ean had his entire wardrobe in an orange plastic garbage bag. Clothes were withdrawn from the garbag as needed, ironed, worn, thrown on the floor, washed every week when there was change for the Laundromat and the cycle repeated. He had a good black suit for funerals and a brown one for weddings, parties, anything. He slept on a futon with a collapsible wooden base and kept all his sundry possessions in half a dozen cardboard boxes which he currently stored in a kind of fort around his futon. A few years before he had had a good bedroom suite and a wardrobe to hang his clothes in but a Molotov cocktail had seen those off. The insurance on the property he had been sharing at the time paid off to the owners but when the tenants made their claim the petrol bomb had been deemed ‘riot or civil disturbance’. He had gone in with the other three sharers in the household on suing the insurance company and from time to time he got letters advising him that the case had progressed and could the solicitors have a little more money please? He paid it always, as did the other three plaintiffs, but he did so more out of a sense of seeing the case through than the hope that they might win.
That morning he’d packed the futon base up its neat pile, wrestled the futon into a loose roll that he tied up with three occy straps, pieces of thick elastic with hooks at each end used to lash items to roof racks. Inappropriate use of them had blinded a few people but Dean had survived wrestling the futon into a roll with only bruised knuckles. He had assembled his cardboard boxes in what he hoped was a neat and easily accessible group.
At precisely 11:15 he heard a badly tuned car reversing up the small ‘street’ just West of his place—Laura St was precisely one terrace house long—and judder to a stop. The engine uttered some death rattle and then the exhaust nearly exploded. Dean stepped out of his little bungalow, looked at the closed and boarded up terrace house behind which his bungalow was and then stepped out of the back gate and down the cobbled laneway to the main road. In it was a large blue hired trailer with cyclone fencing sides attached, virtually supporting, a 1958 Ford Fairlane whose only remaining wish in life was to die. The back of the car above the exhaust was black with carbon and a thin blue smoke trickled from under the bonnet. Dean smelt burnt oil. Brian got out of the passenger side and leant on the door to close it. The driver said something to him in some foreign language.
“Ja, ja,” said Brian and followed it up with some halting sentence. “How’s it going?” he asked Dean.
“Ready to go?”
“As I’ll ever be.” As they walked back around the corner, Dean asked: “Er, doesn’t your uncle speak English?”
“Yeah, he does. He just isn’t today. He’s protesting the Council rates.”
They each grabbed cardboard box and lifted it badly with the confidence of men in their twenties.
“Jesus,” said Brian, “what the fuck have you got in here?”
They had put all the cardboard boxes up next to Brian’s bed and dining table when a car turned the corner into Laura St and screeched to a stop. It was a red Porsche with personalised plates (‘VIP1987) and in a second it had disgorged some kind of irate Mediterranean.
“Hey!” he shouted, pointing at Dean. “Fuck you! I tell you look after my place!”
“Where you fucking go? Fuck you, you look after my fucking place! I say ‘You look after my fucking place’ and you say you look after my fucking place! Now you going from my fucking place.”
Dean tried everything he could to avoid confrontation. This was just an unfortunate piece of timing that Brian and his uncle Chris looked like being dragged into.
“Yeah, I’m leaving,” he said, straining to appear mild and unconcerned. Brian hesitated but went back to the house when Dean waved to him.
“Where he go?”
“He’s helping me move.”
“You don’t move! You watch my fucking place.”
“It’s not your fucking place!” Dean shouted. “The police found out it was your fucking place and they took it off you. I gave the letter to that idiot brother of yours! If he didn’t read it to you that’s not my fucking problem!”
“You tenant! You fucking stay!”
“I’m not your tenant! You don’t own it anymore! Go round the fucking front and look at the seizure notice! The Council are going to sell it by auction! So no-one can fucking live there!”
“You buy it, you buy it! I sell you my fucking place!”
“I don’t want it. Now, can I just get packed and go?”
The man’s voice dropped a few decibels and he moved closer to Dean. ‘I tell you you fucking stay and you fucking stay,” he muttered.
“No. I told you, no. The answer’s ‘no’,” Dean said, backing away from the man’s offensive manner and breath. The man came closer and moved a hand inside his leather jacket. He withdrew a dark object and pointed the muzzle at Dean’s stomach.
Gun, gun, gun, gun was all that went through Dean’s mind. He didn’t think about how ludicrous it would be for this man to shoot him after an argument in the street, he just saw the angle of the butt and barrel and wondered whether it would hurt more than it did in the movies and what it would feel like to die. Probably painful. Now Brian would have to move all his boxes to Laburnum by himself. What was he supposed to do? He stared at the gap between his stomach and the muzzle and watched it take about a year to close. He saw a gloved hand come out of nowhere and grab the gun, force it down and away from him while the arm holding it seemed to move slowly away.
He looked up to see a short blonde man twist the gun out of the landlord’s hand while another glove had him around the neck. The man was lifted off his feet and dumped a few feet away, sprawling. The gloved man glanced down at the gun, did something to it and as the landlord began to scramble to his feet with blood in his eyes, pointed it at him. The man froze as the business end of the gun swept past him and pointed at the Porsche. He fired into the windscreen, driver’s side window and door and the right front tyre, which hissed in the suddenly quiet surroundings.
“My car,” the landlord whispered. “Fuck you.”
The gun swivelled back to the landlord and jerked upwards. The landlord stood up and obeyed the gesture to walk off to his right and away down to the tram stop. He walked backwards till he was out of Dean’s sight.
The blonde man smiled at Dean, said something Dan didn’t understand and then looked over his shoulder to where Brain was carrying part of Dean’s bed base.
“Brian,” said the blonde man and followed it up with something else unintelligible, though Dean did catch ‘telephone’ oddly pronounced. So this must be Brian’s uncle Chris.
“Ja, okay,” and he laughed at some question of his uncle’s. He came up and put the futon base into the trailer. “Uncle Chris wants to know if you want a Porsche.”
“Not that one,” Dean laughed, trying to recover. “Er, nein?” he said to Brian’s uncle, who nodded and said something. Brian translated this as ‘he agrees’. As soon as Brian had finished his uncle threw the gun into a storm drain across the street. It was a pretty impressive throw, not touching the ground and sailing right through the slot into the sewer where it bounced two echoey bounces and was silent. He went back and sat in the car without another word.
Dean and Brian walked back along the right of way to the back gate, wondering how or where Brian’s uncle had learnt how to do that and whether Brian knew. In the end his curiosity got the better of him, as they say, and he asked: “How did your uncle get that tough?”
“Chooch—my brother—asked him once. He was speaking English then but all he answered was ‘Malaya’.”
“I didn’t know there were any Dutch people in Malaya.”
“Who knows?” Brian said. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
During the trip out to Laburnum with Brian’s uncle running red lights and swearing fluently in Dutch as far as the freeway entrance with the trailer on the back bouncing and squeaking and the car coughing and grinding its way up hills as steep and treacherous as a bassinette. About nine litres of oil later they had turned off the freeway onto Middleborough Rd, nearly sideswiping a police car. The car’s siren chirped once and then the police flew by on the way to some more pressing event. With a long prelude of squealing metal they halted more or less outside of number 58. Dean and Brian got out and walked up to Unit 3. The front door was open and from inside they could hear two women talking.
“Knock knock!” Brian shouted from the threshold. The chatting stopped and after a moment a short, chubby girl with dark ringlets in her hair and vivid green eyes came out of the loungeroom.
“Hi!” she said brightly. “You must be Dean and Brian.”
“Other way round,” said Dean.
“Well, wilkommen and bienvenu. Have you picked your rooms out?”
“Well,” said Dean, “if that downstairs room there is empty I might pick that.”
“I’ll get the upstairs one, then,” said Brian, “as Dean has far more crap than me and I don’t want to hoik that stupid futon of his upstairs.”
“Oh, you have a futon? Are they comfortable?”
“Er, yeah,” said Dean.
“Big enough for two?”
“Yeah,” said Dean.
“We’ll have to try it one of these days.” She turned and then turned back. :Oh, I’m Angie.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Dean and “How ya going?” said Brian. Angie then turned and went back into the loungeroom.
“You’re in there,” said Brian on the way back to the car.
“What? She’s Billy’s fiancée!”
“Well, the cat’s away…”
“Nah, she’s a bit porky.”
“You’re on the ground floor and those futons can stand a bit of pounding.”
“What a revolting thought.”
In about half an hour they had got their stuff into their respective rooms and had watched Brian’s uncle hurtle off down Laburnum St around the curve. They both stood on the curb for a moment.
“I wonder where the nearest pub is,” said Dean. “Crap! This isn’t the Dry, is it?”
“No, that ends at Box Hill. Still, I didn’t think about that. I suppose we could drink at the cricket club.”
“How far’s that?”
“About five miles.”
“What!” Dean was aghast. “Do you know how many pubs there were within five miles of my old place?”
“You don’t have an old place.”
“I don’t think your landlord would be keen to see you back.”
“This is bloody terrible. You do realise this will compel us both to go to pubs near work? Still, you have a point about the landlord.”
“Here comes your girlfriend,” said Brian.
“No, she’s Billy’s—oh.” It was indeed the girl from the station who lived next door. She was wearing no coat in this warm weather and you could get a good look at her figure under her clothes, if you were the sort of person who did that, which Dean most certainly was. She had good legs that moved up to a mid-length skirt in dark green topped by a white blouse suitably filled out with the sort of breasts you only read about in magazines. She was wearing no lipstick, Dean saw after a moment and her blonde hair was done up neatly the way no-nonsense women have it. As she got closer he could see she had light blue eyes, blonde lashes and not a freckle to be seen.
“Nice day,” she said as she passed them.
“Yeah,” said Brian. Dean tipped his hat to her and mumbled something even he couldn’t understand. She smiled with no particular emphasis and walked on into her own place. She had the sort of walk that was worth following and Dean watched to see into which unit she went. Unfortunately the units themselves blocked Dean’s view as she turned down her driveway.
“We’re on the wrong side to see into her bedroom,” said Brian.
“What the fuck? I wasn’t thinking that!”
“No, of course not. Beer?”
“Hang on. There’s some crucial thing we haven’t sorted out yet,” said Dean. “What’s it gonna cost us to live here?”
“Shit, I hadn’t thought to ask.”
“Well, it’s clear you should be offering power of attorney to someone,” said Dean. “We should find out where there’s a bottleshop, too. If the nearest licensed place is five miles away I’m going to get very fucking fit indeed.”
They walked back up the driveway with Dean wondering about the blonde next door. Of course these meetings were merely a chance event but Fate worked in mysterious ways its wonders to perform. Fate was the driving force in Dean’s life, since he had long since abrogated his position in the driver’s seat and decided to wait and see what happened. What had happened was that he’d got out from the bungalow at the back of an unlicensed brothel and moved out toe wilds of the Eastern suburbs. At this point he had no idea what it was going to cost him.
The door was still open in the warm afternoon air and the entrance hall had got a bit warmer. As they came in they could hear a couple of women talking upstairs.
“Hello?” Brian shouted.
“Hi!” came a cheery call from upstairs. “Be right down.”
In a moment Angie was coming down the stairs, and Brian and Dean were both surprises to see she was wearing a dark red teddy and white stockings. She was carrying a flute glass of white wine in one hand.
“Er, just sussing out the, er—Billy didn’t mention what the rent was?” Dean said.
“Oh, it’s $230 a week—“ Dean was stunned “—divided by four, so that’s…um…”
“$57.50,” said Brian.
“Yuh,” said Angie. “Is that okay?” Then she curtsied, putting one foot behind the other and flexing at the knees.
“Yeah, no worries. We’ve just got to go to the bank and get, er, said amount out and we’ll be back around, er, five-ish,” said Dean.
“Great,” said Angie and turned away from them and trotted back upstairs.
“Blue panties,” said Brian once they were back outside.
“Yes, thank God,” said Dean.
“Did she curtsey to us?”
“I’m afraid she did.”
“Who the fuck wears their nightie at one o’clock in the afternoon?” asked Brian.
“You’ve got to wonder,” said Dean.
“I wonder if Billy knows about her friend upstairs. Maybe that’s why she’s got the nightie on?”
“Now, why doesn’t that arouse me in the slightest?”
“You wanna swap bedrooms?”
“No fucking way,” said Dean. “I don’t want to be kept awake by that sort of nonsense and, Christ Almighty, what if there’s some kind of threesome going on up there? Looks like you got the right bedroom!”
“Get fucked. There’s a pub in Mitcham. Let’s go.”
On To The Fourth Chapter
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Get Me The Hell Out Of Here!
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