Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bye Bye Dick. (with Illustrations)

The Real Estate Agent has a name. His name is Dick.  He also has a Chinese girlfriend who he met her in a Karaoke bar. Her name is Ling.  Together they are Dick and Ling.

Alex Gross

Ling looks Chinese, speaks like Julia Gillard but sings like a beautiful bird. I hear her sing once a week when they rehearse in the lounge room before they go to Karaoke. The first time I heard her sing I told her that she sounded just like Cyndi Lauper’. And she did. But now she sounds like a whimpering dog. That Dick is destroying her. Death by a thousand notes. Peck peck peck. Any other outsider wouldn't even see the abuse. But I’ve been listening from behind my door and there’s more than one way to kill a voice. Jealousy masking as Critique is one of them. He picks at her gift as though it’s a scab and she dries up under his invasive tutelage. He of the tone deaf school of off key howling was telling the bird how to sing? It was quite ridiculous. But that’ll tell you something about how mediocrity rules (if you let it)

If you ask me I reckon she should Karaoke out of his life. But now she’s in her fifties she’ll probably stick in with him.

Alex Gross

Apparently there’s a man shortage in Adelaide. I was told this on the first day I arrived.
I suspect it’s a myth, like the Irish Potato famine. There seems to be plenty of men from where I’m standing. It’s not Melbourne so very few of them are shnogable. But I can’t afford a shnog until I’ve finished my book, so personally I’m not bothered. I’m more interested in talking to Bogan men who tell me hard truth without flinching. To me, right now, these men are Gold.

Stephen Shellen

 It was romance that ruined my last book 21st Century Showgirl. Before the man entered the scene my story was an adventure. He climbed on board and pulled out my fuse box. I don’t want to tell that story again. This one is an All Girls Adventure from beginning to end. Romance is a furphy.  Any man I'm attracted to inevitably turns out to be some type of Handler. But for most other people the only dream left in town is the dream of Romance and the idea of Man Famine has the women putting up with Green Potato Men. One sized fits all mediocrities like Dick. They seem to rule here. Between judgment and fear Mediocrity reigns and kills everything that dares to rise above it. And single women over forty with no children must be put back in their place. Everybody knows that. Even the real estate agent with two peanuts for brains and a talent only for the art of snatch and grab.

He tried to grab my snatch the night the girlfriend wasn't there. He fed me liquor and then came around the table to rub my shoulders when he thought I was drunk enough to be enamored. Then he asked me into his skanky bed for movie and a massage.

I was flabbergasted that he thought he had a hope in hell of getting me naked. He was a sort of low level Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman. At least Willy had some integrity but Dick was the type who would sell you a tyre KNOWING it had a fat hole on the inside that you wouldn't find out about until it had blown on the middle of the highway. In this way Dick was a dangerous dude. Even though he looked as benign as a tele-tubby. 

Alex Gross

The economy was down and being a freelancer Dick was feeling it. He’d lost his retainer at the Real Estate and now was on pure commission for house sales. And since no one was buying houses he got himself a part time job selling Foxtel to couples who used their baby bonus to buy plasma tvs.

‘A plasma without foxtel is like a pram without a baby’ he’d tell them. But people were having trouble trying to feed their real life screaming offspring. So every day he’d come back from his run a little hungrier and crankier and needing to shake his dick at something that would bite. Unfortunately that something just happened to be me.

Stephen Shellen

To Dick I was single (see crazy or slut) over forty and a foreigner. (see vulnerable, no back up) Easy to nab and corner. ‘Good Luck with that Dick!’. It’s a shame that your name isn’t Shlong! I’m willing to wear a little of the crazy or slut given the right inspiration but men like Dick inspire neither love or eros. They’re only power is their sense of masculine entitlement that allows him to make all sorts of assumptions. They assume that we’re as desperate as they are. They assume they’ll get lucky and we will be grateful. And they assume we are all treacherous, desperate bitches who don’t care that they have girlfriends.) And they must hit jackpot enough times to make all those assumptions worth going for.

 ‘I’m the Captain of this ship’, he’d say. As if he was steering the love boat and not the plastic titanic around his cracked bath tub.

In retrospect I did look like a bit of a sucker. I’d already made one Video clip for him for nothing. And just like he did with his girlfriend, he’d decided my clip wasn't good enough. He picked the faults with it and pulled apart my eight hours of solid labor. I’d have to make him a second clip to prove my worth. 

I knew that old trick. 

Stephen Shellen

So I quietly took his video off the table but then he gave me his manuscript to edit. It sat on my desk practically breathing with bacteria. I certainly didn't want to open it. It was full of all his junkie tales, his wayward youth, his ex wife, I didn't want to know his dirty secrets. I didn't want to know how that Neanderthal brain actually ticked. It might scare me. And I had to live under his roof. It was better to be ignorant. If you don’t have any information then you’re not worth torturing. I left his manuscript on the edge of my desk praying it would disappear. And God is good because after I declined the massage he asked for it back. It felt like a great relief to hand it over. He wanted to be a creative but at heart he was just a Real Estate Agent. He looked at me purely as supply. Like an in-house petrol station that he could tap when he was out of gas.  So I was pleased that his grasping lack of restraint had brought things to a head. I was free to get on with my life and onto my feet.

Alex Gross

I’m slow with manipulators. I have what you might call a blind spot. It can be a problem. But when the penny drops it drops like a lottery. And his hands on my shoulders were a pokie payout that sobered me straight to my room. The next night I caught him in the corridor inviting Hellique to his room for a tarot card reading. He’d only had that pack of cards for about a week. He bought them after I offered to make a video of Ling reading the tarot. Apparently she was very good at it and I wanted to help her grow her business. The Digital Diva. I pitched it to him thinking he'd also want to help her but just like with his singing he took no pride in his girlfriend’s gifts. Whatever she’d nurtured he wanted to own for himself.  So in response to my pitch he bought his own tarot pack and despite the fact he’d barely read the pamphlet that came with them was now using them to seduce Hellique into his bed. I walked past them in the corridor while he was tempting her with the box and then I spied on them both from the kitchen. 

 She told him that she couldn't have a reading because she was Catholic. And there was a curse in her family handed down from a tarot card reader through three generations. If she had a reading she’d set off the family curse again. And she really couldn't live with the pain of that as one day she'd like to have a child’ She said all this in a lovely soft voice. I had to hand it to her. It was quite a skilled deflection. He was dizzy on the smell of her. He couldn't care less what she said as long as she was speaking and he could look at her breasts at the same time. From my estimation she'd better hurry up with that child as she was getting on to forty but he was holding onto the door frame because he was so cramped up in the slacks.  It was something to witness.

If a picture paints a thousand words Hellique was the ultimate author. Her mouth was made for watching which was perfect for Adelaide because nobody was listening. If Enrico Morricone couldn't get this town's attention what hope was there for me. I was casting my pearls to the swine here. All I gave Dick was bad dreams from a guilty conscience. Whatever promise he saw in me he had already spent. He was scared to death that I’d tell his girlfriend of his advances and he knew in one glance of my Betty Davis does Mommy Dearest eyes that if he tried laying another finger on me I would spit on his knuckles. And for that he paid me back by making me walk about his creaky house on egg shells. I couldn't make a move without it bothering him. It was the old ‘what you can’t fuck you will kill’ routine. Murder by nagging to death. I walked too loud. I didn't fill the kettle up with water after I’d used it. I picked up a spoon. I left a mark on the bench. You’d think the house was a newly renovated castle and and not a run down dump with Salvo Furnishings. He’d run around after me handing out infringement notices like some whacky Police man.

 ‘Don’t slam the Door’.

 I never slammed the door. It was always Hellique.

The day she moved in she made a joke about my name as she dangled her crucifix bosom at him and I hated her instantly. I told Dick I hated her but he let her move in anyway. She reckons she works for the Premiers Department but that must be the name of a Gentleman's Club because nothing about her made sense. None of her story hung together.  Maybe in El Salvador she could pass as a Presidential Model but in Adelaide she just looked like a colourful call girl with all her bits and bobs and bows that were popping out of every crevice and curve. I'd never seen anything like her actually. I couldn't quite place her. It was all over done and sort of old fashioned. Her skin was flawless but her dingle dangle trinkets were dollar shop Dallas and that could have been charming but it wasn't. Even her perfume was too obvious. She certainly didn't look like an Accountant unless 'leave your money on the table counted.  Only the most dog stupid man could possibly be impressed by her so I didn't believe she worked for the Premiere's Department and the UN. I mean who has a part time job at the UN in Adelaide?  What sort of tripped out weird world does that happen in ? She hadn't been to university. She hadn't even been to make up school.  And there is no way she'd be wearing that 'get up' if she'd been here since she was 16.  Even I was too 'over the top' for Adelaide and she dressed like an exotic El Salvadorian hen with too many feathers. She was always saying no no no no but the rest of her played as hard to get as a 7-11. With her soft El Salvadorian voice and Jesus guarding her bosom the world was her oyster. Nothing has to make sense once the blood has all gone to the head. Dick thought she was dreamy.  The narrative she’d created for herself was empty but seamless. Nothing she said was was true but neither could it offend. She lied with a perfect fluidity and knew exactly when to shut up and walk away.

Johnny Hammer

Unlike me who could not let go of any bone until I had sucked out its marrow and sharpened my teeth with it. I talked too much. Adelaide had already told me this. In fact the whole of Australia had been telling me to shut up ever since I had arrived back home. Words were my weapon and my mouth was a pistol. It was honestly all I had left. I was endlessly being disarmed on every other level. They could take everything from me. My camera, my computer, my ability to make a creative living, my mobility, they could strip me to the bone. But they couldn't shut my mouth. The words I owned.

But those too were being stolen. My life had turned into a closing down sale. It didn't matter how hard I ran I just found myself losing ground.  The night that I got my media pass to the Adelaide Festival I took Hellique to a One Man Show called Five steps to being German.' Which wasn't very funny but he put a lot of energy in to his shtick and I know what that takes. After the show I'd arranged to interview the Comic. I was two questions in when Helllique bosomed in on the interview and made a joke about Germans not having a sense of humour. Which offended him greatly. So she said it again. In fact she said it three times like a not very funny dumb bitch. . Which totally ruined the vibe and killed my interview. You'd think she'd have learned some diplomacy working as an accountant in the Premiers Department?  I don’t know what it is about me that has become such a magnet for sabateurs but it seemed to me that no good deed ever goes unpunished. This leave home with a hen and come home with no eggs routine was getting very boring but it had been going on for so long it had become my reality. 

Stephen Shellen

I don't know what planet Hellique had arrived from. I just couldn't frame her.  The heatwave had melted her make up and it was leaking around her eyes and mouth. She looked like a wax work in the sun and I felt like someone left my cake out in the rain.  So we found a pub because I needed a drink and somewhere to vent my anger and so once we'd sat down with our glass of white wine I started talking politics because that felt safe. But Hellique clammed up instantly, became very hot and bothered and said that she couldn't talk about politics because she worked for the Premiers Department. And then she closed her legs and grasped her crucifix as if I'd just asked to gay marry her.  That trick might work with the Real Estate Agent but it didn’t work with my poor white sorry eggless arse. I was not going to be censored by an El Salvadorian in my own fucking country.

Alex Gross

 “What do you mean you work for the Premiers Department and you can’t talk about Politics’.  This is Australia honey. We like to pretend to be a democracy! And the last thing we need are well behaved immigrants keeping the Nazis feeling comfy. You’re from El Salvador! Shake it up baby!!. Sure you can talk about politics. I talk about politics all day on facebook. With ASIO and the Federal Police all watching apparently. It’s a strip show for the boys in blue. I’m probably on a list! You only need five hundred friends to draw attention and I have 2663, most of whom I've never met because I'm used to having an audience and I like to talk. I like to talk about any damn thing that I want to!  Do you tell a baker not to bake? That's what I do!'

As soon as somebody tries to silence me I can’t shut up. I’ve always been like this even before I could blame PTSD for my big fat mouth. You're dead a long time and you don’t get to speak from the other side. Well maybe you do but nobody’s listening. We don’t have faith in an after life in Australia. We don't believe in God. We believe in China and once you’re dead you’re deady dead dead.. Done like a dogs dinner! And if the system’s going to slowly kill me then I’m going to die yelling and screaming. I’m not going silently like the rest of the lemmings.

Stephen Shellen

So I talked politics. I talked about Julia. Her policies, her style and why everyone hated her. Then I talked about Rudd and I talked about mining and I talked about all the liquidations that have been going down and what they’re doing to single mothers and 'How can people watch our poorest women unable to feed their children and have the gall to call Julia a FEMINIST. What does Feminist MEAN?' And the more I kept talking the more and more and more uncomfortable and sweaty she got. I think I just kept talking so I could melt her like the wax work that she was. And being a highly instinctive whore she knew exactly what I was doing. And the more I talked the more she hated me. It was sort of mutual.

I hate liars.

They waste my fucking time. They have me turning my brain inside out trying to work out what’s really going on when the truth is actually very very simple. But the worst thing about Liars is that they are always shutting down the conversation. Because they’re terrified a bit of truth might get hold and then they’re fucked. So they are always the first to try to modify your speech. To tell you what’s appropriate and inappropriate to speak about. And to shut down any wayward opinions that might expose them. The drink didn't help much and I couldn't afford another so we went for a wander through the Garden of Unearthly Delights past the Idolize tent and the market stalls and dodgem cars to the Haunted House at the end of the line. 

And as we stood there at the at that point of no return staring at the jagged purple neon light she said ‘I don’t believe in Spirits or Ghosts or life after death. I believe in the here and now, that’s all’ And I looked at her face and for the first time since I’d met her I knew that she’d told me the truth and I liked her. 

Truth is Amazing. 

I actually liked her. I could have cancelled out her other lies on that truth alone. We could have re set the tables and re-booted the conversation. One hail mary and two our fathers and all is forgiven. I'm Catholic too. I know the contract. I didn't have to agree with her.   But that was the moment that she hated me because in giving her my truth I had inadvertently disarmed her and against her better judgement she'd dropped her guard. If she didn't believe in the afterlife then what was Jesus doing around her neck. What's with the shtick about three generations of curses? She knew what she'd done and she knew she now had to get rid of me.  So the next night I came home and I was locked out. 

Stephen Shellen

She'd got into Dick's ear and he'd locked the screen that I didn't have a key for. So when I returned home at midnight I couldn't get in.  I mildly freaked out by knocking the door down.  I wondered if my stuff had been stolen or rifled through when I was gone? That had happened before what's to say it won't  happen again.  There's a fine line between truth and PTSD and I had lost that line a long time before...

Stephen Shellen

 But it's not like I didn't know something was cooking because that afternoon I'd returned with my shopping to a primitive alarm taped to the front door. Dick had set it up to go off when somebody entered but the packing tape ripped off as I opened the door so it was like a joke or a silly trick.  It hung off the door handle like the dog end of a lucky dip.  He had set it up to give me a scare and I can’t say it scared me but it did give me the creeps.

One should never underestimate the intention of a cheap skate. Just because their execution may be a little dodgy doesn't mean that they don’t have more effective tricks in mind. Laugh at your own peril. This is South Australia. You can see how people ended up in barrels for their Dole Cheques.


‘Hello Hellique.’

‘Hello Dick’

I can hear him smile as he asks her how her day is?

I can hear her lie as she tells him she’s going in to her part time job at the United Nations.

clip clop clip clop.

Then he’ll knock on my door and growl ‘Get your clothes out of the Washing Machine’.

‘They’re not my clothes’, I growl back through the small crack that I open, ‘They’re Helliques’. And then I close my door gently. Stifling the urge to scream ‘Fuck Off! You disgraceful ol Prick! ‘

I am always biting my tongue these days. My tongue has permanent teeth marks etched across the middle of it.  I had to put up with his tone deaf karaoke nights and weekly Mormon visits and Ling a ding ding here six nights per week.  Hellique made it feel like a harem. I kept to my room but he was making it harder and harder for me to concentrate. I needed to focus now I'd got my media pass for the Adelaide Fringe. I kept having my foundations pulled. If I could get some stories out of this then I might be up and back on my horse again. 

clip clop clip clop. 

'Bye Hellique'.

'And when you've hung out your washing Wednesday we need to talk'

'I want you out by next week'.


'Bye Bye Dick' 

Alex Gross

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