Rabbit-shaped Cloud

The second rabbit-shaped cloud overtook the first and the two kids laughed in the long grass.

“I win!”

“How is that possible?”

“My rabbit’s just faster, that’s all.”

“But how? I mean, how does one get the faster wind than the other?  They’re both in the sky.”

Jessica thought for a moment.  Her mouth got small and moved to one side of her face. Her eyes looked up.  She clicked her tongue.  Ellie turned to look at her, trying to figure out whether Jessica was working up a lie or remembering something from school.  If Jessica was at school, she’d know these kinds of things, but that’d have to wait until next year.

“Maybe one is higher than the other, and maybe the wind is stronger?”

Jessica nodded.  That didn’t sound like a lie.  She didn’t understand quite how it would work, but it sounded right.

“Girls! Lunch!” Both jumped up at the sound of Ellie’s mother’s voice.  Jessica ran down the middle of the garden whilst Ellie ran over to the sleepers that held the ornamental garden away from the lawn. Jessica turned to tell Ellie something, then realised how far away Ellie was.

“What are you doing over there?”

“If I am higher, maybe I’ll get the faster wind and beat you for once!”  Ellie giggled as she stumbled on the sleeper.

“Don’t be silly! I’m almost there!” Jessica ran up to the back door, touched the frame, and ran back to Ellie.  Ellie had suddenly realised that the lawn was on quite a slant, and she three sleepers high, much too high to jump.

“Come on!  Jump down!  It’s ok!”

Ellie shook her head and tried to turn around.  But the fuchsia hung over the sleeper here and she had hardly any room.  She looked ahead, but it only got higher.  She looked back to the safety of the start of the sleepers, where one sleeper met the lawn, and wished she hadn’t climbed up.

“It’s not that far, honest! You can do it, come on!  Jump, jump, jump, jump!” Ellie’s tears started as Jessica’s chant got louder and louder.

“What is that racquet! Jessica, keep it down. Ellie, you jump down and come into lunch now.”

“I can’t!” Ellie wailed, screaming and sobbing. Ellie’s mother looked shocked, and then she ran out to her tiny daughter. 
“Shhh, shhh, it’s ok.” She hugged her to her chest, and Ellie started to calm down. Jessica lay back on the ground and stared at the sky.  “Look, Ellie! My rabbit’s disappeared altogether! You’re rabbit’s still there.”

Ellie and her mother looked at the sky.  Her mother kissed the top of her head. “You don’t need to come first, sweetie.”

Ellie looked at her mother and grinned.

 

No Carparks

The second trip around the block revealed no car parks. So did the third. And the fourth.

“Try a different street.” Jane said through grit teeth.

“I always get one on this street.” Cameron sounded confused at the lack of parks and annoyed at hi girlfriend’s impatience.

“The movie’s going to start.”

“Fine.” He drove a block further and did a loop.

“Why can’t we park in the car park?”

“It’s too expensive.”

“I’ll pay.”

“It’s the principle of the matter.”

“I’d rather pay than miss the start of the film because we’re driving in circles. Trying to find a fucking park.”

“Hey, hey, now, come on. What’s the rule?”

Jane rolled her eyes. Cameron was doing an evening course in conflict resolution, and had insisted that they do a workshop with the teacher last week. What had come from this was the revelation that they were too aggressive toward each other (at least, Jane was too aggressive to Cameron) and they didn’t listen well (Cameron didn’t listen to Jane). So, they had established two rules. One, they were not allowed to swear at each other, which Jane found difficult. Two, they had to repeat back what the other was saying, which Cameron found difficult. Cameron wanted success. Jane was thinking about breaking up with Cameron.

“Ok, I apologise, but how about you tell me what I want out of this situation.”

“You want a nice night with your fabulous boyfriend.”

“Incorrect.”

“What? OK, you want to see a movie and perhaps have some dinner.”

“Incorrect.”

“Hmmm….”

As he was thinking, he stopped looking for parks.

“You missed one! Go back!”
‘What? Sorry, honey, the car behind me got it. OK, I give up. What do you want from this situation?”

“I want to see the whole movie. From the start. In a decent seat. Without the stress of trying to find a park.”

Cameron had continued the loop and was back outside the front of the cinema. A parked car indicated, giving Cameron the perfect park.

“Ha! See! And still…” he looked at the clock. “Eight minutes til the film starts. Told you!”

Jane looked at him. She shook her head. “Sorry. I can’t do this anymore.”

“Do what? I found the park! We can stop looking.”

“It’s over, Cam. I just can’t keep fighting anymore.”

“I don’t understand. You wanted to see the whole movie. You will see the whole movie. No problem.”

“Goodbye.”

Jane got out and walked to the bus stop. Cameron went to the movie. He sat in one of the last available seats, up the front, straining his neck. He missed the first two minutes buying popcorn. It wasn’t even a good film.

 

Gym Intentions

“No, that was the second time I’ve been to the gym. I joined yesterday. It’s going to be a whole new me, I promise you!

“It’s great. They’re so friendly, they say hello every time I walk in, and they already know my name. I think I’m just going to have to be careful I don’t become a gym junkie. I know!

“Hmm… let me see… I’ll have a green tea, thanks. No, no I can’t, I’m trying to get off caffeine. New beans? Free trade? Oh, I shouldn’t but… well, I’ve already been to the gym today; sure I’ll have a latte, thanks.

“Now, where was I? Ah yes, the gym. So, I do ten minutes on the cross trainer, then ten minutes on the bike – I can read mags on that, catch up with all the latest! Then ten minutes on the treadmill and then I do weights. All those machines and stuff. I feel a bit sore today, but I tell you, I’m turning things around! Fresh start and all that!

“Oooh, I’m starving. I’ll have the big breakfast. Breakfast for lunch, how cheeky! No, bacon’s fine. It’s part of this new diet… you can have the bacon, sausage and all that provided you don’t drink water at the same time. Apparently, water makes the fat confused and it just jumps on to whatever it can, but if you eat it without water it just goes straight through. Counter-intuitive? What a fancy word! You must be a devil to play scrabble with!

“Speaking of counters, I got this new pedometer which counts your steps. Apparently you are supposed to aim for a thousand per day. Ten thousand? Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t want to run a marathon! No, I’m sure it’s a thousand. Anyhow, I’m already up to… three hundred? That seems a bit low. I mean I’ve already walked to the letterbox and back. No, the house next to the house next door. But surely that’s at least two hundred. I supposed I have a long stride; I’ll have to take smaller steps. No, it must be broken, because I went to the car three times looking for the car pass for the gym. If I don’t have that, I have to park on the street, and by the time I get in to the gym I am totally knackered!

“Ah, thanks. Mmmmm…. Oooooo… it’s a bit bitter isn’t it? I’d better put in some sugar. It’s ok; it’s brown sugar, that’s not fattening. No, it isn’t, anything brown is good for you. I read it in… well, something. No, you wouldn’t eat, that, don’t be disgusting.

“Did you see that Mandy’s put on weight? I think she’s gone up two dress sizes in the last two months! No discipline at all, that girl! Ah, still bitter. I think another half… oh bugger it. I went to the gym today, I’ll have another sugar. Pregnant! Really? Well, some people wear the pregnancy better than others. Look at Nicole Ritchie. Maybe someone needs to tell Mandy to lay off the cream buns!

“Thanks, oh, you put on Hollandaise by accident? Look, it’s fine. No, really, don’t get him to do it again, I’ll have it as is, honestly, don’t worry.

“They always do this here. Get the order wrong and won’t fix it. No, it’s fine. I went to the gym this morning. It’ll be ok. Mmmmm… actually, it’s very nice Hollandaise, not too runny. Cream? Well, as long as it’s organic, you know, it’s fine. The body will break down organic cream in moments; it’s just the non-organic cream that causes all the problems. Yes, that’s what I heard. No, really? Well, I guess that goes on this list of things to avoid. Mango, Arborio rice, seaweed, fried foods…  I suppose this hash brown is fried, but it’s not deep-fried, that’s the killer, isn’t it? Oh, I’ve lost track. Mango, Arborio rice, seaweed, deep fried foods, jelly, jellyfish, fish cakes, cake and iceberg lettuce. Well, I put iceberg lettuce in; it’s just awful, isn’t it? I much prefer a cos.

“Apparently, the quicker you eat, the less fat you put on. It’s something to do with gravity and inertia, that’s what I heard. Hm? No, I’m not going to eat the tomato or spinach; apparently they have the wrong kind of anti-oxidants.

“Um, oh go on, I’ll have another coffee. Actually, can you make it take-away? Two sugars, thanks love. Brown sugar? Thanks.

“I’ve got to get to Myer, they’re having a sale on their gym wear. I know I have two outfits, but the way I’m going I’ll need more than that! I thought maybe something blue for Pilates and a red Thai Fisherman’s pant for yoga – I believe Country Road have got an excellent Thai Fisherman’s pant this season.

“So, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow for lunch? With the ladies? Marvellous. Yeah, I’m having my hair done in the morning, and I’ve got the mid-week book club after lunch. I know, it is decadent to do it during the day, but it is mid-week. Probably a bubbly or two. So, I’ll get to the gym in the morning… although I’m having a late one tonight, trying out that new French place in Prahran, I think it could be a boozy one, too!

“If I don’t get to the gym tomorrow, it’s not the end of the world, one day off, I am human. On Friday, we’re heading down to the shack for a long weekend. No, no, it’s fine. I’ve been twice already; I think I can afford to take it easy! Now, you take care, no slacking off! Ha ha, I’m watching you! Mwah, mwah.”

 

The Punch

The second punch also missed. Carolyn laughed and ran out of the pub. The thug was being held off by a couple of his mates.  She lit a cigarette outside and waited for her mates to join her.  It took them a few moments – first Hels, pulling on her jumper, then Veronika and Sam, struggling with the coats, bags and assorted junk that had been left on their table.

“What the fuck just happened, Caro?  One second we were talking about rent going up, and the next some fucking… bloke was swinging at you at the bar and you fled?”

Carolyn was still laughing. “Let’s go to the Parkspew.”

They all groaned, but started walking down Scotchmer St.  The Empress was just about to close.  The Parkview was open late. It wasn’t always the clientele you’d want to spend time with, and certainly not find in your bed in the morning, but they had beer and that was pretty much all that counted.

“That was Trent’s brother, Gaz.”

Veronika and Sam made noises of understanding, but Hels looked confused.  She was a new acquisition to their friendship group.  She had just started working with Sam, lived around the corner and the friendship just seemed to click. But, she hadn’t been around for Trent, Carolyn’s ex.

“Trent?”

“My ex. Cheated on me, at least twice that I found out about.  But, I just found out also that he told his family that I was the slut, that I’d been doing anyone that moved, that I broke his heart and took a whole bunch of his cash.”

“Shit.”

Veronkia pulled Carolyn to a stop. “Mate, that’s pretty serious. His brother’s a bit of a stand-over man, you know.  This could be shit hitting the fan time about now.”

Carolyn looked at her, put an arm around her should and pulled her close. “Don’t worry about it. It was fine.”

“Well, what did you say back there?  He was swinging for you.”

“I just told him that Trent didn’t have any cash for me to take, and that he and all his mates were losers and… I may have said something about his mum.” She started laughing again. “He was livid! His eyes…” her voice slowed down as she saw a vehicle slowing down near them. “Oh, shit.  Run!”

Out of the car jumped Gaz and his two mates.  Gaz had a cricket bat although his size suggested he wouldn’t need it, especially not against a girl.  They started chasing.

The girls were running, but Veronika had heels and Sam was getting caught up in her bag.  Carolyn looked around. “Split up!  Go home!” she screamed and peeled off down a side street.  The others looked at each other, ran across to St George’s Rd and, seeing they weren’t being followed, grabbed a cab.  Veronika called the police on her mobile.  Hels directed the driver to Park St, hoping to find the direction that Carolyn had run in. Both Hels and the driver were hopeless.  They got a red light; then ended up going the wrong way down Park St, and having to reverse back out when a car came down the right direction.  All the time, the three girls were frantically looking out their window for their friend.

Carolyn had made it to Park St way ahead of the thugs.  She ran straight ahead until she got some cover from the trees on the reserve, and then tried to think of what to do. She peered out from her hiding spot. She saw the thugs pacing up and down. Her breathing was rough, but she gave herself a mental pat on the back – if she was still smoking, she’d never be this far away from them. The thugs started walking across the Park, all three making kissy noises, Gaz thwacking the cricket bat into his hand.

Thwack.  Thwack.

Carolyn leaned against the tree.  It was a big tree. She should remain hidden for quite some time. She heard them getting closer, saw the dull light from their mobile phones getting brighter and brighter on the ground. It was only a matter or seconds.  Suddenly, a bright light lit up the whole place. “Right, drop any weapons and hands on your heads.  We need to have a chat to you gents.”

Carolyn felt her heart soar.  She stayed hidden, waited until a police officer came to get her.

 

Fake ID

The second time she used the fake ID, the doorman let her in without a second glance. Lucy giggled quietly to herself and looked around the dark pub. The front room had a pool table on which sat a line of twenty-cent coins. There was not a lot of room around the pub, and the punks who were playing had to jostle the crowd around to take their shots.

Lucy felt self-conscious. She had only recently discovered the Goth lifestyle and she was not yet comfortable with all of the gear that went with it. The black velvet skirt felt heavy, especially with the dyed black petticoat riding up beneath it. Lucy wasn’t sure how to stop this from happening. She was sure it was the black fishnets she had underneath, but she didn’t want to take them off. She wished there was a Goth Dolly Doctor she could write to, then giggled again at the thought. The giggle was a little louder, and a tall, skinny man in front of her turned and looked her up and down with a look of disdain. Lucy gave an apologetic look, and dropped her head. She stared at the low cut lace top that Mary had loaned her, and she felt very, very vulnerable. She pulled the top up a little, and then tried to rearrange the necklace to cover more of her cleavage.

“Stop that! Here, drink this!” Mary passed her a beer. “And stop hiding your assets!”

Lucy took the beer and had a sip. She’d never had beer before. She’d had some wine at her uncle’s wedding, and she and Mary had finished off the end of one of Mary’s mother’s bottles of vodka with orange juice after Lucy’s ID was rejected last weekend. Lucy hadn’t liked the wine much, but the vodka and orange was ok. She sipped the beer. It was more bitter than she’d expected, but lighter and more bubbly. She smiled at Mary.

“Thanks!”

“So, any good talent?” Mary scanned the room. Lucy looked at Mary to see if anyone grabbed her interest. Lucy was not that excited by boys. Not that she was not interested, but at fourteen, she was inexperienced and not in a rush to change that. What she was interested in was Mary, and how Mary interacted with the boys, well, the men around her. Mary was Lucy’s new neighbour. She was seventeen and had discovered Lucy sitting in her favourite tree on the nature strip drawing. Mary liked Lucy’s drawings. She didn’t think they were too dark or morbid. She didn’t try to analyse them, to find out if there was anything wrong with Lucy. Yes, her parents had split up when she was twelve, and yes, her mother had drunk too much and crashed the car into a tree, and yes, when her father confronted her, she had punched him and broken his nose, and yes, she was now living in Perth with an ex-fireman who had post-traumatic shock and couldn’t sleep with the light off, and no, she hadn’t visited and didn’t want to, but none of that made her weird or crazy or unusual.

Lucy’s dad liked Mary. He thought she was a good influence on Lucy. She was a few year’s older than her at the same school, and played flute in the school band. Her parents were friendly and had invited Lucy and her father to their housewarming where he had met a very nice woman who now occupied much of his time.

Mary grabbed Lucy’s arm and dragged her out to the beer garden. She put them in a position where they could overhear a conversation amongst a group of really hard-core Goths – full and elaborate make-up, almost like a Geisha, layers and layers of velvet and lace, and one couple were even chained together. As soon as Mary could, she pushed Lucy back so Lucy knocked into them, spilling beer. Mary was a little overenthusiastic with her push, and Lucy ended up on the ground in the middle of the group. Mary came into the circle, apologising for Lucy’s clumsiness and batting her eyelids at one of the men. He helped Mary to help Lucy up, and they started chatting. Lucy stood awkwardly for a moment then a man joined the group, carrying two jugs of beer.

“Ah, I see your glass is empty! Here!” His Irish lilt and bright smile cut through the depressive Gothic façade.

Two hours later, Lucy was sitting on his knee, drunkenly kissing him. He struggled to hold on to her, as she was so drunk she could barely sit up, but persevered. With no noticed, her shoulder was grabbed by a strong arm. “Lucy? Lucy! Shit. What the hell are you doing here?”

Lucy slowly focussed her eyes on the man standing above her. He was not a Goth or a Punk. He wore a black t-shirt, jeans and boots. After several blinks, she recognised him and started to panic.

“Uncle Dave?”

“Jesus, what the hell are you doing here? What do you think you’re playing at, mate?”

The Irishman stared at Dave.

“Look, we’re just having a bit of fun, mate. Can’t you let us be?”

“Do you know how old she is?”

The Irishman seemed to pale beneath his white make-up. “Eighteen?”

“A long way off it.”

The Irishman pushed Lucy up into Dave’s arms. “For fuck’s sake!”

He pushed his way through the crowd. Dave pulled Lucy all the way to her feet. “Who did you come here with?”

“Mary.”

“Where is she?”

Lucy shrugged. She’d seen Mary leaving the beer garden with that guy a while back, but she didn’t know where they’d gone.

“Right, I’m taking you home. Your dad is going to be so unimpressed with this behaviour.”

Dave dragged Lucy out of the pub and put her in the front seat of his car. They drove off into the night; Lucy wondered where Mary had gone.

 

Blink

Her eyes didn’t open after the second slow blink. She fell backwards, in slow motion, onto the white covers of a bed. A small drop of blood was on the inside of her elbow, beneath the belt. A syringe fell, slow motion to the floor. The sound of late nineties’ Brit pop boomed from the speakers. The screen suddenly went white. The lights came up in the room. The student filmmaker looked at his lecturer silently, but with painful anticipation, like a puppy bursting to roll over for a treat. The lecturer looked at him, shook his head and walked out of the room. The student chased him.

“What? Aren’t you going to say anything? We spent two hundred bucks on that, and you just walk away?”

The lecturer turned and walked back. “The assignment was for a moment of reality.”

“Yeah, well what’s more real than an overdose?”

“You should have done a puppy chasing a stick, or a couple having a fight, or a kid telling a bad joke. This is a documentary class, and whilst I will teach you that documentary can be as fake, if not more so, than any fiction, I asked for a moment of reality. Reality is not well lit. Reality is not slow motion. Reality is not clean and reality does not have a Blur soundtrack.” He turned and walked away, muttering about the ridiculousness of it all.

The student had a shocked face as if he had been slapped. He took a breath and turned back to the fellow students who’d gathered at the commotion.

“It wasn’t fucking Blur. It was fucking Cast.”

 

The Auction

The second auction was so much more stressful than the first. Julie and Damon waited inside in separate bedrooms, each with their own group of supporters and tried not to listen to the action outside. There was a large crowd outside made up of many of the people who’d come to the first auction, along with a few new bidders and lots of neighbours. The neighbours had been slightly interested in the first auction, but when it had been sold for such a large amount above the reserve, interest had increased.

Julie paced, holding her takeaway coffee. Her friends sat silently around her. Her jaw clenched, she occasionally took a sip, but the taste was repulsing her. She was still furious that the winning bidder had turned out to be a fraud. She almost started the conversation up again, but it never changed. The end result had been that they had to sell again, and Damon had insisted on another auction. She’d tried to fight it, but she was so tired of fighting with him. It was like their whole marriage had been a series of fights, getting more and more serious, and coming close to violence by the end. She heard laughter from the other room, and forced herself to sit on the couch next to Jen. Jen rubbed her back and said nothing.

Damon’s mate Jim had brought a slab. Craig brought chips and Steve had a bottle of champagne in an esky bag. They figured however today ended, surely it would all be over. Damon cracked open his second beer, as Jim told the story of how his housemate had stuffed up his latest money making scheme because he’d miscalculated the conversion rate of the Australian dollar into yen and now they had a garage full of very expensive and ugly pogo sticks.

The voice came through the window of the two rooms. “Going, once, twice… and we have another…” They’d spoken to the auctioneer. Once they passed reserve, he was to go as high as he could, no further discussion required, but just make bloody sure it was a real buyer. “…and sold! Congratulations!”

It took ten minutes for the auctioneer to come into the house. Damon and Julie went to meet him away from their friends, as discussed. He had taken the buyers straight through to the lounge room, and stood with Damon and Julie in the hall. He spoke quietly, and told them the final amount. Damon stifled a laugh, and Julie’s eyes filled with tears. It was well over the last auction amount.

Two hours later, the new buyers left, documents signed, all above board. The auctioneer shook their hands, and Damon and Julie went to meet their friends outside. They stopped at the door and looked at each other.

“Well, that’s it then.”

“Yep.”

Julie looked into Damon’s eyes.

“I am sorry.”

“Me too.”

The paused for a moment, shared an awkward hug, and left the house for the last time.

 

 

Wikipedia entry

The second time Dim tried to access his Wikipedia page, the changes had been removed and it was left with the original, short entry.

“Dmitri Steveson, unemployed since being fired from a paper recycling plant in 1998, and is considered a loser by 78% of people polled.”

He grit his teeth and tried to log on. A pop-up appeared. “Due to inappropriate use, this user has been banned from editing entries on Wikipedia.” Dim thought this was a bit unfair – he had only changed the entry to make it more realistic.

“Dmitri Steveson is a thirty-year-old guitarist currently in the search for a band to help him live out his dreams. He left his career in the green sector after he discovered his love for music. His song “Back in the day” has been described as a cross between Simon and Garfunkel and The Mamas and The Pappas.”

It wasn’t so much lying as tidying up the truth. But, this had been erased, and the previous entry had reappeared.

Dim looked through the website to try to figure out how he could get the entry removed altogether. He clicked on the ‘contact us’ button at the bottom of the page and sent the following email.

“To whom it may concern,

I am writing to complain about an entry which has been made about me, Dmitri Steveson. The information is false and hurtful and I would like this removed. Thank-you. Dmitri Steveson.”

The response came three hours later.

“Dear Mr Steveson,

As the information provided is backed-up with links which are clearly displayed on the page, it is difficult for us to remove this entry. If you are able to dispute the links, please provide appropriate evidence and we will look into this further.

Yours, John Stames.”

Dim was confused. He went back to the site – nothing had changed. He didn’t need to scroll down to see the links. There were two – one to a webpage, and one to an article in an online magazine. He clicked on the article first. The online magazine was called “Men you don’t want to get involved with.” The article was called “Dmitri Stevenson barely makes it out of bed, and not in the good way.” The author was listed as Sally Jones, but he knew it was Terri. It had to be Terri. She was his only ex-, and she was very web savvy. She could easily have either created this whole web-zine or have found and contributed to it. He made a note of the site and closed it down.

He then clicked on the link to the webpage. The webpage was called “DS – reasons to avoid” and featured a large caricature of him. It had links to the side, most notably “see the results of our web survey – is Dmitri Steveson a loser?”

Clearly, these sites were all the evidence that Wikipedia needed, despite being so clearly lacking in fact.

It took Stan two weeks to get back to him. Stan was a law student and was Dmitri’s nephew. Dmitri asked him to find out what legal recourse he had.

“Well, Dmitri, it’s not great news. In fact, I would say it’s pretty awful. The easiest solution that the professor had was to approach the person who put up the site and ask them to remove it. But, if it is Terri, I get the impression she has too much anger to do that willingly.”

Dmitri agreed. He hated that everyone in his family knew, but he’d cheated on Terri. Only once, but once Terri found out, she made sure everyone they knew heard about it. He’d lost a lot of friendships, and even some relatives weren’t talking to him.

“What else?”

“Well, there is nothing linking her to the sites, at least not superficially. You need to do some deeper research – either learn to do this yourself, or hire a forensic website specialist. They can track it down to her. Then, you could charge her with libel. Although, it is then required for you to show that it is false, which may be difficult to do.”

“But it is false!”

“Is it?”

“Of course it is!”

“You mean you never got fired from the recycling plant?”

“Well… yes, but…”

“In 1998?”

“Yes…”

“Have you been employed since?”

“No…”

“And as for the poll, well, it’s an online poll, so it could mean anything, but there is no real falseness to it – it’s an opinion survey.”

Dmitri sighed.

“But, there is some good news, Dmitri?”

“What is it?”

“My professor loves the case. He is going to use it as part of the course.”

“So, now all of your course will get to see what a loser I am?”

“um… Yes, I guess so. I hadn’t seen it like that.”

“Thanks anyway.”

Dmitri hung up the phone. Perhaps no one would see it anyhow. He opened Facebook. The first thing he saw was a post from one of his mates. It was a link to the Wikipedia page, with a note beneath saying “warning… this is what happens when you cheat on a web guru!” There were 28 ‘likes’. He slammed the laptop shut. These were supposed to be his friends.

 

The Client

Chantelle’s second client was the first that Sue had to compensate.

“Yes, Chantelle, she requested a full wax,” Sue explained. “but this does not mean the whole eyebrow comes off.”

“I don’t understand.”

“A whole wax means that she wants all of the areas that can be waxed. Eyebrow, top lip, underarm, full leg and XXXX bikini.”

“Right.”

“But the eyebrow is ALWAYS shaped, NEVER removed.”

“OK.”

“Say it back to me.”

“What?”

“Say it back to me.”

“I’m not a child.”

“SAY IT BACK TO ME.”

“Something about…”

“GO AND GET ME A COKE FROM THE SHOP AND TAKE AT LEAST HALF AN HOUR!”

Chantelle’s usual dead expression showed a hint of fear and she ran off out the front door. Stopping to grab her fags, lighter, mobile and purse on the way, of course.

Sue started to cry. She was so fed up with this girl. She was hopeless – rude, disinterested, slovenly and incompetent. She didn’t move chairs to sweep, and so there were always bits of hair drifting about the store. Despite three days of constant explanation, request and guidance, and having it written out and put on the reception table, she still answered the phone “Hello?” instead of the preferred “Hello, you’ve called Sue’s Snips, my name is Chantelle, how may I help you today?” It seemed to take Sue an extra hour to get away from the store by the time she’d finished the work Chantelle was supposed to do. She looked at the clock. In five minutes, the new client would come in; she had to tidy herself up. She took a few breaths, went out the back to splash some water on her face and fix up her make up. She heard the doorbell ring and went to greet the customer. A young woman, perhaps in her late twenties or early thirties, stood there. Her hair was neat and well cut, and Sue was a little confused about why she was here, but hid it in her voice.

“Hello, I’m Sue. You must be Jennifer?”
“Yes, I’m here for a cut?”

‘Terrific grab a seat.”

Sue guided Jennifer to a chair, put a towel and wrap around her, and stood behind the chair. She addressed Jennifer through the mirror.

“Ok, so what were you thinking?”

“Just a trim. Nothing too flash. Perhaps just tidy the fringe off and a little off the back?”

“That sounds great. You’re not after a colour or some highlights?”
“No, thanks.”

“A wash?”

“I’m in a bit of a hurry, I’m sorry”

“No problems.”

Jennifer pulled out her mobile phone and started to text. Sue grabbed her spray bottle and scissor and started to wet and cut the hair. The door flung open. Chantelle screeched.

“What the fuck is she doing here?”
Sue looked at Chantelle and looked at Jennifer. Jennifer stared straight at herself in the mirror, not acknowledging Sue or Chantelle. Sue looked back at Chantelle. Chantelle screeched again.

“What the fuck is that woman doing here?”

Sue noticed Jennifer starting to blush.

“Chantelle, I think you need to calm down.”

“Don’t you fucking tell me to fucking quiet down, with that bitch there and you are supposed to be helping me and I make one mistake and you can’t… Either she goes or I go.”

Sue was so confused. “Can I talk to you outside, Chantelle?”

“No. Either she goes or I go and that is all there is to it, I just don’t care.”

“Look, you’re clearly upset. Why don’t you go home now and come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about it?”

Chantelle nodded and shut the door. Sue went to turn back to Jennifer, but the door quickly flung open again. “You had better pay me.” She slammed the door.

Sue turned back to Jennifer.

“I’m sorry about that, I’m not quite sure what she is doing…”

She noticed Jennifer quietly crying to herself. She stopped talking and went back to cutting her hair. Neither woman met each other’s eye for several moments. She finished the cut, held up the mirror, Jennifer nodded. Sue brushed the back of her neck and removed the wrap and towel.

“That’ll be twenty-five dollars.”

Jennifer stood and followed Sue to the register. She pulled out the notes and handed them over. Sue put them in the till. Both women stood there uncomfortably. After a moment, Jennifer cleared her throat and put her hands on the counter.

“She wasn’t always like that. Her father was an alcoholic, but it only really started being a problem to the family when she was ten. I kicked him out. She never forgave me. When she was thirteen, she went and lived with him. She blames me. She blames him. I don’t know…” her voice cracked. She turned and left.

Sue watched her leave. She didn’t know what to say. She looked around, grabbed a broom and started to sweep up the hair.

 

The quote

After comparing price, reputation and availability, Casey took the second quote to get the decking finished. He had started it himself when he and Tammy were together, but had never quite finished it. He was sure it wasn’t the only reason they split up, but when he asked her for a reason, that was all she said.

“It’s like… it’s like the decking, Casey.”

Well, she’d said some other stuff, but he couldn’t remember, he hadn’t really been paying attention. He never really paid attention. Not for not wanting to – after four years together, he figured he probably had wanted to know more about it. But, it was like his ears only heard the first two or three sentences, and then his body made all the appropriate reactions – he got angry, he cried, he begged, he threw something. What had she actually said? Who knows?

He’d finally decided, three years after starting the decking, that he should probably finish it. He’d put on his work clothes and gone to check it out. The tarp had come off the edge of the wood and some of it was pretty warped. He had stopped for a cigarette to think about the next step. He thought he could probably pull it out, see what was worth keeping. He pulled off the tarp and spread the wood out. The pieces which had to go were put to one side, and the rest spread out. He was sweating a bit, and decided to grab a drink. He threw back a glass of water, then opened the fridge and grabbed a beer. Casey sat on the back step and had another cigarette. He finished the can, and threw it near the side of the house – it could go in the recycling later. He grabbed a piece of timber and put it where it probably went. He grabbed another can of beer and headed to the garage to grab his tools. Casey hadn’t been in the garage since Tammy left. The light flickered on briefly before the bulb blew. The bulbs were in the kitchen. On the way in, he finished the can, crushed it and put it next to the bin. He grabbed a new bulb, a new beer and lit up. Back in the garage, he opened the main door and looked at what he could see in the light. There were boxes, her old exercise bike that hadn’t been touched for god knows how long, and a lot of general mess – for some reason, lots and lots of piles of newspapers. He removed the old bulb and discovered the bulb he had didn’t fit. He took both the bulbs back to the kitchen, along with the empty beer can. He rummaged through the bulbs and found one which would probably fit. He gave it a little shake and was pleased that he didn’t hear the tinkling which meant that the bulb was broken. With a fresh beer in his hand, he replaced the bulb in the garage. He saw his transistor radio, and flicked it on. The cricket was playing. He opened his tool box and looked for the hammer, but it was nowhere to be seen. He looked around, but couldn’t see it anywhere. The crowd roared through the radio – Ponting was out! Casey ran inside, throwing the empty can near the side of the house, grabbing another and flicking on his television. It was worth it – it was a classic out. By the time of the fifth replay, the can was almost empty. Casey went to the kitchen, got his small esky and filled it with beer and got settled on the couch.

The next day, Casey woke on the couch, half a beer tucked in next to him, the esky empty. He got up, his head throbbing, went to the bathroom. He grabbed the empty beer cans to take them to the bin. Opening the back door, he was shocked to discover his backyard was covered in newspaper. The garage door was open and, after dumping the cans in the recycling, he found the radio still on in the garage, the main door open and far fewer newspapers in piles. And the hammer on the floor in the middle of the room. He flicked off the radio, shut the door and headed back to the house. He made a cup of tea, sat down and started calling contractors.