Chapter 8 : The Homeless

The little, old, crooked Frenchman who lives all alone in his little flat on the top of Fractal Hill, ambles down Gloom St, one gnarled hand on his old walking stick, the other clutching his shopping bag, with his his well-worn navy blue beret pulled firmly down on his forehead. It’s his weekly trip to the supermarket. His back is so acutely bent forward, that his head is almost at waist level. Unable to look up or sideways, his entire world is just his two or so square metres’ vision of the ground at his feet. Perhaps he is blessed by having such a restricted sight of the world. More likely, the little, old, crooked man sees more of the true nature of Fractal City, on the grotty, franger littered, needle riddled footpath of Gloom St, than do most going about their daily lives.

***

I can’t believe I gave up a free junket famil trip to the Barossa Valley, to come here and write about this. The Fractal Historic Roots Trail, indeed! It had better live up to the hype. And this old Disneyland gimmick: touring Fractal’s bike lanes perched on a string of reconditioned motorized golf buggies. I recognize this one from that Hamilton Island famil I did back in 2008! It still smells of bat droppings. And look at that publicist/tour guide; her pink Lycra outfit is just three sizes too small, bulging like an overfilled Tetra Pak. It looks like she’s issued a fatwa against fashion. She’s sooo important, mounted imperially on her Segway, buzzing up and down the line of buggies like a blue heeler mustering a lurching mob of fattened sheep. There had better be a good red on the menu for lunch, it might just make all of this bearable. If they try serving that Montrachet Grand Cru Chardonnay rubbish again, I may even offer to pay for my own. Don’t these backwards tourism pagans know yet that lunch wine should be ABC – Anything But Chardonnay. And what’s with that gift bottle in my hotel suite, just Veuve Clicquot! I know times are tough, but really! Oh My God, and they thought I’d share a buggy, and of all people, with that suburban stink ink photographer! Don’t they know who I think I am! Oh she’s looking at me, better smile and wave … “Darlings,” exclaims Tour Guide over her hands-free headset, as she steers her Segway up and down the line of buggies. “It’s a thrill to be your host today. We have some of the leading tourism writers from locally and interstate. “Let’s also give a big Fractal welcome to our special VIP guests, from the Kazakhstan Society of Food Writers who are here to check out the horse flesh at the upcoming Spring Racing Carnival and have generously joined us for today’s free media tour. “We are in for a special treat for lunch today, at the historic Esbend Pub – I won’t say anymore for now, but wait until u try the sommelier’s Chardonnay selection! A bit of trivia for u: a piece of the Esbend’s front bar carpet is now with NASA, being analysed for its remarkable sticking properties, superior even to Velcro. “Soon we will be turning up infamous Gloom St, and I ask all of u to keep your hands inside your Mobile Touring Vehicle. You’re perfectly safe though it’s recommended u don’t make direct eye contact with the girls on the corners, and do not feed the locals. If u hear a squelching noise under the wheels from time to time, we’re just encountering an Irish backpacker’s partially ruminated dinner from last night. No need for concern. “Oh darlings, darlings, if u look out to your right, we are now coming up to the historic Fractal Club – and look, haven’t they started their renovations with great gusto!”

***

Scottish Barmaid emerges from the Club Rooms, trying to shake off the white dust and trying even harder to shake off the last of the firefighters, who is just behind her. “No, I said I don’t need CPR now bugger off!” More and more of Fractal’s Homeless and erstwhile residents of the Heathrow Private Hotel are converging on the Club. They have overrun the Bar Stockade. They have stripped bare the locker rooms. They have smashed open the office safe. They’ve drawn a mustache on The Queen’s portrait! Even Skipper has had to relinquish the pool table – but not before decking a good few of them with his pool cue. The Homeless tore the pool table apart in seconds to get to the $2 coins, with an alacrity to put piranhas to shame. On the grass out the front of the Club, the mood is somber. Dozens of Members have gathered with Prez, Club Manager, Bar Manager, Board Members, and Chairman, and all are gazing upon their damaged building in stunned silence. The Cleaner has gone into shock. A Member places the back of his hand on his forehead: “Has anyone seen Snow lately? God I need a Bex and a lie down.” Another Member: “I heard he had to attend a meeting with creditors.”

“Folks, if I can have your attention,” calls out Chairman, “This is comforting indeed to see us all put aside our petty differences in the face of this Club calamity. For this is a Team Fractal moment!” All slowly nod in agreement. “I realize that this has been a traumatic experience for all of us,” continues Chairman, “the appointment of a professionally trained trauma counsellor will be a key item for discussion on the agenda at the next Board meeting, I can assure u. “Now, to start the healing process, let’s all come together for a group hug.” He is met with grimaces and awkward glances. “Ok, then let’s close our eyes and have a quick mental group hug … that’s it. Now, let’s all sit down, hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ …

***

It’s been 40 days and 40 nights since Fractal’s Homeless took over the Club, refusing to leave. First the Board cut off the digital phone line, which cut off the Domino pizza deliveries (ordered on the credit card found in the Club Manager’s office). Then the Board cut off the gas, the power and the water. Finally, even the Foxtel feed, which is not refundable an incurs a rejoin fee. The beer barrels have long ago run dry. Smith’s Chips are a distant memory. The Homeless are using the remainder of the Nobbys Nuts as currency and to trade for smokes. One of them found a leftover bottle of bitters and mixed it with Tabasco sauce to form a paste, which gave a brief buzz when smoked in a glass pipe. It’s freezing cold at night so they have been ripping up the Club’s timber floorboards and wall cladding to burn. Someone found a couple of large plastic bags full of fish in the permafrost under the floor, and that sparked a brief mini riot-cum-feeding frenzy. Their health rapidly deteriorating, sanitation non existent, without even a granule of powder to ease their discomfort, the Homeless are becoming desperate. They are more Zombie than human. But still they refuse to give up their rent-free shelter. Rumors are sweeping across Fractal of an outbreak of the dreaded e-bowler virus among the Club Homeless. Panic is beginning to spread. Across the road, at a table next to the artificial log fire in the Favorite Cafe-Bar, Club Members are talking about the dire situation. Member: “It’s not good. We’ve gotta move them out of there. Did u see that write-up in the Morning Rage paper today, ‘The plight of Fractal’s Homeless’? It’s awful, the way they have to live.” Another Member holds up the Daily Hun’s front page: “SHOOT THIS SCUM”. He says: “The Hun reckons Jihadist terrorists are infiltrating the Homeless and stirring them up. You can log on to the paper’s website and play a free game where u get to shoot the Jihad Homeless. It lets u make an online $10 tax-free donation to the Libs Party, and in return u get to upgrade your weapon. My boy donated $20 and got the A-Bolt2000, nicknamed The Hand of God. It zaps a hundred Homeless in one go! And u can also use it in the paper’s other online games, like Asylum Seeker Sinker.” Another Member: “I think those games are giving our kids the wrong message.” “Yeah probably, but they’re fun.” A different Member: “I heard that Snow is marketing a new political party, to run candidates in the State Election. I think it’s called the Snow Action Party, or the Powder United Party or something like that.” Another Member: “Imagine if there’s a hung Parliament and the Powder United Party forms a coalition with the Sex Party … Wow, now that’s what u call a PARTY!”

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