Joshy died with my felafel in his hand. We found him on a bean bag floating in the pool out the back of the Lodge, half of my felafel halfway down his throat. Joshy snuck out there to scoff it down cos he’s shifty like that. We really took this guy in desperation cos of lockdown. He wasn’t A-list, didn’t have a microwave or anything like that, and now both he and my felafel roll were cold. Our first dead treasurer. At least we got some money off him. Not like all those loser universities, eh?
We had no idea he was such a felafel stealing flog, though, otherwise we would never have given him the room, lockdown or not. You let one of these Victorians into the house and you may as well let them all in. Seriously, they’re all nuts now cos of Dan. We had another sticky-fingered flog in our Covid Lodge bubble once. Angus. He was okay, but when he moved out we did find out there was like $80 million worth of taxpayers' foldables gone, and all these receipts for dodgy water licences in his room. Pretty sure he was the bloke who poisoned about thirty hectares of critically endangered grassland in the backyard too. Fantastic. Great move. Well done Angus.
Joshy, on the other hand, ran a multibillion dollar credit scam out of the cubby house I built for the kids. Probably thought it was safe to do it out there cos I never really finished building it after the photo op.
We had no idea until couple of debt collectors from the Audit Office came around looking for all the dollarydoos that somehow ended up down the back of the couch at Gerry Harvey’s share house. Billionaires eh? What scamps.
Gotta admit, we weren’t very helpful, because receipts had been turning up from these billionaires for months. We’re like, “We don’t know who these billionaires are, just some mystery guys racking up thousands of dollars in political donations and sending the receipts to our place.”
We sat the Audit Office hard boys down in the living room with a cup of tea and said, “Nice little specialist public sector agency you got there, fellas. Be a pity if anything happened to its funding.”
But Angus was okay. He used to steal food for the house from the Parliamentary dining room. (If you’re reading this, Angus, we really appreciated the food.)
There were like four or five of us isolating in the Lodge at that stage. The house was typical Canberra, this huge, dark, damp pile with yellowed ceilings, green carpet with cigarette burns and brown, torn-up furniture. That was mostly Bonerby’s fault. He was always getting kicked out of his old lady’s place and crashing on our big brown couch.
We’d sit around on a Tuesday night waiting for Angus with our stolen dinner and for the Boner to roll in with a carton or three. Sure, they probably shouldn’t have been out during lockdown but we classified them as essential workers, cos it was pretty bloody essential we got that beer and all the stolen pies, right?
Bonerby usually fell through the door just before the Footy Show came on, and there was this nice warm feeling in the Lodge as we all sat in front of the teev scarfing down the free stuff. Well, free to us. Very expensive to you, amirite?
On a good night, when someone’s ministerial travel allowance had come through, we’d have a couple of longnecks to share round. And on a great night when someone, Stewie usually, had scored a honking big gold Rolex or something, we’d pull out the buckets and get completely baked. On those nights, even though we secretly all hated each other like an evangelical grifter hates a visit from the sex cops about concealing historical instances of child abuse, there was a nice warm feeling that had nothing to do with the so-called warming of the planet. It wrapped you up like your old Sharkies’ jumper, kept you safe. On those nights, you could delude yourself that lockdown bubble life, which is all about deprivation and necessity, was really about something else. Just a bunch of likely lads having a go and getting a go.
But it never lasts. Never holds together. Somebody always moves on, or loses their seat, or dies with my felafel in his hand and It’s On again.
Almost forgot the dead guy’s name. It got away from me for a minute there, but I knew it started with a ‘J’. There was a Public Bar stamp on his wrist. The felafel’s chilli and yoghurt sauce had leaked from the roll and run down his hand in little white rivulets. For a brief, perverse moment it seemed to me that he himself had sprung a leak, like a delicate stream of little white lies about Brittany Higgins’ boyfriend escaping from the PMO.
I’ve seen a lot of lives pass through the bleary kind of sleep-deprived landscape of our little share house Lodge, but Joshy’s was the only one that ever fetched up and died on an inflatable bean bag. The others all moved along on their own weird trajectories. They were never still. Everybody was in constant motion or wanting to be – moving targets, random grifters and those lazy, selfish, deeply dishonest motherfucking chancers whose fortunes rested on nothing more stable than the fifty percent of voters down the mouth-breating end of the bell curve.
Some of them, mostly former Defence Ministers, now work for gigantic weapons corporations. A lot of them got these incredible lives. Jet travel. Gold cards. Respect, even fear, from those top-hatted guys who stand in front of the sort of swish hotels we never really got down in the Shire.
But if they were in my lockdown bubble, I’ve seen them bludging crumbs from the tables of coal barons. Or sitting on the empty lounge room floor in home-brand underwear and Hi-Viz vests with all the curtains closed and their faces blacked out by shoe polish… Not doing much. Just sitting there.
Sooty Canavan. Strange guy.
Or strange like Bonerby smashing five hundred empty beer bottles into a million jagged pieces on the kitchen floor while greying mincemeat patties slowly peeled away from the ceiling where he’d thrown them while yelling about how unfair it all was.
Or maybe they just sat in front of a screen for two days straight, with giant frilled lizards clinging to their shoulders, a giant bowl of mushrooms in their lap, their weeping bloodshot eyes the shape of little rectangles as they typed the same words into their own Facebook page over and over again.
“Fantastic. Great move. Well done Angus.”
A note from JB.
Everything’s a bit crap at the moment, innit. If the end of the world is getting you down, and you’d like a distraction, I dropped the price on my own end of the world novel, ZERO DAY CODE, to a lousy US dollar over at the Beast of Bezos.
I’ll jack it back up again next week, but if you’re looking for a cheap read this weekend, go for it. Or free, if you got Kindle Unlimited.
It’s much more fun than our actual shitty apocalypse.