The Tedious Giraffe wasn’t to blame. She was taller than most giraffes and covered in big, brown, woolly oblong patches. She was well beyond the sharp pinch of loneliness that compelled other creatures of the Grand Basin into complex arrangements of company and elaborate communities based on caste and status.
In the town I grew up people combated the daily heat and ennui with unremitting talk about the weather and weekend sports results. It would be considered a feat of phenomenal endurance to outsiders if the remote, coastal palaver didn’t bore them deaf. Then, one day a monstrous blue house was built on a hill by the beach.
He held his spoon in a fist, like his granddad. It felt right. He was digging into his food, which seemed to be the point of a spoon. And it was way more practical than how his parents instructed that he hold it – between his thumb and forefinger like an upside-down pencil. His dad corrected him until he was nine.
It was not without alarm that one morning I woke, got out of bed, walked down stairs, and out the door to get a coffee and saw a bunny in the foamy head of my café au lait.
Under new entreaties for reconciliation and consolidation, where the other had long since mattered, Gerry remained resolute had the last bullet in the chain jammed, or had he not plugged the back of the enemy he would be dead.
Dale visited Flossmans sporadically to see or pick up his girlfriend. She worked in the lingerie department. It exuded erotic and dark flavours and charms – spiced sandalwood, chicory and sweet chrism brightened by infusions of pomegranate and rose petal.
Why Dale stopped talking to Genevieve and lost interest in her and her mother he would never recall. He broke his leg coming off old Salzerac, his father’s harness horse and missed the end of term and graduation. At the end of the holidays he was sent to board at a mediocre private Agnostic school in the city while the rest of his friends and class remained in the township and attended the local comprehensive.
By the end of winter the saddler’s son had in fact made the soap factory girl fall in love with him. He abandoned the school playground at midday recess and occasionally skipped class to see her on her lunch break, or when she was working a split shift.
She started working at the soap factory when it opened in autumn. He walked her home through the butterscotch and peanut brittle leaves. He was the son of a saddler. It seemed right to Dale when he told her he would make her fall in love with him.
Many people deride pity. Like an allergy it incites discomfort and queesiness from any number of causes – often its a case of inflated pride and insecurities. To these people I say, ‘Damn you – Damn you all the way to the Pity Monster!’
Bill looked down at his plate and touched his knife and fork together. He surprised himself by how little he’d eaten. Sausages were the limit of his wife’s cooking ability – sausages, potato gems and frozen beans. And Bill gave the sausages most the credit in the exchange with his wife.
He heard the shower running when he woke up. He hoped she wouldn’t use all the water and then felt bad for thinking it. The feel of toast milling between his teeth slightly alleviated his mood. She sat silently with a face full of blame. He ate three slices, taking care with each bite…
Epilogue: Since the last Job Club: Fifteen Years of Anecdotes & Reflections – Part IV, dated July 2010 I’ve twice needed to claim the Newstart Allowance as an unemployed Jobseeker. On both occasions, in late 2013 and more recently in 2014, the stigma, pedantry, inconsistencies, inadequacies and bureaucratic hegemony I’ve discussed in my previous posts are still prevalent. To borrow a phrase from our regional northern neighbours , “samesamebutdifferent”. However, change does come, even if it is wee small amounts, which need a sharp eye to see.
The store started to flow. Middle-management on stolen lunch breaks toss half smoked cigarettes away at the door, snatch extra large take-away bags off the counter for the team back at the office and already have stuck another fag in their mouths before exiting.
June 2010 – Northbridge, Perth, Australia: I’ve realise the reason the Jobsearch area of my Job Network Service Provider looks particularly Spartan today is over half the computer terminals are missing from the time I began Jobsearch six weeks ago. It’s easy not to notice. Like living in a houseshare with a crack addict, computers and equipment, essential to Jobsearch have gradually disappeared since I started attending.
May 2010 – Northbridge, Perth, Australia: It’s Thursday and I’m sat in the austerity of a Jobsearch room at my nearest Job Network Service Provider. Thursday is the appointed day once a week I’m required to attend in person and log two hours of job search. A less than stable middle aged Chilean man dressed like a 1980’s TV themed police detective has been sat next to me for the last half hour sniggering incessantly while idly surfing the internet.
May 2009 – St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia: Both in 1997 and 2002, the unctuous rhetoric of support and training were equally loud and convincing. Back in 1997, being fairly naive and without comparison I believed this. With a useless degree in my back pocket, I was trying desperately to break into the film and television industry.
Prologue: For all the fortunate sedentary souls out there blessed with vocational stability I feel it must be difficult to imagine the other side of full-time employment and fiscal dexterity. And there is a migration of influences colouring the reality of unemployed life on the dole. There’s regurgitative current affairs programming and their obsession with pillorying the notorious and mythical Dole Bludger. Then there’s Government policy and the perpetual re-enacting of stringent policies designed to dissuade and penalise people on unemployment benefits – tainting the nation’s collective consciousness with suspicion about everyone on benefits.
India for so long has been travelled, idolised, loathed and revered in literature and backpacking jive – stories, experiences, enlightenment and tumultuous history so often recited and reinterpreted, the clichés and contradictions were impossible to escape. Anxious to let India settle gradually on me I was mindful to avoid large cities where I feared the filth and sweaty mire may taint my impressions unfairly.