Where’s our *#@&ing money
Lois looked up from her desk and scanned the waiting area, there was about half a dozen of the unemployed out there, so she decided to finish her game of patience, clicking away at the cards with her mouse, hoping for a win. She could see that Harry was looking through a travel brochure; Noel was munching away on an apple, while Annette was merely staring out the window. There were several other public servants who were doing things other than attending to customers, but what they were doing was a mystery.
‘Lois,’ said a deep sonorous voice. She looked up, it was noel. He looked disapprovingly at the game of patience on her computer screen and flicked his fringe off his forehead, as he did at least two hundred times a day.
‘Yes,’ Lois replied, quickly changing screens back to form processing. Noel had a piece of apple skin in his beard and the middle button of his shirt was undone, revealing a patch of pale flabby skin.
‘There’s a bunch of us going to the bodhi tree tonight. Do you want to come?’
The Bodhi Tree with Noel, Sammy, Claire and Diamond, she’d gone with them a few months back and had been desperately awaiting another invitation. ‘Sure Noel, that would be great,’ she replied trying not to sound too excited.
‘Okay, I’ll pick you up about seven,’ Noel said as he tossed his apple core into Lois’s bin and walked away.
There were about eight customers now, the poor unemployed, waiting to lodge their forms so that they could continue their days of freedom in peace, but Lois was excited about the Bodhi Tree to think about work. Last time there had been poetry readings and exciting conversation; they had all shared a bottle of wine. They, well all of them except Lois, had swapped interesting stories about amazing things, especially Noel who was quite intellectual. All of them had travelled overseas and read interesting books; seen interesting films and knew interesting people. Lois had spent the night with Noel, but they didn’t make love, he had kissed her and fondled her breasts before falling asleep. Maybe tonight would be different, maybe they would go all the way, Lois shivered with excitement at the thought. Noel wasn’t particularly good looking, but he was smart and he was her boss, it was also rumored in the office that he was quite wealthy. Whatever happened it was make a nice change from her dingy bedroom and her mother’s cooking.
There were more than a dozen customers waiting now and Lois was the only one not serving, so she pressed her summons button and processed a few in a row. He hated looking at their lost faces, often depressed and angry. She keyed in the numbers on their forms and wondered why they didn’t all just go out and get jobs. They were all so impatient, and sometimes they swore at her or called her cruel names, it hurt her, but she would retaliate by putting their forms through late and making them wait an extra day for their newstart.
When the line of customers was down to three and Lois had personally served four, she scratched herself thoroughly. Her eczema was really playing up, she needed more cortisone cream. When she finished her decent scratch, she wiped her hands on her skirt and served another two, when she looked up again no-one was waiting, she hadn’t had that all morning. Felling quite pleased with herself, she stood up and went to the tea room for a cup of coffee.
She had just added the four sugars to her milky coffee when Claire came in and sidled up to her. Lois didn’t really like Clare; she was mean, pretentious and thin, but she second in charge to Noel, married to Diamond and the unofficial leader of the Bodhi group. ‘So Lois, I hear you’re coming to the Bodhi Tree tonight,’ she inquired.
‘Yes,’ Lois replied, trying to hide her excitement as she felt her skin going a mottled red.
‘Well I just thought that you should know that you’ve been invited as a blind date for Noel’s brother.’ Claire smiled in satisfaction and walked away. Lois felt sick with embarrassment; she should have known something was wrong; the Bodhi group never invited someone twice, why should she think she was so special. On the night that she’d gone with them, most of the group either laughed at or ignored her. If she wasn’t so dumb she’d have realized that there was an ulterior motive behind her invitation. For a few minutes Lois decided that she was just going to tell Noel that was going home sick, but then she decided that she was going tell him that she wasn’t going and tell him why. Noel’s brother Johnny was disgusting, he was enormously fat with pussy pimples all over his face, and they all knew his at centrelink because he’d been unemployed for about ten years. After a brief moment of feeling like she was going to cry, Lois tipped her coffee down the sink and went to confront Noel.
Noel was sitting at the inquiries counter; Lois was quickly towards him, her jaw set ready for the confrontation. Out of the corner of her eye Lois saw two men, with shaved heads and tattoo’s, they were shouting and swearing and heading straight for Noel. ‘Where’s our fucking money,’ one of the men shouted as he strode up to the counter. Noel did the thing that he always did when confronted with abusive customers. He gave them a long, cold stare as if he was not the slightest bit intimidated.
‘I will not discuss this further until you’ve calmed down,’ Noel said with cool civility. Usually Noel’s firm attitude worked with irate customers, they might let out a few more expletives before realizing that anger was not going to get them anywhere and they calmed down. These two men were the exception, one of them leapt over the counter and grabbed Noel in a headlock. Lois could see the look of complete terror in Noel’s eyes. One of the other men came running to Noel’s aid only for the second man to flatten him with one punch. Lois noticed Diamond standing back, also looking terrified. Fifteen people rang the police at the same time as the two bald men punched Noel until his face was covered in blood and his screaming died away in bubbling groans of pain. The two men looked down at Noel satisfied with what they’d done and walked out.
Noel was still in hospital when they all went to the Bodhi Tree that night, Noel’s brother wasn’t there and Lois had a nice time; there was good conversation and they shared a bottle of wine.