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WALTER/LISTENER-IN T.B./MUZZLER

WALTER 

 

My name’s Walter. All the people here call me Walter Pigeon. Because of the pigeons. Get it? Walter Pigeon? The fillum star… ? I feed the pigeons here. Every day. I come here every day an’ feed the pigeons. Very honest, pigeons. No shit. They only come around when you’ve got something for them. Once they ‘ye got it, they move on. Lickety split. Fly off. Strut away. Little neck, to an’ fro. Fuck you, they’re sayin’.. fuck you; if you’ve run outta food, then fuck you.

Very proud, pigeons. Very like people, pigeons. They only care about their bellies, an’ if you don’t fill ‘em up, then fuck you, they piss off, Go to the next person that throws a few seeds their way. Very fickle, really. Makes you think. Cogitate.

I been here every day for the last three years, an’ they still don’t know who the fuck I am. Three years. They don’t care. If ya don’t bring ‘em seeds, then they don’t want to know. Very fickle. I give ‘em good seeds too.

And cake, They like cake. And raisins. Big, fat, juicy raisins. Gets stuck in their throat. Chokes ‘em, ‘Cos they’re greedy. Eat too fast. Gobble gobble. Choke. That’s the best bit.

They spread their little wings out an’ wag their little tails trying to cough it up. Wiggle their little beaks. Roll their little eyes. That’ll learn ‘em. Teach ‘em to fly out on me. I don’t forget. Ya can’t just leave me all alone when me food’s run out.

Just like that.

I’ll be back. You’ll see. In another three years I’ll still be here, An’ all you fuckin’ pigeons will’ve choked ta death. An’ I’ll still be here.

On me own.

HIS HEAD JERKS BACK AND FORTH, PIGEON STYLE, AS HE LOOKS ROUND AT THE AUDIENCE. THE LIGHTS SLOWLY FADE TO BLACKOUT.

 

LISTENER-IN T.B.

 

Ya can’t see it, but there’s a room there, there, there an’ one directly above. That’s four rooms I can hear quite plainly what’s goin’ on in. Not that I listen deliberately, but. It’s just the walls, you know, they’re like tissue paper. Dinkum. Now then, Number One’s asleep, sure to be asleep, shift worker. Number Two’s… in the shower, mmm, his wife’s on the toilet. She’s got wind. Number Three., nobody home. She goes out a lot. Now, Number Four.. ohhh, they’re doin’ it again. Very noisy, the Fours, it’s his wife makes it noisy, squeals like a stuck pig every time be slips it to her. They’ve just about finished. Never takes long. But what they lose in duration they make up for in quantity.

Four times a day. Dinkum. Four times. Twice in the morning an’ twice at night. Sundays, they don’t get up at all. Six is the record, but that was the day Carlton won the premiership. Sometimes, when they’re all at it, you can hardly beà the television for heavy breathing. Ooh There was a laugh. Number Three home. She laughs a lot, Number Three, it’s a lovely sound., ahhh, she’s got a man with her, that explains it. It’ll be whammo tonight then. When they’re all doin’ it the windows rattle, fair dinkum, the walla shake, windows rattle, the house kinda sways from side to side.

Not that I mind, mind you, not that I mind. Making love is a natural part of life and I wouldn’t want to lay my morals on anyone. It’s just that… they’re all doin’ it.. an’ I’m not. I lie here, listening in the dark, listening to all the whimpers an’ the breathing an’ the clunk as the shoes bit the floor an’ the creak an’ the bump as the beds bit the wall an’ the sheets rustlin’… an’ the bursts of laughter.

Two people, laughing together, that’s the most beautiful sound of … all. People laughing with someone they love. But I think.. why can’t I have some too?

Never seen their faces, their front doors are in another street, so I don’t see ‘em. Don’t want to pry… so I listen.

Number One’s still asleep, he’ll be getting up soon, batchelor. Number Two’s got the tele on, late night movie, the Fours are on their one, two, three, four, fifth one. Friday night. An’ Number Three an’ her young man… yes, listen, hear that soft rustling sound? That’s her turning down the sheets., won’t be long now. An’ a laugh. Makes my day, her laugh.

It’s been quite a nice day today, Not a really good day, but then, not a bad day either. Somewhere in-between I went outside today. First time for a while, Cashed my invalid pension cheque and then I went to visit my friend at the Saint Vincent de Paul shop and asked him if he could look out for a nice warm bat for me. My head gets cold, now that it’s winter. Gets cold.

I’ve got this real, old, English type pram with spoked wheels an’ stuff. Found it. Anyway, I took this pram an’ borrowed an axe from next door and I went to the bottom of the street where the park starts and I filled it with bits of dead branches and lots of twigs. You see, I got this fireplace with a metal grille an’ everything, so I thought a fire in it might heat up the room and dry off the walls an’ ceiling a bit.

Anyway, I got the wood home an’ started to chop it up into nice little pieces to fit into the grille… I chopped about four pieces but then the pain can, so I had to stop. I went next door and put the axe in the shed an’ then I went to the bathroom and coughed up three or four spoonfuls of dark red blood and then lay on my mattress. While I was lying there I turned my head and looked really hard at the fireplace and then I noticed that the flap that you open to make the chimney work was welded shut. The fireplace is an ornament.

I went to the doctor today. Three years ago I went to the doctor when I was in Sydney an’ he told me I had tuberculosis. Bad tuberculosis. Now my doctor just smiles an’ gives me Codeine. He’s got a nice smile.

HE SMILES SOFTLY AS THE LIGHTS FADE SLOWLY TO BLACKOUT

*

MUZZLER

 

Yes, well good afternoon young lady, and what can I do for you this afternoon, my dear? Yes, it is cold, isn’t it, always the same this time of year, always cold. Touch of rain is there? Muslin? Yes, we’ve just got a new batch of muslin in, matter of fact, just got one in, just the kind you want. Now, how much will you be requiring, my dear? Of course you can buy a yard, there’s no such thing as ‘just’ in business, you know, a penny saved is a penny earned, my dear old mother used to say, god rest her soul, we’ll sell you a yard, we’ll sell you a foot, we’ll sell you six inches if you like, or if you prefer it in metres, just you say the word.

You don’t quite what? Understand what? Oh, my dear, that’s simple. Now, one yard is thirty six inches, right? Now, one metre is thirty nine inches, so this is fifty cents a yard therefore, it’s fifty five cents a metre, give or take a fraction.

I think that’s right, let me see, three into thirty six goes twelve, so fifty cents divided by twelve is.. twelve fours are forty eight, so it’s fifty.. fifty ones two, three, four cents a metre, fifty four said a half, now even it up to the closest figure and it’s fifty five cents a metre, fifty cents a yard. Old people, y’know, old people, they come in here, they don’t understand the new systems, seenile, that’s what they are, seenile, can’t keep up with changes…

I tell you, I sell ‘em, say, two metres of muslin an’ say; ‘That’s a dollar ten.’ and they turn round an’ say; ‘How much is that in old money?’ How much is that in old I ask you. Some of them, they just hold out handfuls of money said say; ‘Help yourself.’ Help yourself. Dear, dear, dear. ‘Ten bob.’ I say to them, ‘it’s ten shillings.’ ‘Oh,’ they say, ‘Oh, is it that much now?’

Seenile, that’s what they are, retired people, living alone, watching the tele, they can’t keep up. I’m sixty seven. Sixty seven, yes, I am, I know I don’t look it, but there you are, just the same, I am sixty seven last birthday and my mind’s all right, my mind’s not going…

Have your youth while you can, young missus, have your youth while you can. I‘m sixty seven years old and the years just fly past now, take my word for it, they do. Just fly past. When you’re fifteen, the years just take for ever to go past, but when you get to my age…

My old ma used to say, it’s the years after thirty that go the fastest, you turn thirty and the years just seem like months. I’m telling you, months, they just slip away. Take me for example, take me. My birthday’s in May, so, come the twelfth, it’s ‘Happy Birthday, Jimmie, good to see yer still going.’ A couple of rounds down the pub, an’ that’s that. Next thing I know, it’s August an’ time for me two weeks annual leave, that takes me into September and we’re preparing for the Christmas rush, then that starts, an’ it’s rush, rush, rush, right up until the Christmas an’ New Year break, the January sales, stock taking till Easter, then it’s ‘Happy Birthday, Jimmy, good to see yer still going strong,’ all over again…

I been at this job for forty nine years now, forty nine years, six days a week, nine till six, now with this new restrictive trading thing, dunno what it is, anyway, now I get me weekends off, Friday six p.m. till nine a.m. Monday, clear, two whole days. Everybody says the two days off’ll do me good…

‘It’ll be good for your health, Jimmie,’ they say, ‘you’ll be able to have a good holiday in the weekends, have a good holiday.’ I hate holidays.

But I digress. What I mean is, you’ve got to keep on working, youngies, you got to keep on working, all the time, never stop or your brain’ll rot away. They do. I’ve seen it happen, take it from me, look at these old people, come in here old money, indeed. They’re seenile, watching the tele all day, nothing to do, nothing to think about, minds not working.

If I had to stop this job tomorrow I dunno what I’d do, I’d.. I’d..  vegetate…

You mustn’t stop, what ever do, you stop, your brain’ll rot, take it from me. Keep your youth an’ keep on working, that’s my advice to you, keep your youth while you can. An’ what ever you do, don’t stop to think – don’t stop to think…

Well, there you go, all wrapped up with a nice little bow. A dollar’ll do, compliments of the house. Thank you, my dear, lovely having you, see you again..

An’ don’t you forget…

FURIOUSLY WAVING AND SMILING AS SHE LEAVES THE SHOP • HIS FACE FALLS SLOWLY AS THE LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT.