>NEVER A FRONTWARD STEP, PART SEVEN

>Freshly showered, I took out a street directory and looked up the address Big Red Reg had given me. Southeast, on the other side of the river that snaked surreptitiously through the city and out to the sea.

I put on my backpack and took a taxi not directly to the address, but rather to a pub nearby which, my taxi driver assured me, did a fine trade in big late breakfasts—a trade in which I am always very interested. As we drove, I rehearsed characters, like an actor might. I quizzed the taxi driver on his view of local economic progress, knowing this would give me plenty of time to think without him interrupting me. He looked at me in the rearvision mirror, his dark eyes alive.

“Well, that’s the thing,” he began, as if he had been talking to me for hours before I had climbed into his vehicle, “we’ve got the second fastest growing city in the world right here, which seems strange, but then again it could very well be right, but who knows?”

I nodded absently. He had a pleasant Greek lilt to his voice, and a habit of rubbing his neck with his flat smooth fingers.

“When I came here, it was nothing,” he continued, “a backwater, this town, so I settled cheap and now look at me, part of this great thing growing.”

“What was the fastest?” I asked him.

“What was what the fastest?”

“The fastest growing city. You said Brisbane was the second fastest. What’s the fastest?”

My taxi driver made a dismissive sound with his mouth, flapping his fingers like he was feeding chickens seed. “What of it? Some place American I don’t doubt. No offence.”

He dropped me right outside the pub and I gave him a fifty-dollar note for his troubles. When he refused my offer to keep the change, I told him it was the first donation to a fund to make his city the fastest ever.

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