Tales from Sunny Brunnie

© 2011 Jeff Lynch

The Princess Real Estate Shark, and the Shy Frog

I suppose that it would be true to say that Bernard Lynch was born shy. In any case however it may have started, he was shy. Bernard was most certainly a very shy young man when we first meet him in this little tale. Not that he is all that young mind you. It’s all relevant ain’t that the truth then? You could tell that Bernard was very shy by the way that he looked at people. And you could also say that you would tell me that he was very shy by the way that people looked at him.

He seldom looked people in the eye and was almost never known to say no. No is a much harder word to say than yes my friend. This tale will be mostly about a man. Of course it will also be about a woman too as you have already discerned by the title. But of course that is just getting ahead of ourselves here just a bit. And besides, the woman in question was not at all shy thank goodness for the purposes of this tale.

Now Bernard could never ever have told you why he was so desperately shy, even if he had been game enough to discuss the matter with you. Which is almost totally unlikely to have happened at all hein? So it’s probably just as well that someone like me is around at all to handball the tale to you eh? Bernard once had a useful and a most enjoyable job as cleaner in a government primary school. Bernard’s job had been ruthlessly swept away when a treacherous type of contract had been won by Kleen Zweep Co, in a moment of short sighted but effective out sourcing.

The minister responsible for this heavy blow had been lauded by all the right wing papers in town for his brilliant cost cutting to the public purse. From now on, the Brunswick West Primary School lost both of the best school cleaners that the school had seen in fourty five years. Old man Lennon who was the head cleaner and  Bernard were promptly thrown out of work, the school was never again cleaned half as well as it had by the dutiful pair and the kids in the school lost two wonderful friends. Especially in the case of our own man Bernard Lynch.

You will find that most school cleaners are either naturally bossy or they soon learn to be that way. In many ways, that comes from protecting ‘their property’ and the like. But of course you already know that Bernard could never turn out to be that way come hell or high water. Not a bit of it. He was not only shy, but he was nearly as nice a person as you could on a month of Sundays. And so the teachers and the students of the school did what was only the natural thing, and treated Bernard with honest and open affection. And this made Bernard happy and most wanted as a rule. He was always inclined to be a conscientious worker but the relationship that he had with the students made him try all the harder to be a good cleaner. He strived to do all of those most vaunted, but so seldom achieved one- percenters we so often hear of in some team sports. He cared for both the building and it’s inhabitants and he was after all quite a sensitive young man. It might be added here too, that Bernard was quite fond of reading and that tended to give him another outlet in life. Sad to relate then, that when Bernard was given the sack from the state School job he missed his work really badly. He grieved for it and was prone to walk around Brunswick a lot.
One day while he was aimlessly walking around the streets of West Brunswick on a moody late Saturday morning. Oh and the hour may have been about eleven am, Bernard almost literally bumped into a rather sharp looking fellow dressed in a natty suit and tie. This young man was a member of the Real estate fraternity who was standing outside a unit for inspection in Passfield Street.  Not that Bernard understood that for one moment. Don’t get me wrong for Bernard had a ‘normal enough’ IQ and he would not have disgraced himself with a paper and pen except for the awful affliction that we understand as being shy. You are not just a bit shy when you are as shy as Bernard was. Oh no for you are shy all over both inside. I mean the inside and the outside of your en body. Your face might flush a ruddy red colour, but you are just as affected on the inside of your body. It affects your brain cells and your heart in particular.

The thing was that an ‘open house’ or what we might term a property inspection was being conducted at unit 2 number 43 Passfield Street right at that moment. Passfield Street in West Brunswick I mean to say. This was exactly the street where Bernard was walking that not so fine morning. I mean to say, that the weather was passably fine, but Bernard was a little down this particular day. The truth is quite simple for as usual, Bernard would have preferred to be going to work rather than having precious little to do on this day. Now, it has often been said that nature abhors a vacuum. Well it might just be easy enough to say that, but there sure is a lot of that stuff about in our universe isn’t there?

What I am trying to get at is that somewhere about this very time, a sharply dressed young man somehow managed to channel and usher the shy man in question into the showpiece unit that morning. And before Bernard you could say Carlton loses another footy game, he had been efficiently ushered into a rather indifferent flat for sale. And before Bernard could gather his sensible but shy wits, he was swept into the living room with what appeared to be affectionate smiles and welcomes. The dark haired woman standing there asked him most politely for his name and so he meekly provided it with some little difficulty. He would have no more admitted that he was not one bit interested in purchasing the unit than he would have ridden a horse in next year’s Melbourne cup race. 

The girl with the raven and blue hair tied back with blue ribbon spoke again. ‘Good morning sir; and please take your time to make sure that you take in the northerly aspect of this large living room.’ The young woman made a sweeping movement with her right hand as she spoke these words. And her smile was simply stunning. Mmm thought Bernard, as he began to take in the situation, I’ve entered into a sale’s pitch zone that’s for sure. Indeed he had, but he found that it was not all an unpleasant experience either. When you are as shy as Bernard was you lose the ability to young woman smiling most dazzlingly at him. And he didn’t mind that one little bit. 
Bernard was good looking man. His mother thought him to be very handsome, and the general opinion on those rare moments when they came up, all ran in that same direction. He did manage to smile at the young woman when she stepped back to allow him to enter the bedroom. The young woman was then poised at the edge of the bedroom standing by the lintel as she spoke to Bernard. She was dressed in one of those ‘civilian uniforms’ with the Barry Plant logo knitted over the top of her breast.

He noticed that she was wearing a diamond ring. Was that an engagement ring then? But Bernard could not remember which finger or which hand was the signifier. ‘Are you looking for a one a two bedroom unit mostly?’ And it it for you and your wife sir?‘ Sir busied himself taking his time about this, for as you have observed, it was a direct question. Direct questions often threw Bernard completely and he was formulating his answer to himself. ‘Oh I want two, and err I’m not married no.’ He half got out this quietly but stumbled a little over the married part. But at least he was looking more or less straight at her.

But he wasn’t even one half as confident as he sounded. ‘Oh that’s good sir; well you see this one is a two bedroom but I prefer this bed …. err I mean this bedroom to the other one.’ You could tell that she had recognized her little gaffe by the way that she positioned both her hands in front of her lithe body. Bernard said nothing more. But if nobody was seeing it just at that very moment, I can safely tell you that Dale Evans was smiling just a little too much right then. He was idly walking about and in fact he was thinking of patting the bed but he didn’t. He then had a few thoughts which needn’t much interest us here.

The tour ended with two pamphlets being thrust into Bernard’s hand. The young woman turned to him once more with a disarming if slightly insincere smile. ‘We have another one in Whitby Street sir, a two bedroom one I mean.’ Bernard was nodding as he was backing away from he now. Once again the young woman was highly impressed. Wow, he sure has some self control, she bethought to herself. And he’s pretty good looking as well. She shifted the ring with the small diamond around for a turn or two quite idly. It did not occur to her either, that she was showing was a rather inappropriate peep of a black lace bra seen at the top of her apparel. This was all simply a part of an old habit of hers I guess. And she was never really conscious of it at any time. Well that is I mean to say except for those moments of preparation when a woman is always conscious of just what her appearance may do a man.

Then she locked up the unit while chatting to her fellow worker and went on to the next unit for sale. Dale Evans she had been engaged for three months once upon a time. Well you understand that all of that was then, and this was very much now. Her fiancé whose name was Jarrard had turned out to be either a mouse or a rat depending on her many moods. He was most assuredly a rat when Dale had sprung Jarrard with his hand up her best friend Carrol’s dress and a little too close to central areas. Jarrard had been picked up by Dale only three months ago and in truth he was already regretting the little matter of giving Dale the small diamond.  She also reckoned that Jarrard had probably been a lot further embedded than just his hand under Carol’s dress too.

In truth Dale’s best friend was not such as could rightly be called ‘best friend’. Dale did never have anything approaching a ‘best friend.’ It had been this way for a long time too. Carrol had been moaning loudly as Jarrard fumbled at her hard as she was pressed up against the wardrobe. It  was quite obvious that Carol was pretty turned on about the whole thing as she pulled Jarrard in to her and Jarrard had not really put up such a grand defence about the whole matter either. ‘She wanted it was his unsurprising defence.’ This was all a kind of ‘Days of our Lives’ and most surely a serial event to Dale now and she was rapidly approaching the philosophy of a kind of young nihilist. She had no immediate and past life which she cared about one little bit and it often showed too.
On top of that, she was not at sure what she should do about it either. By the time she had rather casually scored the real estate job she had begun to think that maybe life was not so much of a bloody joke at all. She was in shared digs in a crummy and lowdown flat in East Brunswick and she hated her two flat mates with a spiky vengeance.

Nobody called her. Not even her Mum or her Step Dad or even her sister Beatrice and she was even without a man for once. Mind you, Dale very rarely communicative with her stepfather at the best of times and things certainly had not got any better by now. As a teenager Dale had been the bane of her parent’s ordinary and everyday life. She tortured her younger sister Beatrice and had no real or trusted friends among the girls in her class. She also refused to learn anything that didn’t come out of ‘Woman’s Day. The young woman would be said to possess stunning good looks if she had not been so surly. For Dale was both an attention seeker, and a cock teaser among her peers. In short she was a promiscuous woman when she was a teenager. What is sometimes a fine trait in more sensible women was to prove not so pretty in Dale’s case. In truth, she had a lot of difficulty in keeping her panties on herself. So in the end, she did gain that which she wanted. That was simply some more attention please, and then more again.

When Dale was in the fifth form at High School, she seduced ‘the nicest boy in the school’ whose name was Ted Rawlings. Ted wasn’t all that bright but he was a good looker. She kinda did this thing merely because of a dare with a friend. Susy Roberts had challenged Dale to tackle young Ted. Miss Roberts had provoked her bosom pal at Shep High during a perfect and boringly wet lunchtime. ‘Ah I bet that you won’t be game I know. I bet ya can’t get Ted Rawlings into the cot then inside a week.’ He was the boy head prefect and a top guy. She swiftly led Ted on to disgrace and then abandoned him just before the end of year examinations in early December. Ted attempted to top himself with a dose of ‘Ratso Brand’ rat poison and fortunately for him, he was discovered early on in the piece unconscious on the floor by his father. He survived the episode

He was saved by prompt attention by stomach pumping at the hospital. The incident certainly weakened Ted’s heart in more ways than one. But Ted was not truly ever saved for some years to come. It meant missing many more months of schooling for him. It took the ex-head boy two years of hard concentration and application, to make the necessary grades in the sixth form exams to get to where he truly belonged and that was to Melbourne University. Sheparton in Victoria happens to be quite a flat kind of town. Not many hills I mean, but Dale lived in a low lying area not far from the river. It was about this time that some precious high school wit coined the term downhill and up Dale about the young woman. As is usual in these cases, the young woman came off worse than the young man. Maybe for

Dale quit Shep High School just before ‘Mike’ Hunt the principal could expel her after the wrap up of her Rawlings affair. It wasn’t the actual news of the affair that got up the principal’s nose It was the publication of certain images do with her and Ted that were not quite salubrious on the internet that did it. The images naturally caused quite a storm about the place. Many parents complained to him and the local rag had caught on to it. Ted had known sweet fanny Adams about these images. True as God he did not. Again the girls had cruelly set him up. And then after a stormy five months fighting her parents and wrestling various boys in Shepparton town both insides and behind pubs and parks, Dale quit the town for good and headed for the big smoke.

She had only scored her current real estate job because of her looks and she could not have given a rat’s arse about the job per se. She had lied to get the job and the boss knew it. He was watching her most carefully indeed. He was going to comment to her about the lace bra that she wore this morning later on when they were alone in fact. If truth be told it was not the first time that she had been disappointed by a man whom she believed she cared for. But the underlying truth of that subject was that Dale had not yet suspected that it was her own hard heart was the real cause that drew such worthless young fellows like Jarrard to her side.

In fact she didn’t really know or even care what drove her miserable soul one little bit. Just possibly Dale was the flame and all these young men were all mere moths. She thought like that a bit really. It put her centre stage and that was good. Some young women are just unlucky anyways. Dale was also currently thinking of selling the small diamond engagement ring in her kick. Sometimes she put in on her finger, and sometimes she took it off for the betterment of possible action. But young men had stayed away in droves from her shared door at her shared apartment for many a day now.

Bernard finished the rest of his tour of the unit without further word and then he went to make his way out again. The young woman smiled her shapely lips at him and then promptly handed him a business card. Now Bernard was not at all used to this behaviour, and for a moment he was at a loss as to what he should do. But in the end he merely smiled back at the young lady and walked out into the cares of his day. He looked down at the card which had both the name of the real estate agent and the name of the young woman printed there. Dale Evans Sales Assistant, the card read. Bernard carefully put the card in his pocket and continued his trip to the newsagents to get his Mum the Sun Herald newspaper. He also thought about the books that he intended to return to the Brunswick library in Dawson street.

The following Saturday morning, Bernard had done his homework and had bothered to look up the page and the column in ‘The Sun Herald’, where agents  publicize the units and houses open for inspection that day. He picked out two units which did not require him to walk too far and having said cheerio to his Mum he set out. He discovered that he was feeling a little more bouncy while he walked this day. And the sun was shining and he had a purpose. He soon found number 18 Melrose Place, and it was all just too easy to spot the apartment for inspection. Once again there as a chap there, who was dressed in a spotless shirt with nice buttons on it. The shirt was about halfway between being expensive and cheap but it leant a little towards the dearer end. But at a guess it had almost certainly been dry cleaned.

The man also wore a dark tie. He was holding some pamphlets in his left hand and was leaning towards Bernard even before our hero had come up level with him. ‘Hello sir not so bad a day for the race is it?’ Bernard was not so very good at puns or double entendre but he did pick this one up quite smartly. He did what he was bid and walked right in. He felt rather good as he strolled around and even allowed himself a couple of neat touches such as opening a cupboard door and inspecting the inside of the cupboard. The young man in the dry cleaned shirt was busy with a young couple who had a baby in tow and did not deal with him overly.

The second unit was a much better set up place all round. For starters Bernard was greeted by the ex Shepparton lass again. Gone was the tiny peep of her black lace bra now, but her grin was still in place. She was almost exactly eighteen when she had applied for the real estate job. Her determined smile was still firmly held in place as if by the few years of grim practice. She was also wearing a brand new top that she had picked up at the European Seconds shop in Sydney road. Yes this was a kinda second hand shop, but she had already learnt that most of the clothes were both stylish and new. Perhaps it was because she was in grave danger already of being older beyond her eighteen years tat she smiled so much at strangers.. Her boss was steadfastly supervising young Dale this day. He also remembered seeing Bernard before. This will not surprise any member of the real estate fraternity, who readily recognize that they repeatedly meet the same old punters until their rather sweaty search is over.

‘Ah good morning Bernard,’ said the good looking girl from Shep, as she ushered him inside another unit. This was the one in Whitby Street and in truth, this time he had sought this part one out. Something else had changed too, for there was an older man in there with her.

It was Dale’s boss he was looking at, and as I said previously he was on a continuing mission to check up on this attractive and most recent recruit. He had at least on a temporary basis, forgiven the new recruit for her lies about gaining her fifth form certificate and her refined character, but he already reckoned that he knew enough to follow her up closely from time to time. He had also astutely picked up the fact that she was flat and dead broke. He deduced this fact when he realized that Dale did not possess a mobile phone. It was a therefore almost axiomatically so that she had little cash or prospects. She could be a good investment was his final decision. So she got the job on the spot. And he promptly gave her a cell phone and he also added seventy dollars as an advance on her wages. ‘Get a fine new top and wear it girl.’ Is what he had told her.

He did fancy himself as an astute judge of character and thus he often backed his own judgment when hiring a recruit. Perhaps speaking of time, he may just have been biding his own time as well. For after all, a person may be your employee but if they are a rather attractive young woman, they still remain exactly that. All real estate agents know that there are only two areas of seduction in real estate. The first is seduction to buy and the d second is the seduction to sell. No other forms are to be properly entertained at all. Well, strictly speaking, not in business hours at least. But of course the boss is always the boss. Boom, boom as you readily know that they all say at these times.

No woman , not even his Mum had done this for some ten years or so  He was most assuredly short of cuddles. He was now twenty seven, and had no sexual experience outside one single and abortive attempt at St Kilda in a tiny hotel room. Then it was mostly an attempt by the woman and not him. She had definitely aroused Bernard when she got him onto the rough single bed in the tatty room just of Acland Street. His member had most certainly risen to the occasion alright, but the whole thing had not come off so to speak. And she had been a prostitute at that too and the poor man had not suspected that until after she had left. She had told Bernard that her name was Evangline but her name was Gracy Metallious, and she hailed from East Benteigh. In the end, he had for the life of him been almost totally puzzled at first just why she had taken sixty dollars from him as she was leaving him. But when he thought more carefully about it later, the penny slowly but properly dropped. It wasn’t at all that he was not bright. No, it was more or less a lack of experience in life’s trickier matters. And it was mainly through his inability to contact people that meant he would often misjudge a given situation that he missed out on what is sometimes looked on as the side benefits of the mating game.

An example of this was occurring to Bernard right at this very moment with Dale. To some degree, he was nonplussed to why she this attractive young woman might be so nice to him. Now once again, after his first experience of walking into the first flat he had always known what was going on. These units were for sale. He had worked that out quickly enough but it was almost as if the same experience in that lousy room near Acland Street was replaying. Women were not normally all that very nice to him, because he understood only too well that he was not good with them. He meant that he was unable to bring himself to be nice to them as much and as and as desperately as he might want to. In theory he understood the problem through and through, but there seemed no way that he could ever bring himself up to the level of courage to act in those ways that he knew that other boys and men that he knew all took for granted.

Touching a girl for instance, and as for kissing one, that would be akin to a fire on the moon. Full sex was not even to be properly contemplated for one single moment. Of course like nearly every inexperienced young man, he often even regularly thought about the sex act. Masturbation did help a little from time to time, but he instinctively knew that he was definitely missing out on something that he perceived should be good for him. Films both straight and blue, had taught him something of the matter in the privacy of his Mum’s lounge room when she went to bed early.  And in fact, it all seemed rather straightforward to Bernard in the cold light of day. In theory that is, I mean in theory.

Dale had been missing sex recently. There is no other way to put it more clearly really. She felt horny and a bit lonely too if the truth be known. Melbourne she found, could bastard of place to meet a bloke or anyone if push came to shove. She had gone to a couple of nightclubs thinking that might solve the situation but they were too expensive and the nights that she had been there turned out to be a bad experience.

Her job was easy enough to cope with, although she was already aware that she might have to keep a eye on her boss. She wasn’t all that keen on the man even if he had had given her the job almost off the cuff. I reckon that you could say that Bernard was then a kind of natural target for somebody like Dale. She certainly knew that Bernard was shy. But she felt that would make him malleable in her hands. She had in fact, for all her early sexual experience dropped confidence even before she had come to the big smoke. And we have already discussed some of her experiences after she had arrived on the platform of Southern Cross Station. So to put it bluntly, she made a play for Bernard.

Of course Dale had to wait until after she had lost her boss at the Whitby Steet flat. He had taken a call on his ever ringing ever buzzing and ever shaking mobile. He shifted  gears in mind rapidly and moved towards the door brushing past Bernard on his way. ‘Ill catch up with you later girl,’ were his exact words as he left them. No doubt she thought, no doubt he would at that. That left Dale and Bernard alone in the flat. Dale looked hard at Bernard now while he was kinda pretending to look at kitchen cupboards. He wasn’t really sure why he was still there in any case. But in fact he had noticed something different about the girl. She wasn’t wearing the engagement ring, In fact, the circumstances now seemed to provide Dale with instant opportunities and it even past through dale’s fanciful young mind to lock the unit door and draw Bernard into the main bedroom. It would be a real turn on. But something told her that these were very dangerous thoughts indeed, even for her.

She handed him another flyer as he prepared to leave. She swayed her hips just a little as she leveled her eyes at him.  ‘Whaddya do around here when the sun goes down?’ She was determined to be blunt enough so that a guy could hardly misunderstand her import. But she would not wait for a reply in any case. I have a flat in East Brunswick. How would you like to come up there for a drink or two? Boom, boom again. Just too easy was it not? Bernard did not answer straight off for the simple reason that he wasn’t quite sure that he had heard her absolutely correctly. He was just about to say that he was looking forward to reading the new book about the cold war written by some cove called John Lacarre or something, but he didn’t. I mean he said bugger all at first. ‘Cat got ya tongue has it?’ Dale stepped just a little closer to him. Easy girl she thought to herself. Take it easy girl.

This time Bernard knew that she was pulling him around and he got in a tiny lick of his own. He said to her very directly for him Bernard,’ I don’t really remember what your name is Miss.’ To tell the truth, Bernard ‘s reply almost through her. However she recovered quickly enough to provide what he had asked for straight away. She was just a tiny bit chastened now though, even if she did manage to hide it for the most. ‘I could get rid of the other girls in my flat you know. Be just the two of us alone if ya could bring a bottle of wine with you.’ She studied Bernard hard now and she was not as sure of herself as she might have been a couple minutes previously.

‘Your’e saying that you want to go on a date with me err Dale?’ Bernard had this out without a heap of trouble, although he did sound rather incredulous. ‘Sure Bernard, That’s it. Why not then mate? I’m in town here without to many friends ya know. I come from Shep you know. Don’t really know anybody in Melbourne except those two dummies of flatmates of mine do I?  But I’ll get rid of them all right though don’t worry Bernard. We’ll be alone there; it would be nice. Hey, you got a girlfriend already then Bernard?’ In truth she had recalled that he had told her that he wasn’t married when they were they had met in the first unit. A married man would be nice no question, but a man his age who isn’t married might be a lot better at that. She felt a tingle down there and it was such a nice sensation to feel too.

Wow, she murmured to herself with not a little feeling of heat. And then she quickly sent herself another message. Mmm I gotta get there some day too. She was thinking now of married men again. Perhaps he stirred a little down below too, and then thought well, yes she is very pretty too. Yes she’s pretty alright, even if she seems a little out of place right now. He couldn’t explain why he thought that though. He shifted his feet in a characteristic move and searched for words.

Finally these lost words were by some miracle found at last. They all came stumbling out in a rush. ‘Ok Dale I will come then.’ There, he had said it and he guessed that he had just agreed to go on a date. But he knew that it wasn’t such an ordinary date too. I mean g  And he began to think and what next now?  Oh Silence was beginning to be locked I with them both inside the flat. Ah, God but he ‘s got such big hands and big feet as well too. Is it true what they say about that then? Again she had a fleeting thought of the main bedroom just a few steps away from her. Go there girl and you might end up blowing your bloody job instead of him. Wait you fool wait, she thought, just wait.

‘Don’t ya want to know the address of my joint then Bernard and are we on for tonight for sure?’ Then Dale looked down at Bernard’s trousers again and she thought that she detected a not so subtle a bulge there. Oh she thought and oh tonight. ‘Tonight.’ Yes Bernard had said that word tonight alright, but Dale wasn’t at all sure if he meant that he was confirming that very fact, or if he was on about something else entirely. ‘Yes tonight Bernard, tonight. I mean you did want it to be tonight didn’t you?  You did understand that we could use my flat ok? She could not stop herself thinking of him as just being so stuffing cute either.

And damn my eyes but his bloody eyes were such a lovely and trusting colour of dark brown too. Really cool they were. Ok, so he was hesitant and awkwardly shy, but just maybe that would make their encounter all the more exciting. To take him almost against his will would be something alright. No, don’t do it. Do not even think of that room again. Don’t go there girl. Wait you bloody big fool! He is a fair bit older than me too. That’s a real turn on, and no mistake. And his big framed body. Just so strong looking and his large strong looking hands which in truth were still getting a lot of use in his veggie garden at his Mum’s place. And even if he was so bloody well shy he’s a bit of alright I reckon; true.

‘Yes that’s ok Dale, you just give me your address and I meet you there for sure. I will meet you. She started to dip into her ratty handbag.  ‘And it’s unit number 19, 131 Victoria Street mate. It’s not far away true as God. You got that Bernard? Here, I’ll write it down for ya Bernard.’ She did just that with the real estate notepad stuff and they agreed to meet at 8.30 pronto that night. He was to bring a bottle she said. Make it a white will ya Bernard? Hey and remember we will be alone for a couple of hours. Just you and me remember. Did ya remember what I said Bernard?  I’m chucking those two buggers out on the street for us eh’. Bernard was quietly reflecting on this very matter once again. Girls definitely did not go inviting you to their flat everyday do they? Not with a bottle of wine in hand do they? Not every day they don’t anyway, and that’s for certain. He did have a sudden flash of that St Kilda sheila too. And he could never ame to have missed the fact that she was constantly banging on the fact they were meant to be alone. He was worried some that’s true, but he also felt other more complicated things as well. Funny thing life he thought, funny thing it sure can be at times.

And so that is how Bernard came to go on a kind of date with Dale at her flat in East Brunswick. He didn’t tell his mother what he was up to before he left her but kept his pending adventure sealed up in his shy heart. He chose a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to bring to her that night. The particular bottle sold for something just under twelve bucks at Safeways. He had some experience in these matters for he and his Mum had quite often indulged in a drop or two of the grape in the old days. It was nearly always Bernard who purchased the wine and he had soon learned that the price on a bottle often did not reflect all that much on the quality of the stuff. This was surely true in the matter of white wines at shops like Safeways in any case.

He felt quite blithe as he walked the two kilometers to Dale’s place in East Brunswick. However some unbidden thoughts came to Bernard as he walked too. He began to ruminate on how many things were beginning to slide past him these days. And always had too if he was really honest with himself. In truth he was ordinarily just that. Honest with himself I mean. If he was shy then Bernard had the capacity to see things more or less as they really were. Self delusion was a poor second to looking hard at a problem. He definitely recognized that he had a problem or three. Most of his schoolmates were married and quite a few had kids by now. They had houses mortgages and the full catastrophe in many cases. He was still living with his Mum at home. It was true that some of them had lost their jobs just like him. Tommy Marsden was already divorced and his wife was living with a rather successful Brunswick criminal. Some of his friends had kinda made a life out of crime at that. And at least two of his classmates had done some time in prison. Yeah and it’s certainly true that he felt a little nervous about things this night, as he was walking towards this woman in her flat but he still managed to keep the lid on some those odder feelings. What would he find there when he got there? She seemed to want to take him to bed and that was almost certainly going to be another problem and no sweat

He was even spang on time too when he rang the doorbell. Dale opened the door to reveal herself in a stunningly close fitting body suit which exposed enough of her body to call it fifty fifty if she was covered at all. He took all of this in quite swiftly too, almost as sharply as Dale took the bottle from his hands. “Hey good to see ya Bernard. Your’e right Blanc. She looked very hard at the label of the bottle of white, but said nothing more about it. Then they were in the kitchen and she was fumbling around a most messy kitchen drawer. He recognized that she was searching for an opener. ‘The’re gone you know Bernard. I had to bribe them really, but they finally pissed off to see a movie at the Westgarth. It’s the one with that new James Bond fella you know. Should be good too I reckon.’ He nodded and he actually did know who she meant. And then most unusually for him, he asked her if he might pour out the wine. He was being polite almost without knowing it.

She was quite content for him to do this, and even though they had two different kinds of glasses they took them with them as they walked into the corridor of the flat. He had given her the better glass. It was actually a wine glass while he was drinking from a beer glass. The flat was typically old East Brunswick rental place that had not been done up for years and consequently was both dull and rather unkempt all round.‘ This is my bedroom Bernard.’ A few steps had taken them there. ‘Dale turned to face him almost too dramatically. Bernard couldn’t make out what she was saying for a bit. He wondered just for a split moment whether she was about to seize him. All together the moment was a little bit like she was some dolled up poser in a lousy film. ‘Perhaps ya better go back and get the rest of the wine Bernard.’ She was pointing with her outstretched arm to the kitchen. She held her wineglass in her other hand and then turned away towards her room again. He said not a word but obeyed her directions straight away.

When he returned she was sitting on the edge of a single bed in the tiny bedroom. It had a blue bedcover tossed back and the sheets were quite rumpled. He knew not to knock but then of course the door was still open. Dale started up straight off. You know Bernard they gave me the lousiest room in the whole fucking joint.  It was that sort of an apology which was not really necessary at all. But it was one that almost anybody might make. Of course I was the last one here you know. I was going to fight that bastard Maggie for her own room, but I owed them the rent then. I had no dough at all. I only just got this bloody real estate job this week ya know.’

I suppose you might say that Bernard was not quite a ready for that sudden fucking word. And yes you are right, Dale could not stop talking. She was going ten to the dozen and he could not stop listening to her either. She really did look very pretty as she sat on the edge of the bed. Pretty but also somehow vulnerable he thought. But she was pretty and pretty nervous with it too. He was also nervous, but he couldn’t imagine himself getting worse given the situation. In fact he felt almost as if he could cope now. While she was talking he didn’t have to talk. While he listened to her, he felt more in control. It was her who constantly made the agenda and it was in any case a ‘no contest was n’t it?’

So he let her ramble on, not that he could have done anything much differently. She rapidly told Bernard about Sheparton. She told him of her being flat to the boards broke when she landed in Brunswick and how she had got herself into this very room. She had landed on her bloody feet hadn’t she really? She had never in a million years expected to get this bloody job had she, but she was getting on alright she thought. ‘That bloody boss Spiros is something else though.’ This came out suddenly and most unexpectedly. Bernard remembered seeing the said Spiros looking hard at his new agent Dale, in the first unit he had been dragged into. Of course Bernard had no way of guessing how new she was at the time, but he could certainly picture this Spiros observing her most closely. They had another glass of wine while she prattled. There seemed no hurry in all of this and Bernard remained standing as she talked. He was holding the floor at the same time she was.

Now Dale stopped in her tracks right there and then. Bernard was standing only a few feet away from her. It would have been difficult to place yourself more than a couple of feet away from anybody else in this room. ‘Close the door will you please Bernard.’ He could clearly see that she was moving very fast in her mind at this moment. ‘Close the door and come over to me Bernard.’ He almost automatically swung the door to with one movement. Then he took the two paces to stand very near to the bed. At first he could see her swelling breasts in the body suit but soon she smothered him a little. She suddenly placed her wineglass on the bed cabinet a bit roughly and she reached up with both her arms. They encircled his thighs as she remained seated. ‘You know that I want you tonight don’t you Bernard?’ This was definitely a bit over top sounding. She was stroking his thighs now as he stood there directly in front of that tight looking, but very pretty face.

Bernard smelt so good to her as well. Bernard and his Mum had a bit of a thing about their bodies after all. After he had got home from the primary school job, Bernard was in the habit of taken either a shower or a bath. He did this religiously before he was ready to sit down to a glass of wine with his old mother. In summer they would place a bet or two on a couple of late races. Bernard would run over to the Railway Hotel to get them on. He would never stay to have a beer or two and it did not even enter his shy mind to do so either. People in pubs were merely a pain to him at all times. This had then been reinforced by his job as a cleaner for he never wanted to be considered as a dirty worker. He was a little naïve on this matter of course but sometimes in life sincerity may just pay off. He had never smoked at all, and as I said he did not drink beer. Wine was his only go. One of her hands went further unwrapped from his buttocks to begin a kind of caressing just above his navel.

She smelt really good to Bernard too, although in truth it was only a good quality bath soap that Dale had swiped from her flatmate from her bedroom. He felt himself getting hard then. Dale could see this happening just in front of her face as well. Her face was only inches from his fly on his trousers and very he wondered if she might not move in even further onto him. She just managed to restrain herself at the last moment. He could not see her smiling. But she was smiling and she was also kind of crooning something that he couldn’t properly hear now. He squirmed a little at this and leaned down to place the wine bottle on the floor. She did not mind this action at all as the front of his jeans brushed all along her thigh and legs as went downwards to the floor. It wasn’t that it was an unpleasant thing to feel, but all the same Bernard was suddenly uncomfortable. He had one hand free now and he put it over her shoulder. He was still holding his wineglass in his other hand.

Dale switched back to caressing his backside. ‘Eh Bernard how come you are so strong then mate?’ He did not answer her and she kind of shook him all over to get her reply. ‘Err I used to work very hard as a school cleaner and I liked the work a lot. Now sometimes I just exercise hard in my bedroom.’ Dale looked at his face very hard for any trace of foxy comment. But she found nary a hint of irony in his handsome mug. ‘You sure a strong boy you know Bernard.’ Her hands got the proof of this as she ran them around his supple body in a kind of circular motion. His muscles twitched as she did this once, twice and yet again a third time. Once again Dale took more than a glance down at Bernard’s crotch. His jeans were more than taut down there she reckoned. She pulled him closer to her. As she tugged him the bottle of wine he had just placed down at his feet went over. ‘Shit but it’s gone over’ she cried out. ‘Don’t worry Dale it’s empty you know. You had the last of it a minute ago.’ Dale lost interest in the fallen bottle to continue attacking Bernard.

Bernard leaned up higher now and without any warning he placed his hand under the top of her jumpsuit. With assistance from the eager young woman the top was shed in a trice. She laid back on the bed with her eyes all aglow. Bernard simply clambered over her and placed his lips gently but firmly over her right nipple. This was a sensational feeling alright for Dale and she let it happen for a very long time indeed. So long in fact that she almost became dizzy with the sensation as she continued laying there in a totally dreamlike condition.  Dale knew that she had never felt like this her life and in truth Dale was most deeply puzzled. She tousled Bernard’s hair lovingly as he lay over her so peacefully. It was certainly without any precedence in her narrow but most intense and youthful experience. Apropos of nothing, she suddenly remembered hat she still had her shoes on.

And just as Dale was about to attempt to roll him over on his back to surprise the hell out of him, suddenly she remembered something. ‘ Hey Bernard do you reckon that you could you get out a condom now mate?’ That stopped things quickly alright and there was a pause right then for a time.  He didn’t answer her. Then Dale was shoving his body away from her, kicking off her slightly tatty black slingbacks and swinging her body over to get her body to be lying fully stretched out on the single bed. She was doing all of these things at the same time. ‘Yeah Bernard we need your condom mate, a condom and quickly.’

‘Err, err, Bernard could not start his words for the life of him now. For Bernard was struggling to do something very hard for him at any time of his life. He was about to engage himself with another human being in a meaningful action of real apology and contrition. Dale I gotta tell you that I haven’t got one. I haven’t got a condom with me’ Bernard touched her arm as he spoke this. He was sitting himself down on the bed while he spoke as well. He knew that he had made a bad blue here and you could see him dropping his head. He was reaching out for her arm. ‘Sorry, but I never thought about that.’ ‘No boom boom then, she replied evenly.’ No boom boom boy, no nothing at all boy.’

And just as she looked as though she was going to put her mouth into a wicked gear, she burst away from the bed and headed towards te door. She rammed the door open and dived through it. She simply disappeared like the white rabbit into the black hole of the corridor. Bernard had no idea whether to move or to stay where he was seated on the narrow bed. But it should be said that he did have an inkling why she had burst out of the room. As it turned out his ideas were proved to be right. He neither heard nor did he see a thing in the quiet of her bedroom and he was just coming to the conclusion that this had all been a terrible mistake anyway. What in the hell was the girl up to then? Was she looking for condom then? With those very thoughts, Dale came bolting through the door again. She was triumphantly waving a slim and squarish green and gold packet in the air. ‘I got one, I got one, she yelled.

Of course she had a condom in her hand .She was holding ot aloft like some footy trophy or perhaps it would be safer to say a netball prize. Bernard could only make out the word ‘lubricated’ on front of the little packet. Bernard knew what the packet was right enough, and it must be said that he did not like the turn of things either. Not so long ago Bernard had been hard as a slab of Jarrah but not at this moment alas. She then proceeded to lose the plot entirely with Bernard with her next words and actions. ‘Hey let me put it on Bernard. I am really good at it I promise you.’ She began to make a move at his belt and Bernard was under no doubt what she was meaning to do. If any thing his member collapsed even further than before. His ever lurking shyness had shot back into his shy old heart and mind. ‘He could not even utter the words that he wanted to say but he had already decided what he was about to do.

He got up from the bed but was still unable to voice the words that were inside him. He waited watching Dale as she was breaking open the packet with her teeth. She had not yet taken Bernard’s movements as signifying that things had changed as yet and she concentrated on the green and gold parcel at hand. ‘Dale, Dale , please look at me; look at me please’ There, some words had finally come from him. Her head lifted instantly and her eyes now showed the recognition that not only was Bernard off the bed, but his whole stance and tone of voice had given Dale something of a clue as to what was happening. ‘Oh no darl, you’re not afraid to do it after all are you?’ Silence filled the tatty bedroom once more as he took a step towards her now. She really had no idea exactly what Bernard was going to do or say. It was odd enough indeed. But she felt one thing too. she felt safe. She had no thoughts of danger or even a possibility of argument even. And she also remembered his lips on her breast. That indeed, was very hard to forget.

‘It’s not going to happen, umm…err not yet anyway.’ Again the breath was running low and no more words came just yet. She brushed her hair from her eyes. Once again she was sitting on the bed. Once again his long legs and loins were very near to her. But things can change very quickly and she refrained from even touching his attractive body. She looked up at him and perhaps for the first time in her young life Dale had an unselfish thought in her head. It returned as words to the large man who was standing so close to her too. ‘Well if it’s not going to, then I am sorry Bernard. You’re so nice you know. But, if we don’t, you know if we…. we can see each other again. There will be another time…….soon won’t there?’ There was a sentence broken or left unfinished here as she almost wondered what she meant herself. She had almost asked for him something unlike she had ever done with any other person. She had also told him that he was nice and she knew that it was a fine thing to do too. And she also knew how heartfelt the use of the trite word ‘nice’ had been for her. She had meant it truly. And guess what too people. She felt a little nice herself at that.

‘Soon Dale, we could see each other anytime soon.’ He didn’t sound all that tongue tied right at that moment. He had looked hard at her too as he spoke. But there was not a hint of hardness in his looks or in his thoughts. She could see that he was preparing tp leave her. ‘Oh goody Bernard I was worried you might have spit the dummy or……Once more Dale didn’t finish exactly what she meant to say. Instead she got herself off the bed and leaning way down to the floor she took her jumpsuit top from the floor and deftly swung her head and arms into it. It had no buttons so it was pulled down quickly and without any fuss at all. When her face reappeared from the bunching of the top she grinned at him. She spoke with a cheeky ring of nuance in her voice. ‘Hey Bernard, when we do meet no matter how slow or fast we go I tell you what. I am going to make sure that we get it right condom or no condom mate. And that is a promise I intend to keep. And I’ll tell you this for nothing. I never promised one human on this earth a thing before either Bernard , I swear to you never mate, never.’

And that’s just about all there is to tell you of the princess real estate shark and the shy frog. Oh if you really want to know if they lived happily ever after you are asking the wrong man. But I can tell you that they had two children together and required the use of a bloody real estate agent as well. And they did amble into that mooch of life as most of us regular fools will do. They did have their day in the sun as it happened. And she did truly love him for quite a while. Bernard of course, was far too shy to inform anyone of his depth of feelings for the princess, so much of worth can be reported there. If you are wondering too, if this might just be a true story then you can stop wondering right now. In any case you already know the answer to your own question. Things like that just do not happen do they? But having just said all of that, it is just possible that there may be one final question in your head then. And the answer to that one is a definite no! I have to say that the shy frog intimated to me over a couple of drinks one fine day, that they never ever did use one of the devices anyway.

Gino’s Shout

I was almost at Campbell’s winery seven and some seven and a half kilometers from Rutherglen when I suddenly remembered Gino’s Shout. Yes that’s right with a capital ‘S’. This is Les’s horse or rather at least one of the hind legs belongs to him. He had told us that the nag was off and running again at Albury on this very day. Was he giving us the right mail when he told us this? He had said that the horse was running at Albury on this today a Friday in late February. It was probably being set for the Corawa Cup in March and I was looking at it from afar. Mostly I was looking at from Yarrawonga in fact.

I was separated from my wife and I was putting in some fine days with Helen in her home. Maybe I should tell you that Helen Christina Lynch is my Mum. Normally Helen lives alone but she was looking after a man’s interests while he was waiting for the tenants to quit the unit he had just bought in shares with his wife. The apartment was in West Brunswick. Was it even set then and had Les got it right?

I had an interest in this horse for it had won for me on it’s very last start. Won by a nostril it did. Or should that be won by the nostrils? Surely that beats me. I know you will think I am telling you a lie in this, but it is beyond me to exaggerate so I wouldn’t tell you a lie. Gino’s Shout is a huge horse and the size of the nag’s nostrils may have told in the end. Anyway there was a photo finish at Wagga Wagga, and we held our collective breaths and it came up trumps. I was half telling myself that I was bound for Rutherglen to have breakfast at one of the fine bakeries there, but in truth I was picking up two bottles of DB’s wine at Campbells Winery wasn’t I? So I went past the winery and further on into town. Before I sat down, I picked up a copy of the Border Morning Mail.

I knew from my own childhood that the ‘The Border Morning Mail’ was published in Albury itself. If any paper was going to print the field for the races at Albury this day, it would be this sausage wrapper. It did and lo and behold, Les’ nag was there in black and white. Gino’s Shout was the top weight in the fifth race no sweat. It was a twilight meeting and there were to be eight races this day. Two of the three tipsters in ‘The Mail’ gave out Les’ nag as the sure one to beat and the other posted him second. Damn it and sure looked like the horse was going to start as favourite. Or near enough to it anyway.

What about DB then? She was a friend and a student of mine of sorts. I had helped the sweet woman to purchase a laptop and from time to time, I gave her lessons on how to use the thing. OK so I probably did have notions which might involve me getting into her knickers at one time, but the evidence over the past month told me that things were going to be different. So I might just have to settle for us just being friends, just as Frankie told us all those years ago eh. Or was it yesterday? I really do forget. Anyways, I guess that this sweet lady has other ideas for using her time before the time comes that we get her into a wheelchair. No wheelchair tricks then DB please!

Gino’s shout is our main subject here thank you Mister Author, so concentrate a little please. Yes well having sorted out the fact that the nag in question might happen to start favourite in it’s race, I began to study ‘The Mail’ once more. A certain W. Egan was riding Gino’s Shout today. In fact he was to sit four horses this day. He was carrying 59.5 kg, and the horse was wearing the number one. It did all auger for him to start as a hot favourite did it not? Was I going to throw money at a horse with possibly good chances, but for a low return of investment?

I scanned ‘The Mail’ for more omens in the names of other horse. Actually I was only looking at names that did something for me. I liked ‘Pic’n Shovel’ a lot. That was a working class man’s winner perhaps. ‘The Butler’ attracted me too. I made a mental note to check up later to see if ‘The Butler’ did it or not. ‘Monmartre Madame’ also turned me on. It brought me a picture of young Shirley Mclaine in ‘Irma La Douce’. Ooh la la Shirl the girl but you were such a sweet girl back then. And ‘Arguing Baby’ was a standout as well. It did remind me of a woman or two or possibly three. There were eight races today at Albury and ‘our race’ was to commence at 5.13 pm, and therefore there was no rush and no panic to get on. Think on it Jeffrey boy I said. So I ordered a good pie and a cup of coffee and I sat myself down to write what you read now. The cup of coffee got cold as I scribbled.  S one of our group

A word or two in your shell like pinky. This is to tell you a little of DB’s wine tastes or tasting if you prefer. She likes one wine and one wine only from Campbell’s Wineries. It is called evocatively, ‘Autumn Harvest’ and it’s a fine white wine from the North East. Late harvested as the name tells us it is both a sweet and a dry wine all at once. Ah how can that be you ask? I don’t really know for certain. All I can do is tell you to taste the stuff and you will know what I mean. I mean that is just about all I can tell you about it. Except for the fact that DB guzzles the stuff, but you already know this don’t you?

Of course there is a connection between DB, Les and myself. We all three of us bounce around in the warm pool at the old ‘Brunnie Baths’. These days they may wish to call it the YMCA Gymnasium but naturally it’s still the ‘Brunnie Baths’ to all of us oldies here. Some of us are older than others of course. Les is over 84 years of age, and is a New Guinea artillery man from the Second World War. He’s the only soldier I know who drove truck for an artillery battalion who never ever drove again in civvy life. A very smart move it was that Les made too. Always and ever he was fond of dances as you shall shortly learn. Women who did drive were often either obliged or even fond of driving Les home after a dance. Many, many things can happen in an automobile. Hey just ask young Les about that.

At the baths they call us ‘Pryme Movers’. A truly shocking name for merely jumping up and down in a warm pool is it not? Well Norma is one of our group too and she spends time telling us all about the lovely new dog that owns her. But Norma never tells us much about her many pokie games. Oh alright she does squeal sometimes but only when I press her for details. And so does Shirl the girl. No you fool is Shirley either. So strong this Shirley girl is too as well. She lifts weights too. Shirley is a North Melbourne girl who laughs a lot at herself. She must survive on the pension and has a thin week and a fatter one. And then there is Mary who used to go to every Association footy game she could. And Jo is with us too. Actually there are two who are Jo. One was born in Munich and of course the other was not. Margaret is a regular as is Veronica an Italian Aussie woman who looks as fit as a trout. Dot is the one who can sing almost every single of the lyrics in the music that we listen to as we bounce and half roll she is not reluctant to open her mouth either. She both sings and talks a lot every single day.

‘The Godmother’ appears on the Wednesdays, complete with her mafia entourage. Just the female members I mean. She is a widow now, but sweet as this woman is do not on your life mess with her my friend. Marie is a long time friend whom I met in my early days in Brunnie town. She is just a delight to my life and nearly always has been come to that. Emma is the best cook among all these bouncing boobies here. Her slices are heavenly and heaven help us for we have afternoon tea after each class twice a week. And dear God, when the Italian Ladies turn it on there is simply slaughter as the home made food pours down on us. It makes us laugh to think that we might be pretending to exercise our elderly bodies in that warm pool. I am of naturally the second best cook as I proved with twice producing my homemade Apffelstrudel type of pudding cake from an old German recipe. Mit piles of der full cream there was ja? Ist gut they all shouted at the one time while we spread the apffel cake about the table.

And DB is more than a regular really for she is really set never to miss out on any class in her week. I know that she really builds her week around this warm pool activity. I talk too much just as I write the same way, and she is slack enough at exercise to chat to me as we bounce. She is particularly fond of Norma and it’s my belief that the feeling is mutual. Les often comes to the pool hyped up and ready to rock and roll. Being eighty four never tells him to shut up or to restrain the lad from entertaining us. He sings along with great gusto and looks towards me to do a nasty duo at times. We do have a great laugh some days in this warm pool. During the war Les spent a deal of time in west New Guinea and the islands. He speaks a pigeon form of Indonesian stroke Malay and often answers Terrimah Makassi when I say Carpe Diem to him. He learnt this Indonesian cum Malay language during his stint with an artillery unit in New Guinea during the good war. I always tell him to seize the day at age eighty four. Shows just what a smart arse I can be. I think that’s the way to go old pal. It will not come this day. He is a very generous soul too and he sometimes has better days than others. Oh so do we all I guess. We surely do my friend.

Now when Les was a dasher, he used to sing semi professionally as crooner on Melbourne bandstands and also on the stage. He has I know, sung at the Tiv. That is the Tivoli Theatre in Burke Street, where the lovely ladies stood stock still in their almost god presented buff naked condition. Of course they were chosen for the shape and size. They wore pasties on their nipples too and were always very tall and they were all the most shapely of sheila’s available or not available to mankind. That is as each individual case might be. For Shirl the girl from our own pool, had some finer points to make to me about the Tiv girls at large but I confess I never did ask Les about the subject.

There may have been reasons available to allow some of them to be friendly to some folks she told me. I listened carefully to what she said and came to the conclusion that a North Melbourne lady like Shirley would not exaggerate in these matters. I also saw that some of these nudey-cutey girls might just get a little bored with there stock jobs. Standing stock still on a freezing cold stage is no job for a shrinking violet either. They could also be frustrated artistes too. Either way, some of these ladies might seek a little excitement after the show was over. Some days or nights say, they might even improve their conditions and a working girl must always look out for herself. Nobody else will and that’s a Monty. After all a man can be a pleasure as well as source of dough as well. Could we possibly blame them then? Now Les had been a family man, an iron foundry worker and a fine taster of bottles of Victoria Bitter in turn. He had been no better than he meant to be and was a survivor. Les had always taken an interest in the horses. And he still does to this very day.

Be patient with me dear reader for I am now a little nearer to something like the nub of this poor tale. I think that told you that both young Les and old Les was very fond of going out to a dance or three. Yes, well it is true that he still dresses up to the nines and goes to the local hops at both Brunswick and Coburg at least once a week if he is well. And Ladies still tend to drive him home or otherwise he might just drive them mad. One fine day I was giving DB a computer lesson at her unit. There was a lull in procedures at the moment and we were listening to a Frankie Sinatra record on her new CD player.

Db stood up and pronounced that she was about to ring Les and so she did just that. He was home and apparently it was Les on the other end. They chatted for a while and then DB started to get the giggles really full on. Les sounded quite excited by the way he was raising his voice. DB listened intently to some tale he was rabbitting on about, and very soon she was standing there rocking with laughter. Soon DB handed me the phone. ‘Here mate you talk to him mate, cos I couldn’t possibly repeat the story to that he’s just told me. Just ask him about the boobs.’

I took up the phone and spoke. ‘Carpe diem to you old mate I said, and how’s it going then.’ ‘Hi Jeff and how are you going yourself then.’ ‘Ah, I’m fine just fine Les, just fine, but what all this talk I hear about boobs then?’ He did not get into his main event for that wasn’t les’ way at all. No he would always circle around the subject until he had landed a light punch or two. He said, ‘my horse is running on Friday Jeff.’ ‘Oh fair dinkum,’ I said. Where’s it running Les?’ He went on to tell me that if everything went right it would definitely start at Albury this coming Friday. You mean Gino’s Shout Les?’ ‘Yeah Jeff it’s Gino’s Shout mate.’ ‘I’ll have a look at it,’ I told him. ‘It’s looking good to you reckon Les?’ ‘Yes Jeff it’s all fine, and you know what a strong horse he is. He couldn’t be better.’ ‘Now what’s all this about the boobs Les?’

So Les began the story of his last venture to the Coburg hop. He intimated that this had occurred only last night. He went off at a tangent again for a moment but I slowly coaxed him back to when he told me that he had been dancing with a woman that he’d known for a very long time indeed. They were smoothly grooving away on the dance floor when something happened. Les said that he’d touched her boobs by accident. I pressed the point a little and asked him whether he was certain it had been by accident. No way was it anything else was something like his answer. Les was most adamant about the matter. ‘If it had been on purpose I would have known for sure wouldn’t I. I mean I wouldn’t have mucked around would I? I would know, too right I would. If I had been groping or something it would be different. It was definitely an accident.’ I enquired of him what had happened then.

He then became most aggrieved about the whole matter. He explained that he had got back to their table to overhear the woman in question ratting on him to the assembled table lot. Most of them were on the committee he informed me. And it turns out that she was also a committee member. He was hurt and upset that the lady had accused him of something when he was totally innocent. Even now as we spoke he surely felt aggrieved . It was palpable enough to me alright too. ‘So will anything else happen Les?’ I asked him this carefully enough, thinking that he may be worried about the consequences for himself The answer came back to me in a slightly different form though. ‘Yeah it will. I‘ll pay her back in some way soon and it won’t be too long either you wait and see,’

Oh yes, and just maybe you are wondering what happened in the fifth race at Albury on Friday? I’m talking here about Gino’s Shout again. I was in Yarrawonga that day if you remember. And I was there at Bourkie’s Hotel watching the odds on the TAB. Well Gino’s Shout had quietly been sitting there as outright favourite for a good part of the day, when sure as night follows it’s price began to inexorably drift outwards. Once Gino was sitting at $1.80 and then it happened. The nag who was named Birdman’s Rally began to do just that. He rallied I mean. A hell of a lot of money was pouring into Birdman’s Rally all of a sudden. It was a real run on for sure. Some people were likely to be in the know then. Gino’s Shout’s price kept blowing out until it was at ten dollars for the win. Rumors must have taken on like a bushfire front out of control about the other nag. It a spot fire which was now jumping some three kilometers ahead of the front.

The price of Les’ horse seemed to settle at around about $12 for the win. In a ten horse race this seemed to tell you that he was a gonner already. What was a man to do then?  I whistled a little and then I made my bet. Quick as a flash, I plonked my fifty dollars on Gino’s Shout. When the race was run, Gino’s Shout had won by a clear three lengths. The next horse home was Forest Dash and Birdman’s Rally was third last. Despite the fact that I usually backed horses each way, I had put my money on the nose this time. I came away grinning with $600 in my kick this day. Carpe Diem then old pal Les. Yes that Les is surely a good friend of mine and I think that he does truly understand that if you do seize the day, you never know just what might happen.

Fifty Lions

Lorna was once known around Brunswick. I know that she shared a run down flat with Bunny Ryan for a time. The old flat was in East Brunswick not far from the East Brunnie High School. They pulled these places down in the late eighties or early nineties. I only use the past tense here because nobody seems to have seen her around fr quite some time. Some folks have started to wonder if she is above the soil or not.

The really strange thing about these damn fifty lions was that they weren’t even lions at all but tigers. Oh they were lions alright in some of the machines but in the one’s she used they were certainly tigers. Well I should say that they were representations of tigers. But fifty of them, was almost an impossibility to see you understand. In any case, it was one of the most popular poker machine games in this club. She started to wonder who would have created this anyway and just who in this world could have mistaken a tiger for a lion then?  Or did the makers deliberately misname the game for reasons only known to the programmers themselves. Was it all some elaborate joke then played by a wayward computer programmer somewhere? No of course it would not have been that way she thought at heart. But there was often a jokey feeling to many of poker machine games come to that my friend. A joke may hide many things might it not? Ah and after all gambling was far too serious a pastime, to have people contemplate the activity for what it actually was. It was of course a far better thing to disguise it in some shape or form. If was a little jokey then it could not possibly damage you eh?

Gaming, ah yes it was once called gaming. Well I reckon that you already know this. In the eighteenth century it was I mean. And rooms set aside for the purposes of gambling were likely to be called gaming rooms. As I said the deception is often necessary just as in a magic trick. Now you see it. This was once the word. Rather than the common usage of the word gambling that’s all around us now. There was gambling taking place at the foot of the cross of course. It’s in the bible. We are told that a soldier throws the die for the Lord’s cloak. Actually come to think on it I cannot for the life of me remember who wins the cloak here. It’s in the New Testament and therefore it’s only a slight gamble as to whether we are being told the truth or not in this tale.

This idea of ‘gaming’ still has an eighteen century and a rather Henry Fielding feeling to it does it not?  It might be better if you imagined a Lord or even better a Hogarthian rake at the gaming tables. Or even a Russian writer in a provincial German spa town. In a different century again I mean. Or Bond, James Bond of course. Yes, and it would indeed take a very serious person to produce a machine which could convince you to spend something like a third of your days in front of it would it not?

I mean, this thing was a machine to service your needs. You had needs, and therefore a machine was tooled up to service your fundamental needs. The machine was made to look a little jokey to hide the more gruesome factors lying behind a mere soldier at the bottom of the cross who was tossing dice for what was almost the very last possession of the Son of God. Or you just might like to tell me that it’s only another parable or something like it hein?

It was not a good thing to contemplate for too long was it then? I mean a bloody machine. Like Jane Fonda, sex symbol wrapped in a machine. I mean she was for a film. You know the film don’t you? It was called ‘Barbarella.’ All wrapped up and with her delicious body mingled together with a sex machine for the perusal of all of us she was. There you see a lot of us could accept that fair enough. In a machine then I mean? In a film that was produced in Hollywood. Our particular gambler could certainly remember that movie well enough. She even remembered the film Barbarella’s jokey kind of feeling too.

Who would have dreamt of it? Hollywood that’s who would have. And who was it then that could have sold this dream before us in a small town in Victoria? Or anywhere on this is medium sized and blue planet for that matter. I am talking about three huge gambling venues by a man made lake in country Victoria. This concept would have defeated many a fine debater in better days. But had there been better days then?

Maybe there had been better days. Her grandfather had helped to construct the biggest of these gambling houses by the lakeside in his spare time. Except that these places were never called houses at all. I mean a house is not a home is it? Not every time it isn’t I reckon. Not on your Nelly they aren’t. Not if there’s little joy in the place it’s not called a home that is. No they were called clubs; that’s the name for them. As in ‘my London club’ say. But there was a difference there too. In your London club you were not given the choice to gamble at all. No you certainly were not because they knew only too well that gambling interfered with a gentleman’s ‘proper’ life. You had perforce to go elsewhere for that simple pleasure. The criminals had not yet infiltrated the right and proper clubs and places in London yet had they? She looked at the amount of money showing on her machine. It wasn’t really enough.

They were called clubs in this small town and you had to join them if you wanted to be a member. You would go across the Murray River and you would be given a member number. You would both get a number and the right to stand as one of the committee members if that was your cup of tea. Oh you could just sign your name if you only wanted to win or lose money. If that is all you wanted to do I mean. They didn’t really need you as a member if all you were going to do was to contribute your money for the benefit of the real members of the club. That’s always permitted you understand. They were actually quite well designed places too, if all you wanted to do was have a flutter mind you. And how much is left now she wondered?

Her grandfather had been one of the returned diggers in that old photograph. She remembered the photograph so well. It was actually in a copy of an RSL booklet too. He was seen squatting there down near the sand hill across the river. They were in New South Wales. In those days the pokies were banned in the state of Victoria. The blokes had put their collective heads together and come up with the idea of moving their tiny club over the river to where you had both ten o’clock closing and the right to get a license to run poker machines.

He was one of maybe a dozen men seen in this photograph. He had had his hat on. It was sunny. It was taken at one of the sand hills over the other side of the river from the town. It was the sand hill where they had been working so hard preparing the footing for a wooden building to be placed on the site. The sand hill is really just in front of where the behemoth club now sits. They had purchased an old unwanted clubhouse from the local golf club. They were all of them volunteers and all of them had either fought in the good war or had at least meant to. He had his hat on and he was wearing a singlet as well. You often wore a singlet then if you had serious yakka to do. But you knew that all the time too didn’t you?  

As she was looking at the fifty lions machine she began to think of that most famous  Russian writer again. No not Lev Tolstoy, the other one. She was a mildly educated woman after all. She had even studied accounting at night school for a short time. And Lorna was not entirely without some touches of snobbery either. Oh yes, the author had often written many of his works to pay off his gambling debts hadn’t he? And he was to be seen in places like Germany’s Bad Spa or Marienbad or some such haunts. Haunts, mmmm… yes that was not a bad word for them either. Yes haunts works ok she thought. Her mind wandered back to the nineteen fifties film ‘Last Year in Marienbad.’ Is this what was supposed to happen to you when you turned fifty then? Were you supposed to reel backwards and forget to look forwards after your fourty ninth year? Was the way it always had been?  Did you spend most of your hours, minutes and days in regrets too? Were you supposed to do all of this?

So many stupid questions there were too. There were just so many questions as you pressed these fucking buttons. But still she returned to this very same and oddly formed game time after time after time. What time was it she wondered? There was a clock on the wall after all. She could see it sitting there on the wall. What time was it? Legislation had been finally passed, to ensure that gambling casinos and clubs did place clocks on the walls. They once hemmed your daylight out too. Or the nighttime come to that. I mean depending on the hour, if you follow me aright. How much money did she have left? How much was there then?

She also recalled that night when she had jerked off a complete stranger in a dim hallway. It was on her fourty second birthday that was. Oh well alright it was almost a cupboard really in a hotel that is. It certainly wasn’t a bedroom anyway. She had taken this stranger off quite neatly and he had given her a hundred bucks for her work. And she had enjoyed it as well. He’d been almost twenty years younger than her. He was a bit like the tigers too I suppose. And he was just so dead keen for it he was. Up for it I mean and he couldn’t wait for it to happen. He roared when he came too. Like a lion perhaps at kill. Or more like a tiger maybe she thought. She thought that they would be sprung right in that alcove type of cupboard thing, for all the noise he made with the rush of him. He had been almost twenty years younger than her. But it did manage to keep the punt going. A bit like doing your son really I guess it was. Stop it there and will you stop it right now. Your son; now that’s a thought and her mind roamed backwards once again. She had always wanted one hadn’t she? How much is there now she wondered?

Oh it was not a particularly nice memory to bounce back to at all, but she’d done worse things in her time. Should she feel shocked then at the memory? A hundred bucks it had been. It had fed her hunger for a small amount of time had it not? But that had been eight plus years ago, and now she was back in her old home town again today. Home’s a hard word to say sometimes ain’t it? Home is where the heart is. But who can tame a heart that won’t belong to a human as well as it will to a machine? Is that a tricky question or not?

Her name was Lorna. The year was 1999 and she was staying with her mother in the town on the Victorian side of the river. Her mother was not all that pleased about the arrangement either I might tell you. And if she had her way, Lorna’s stay would not be of Biblical proportions. We have to know that she would not have trusted this particular daughter with two dollars and fifty cents. She knew this one far too well for that. Her mother had shifted to this prosperous country town some twenty five years earlier. She had been widowed early and led a blameless if rather a thankless life with just enough money to get by on. If she was very careful that is.

Speaking of offspring, our hard pressed heroine dealing with the fifty lions had two children of her own in a manner of speaking. One of them whose name was Rachel had been long lost to her. I mean to say that Lorna did not know where Rachel lived. Lorna had not seen this first daughter of hers, for some fifteen years. This is a thing which is likely to hurt a person. She had another daughter who she had named Liz. Funny how they both had Jewish names too. But that had not been accidental either had it then?

When she was quite young Lorna had worked in the rag trade for a Jewish family called Jacobson. They had recognized just how smart she was and they were inclined to teach her all the tricks of the trade pertaining to Flinders Lane. She was in fact given a gentile’s strange rites in the delightful Jacobson’s family and in their business life too. She became the daughter that was missing in the Jacobson’s dreams. She was pretty, and she was also pretty smart. As you hear of what she did to the Jacobson’s, you might come to the conclusion that she was not grateful to them. That would be a mistake to think that. It’s just that you cannot trust a gambling tiger like Lorna. Lorna was soon a replacement for the Jacobson’s one and only child. This was the seven year old girl who had been slaughtered in a cellar underneath their native city in Germany. This young girl was slaughtered by the goodies mind you. By that bloody hail of USAF bombs which had rained down on them in Nurnberg town during the closing stages of the war. Yes all is fair in love and in war and we do know it.

After a while, she had left her parent’s house in Fitzroy and had moved to live in a room adjourning the Jacobson’s place. Even when she had lived in Fitzroy, it was such a handy workplace to get to. She loved her work too and she dearly loved the Jacobson family as only a warmhearted young girl might do. And it was truthfully a joyous time for all concerned for perhaps some four years. So it is plain to see that at first this arrangement had worked out very well both for Lorna and the Jacobson’s. Mr Jacobson began to teach Lorna the basic tenets of bookkeeping. It was readily seen that she had a fine head for the bouncing and dodging arithmetical figures, and so he kept up his instruction. Later on she went to a night school for a time.  But as you will have already guessed, Lorna’s wayward ways were bound to out her quite early on. And so it was to be for ever and ever amen.

She was now a tender girl of twenty one and was engaged to be married to a co worker of hers at the Jacobson factory. His name was Tom Sharpe and Tom was both engagingly plain and plainly honest with very few hang-ups at all. A fine man was young Tom Sharpe. They were then, both the darlings of the Jacobson’s and all but the most jealous and darkest minded factory hands as well. Their engagement was mercifully short and they were married in the May of 1969 and the Jacobson’s paid for most of the pair’s wedding costs. Lorna’s own Mum and Dad in Gertrude Street could not have afforded anything more than a feed of sausages for the wedding breakfast maybe. The Jacobson’s were in their absolute delight when the ceremony was happening. They bought Lorna a fine new pair of shoes for the wedding too.

Now married life was just fine and dandy for this couple through most of the early years. They made all the same mistakes that innocent young couples will do, and they were always busily engaged in making up after the first half dozen fights. In other words they were almost as happy as a married young couple could be on this blighted earth of ours. Lorna’s two girls duly arrived without strife and the world turned quietly enough without too many dramas to bother folks.

One day Lorna found herself a little bored at home. She had been talking to the Jacobson’s about returning to work for sometime now and her own mother who was now a widow was more than keen to look after the young school age girls. Isaac Jacobson had been keeping a job open for her all along. Now Lorna was to work with Mr Jacobson and one other clerk in the factory office. That was the entire office staff in the factory you understand. Mr Jacobson wisely gave himself a little time off and Lorna filled his neat and sturdy Jewish shoes in that tiny office space. It should be said that Lorna had not neglected Mr Jacobson’s earlier instruction before the years of motherhood either. She had studied a little more at home. Her accounting skills had grown apace as the girls hurtled through their preschool years. And so Lorna returned to Flinders Lane sometime during Rachel’s fourth year of school.

Once more Isaac Jacobson was filled with such a joy. He could all the more enjoy life when Lorna was near. For Mr Jacobson did love the woman so. She did the books that kept the wheels of his little rag trade business and truly in order every single day. But soon the oil needed to keep all of this delicately placed machinery running spilt just a little and mainly because Lorna’s Tom had introduced Lorna to what he always called the weekend flutter on the gee gees. This meant Tom sitting down with the pink pages of the Sporting Globe every Saturday morning. Soon Lorna was having a small punt with her husband’s absolute blessing on most of the Melbourne races. It would have fine if it had stopped after the weekend. And it might also have been fine if her betting not have extended to the horse races in other capital cities. And so their normal ‘mooch of life’ was soon to be blown away as surely as those bombs over Nuremberg had blown away the Jacobson’s early hopes and dreams when they were Lorna’s current age.

It was purely and simply bad luck for Tom and Lorna that it was the time in Victoria that Bolte and Rylah were intent on destroying all the back lane and pub SP bookies. If Lorna had kept up her punting in the lane behind The Old Sarum Hotel with her local bookie Sam Wannamaker, most likely this tale would never have been told to you. I once knew a returned sailor, who had served his country faithfully during the good war, have his Beaufort pub’s license revoked by the Ballarat flying squad overnight. It was the beginning of the Rylah terror period for all local starting price bookies and the start of the government sponsored TAB. The local publican in Beaufort lost his income for two years. He was never paid any of the lost monies in his lifetime and he ended up as a dignified, if only too wise barman at Rosebud. At least he had been a sailor and he was near the sea once more. 

Lorna now had to take her chief desire in life to a stranger, who worked behind a counter. He was also a returned man. But he wasn’t a local and he did not give a damn about this housewife who brought his young business too much money every single week. Nor did the Victorian Bolte Liberal Government and their benighted followers give a shit. Lorna was soon tapped and milked so easily. Just as were the thousands of other mug punters were. It rained oodles of cash or Victoria. Some of that dough was put back into the Victorian Racing Industry so they told us all.

So many of our wealthier citizens from the north of the Yarra thought this was simply a good policy. It was both good for themselves and for their friends as well. Farmers and racehorse owners liked it a lot too. It was now both legal and socially aboveboard to lose money almost daily to a complete stranger over a counter was it not? It was jut so simple. You plonk your money down and wait. It s a completely legal transaction you know. Even if it’s not free to do these things as you really do know. Nothing is free after al is it? We all understand that and after all you have your free will you know. Do it or leave it alone mate. But it’s a safe enough thing to do is it not? I mean it’s a clear cut matter. You either win or you lose. So why don’t you go for it too mate?

And so she did. Lose all of her household money nearly every week I mean. And some of you will suspect that of course there was more to come. More to be taken away from Tom and there two daughters I mean. Ok you tell me, she was a bloody idiot and that’s all there is to the situation. Yeah that is certainly true enough. Lorna was being an idiot and perhaps it might have stopped right there after Tom had it out with her for the third or fourth time. He loved her truly and madly did he not? He would have forgiven her a thousand times over in his day so he would. But naturally you can see Mr Jacobson’s lovely little rag trade business looming up here can’t you? And you are on a dead certainty here too mate.

Soon Lorna had quite expertly cooked Isaac’s books and pocketed just enough for her to go on the punt again. No more than that mind you. Just for the next week you understand. It was only to make up for the last week’s losses you know and that’s all. And that was to be all there was to it. Completely and utterly the one off time she told herself. Only one this one single time will save me she told herself. I can pop the dough back in so easily and the old man will never know will he?

Well dear reader I do not intend to record all of what you already perceive will happen in this petty case in life. All you can think of happening I mean. It did happen exactly the way you are thinking and a little bit more as well. Now it would be superfluous for me to go into a great deal of fruitless detail as to what followed. For the rest of Lorna’ life she regretted that cook book action that was only discovered by Isaac himself by accident. It is certainly true to say that Lorna simply broke poor old Isaac’s heart that day. His wife’s too come to think of it. Never in life were they the same. That was the worst of it all, true as God.

True again too, she lost Tom and her two daughters over her action. One of these kids Lorna never saw again in this life. That was a most regrettable thing too as you will agree. Tom did give Lorna a second chance but she blew the second chance and the third and the fourth one too. Lorna did get married again, and well you will probably not need to be told, that she managed to ruin this quite wealthy racehorse owner from North Melbourne within three years of her marriage.

Lorna was most sorry to see her second husband dragged through the newspapers and the bloody Victorian bankruptcy courts. She was also very sorry to watch him suffer three heart attacks and be dead at the age of 51. Dead and gone that is, without raising any children. She assisted in the winding up of his ruined estate and cried a lot at his funeral. Really cried I mean for she was genuinely sorry for her actions once again. She missed Tom too after this. She suffered much and have no illusions about that either. Lorna was totally and truly full of remorse. Maybe she did try and find her two daughters at this time as well. I don’t know really. She did not however, and in the end, she moved interstate and lived off her wits for several years. If it’s living they call it that is.

It was during the latter part of this time that we can find her dealing in the casual end of the sex industry in seedy parts of Sydney town. More clubs than you can poke a stick at. Footy clubs which are all funded by the blessed pokies. All of them laden with restless, hungry blokes and just a few sheila’s to hand on any old night of the blessed week.

Oh, and you could not call Lorna a whore for more than one moment and really you should be a little like the man they called the Christ about that very matter. No, she was just lost and not found that’s all. She was desperate and stony. That’s what Lorna was. What is left after all? And so after this brief interlude we can return to her feeding the fifty lions back in that Victorian country town. Ah God, but gambling is such a boring old tart too isn’t that the truth? One spin is too many and seven thousands not enough.

Tom died the very same month that we see Lorna feeding the hungry lions in the club gaming room. Even if the lions are called tigers from time to time. Tom Sharpe died in Melbourne and not very far from where he had lived in his married state. Tom had never married again you know. And Tom never again in life had a flutter on a single nag. I find that sad  indeed. He had not moved far, both in actuality or in either mind or in his emotions. Some said that Tom still loved Lorna didn’t they? Well they would say that wouldn’t they?  Others merely said that Tom was never to get over the shame of Lorna’s simple transgressions in his whole life. People always looked at him a little differently. Tom Sharpe was not simple at all, but he simplified his life.

It is true that Tom spent a lot of time trying to make it up to both of the Jacobson’s while they lived. I do not mean the money, for the money was never the problem. It was something more akin to mending damage done to the soul. But that is never on is it?  He need not have done this at all had he, for the Jacobson’s only needed Lorna as she once was and not Tom as he was now. The flames of Nurnberg; those terrible suffocating cellar flames of the old medieval city could never, never be extinguished again. 

Mr Jacobson had been dead for some eleven years and only Mrs Jacobson was present to grief for her honest Tom of Fitzroy. Of   course Tom’s surviving daughter from Nunawading Liz, was with her by the graveside too. As it happened, and as you would have guessed, Lorna did not go Tom’s funeral in Melbourne. But it was because of his funeral that she discovered that her ‘missing daughter’ had been dead for nine and a half years. Her cousin Betty told her this over the phone. Lorna had not even been informed of the girl’s death by a soul at the time. That was no to be a pretty day for Lorna either. Nothing can be done about that though.

The dead girl’s name was Rachael. She had gained her name from Mrs Jacobson back in those fine Flinders Lane days. And Rachael was lost to us in a car accident on a wet road near Perth. And she did not die pretty in that Holden car. In the year of1999, Lorna’s surviving daughter Liz, was living in a nice house in Nunawading. She lived on a beautiful rolling street in the second last house on the left going down the hill in Bellbird Avenue.

Lorna visited Liz one Easter holiday. It rained too much that weekend and the visit was not what you would call a total success. Lorna did not bet one sou that weekend either. But it did not go well for them. For the truth was, that her Liz was not what you would call a forgiving soul was she? And her Arthur didn’t like visitors at any time. What is left then? And how much is left in life then if you are homeless, sixty one and visiting your old Mum in Yarrawonga?

She is well aware that her mother is not at all keen for a long stay. But you have the pension at least don’t you? You have the pension now and the tigers or lions of Yarrawonga too I guess. That’s got to be something has it not? And what can we say now? What can we do now so close to the end of our little tale, but to wish Lorna all the good luck that she will always need. I mean good luck and God speed as Lorna packs her one bag to leave us. Oh, and at least you know that what happened to Lorna could never happen to you or I could it? God speed and amen to that my friend.


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