Domestic Bliss and an Australian Dream

In spite of wad­dling locals with voices like swamp frogs and the tat­tooed pub denizens, Aus­tralia is not such a bad place. Life is almost too easy, and the facil­i­ties are won­der­ful. It is a pity that it is so damned expen­sive. I could almost, but not quite, break even on the money front. By liv­ing fru­gally, I could gen­tly sink into Aus­tralian poverty for a lit­tle time, while dream­ing of head­ing off, per­haps, to live like a king on my pen­sion in some low-cost cor­ner of the world.

Stranded at yet another celes­tial bus stop on life’s jour­ney, I pon­dered on how to save cash. The solu­tion was famil­iar: split the rent in a share house with some char­ac­ters allot­ted by fate. This time it was three women and an appren­tice uphol­sterer. When I moved in, the lady owner had mes­sages to her god stuck all over the walls, so I had to decon­t­a­m­i­nate my room of holy spir­its imme­di­ately. She was not a bad old stick, and one day sud­denly fell head over heels in love with a plumber, who decided to take her around the world. 

Down­stairs under the house dwelled a kind of hulk­ing, tat­tooed female ogre who growled, if you can growl in a falsetto, and claimed to have once been a Tai Kwan-do black belt. Now she was too busy eat­ing her­self to death to fit into any kind of belt. The appren­tice sported strag­gling brown shoul­der length locks, began every con­ver­sa­tion with “howdy”, Lone Ranger style, and always said thank you with “cheers for that”, coun­try squire style. He said “cheers for that” often, which was encour­ag­ing. His bat­mo­bile had started life as a car that cost $400, and had mor­phed into a pul­sat­ing steel sound box with an ampli­fier sys­tem that cost $1200. The rear win­dow announced him to be a mem­ber of NFNR, help­fully glossed as “no fuck no ride”. He brought his girl­friend home once a week, strictly no excep­tions, to screw her for an hour, The Chi­nese girl stu­dent up the hall moved in and out with her boyfriend, a few days at a time. I was glad when was she out because women from cen­tral China’s Wuhan city don’t talk, they shout. In another life I sur­vived two years of Wuhan’s shout­ing cul­ture. She shouted at her mother over Skype phone for hours. Her mother shouted back, from Wuhan via Skype. You could hear both of them any­where in the house. It must have been painful for the spies tap­ping the line on two con­ti­nents.

One morn­ing about 8am there was a screech­ing sound out­side my bed­room door. I opened it to find a dumpy fig­ure in a squashed white pan­cake hat wav­ing a men­tal machine gun. Her eyes lit on me like out of focus lasers. “You have been harass­ing my daugh­ter!!”, she shrieked. “Who, madam, is your daugh­ter?” mouthed my lips, unheard beneath the tor­rent of accu­sa­tions that poured forth for a solid ten min­utes. I picked through the men­tal cat­a­logue of women I might have, in the last decade, been tempted to harass if suf­fi­ciently drunk. It was sev­eral decades since I had been drunk, and any imag­in­able can­di­dates were some­where in Asia. It was a tough call. At last the falsetto ogre appeared at the shoul­der of the pan­cake hat’s owner. Aha. Now this was a mys­tery wrapped in an enigma. Of all the night­mares think­able in this life or the next, any vision of the ogre would def­i­nitely wake me in a cold sweat. Then at last I had a glim­mer of com­pre­hen­sion.

There was a mini exer­cise tram­po­line at the rear of the house where I did ten min­utes of ener­getic bounc­ing each morn­ing. At my back there was the laundry-cum-ogre’s bath­room with a small frosted pane win­dow. A cou­ple of weeks before the ogre had com­plained to the land­lady that I was spy­ing on her, pre­sum­ably with X-ray vision from the back of my head through the frosted glass. It was bizarre, but to save argu­ment the land­lady and I moved the tram­po­line a few meters away. That should have been the end of it. Appar­ently the ogre’s imag­i­na­tion had con­tin­ued to fes­ter and mummy had come to slay evil. She had, how­ever, for­got­ten to bring her light saber. So she wanted Darth Vader? Orright, bring it on. Being 168cm, it’s a bit hard to tower over any­one (eas­ier to play Yoda actu­ally) but I took a deep breath and prac­ticed look­ing dis­dain­ful. With each slow step I took for­ward, the avengers took a step back, though the pan­cake hat’s shriek never paused to draw breath. Step by step, back through the house, down the stairs, to the side of the devil machine tram­po­line. At last, as the pan­cake hat choked on her bile for a moment, I spoke. “Mad peo­ple”, I declared coldly, turned my back and walked away. There was an eerie silence in the house. A splin­ter of ice had plunged into their hearts. The pan­cake hat dis­ap­peared, and forever after the ogre fled when she heard me com­ing. A while later she moved out. It wasn’t too long before I moved out too, but that is another story about a venge­ful cat super­vi­sor.

Leave a Reply