Bill rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Whatta ya mean, everything?”
“Life, stuff,” said Graham. “Work, especially. Here we are, a thousand k's from anywhere, in Woop-Woop, working ourselves to the bone, twelve hours a day. Why? What's it for?”
“Don't know about you, but I do it for the money.”
“And what's the money for? Nothing lasts.”
Bill shrugged. “Food, a home for the family, cars, schooling, a boat, holidays. You need money for everything.”
“But none of that lasts. You can't take it with you when you go, can you?”
“I can't?” said Bill. “Well if that's the case, I'm not goin'.” He laughed at his own joke; it was his favourite kind.
Graham swore. “Can't you keep up a serious conversation for once?”
“Sorry mate,” said Bill, trying to look sorry. “You're very correct. You can't take your gear with you when you kark it.”
Graham sighed. He went to the wet-mess bar and got two more beers. He came back and handed one to Bob. They sat in silence for a few minutes, and watched the sun flood the sky with red and orange as it began to set. The brigalow and a few gum tree stood out against the brightness in black silhouette. The clouds looked like they were on fire.
Bob said, “Might be the middle of nowhere, but I like it out here. More than Brisbane.”
Graham said, “I hate Brisbane, actually.”
“You hate everything today. You sound like you're in a hurry to curl up and die.”
“No, but we all die, and then nothing's left.”
“You really think that? You die, and then that's the end of everything?”
Graham shrugged. “It's futile.”
“You mentioned that.”
After a minute Bob smiled. “Ah!” he said, to himself.
Bob said, “Your girlfriend called it off, didn't she?”
Graham turned suddenly to face him. His surprise was obvious. “She wasn't my girlfriend,” he said. “She was my fiancée.”
Bob said nothing, but shook his head.
Graham mumbled, “Yeah, she called it off.”
“Even though it's futile, would you like another beer?”
“I hate you,” said Graham. “But: yes, I would.”
This story was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.