left index finger seemed the least useful and with a crunch and a few thrusts the digit was gone. The 150 pounds compensation paid the fine and bought tickets for his wife and three daughters to join him in Australia.

From now on he decided he would be called George.