As I mentioned in my last post my carer situation isn't too hot at present. Correcting it is a big issue and has diverted my attention from this blog. I hope you'll excuse me, but what follows is just cut-and-pastes of stuff from days gone by.
One of the perks of being a mute quad in a wheelchair is that when I answer the door to Seventh Day Adventists, phone company salesmen and the like they usually take immediate notice of my head-shaking 'no, thanks' and go away. Yesterday morning a salesman from some electricity company knocked at my door, reminding me of an incident that occurred when I was living Jez and her Mum,who went by the name Shaniekta at that time. Here's a little story I wrote about it ...
The Mad Woman’s Sister
I’ve been wandering around this country town knocking on doors all day trying to talk people into changing their telephone carrier.
There’s five of us scattered around town doing this. We were all hired at university to sell people a new and better phone service. I need money bad and yesterday was the last of my third year exams, so here I am with the others. This morning they brought us here to do Castlemaine. Tomorrow it’s Maryborough, Daylesford the next day then Kyneton and Heathcote, then a full week up in Bendigo with its sixty thousand people.
Me a salesman? Imagine that if you can! Me, Phillip Computer Nerd Jones … a salesman? That’s about as likely as a woman being elected the next Pope! ut that’s what I am today. A salesman. Not a very good salesman, mind you, but a salesman nonetheless. I wasn’t a salesman yesterday and they probably won’t have me back tomorrow, not after my woeful record today. I’ve made just one sale and one fairly definite maybe.
At lunchtime the five of us all got together for sandwiches in the park. Beccy had made five sales by then and so had Grahme. Peter had seven and then there was Roger. Frigging tall and handsome smarmy law student Roger in his frigging Gucci suit or whatever designer label he’s wearing today! He had eleven sales on his clipboard and I had just the one! No wonder I don’t get on with him, the smarmy bastard!
I’m no salesman. I don’t even like people all that much! Not face to face, anyway. I don’t mind it when I’m on the net in an anonymous chat room talking to someone thousands of kilometres away in Hicksville, Ohio or Smirnoffski, Siberia. I can even talk to girls then without getting all tongue-tied and gawky. On a computer you’ve got time to think before you blab out something stupid.
I’m only doing this because of Mum. I still haven’t paid her the money she loaned me a couple of months ago to upgrade my computer. Its a fantastic piece of technology now. Its about thousand dozen times faster than it was and its got memory to burn.I was going to get a part time job to pay Mum, but I started developing this new computer prediction system to plot four dimensional time lines for the next generation of intergalactic space-craft. I’ve been spending my every spare moment on it, but Mum put her foot down and made me take this job.
I’ve wasted the whole afternoon wandering around town not even trying to sell Optus. It’s nearly time to meet up in the park with the others. There’s a row of units about fifty metres down from the park. I’ve done a terrible job so far, but I’ll give it one last try before I finish for the day. I’ll try this unit here, the one with the young girl outside with her baby.
“Um, excuse me? Ummm, can I ask you something?”
God, I always do this! Why didn’t I just come straight out and say what I wanted? Now she probably thinks I’m some sort of weirdo who wants weirdo sex with her baby or something.“Um …umm, is there anyone inside?”
“Yes! … My dad.”
Hell, Phillip! Now you’ve really got her worried. It’s like you’re trying to find out if it’s safe to drag her inside to shag her silly.
“Ummm, can I speak to someone, please?”
“Sure. Just come in.”
“Ahhhh, I’ll wait out here, thanks.”
She’s opening the front door.
” “No, it’s OK. You can come in.
I can see an older guy in a wheelchair inside. It’s probably her father. No, I don’t want this. Being a salesman for a couple of weeks is one thing, but conning old handicapped guys into changing phone companies? No. No, I’m not up for that! I won’t go in with her, but I can’t just turn and walk away either. Typical me, I’m sortof rooted to the spot outside the front door wondering what to do next.
“Hello. I’m Shaniekta. Do you want something?”
Shaniekta? Shaniekta??? What sort of name is that? The girl was about seventeen. If this woman is her mum she must be about thirty eight. With a name like Shaniekta she’s probably a left-over hippy … free love and all that … some hippy guy probably got her up the duff when she was just sixteen. The girl could be younger than seventeen, I suppose … that’d make this one a bit over thirty … about ten years older than me. She’s still a good-looker, considering her age …
“Excuse me, Fella!!! I said do you want something?”
God, she’s snappy! Probably got two or three younger kids raising hell inside and her husband’s in a wheelchair.
“Ummm, no … no. I was going to … ummm … but then I saw the man in the wheelchair … he’s ummm … he’s …”
“Yes, he’s disabled! He’s my partner! But what do you want?”
“I ummm … Do you own this house?”
“No. We rent it. Why?”
Why? I don’t know why, do I? I’m just babbling again. She’s a woman and I’ve broken out in a sweat again and I said the first thing I could think of.
“I’m sorry. Ummm, I’m … ummm … I’m …”
Hell, did she just do that??? She karate-chopped the palm of her other hand to let me know she means business.
“Listen Mate … You need to sharpen up your people skills! I don’t think you’re for real.”
I pity her poor kids.
“I … I … I am! I, um … I work for Optus! There’s five of us in the area signing people up! Ummmm, look at my clipboard … there’s someone I signed up today.”
I’m so flustered I’m sweating like a pig. I must stink like hell by now, especially seeing I started sweating the instant I spoke to that girl with the baby before. The opposite sex always do that to me.
“Optus? Where’s your I.D?”
Hell, that’s the problem. She thinks I’m up to no good because I didn’t show her any identification. They told us to wear it always, but I feel like a dork walking around wearing an Optus badge with my name on it … Oh shiiiiit, I’m stuffed now! I’m fumbling in my pocket, but the bloody badge is gone!
“Listen Mate, all the other units along this street are old people. I think you’re checking them out so you can come back and rob them.”
“No. No. I do work for … ummm …”
I’m backing away from her verbal attacks.
“Listen Mate …”
I’m still backing away. Not Listen Mate again, please. She never follows with anything nice.
“Listen Mate … I don’t believe you! I don’t think you’re legit! I’m going to call the cops!”
I’ve turned around and I’m walking away along the footpath. Now I’m running. I’m going to get my Optus badge. I know where it is. I was showing it to Beccy at lunchtime, because it’s a shoddy photocopied thing. I was saying to her that anyone could make one.
What am I doing? That Shaniekta woman back there got me so flustered I just ran off without a word. I’m getting my badge for her, but she’ll think I’m running away! I better go back and tell her what I’m doing. No, hang on … why on earth would I want to talk to her ever again? She’s bad news! So what if she calls the cops? She’s the one will have the red face. Not me.
Anyway … I’m at the park now and I can see my bloody badge under the table over there. I’ll sit there and catch my breath. The others should be back any time now. Hell, what’s that squeal of brakes? Oh, no! That crazy woman is chasing after me in her car. I’ll give her my badge to have a good look at. That should shut her up once and for all.
“Um, here! Um, see? I do work for, um …”
“This doesn’t look right! I apologize if I’m wrong, but I’m taking this to the police. If you’re legit you’ll get it back in ten minutes!”
Here they come! Two police cars are screaming to a halt outside the park. Four cops pile out and are running towards me.
“Hey, you! Stay where you are!”They’ve got me up against a tree in the park spreading ‘em while one of them searches me and turns out my pockets. They’re all talking at once and so is that Shaniekta woman. One of them is throwing questions at me, the biggest one is prodding me in the side while he barks in my face that I’m a junkie casing out places to come back and turn over, and to top it all off bloody smarmy Roger and the rest of our lot have just turned up and are watching my humiliation.
Roger switches into law student mode in an instant and starts firing questions at the youngest cop. Because of his Gucci suit and his confident manner he gets clear and deferential answers and he sets everything right in a flash.
“Phil? Phil a druggie casing out joints to do over later?” he says in mock amazement, throwing an arm around my shoulders. “He’s one of us … aren’t you, Phil? He’s a legitimate employee of Optus Communications conducting legitimate Optus business. His technique mightn’t be too hot, but to be fair this is
his first day. I’ll give him a few pointers tonight and by tomorrow in Maryborough he’ll be as right as rain.”
Maryborough tomorrow? No way! I’m catching a train home tonight! I’m going to spend the rest of my life sitting in front of my computer in my bedroom and I’m never setting foot outside again! You never know but that mad Shaniekta woman might have a sister out here somewhere!
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
March 18, 1976 - Mediterranean Sea, Greece
I'm awake today at ten and I’m cobwebby. Greek cursing outside woke me just now - it's Yannis in the stable cursing the donkey, who understands him, being itself Greek. I stagger to the kitchen with a cocky's-cage mouth, where I drink coffee, `real' coffee - Nescafe Instant, Ouzo-webs melting from my brain, then I brew the long-handled Greek coffee pot and I join Yannis with the pot and two glasses in my hands.
He owns my tiny cottage and rents it to me for a thousand drachmas a month, twenty-five Australian dollars. He doesn't speak English either, just like the donkey, but we get by OK. I sit and watch him at work in the morning sun, in the springtime morning sun, and we sip thick Greek coffee while he works.
Tap tap, tap tap, tap tap. He's tacking the cloth cover back on the saddle, the wooden-framed donkey saddle, and he's stuffing it with fresh straw. He's working near the open stable and the donkey's tethered outside on the cobbled alleyway.
The young woman next door screams at her kids, but a high brick wall hides her to us. Her husband's a merchant seaman at sea for two months with two months more to go. Yannis smiles at me, smiling like a conspirator. He looks her way, looking at the high wall, and he says in a sweet coy and female voice, ‘Danny, I love.’ throwing his arms wide to indicate her telling the entire village.
‘Danny, I loooooooove.’
His sweet coy and female act doesn't exactly fit her with her raucous cries, with her frustrated screams and with what can only be her curses hurled childwise - all these things have shattered my morning dreams so regularly. Still, I get his drift - he's saying she's got the hots for me and discreet she isn't.
If I fathom it correctly his next words and the throat-cutting action mean something like ‘Go for it if you're game, but make sure your life insurance's paid up full when the husband gets back.’
Visions assail my mind - broken and bloody, I'm nakedly dying on Raucous's big bed of sin, she's crooning Danny, I loooooooooooove down at me, and the husband is in the kitchen happily sautéing my shriveled testicles. I shake my head to Yannis ‘Nah, not my type’ and he agrees.
I'm idling through an old olive grove that's got bigger gnarled trees than most. Old to the olive tree is five hundred years, a thousand or more at times. Naturally I'm thinking about Christ's olives, the olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane. I've heard some of them are alive still now, two millennia since. In one the initials `JC' are carved deep, they say.
All of a sudden I stop and gape, with Christ's olives far from my mind. I'm staring down the barrel of a big cannon. It ends in the turret of a tank. My life flashes before my eyes. What, I ask, is a tank doing here all by itself? But I'm wrong, it's not by itself - behind it I see two more, all three coy under netting and branches, camouflaged from the air.
Soldiers are pouring out from the netting. A never-ending stream of them - hundreds, I swear. And all with rifles and pistols and Greek shouting, all of which is aimed at me.
‘Look, you guys. I'm an Australian tourist and I'm staying at Nenita’.
They drive me home in a jeep that's hid behind the tanks, an officer and a driver. (Did I mention there were really only nine in all? But who was counting when their guns were pointing at me?) They check me out with the local cops and leave satisfied.
I'm lounging in the autumn sun in the tiny concrete courtyard outside my cottage. Two black cars have just now come to Nenita and the whole village has gone dead. There's no movement on the streets, not that there's ever that much, but there's no housewives sweeping and talking doorstep to doorstep. The cafenion loungers who seem to be all day at the outdoor tables smoking together and playing backgammon have all faded inside too. The black cars are parked at the cop shop and our head cop's bringing four dark suits to me, straight across the barren concrete village square, the direct route from the cop shop to my cottage.
He leaves after no names, no reason, but with a sneaked ‘sorry’ glanced to me. A short square man asks the questions - neat suit, neat tie, polished shoes, but he's no banker, no doctor. He speaks English well, quiet with a faint accent. He's a balanced man, authoritative, reasonable, the boss of the four, but they're not a barber's shop quartet. I'm wondering who, why and what? Who are they? Why are they here? What have I done wrong?
The short square man's somehow sinister, even more so than his three big heavies rifling my rooms, my belongings, my writings and the contents of my backpack. Their quiet, determined, heaviness stalls my questions unasked, and Sinister asks me who, why, why, why, and why. Who am I? Why am I here in Nenita? Why was I at that gun emplacement? Why was I at that tank hide? Why have I been hanging around the radar station?
‘What radar station?’ I ask bemused, but Sinister knows I'm just putting it on. I am?? Patiently he tells me, in a tone that says he knows I know he knows I know what radar station, but I don't know, truly, not until he tells me. I pass a small, closed brick building with a dish-thing on its roof on my way through the scrub down to a deserted inlet – all rocks, no sand, but far from the madding crowd. Apparently that's the radar station. And the conscripts I talk with in the cafenion are the radar operators.
Sinister and I discuss many things, but not philosophy or religion, then he and his heavies leave. He's mostly sure I'm just me. At the door he turns back to tell me confidentially ‘the husband will be back soon’. God, did Raucous rent time on Sky television to tell the whole world ‘Danny, I loooooove.’?
‘Marry a nice Greek girl’ Sinister tells me friendly, ‘a nice girl from this village’.
Then he's gone and I'm thrown off balance. I'm remembering the cafenion TV the night of Popadopolous - disappearings, torture and killings. Sure, Pop was couped and the top heads were lopped, but the lower downs stayed. Sinister and his mates were amongst it all back then, I'm sure - the screams, the torture, the blood and the killings. He was very sinister back then and he could just as easily be very sinister now.