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Old 24th April 2017, 09:23 PM
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The Irreverent Mr Black The Irreverent Mr Black is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2009
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Default From Black's Book Notes - Xtian Flatmate Horror 1

The flat in Felafel Country (read John Birmingham's book: I was there about a decade earlier, but not much changed) was a sort of movable feast, as all good share accommodations are, with a rotating yum cha lazy-susan-thingy of flatmates for all tastes.

The original tenant of any good madhouse has usually recouped their rental bond from incoming newbies (sometimes far in excess of the recommended headcount for the premises) or decided that a few good parties were well worth swallowing the loss, and buggered off for parts unknown and generally untouchable. I think I’m on the Canberra tenancy blacklist for what the crazed Hit-Each-Other-With-Blunty-Play-Swords guys did to the my last place there after I got out.


Didn’t get the phone call till I’d been gone a good six months. I guess it’s safe to confess to that big rip I left in the lino under that oddly-placed rug now.

A slack agent or an owner doing their own management-from-afar, that’s all you need, and the flat is your oyster. Wakey, I think, got the old place from his sister, and later passed it on to me, and I was lucky enough to foist it onto some backpackers for only a minor loss when my time came to move on. That place had memories by then, and they’re not the sort that even I would write about. (If you’re reading this, Miss MB-that-was, I’m very sorry, and hope we’ve both grown up okay.)

This tale takes place after The Creepy Vet Student left. I was thinking about advertising the vacancy, or even going back to a three-person setup. Wakey had his room, and that was lockable: with his surfing and shagging, that was fine.

Note: Remind me to tell The One About RichChickie And The Devil at some time.

In three-person mode, the unlucky person got the Non-Room, a cutoff of the huge L-shaped verandah, partitioned with a big curtain, and slightly less rent as a trade-off. I’d even considered going for the Non-room to offset my losses from the Ugly Event. Then my mother stuck her oar in…

The old woman was a peculiar mix of mutually exclusive elements. While qualified in social work and a repository of upstanding socialist principles, my maternal parent was also a bit of a religious zealot. She started with the Baptists and got into deeper and deeper fundiementalism, with side involvements in Certain Campus Evangelism Organisations (which shall not be named here, but one of whose organisers, at our family home [I'm leaving this bit out as it may embarrass the few family members who can still stand the sight of me, but let's say Unfit To Work With Kids and leave it there]).

I digress. Geez, hit me with a single memory and the whole archive comes to the surface. Like dropping rocks in a sludge-pond it is, and the pong is roughly the same. So here’s Mum, asking me a favour. Could I help out a Disadvantaged Young Man?

If he recognises himself in this writing, Shriek would probably shut up, or call his lawyer. At the time, he was seventeen/eighteen, a whole year younger than me.

Certainly, his mother had died after making her invaluable fiscal contributions to the makers of intoxicants both licit and illicit, and nobody mentioned who/what/where Daddy was.

Could I, asked the Old Duck, help young Shriek get his life in order and find a job? Apparently he’d worn out his welcome at Certain Campus Evangelism Organisation’s accommodation [Warning Bell One rang and was unheeded], and needed a place to stay, some encouragement, etc.

Wow, Mum, he needs… a Social Worker! (Thought, but not said.)

Stupid Me agreed to meet the guy.

Shriek had a voice that was still doing the octave bungee-jumps of puberty, possibly because his formative years had, up to now, been spent eating whatever badly-neglected kids get fed, or not fed. He was six feet tall and about two handbreadths wide: not lanky, just kind of temporarily-upright like a dishmop that’s been hung up dirty and dried over a railing.

He had just Found Jesus [Warning Bells Two Through Seven clanged unnoticed] and his life was Going To Change. Jesus’s pals had apparently needed room in their crisis house, so they had given him the nudge.

Mum did the hard sell. I don’t remember how she pushed it, but she may have even sold Wakey on the idea. She only met Wakey once or twice. Maybe he was just clobbered with a fait accompli…

… and Shriek moved in. Shriek and about fifty record albums, one nylon guitar, one 100cc two-stroke bike, sleeping bag, and two green garbos of manky washing.

Mothers hit you in a blind spot. You accept shit from mothers that, if pulled by anybody else, would mean Banned For Life or worse. The little bugger was a cuckoo in our admittedly-messy nest.

After about a month of his best behaviour, Shriek was still sans job. Hell, in those days it wasn’t easy to stay workless, especially with a bastard like me after you. I made sure the paper was home-delivered. After waking the lad, I made sure we went through the job ads and targetted likely ones.

When your nearly-illiterate, year-ten-failing flatmate insists that he would be best suited for Office Work, even in the Age Before Computers, award yourself a large smack upside the head if you don’t spang the stupid bugger with an iron pot of considerable heft, right then and there.

I was like a mother to the lad (well, like any mother but his: I can’t tolerate benders that last for more than a weekend), making sure reasonable food was eaten, even (shudder!) going to the point of Ironing Interview Clothes the night before.

Now, take it from a person who has learned through personal stupidity and bitter experience: if anybody under your roof destroys anything of yours for religious reasons, with or without consulting you, make sure neither of you spend another night under the same roof. It’s not that I missed my Black Sabbath albums a lot by then (Sabs were so four or five years ago, said the Prog Rocker I became), or that the biography of Mick Jagger was more than a good once-only read: it was the principle of the thing. Not like I was a fellow Pal Of Jeebus at the time either.



Having your belongings turned over is a squicky feeling. Having some lame-duck, who you’re supposed to be rescuing, suddenly turn to Arbiter Of Rectitude and conduct a bonfire of your vanities over the backyard incinerator, tends to enrage.

Okay, I’m a pacifist. I asked, in a threatening hiss through grindy teeth, what he intended to do about the damage.

Oh, he’d pay, he said. That day, funnily enough, marked the first time he came up short on the rent. That started to mount up, and I was the fool making up the shortfall.

About a month later came the day I had only a lousy fiver to my name, and three days to payday. In the morning, Shriek put the beg on me for busfare to an interview. Fair enough: it would come to about fifty cents (we are taking ancient history here, kiddies), and the change would see me through for milk and ciggies. I handed him the $5 note, with instructions that I needed the change back.

Thanks to an innovation that was then relatively new to Oz Government work, a little thingy called Flexitime, your humble narrator had the day off. There’s only so many things you can do on a day off without money, so I kickstarted my embarrasingly-small (but not 2-stroke) bike, and got about doing some of them. A few visits and a ride over Mt Coot-tha later, I coasted back into the yard.

As I climbed the stairs, I heard a kind of Splat-Yowl noise and some Shrieky shrieking. My half-grown kitten, Smallgrey, fled past me as I opened the door, and walked around the bend of the verandah to where the raised curtain revealed….

Shriek, giving his Little Shriek a vigorous, elbow-bouncingly good time, to the visual stimulus of one of those grotty “contact” zines with Black Rectangles Of Anonymity across the eyes, and photos of Fugly Persons with remarkably unattractive body-hair patterns. He was oblivious to all else.

There was one of those embarrassing pauses that always seem to arise when a wanker is interrupted. I backed around the corner and gave him time to, erm, pull himself together.

Oh, he had sinned, the Devil had made him do it, oh he had been weak… Basically all the same shite Jim Bakker and every good Christian public figure rolls out when caught with their hand in the register, or Receiving Swollen Goods, or whatever.

No, I would not pray with him. Lazy little twonk hadn’t been near the damned interview. He’d flung Smallgrey at the wall for jumping on the bed and interrupting the meaty metronomics. As for the hideous zine, well…..
“I spent your change on this, sorry.”

Argh. Kill. Ten minutes later, I had wrested the front door key from Shriek’s keychain and his backside was bouncing down the long front stairway.

“On yer bike, Shriek.” I gleefully pelted clothing over the front stair rail and into the yard.

“My guitar! My records!” shrieked Shriek.

Nope. They almost covered his arrears in rent when we sold them. Seeing as he’d been given the bum’s rush in early December, there was a bit of a market for used guitars, and his wasn’t a bad one.

We forgot to chuck his sleeping bag out: a guest used it a few weeks later and got a colony of the jolly old crotch-hoppers off it.

Brisbane Fundie circles being as small as they were back then, my mother eventually learned what happened to the little parasite. Having already used up his Get Out Of The Poop Free card with Certain Campus Evangelism Organisation, young Shriek was pretty well stuffed. Apparently he wound up dossing at the Salvo Army that night, and for some time after. Somebody must have convinced him that his forté was not in clerical work, because he eventually would up working on a road gang, and was in charge of a team a year later.

The moral of this story is: if your lame duck flappeth not its wings on its own account, kicketh thou its arse.

Hard.
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Back at work on the Seekrit Project.

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