Chapter 9: Feeding the Masses

The ageing Vietnamese grandmother ambles along the Fractal foreshore, muttering to herself as she sees yet another huge queue outside yet another Vietnamese restaurant. She thinks it’s ridiculous, how these people are paying $10-plus for a bowl of soup made by an Irish backpacker, when she pays only $4 for authentic pho in the Vietnamese community’s eateries. When she came to this country with her young children, as a refugee, in an old boat that almost sank, she was a welcome asylum seeker fleeing Uncle Ho. My, how times have changed. From Ho to pho …

***

Club Fractal Manager stands on the footpath as he guides the driver, who is parking the Mission Free Food Van out the front of the Club. Together they swing open the van’s rear doors, and immediately the tantalizing aroma of brewed coffee wafts towards Club Building. It has that unmistakable pungency of aged instant coffee, a blend of non-export quality beans sourced from farms in Far North Queensland. As the smell courses through the Club, stirrings and murmurings can be heard from the Fractal Homeless inside. Dirty, smudged faces can be seen, peering out through what’s left of the windows and walls. They haven’t had anything to eat in weeks. The rats have deserted, and even the local roaches have put the Club on pass-by.

Dozens of the Homeless are soon huddled near the doorway, straining to get a good whiff.

Then Club Manager takes the lid off a huge cauldron in the back of the food van. There’s an enormous gush of steam, and the air is suddenly overwhelmed with the smell of hot dogs. The wind is blowing directly at the Club Building. It’s all too much for the starving Homeless … even the seemingly dead are rising. Instantaneously they all rush out of the Club and converge on the food van. Dozens and dozens of them, twitching and drooling. As the Driver starts dolling out the dogs, Club Manager discreetly reaches into the cabin and releases the van’s handbrake. The van ever so slowly rolls down the gently sloping road, towards the Heathrow Private Hotel.

Mission accomplished.

***

“Folks, folks,” calls out Fractal Club Chairman, a look of serious concern on his face, “If I can have your attention please!”

“Despite malicious rumors to the contrary and Ill founded gossip, the Board can report to this Special General Meeting that our beloved Club is in great shape. In fact, I have good news, great news, and excellent news!”

“For many years, consecutive Boards have grappled with the overwhelmingly and prohibitively expensive dilemma of how to best remove the harmful asbestos in the ugly wall cladding and the lining under the Club’s deteriorating timber floor.

“As a consequence of recent events, we no longer have this problem. Our erstwhile ‘guests’ have kindly disposed of all the asbestos for us, free of charge, and incinerated all waste materials. We are now taking tenders from contractors for the complete restoration of the timber floor, and replacement of the wall weatherboards. This work will be covered 100 per cent by the Club’s insurance.”

There are sighs of relief, and some subdued clapping among the onlookers.

“Furthermore,” continues Chairman, “a local brewery has generously offered to replace – free of charge – the section of unpainted roof that was blown off in the recent incident which may or may not have been an explosion, on the condition that every Member takes home a complimentary slab of the brewery’s premium beer to sample …”

Grumbles from the non-beer drinkers in the crowd, especially the Petanquers and Croquers …

“or a case of their premium wines.”

Now it’s smiles all round.

“The brewery has also proposed an annual $30,000 sponsorship for the Club, indefinitely, if we allow them to have their logo painted on the top of the new section of roof.”

Chairman is now looking out at a sea of beaming faces.

“Also,” says Chairman, “the aforementioned brewery has provided the Club with half a dozen ‘sampling barrels’ and cases of wine for this afternoon, to, um, assuage your suffering.”

Thunderous applause!

A voice calls out from the back of the crowd: “Is it true that the Board will be installing listening devices under the new floor and behind the new walls!”

Chairman responds: “I cannot comment on matters of Club Security.

“However, I can confirm that a small section of the ground under the Club floor will temporarily be sectioned off, as part of an archeological dig by the University of Fractal. As a community club, we do have some such social responsibilities.

“We also found evidence of a recent infestation of the notorious Snow White Ant in the Club’s foundations. Recognizing that the Snow White Ant is on the Fractal endangered species register, the Board has decided at this stage to continue to monitor its activities, rather than eradicate the pest.

***

“Hey guys,” says a regular at the Favorite Bar-Cafe, “Did u hear that there’s a huge space rock hurtling out of control and expected to impact North of Fractal!”

“Yeah,” says Engineer, “I read that it broke off from Mars and weighs about a ton. They’re calling it the Mars Ton and it’s expected to be devastating. Or at the very least, a barbecue stopper.”

Local Mother: “So they’re sure it’s gonna hit north of us?”

Regular: “Yeah, apparently u are safe if u are on the South side.”

Engineer: “The Chinese Government has offered to knock it off course if we do a deal: we give them a special subsidized price on our iron ore exports and they’ll modify their biggest nuke rocket, call it ‘Operation Shock and Ore’, and fire it at the Mars Ton. America’s pissed off and refusing to cooperate cos they reckon the operation’s name breaches military trademark and it’s just another cheap Chinese rip-off.”

A local wit remarks: “Speaking of posters, I saw one for the Fractal Historic Roots Trail, it said ‘Welcome to Paradise!’ … Look around u guys, this is ‘Paradise’. Jihadists are killing themselves to get here, yet most of us are dying to get out.”

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