Theme Park At Its Darkest – a Novel

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Natalie pulled up to the corner of ACDC and Flinders Lane in a grey Mitsubishi hatch. Pat opened the passenger door. It weighed a fraction of what the long, heavy coupe doors of the Valiant did. When he pulled it to, it slammed. Hard.

“Shut the door, why don’t you!” said Nat, flipping the indicator stalk and looking over her shoulder to see if there was an opportunity to insert her car into the flow of traffic.

“How do you know where the front is, when you park?” he asked. It was a modern design with a bonnet that sloped abruptly down and out of sight.

“Practice,” she said. Pat found himself squeezed in, his knees inches from the dash.

“How did you know to call me at the Re:Public?” He fumbled around under the seat, looking for the release lever.

“Johnny left his details with us. Most regular clients do.” He lifted the lever just as Nat accelerated to beat a stop-light. The sudden speed caused his seat to thump all the way back to the end of its tracks.

The Mitsubishi shot through the lights, just clearing the intersection as pedestrians poised to cross. Pat reached for his seat belt.

“Regular… do many brothels…” the word sounded uncomfortably foreign to him, “Do that?”

“I don’t work in your average brothel,” said Nat, tweaking the rear-view mirror. “They even call it a ‘bordello’ on the stock exchange.”

“Bordello,” he repeated, sounding the word to test it.

“Monique’s Bordello.”

“Who is Monique?”

“There is no Monique. The owner’s name is Giovanni.”

“Indeed,” he replied, and they lapsed into silence. Pat watched Natalie in profile as she drove.

The city was a difficult place to negotiate, even in the early afternoon. Hook turns, where a driver has to sit in the intersection on the far left and make a right-hand-turn when the lights turned amber, were stressful to all but the practised.

He looked for her eyes through the shield of her designer sunglasses.

“How is work?” she asked.

“Usual cast of characters,” he said.

“What do you do there?”

“I work in the backpackers during the week, just doing odd jobs. And then I bounce at the pub on the week ends.”

“You’re an alcoholic, right?”

“I am.”

Nat was the first person he had told this to as the precursor to a relationship. Previously, he hadn’t applied it anywhere other than Dr Helen’s office, or A.A.

When he had told Nat at Stevie’s birthday party, he had told her out of a mixture of resignation and the unlikelihood of ever seeing her again. Hearing her ask about it today came as a relief. The main issue was now, more or less, out of the way.

“How do you go working around booze?” she asked.

“It’s not as difficult as you might expect. In fact, I wish I’d done it before I started drinking. Nothing puts you off alcohol like being surrounded by people drinking it. Do you drink?” he asked, looking out the window to make the question seem casual.

“Not much,” she replied. “I like a few disco bikkies here and there or a bit of Charlie, but pretty much only when I’m out for a big night. People, when they start drinking, turn into dick heads. You know what I’d like to do one day?”

“What?” Pat asked.

“I’d like to find out where some of these idiots work, turn up to their day jobs in the office or wherever and puke all over their desks. Or start a fight at the photocopier or yell my head off about what fucking cunts they are at reception.

“You know, sometimes I actually ask people, ‘How would you feel if I came to your work and pissed in one of your pot-plants?”

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