Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel

cigarette-and-ash-tray

5.

“The two businesses are stand-alone,” said Wally, lighting his third Marlboro as he once more propped himself against the bar of The Re:Public. “You’d be doing the door here at the ‘Pub Fridays and Saturdays from nine until three. We’ve only got a license until three am at the moment, but we’ve got an application in to extend to five. Some of the local residents are opposing it, but it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“People living nearby?” Pat asked.

“Dick heads,” Johnny put in. “They move into the area and then complain they can’t turn it on and off like a… Christmas tree.” The oddness of the metaphor sat on the bar between Pat and Wally. Wally wiggled his eyebrows.

“How many security have you got already?” Pat asked.

“Johnny’s doing Saturday, and we’ve got a girl on Friday.”

“So you don’t have any security.”

“Thanks, mate,” said Johnny.

“No offence Johnny, but you couldn’t fight off a cold.” Wally laughed as he exhaled a choppy gust of smoke through his nose.

“The way we see it, you shouldn’t have to do any fighting,” he said.

“Shouldn’t’ and ‘don’t’ are a long way apart, in my experience,” said Pat.

“We haven’t had any trouble yet.”

“The longer you go without it, the closer you get to it.” Johnny folded his arms and leaned against the bar, conspicuously silent. Wally took another drag.

“Friday night’s pretty loungy. We have a ‘no suits’ policy,” Johnny put in. “They start drinking at five, they’re messy by nine. And it’s the wrong crowd, anyway.”

“Saturday night’s rock and roll night.,” said Wally. “It’s a lot easier.”

“We’ve got DJs during the week as well. We’re trying out a soul night on Thursday and a Hip-Hop night on Sunday. Dominic from PBS comes in and pretty much plays what he wants on Wednesday night. Tuesday night’s whatever’s on the stereo.”

“What’s Monday?”

“Closed.”

“I haven’t dealt with the police in the CBD before,” Pat said. “Do you mind if I ask what you’ll pay me?”

“Twenty-five dollars an hour? And if you want more hours, you could probably get behind the bar, or maybe a few shifts in the backpackers.”

“Twenty five an hour is good money,” Pat said. Wally changed his cigarette from right hand to left and stuck out his hand. Pat shook it.

“Where’s your stuff?” he asked.

“That’s it,” he said, indicating the gladstone bag with a foot in its general direction. Wally pushed the key with its tag across the bar. “Take that fuckin’ thing off,” he said, tapping the plastic tag, “and it’s all yours. Just chuck it behind the desk next door.”

“The sun’s out,” Johnny said. “That’s Melbourne for ya.” Small, pallid spills of light tumbled in through the barred windows that sat at street level. The light dissolved in the grainy darkness before it could make it to the floor.

Pat turned to leave and noted that both Johnny and Wally were silent, most probably because they were about to start talking about him. He felt the gentle pressure of their eyes on his back as he walked out the door.

***

The room was small and blank. Pat put his bag on the floor and sat on the bed. The mattress felt okay. Sheets and blankets, rather than a doona. Blankets spoke to him of hostels, hospitals and shelters. He grimaced and lay down. Double bed, which meant he’d have to sleep diagonally.

The roof was freshly painted with a cheap acrylic and Pat could read the cracks and flaws in the underlying coat. Still lying on his back, he switched on the light with his booted toe and noted the tinge of telephone-book yellow which leered through the cream-white like a ghost.

He sat up, opened the bag and took out a bottle of water and a bread roll he’d saved from his meal on the plane. He ate the roll and washed it down with a few swallows of water. Then he took his pills. He noted how practice had made it easy; when they were first prescribed at the hospital, it felt like trying to swallow a surfboard.

That done, he took out his few books and stacked them beside the bed. He took his toothpaste and soap out, and it dawned on him that he didn’t have his own bathroom. Which meant he also had to buy a towel, as well as a new pair of running shoes.

Pat walked down the stairs and went back into the bar. Wally was still there, now talking on his mobile. He spun the mouthpiece past his chin and raised his eyebrows in question.

“Where’s the local internet?” asked Pat.

“Use the one in the office,” said Wally, gesturing in the direction of the near-end of the bar.

The office door was open. Pat found a laptop dozing on a desk covered with papers and crap. A few ring binders lay about, their covers sagging, as if suffering from the exhaustion of working in administration for Wally and Johnny. He sat on the arm of the shaggy orange armchair, the only chair in the room, and prodded the mouse.

Porn. Pat closed the window, double-clicked the internet search engine and began surfing.

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