Fiction

Three anecdotes

Beggar

A Beggar who had only recently and reluctantly taken up begging after losing his job as an administration officer for a small insurance firm was one day noticed on the street by a, thankfully, employed company director on his way home from work. The two struck up a conversation – they had a mutual friend, a chiropractor, the Beggar used to play football with him – and after a while the company director, in what might be considered an over-impulsive moment, invited the Beggar home with him. The company director’s wife was naturally surprised but didn’t want to seem cruel and along with their two teenage sons she accepted with a forced smile what was, admittedly, an odd situation and in the end a pleasant evening was spent. But when the company director told the Beggar that if he wanted he could spend the night in the spare room, the company director’s wife couldn’t help privately wondering whether he might be having one of those midlife crisis things everyone was always talking about. The Beggar slept there that night and the next night and the night after that. He no longer went out begging. The older son moved out, the other stayed at friends’ and the wife began spending nights away until, at last, only the company director and the Beggar were left in the house. The company director did everything for the Beggar – his wife was right to think it strange – while the Beggar, hardly believing his luck, allowed himself without too much of a conscience to be waited on hand and foot. But this couldn’t go on forever, obviously, everything eventually falls apart, and just when the company director least expected it, the Beggar upped and left. Among items he took from the company director’s closet was the company director’s favourite Arthur Galan suit and, an hour later, the former Beggar was sitting in the antechamber of an interview room waiting to see how he might go for a position in a large international insurance agency on almost twice his previous salary. I should also tell you, finally, that after this the company director’s life pretty much disintegrated and he was last heard of living in a very ordinary boarding house in a distant suburb on nothing but charity handouts.

 

 

Elevator Repairman

An Elevator Repairman who ran his own small business and who had since the big apartment boom been doing quite well for himself and who had even bought a pair of Josef Seibel shoes was doing a job one day at a new apartment block down in the Docklands when a woman whom he had never seen before gave him, as they say, the eye. But the glance was so fleeting – as was confirmed later – and so hard to read that for some seconds and then for some days that soon became weeks and, ultimately, years, the Elevator Repairman couldn’t stop tormenting himself with the thought that this woman may, indeed, to his horror, have been inviting him up. So upset was the Elevator Repairman by this possibility and so unsettled by his speculations around it that, despite the increasing growth in the high-rise apartment sector and the subsequent expansion of his business, he could rarely get through a day untroubled. Drink, pills, psychiatry; nothing could save the Elevator Repairman from thinking about a great moment lost. When eventually the Elevator Repairman was committed to the appropriate institution his file made particular note of his “obsessive preoccupation with a past incident of a potentially sexual nature” and the nurses were warned to be on the lookout for signs.

 

Management Consultant

A Management Consultant, after a meeting in Canberra that had got him absolutely nowhere, was apparently flying back into Melbourne when, as the plane banked and came in low over a newly ploughed paddock on the northern outskirts of the city, he saw a man down there standing, as he later said, alone and forlorn. This image so affected the Management Consultant that after disembarking at the airport he immediately hired a taxi and asked the driver could he take him out there (he’d got his bearings from a row of pylons, a train line and a nearby dam). But the driver had no sooner pulled up where his passenger asked on a lonely stretch of road near Lancefield when he, the taxi driver, went strangely silent. The man the Management Consultant had seen had actually died 10 years before. The year before that, explained the driver, the man’s young son had been brutally murdered – it was all over the papers – and when caught the murderer confessed to having buried the boy somewhere in that paddock. But despite a police search that involved digging to a considerable depth every last square centimetre of it the boy’s remains were never found and late one night the grief-stricken father went out there with a Wüsthof Classic kitchen knife and slit his throat. This story was told to me by an old schoolfriend of the Management Consultant.

Wayne Macauley is the author of seven books. His latest novel, Simpson Returns, was shortlisted for a 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and longlisted for the 2020 Voss Literary Prize.