Chris hesitated outside the
front yard of the yellow brick house for five minutes before
summoning up the courage to walk up to the front door. He knew
Cindi Cooper was a country mile out of his league, the row they'd
had over the Bowie concert was proof enough of that. Everybody
in Cindi's crowd was going to the concert -- it might be the last
time David Bowie toured Australia for two, three, or perhaps even
five years -- everybody that is, except for Cindi herself and
"How could I have afforded to
take her when I was on the dole?" Chris asked himself. "Let
Finally Chris leant over to
press the buzzer.
After perhaps a minute, the
door opened, and Chris stared into the unsmiling face of George
Cooper, Cindi's father.
George Cooper looked like
Chris' ideal of a middle-aged accountant, balding, bespectacled
with a potbelly that pushed up against the tailor-made suit that
he wore. But Chris decided that to own a double-storeyed house,
even in Footscray where land is inexpensive, George Cooper would
probably need to be at least a doctor or a lawyer.
"Yes?" asked Mr
"Is Cindi home?" asked
"I'll go and see," said Mr
Cooper, closing the door in Chris' face.
As Mr. Cooper padded down the
corridor, even with the door closed, Chris could clearly hear
Jean Jeanie blaring. He decided that unless Mr or Mrs
Cooper's taste had changed from Bach to
Bowie, Cindi was definitely at home.
Chris sighed; he knew he was
not the only one who thought he was out of Cindi's
After waiting outside nearly
five minutes, Chris had begun to think George Cooper had decided
not to tell Cindi that he was at the door. Chris wondered
whether he should ring the buzzer again, or perhaps merely slip
away unnoticed. He was still undecided when Cindi finally
opened the front door.
"Oh Chris," said Cindi sounding
surprised to find Chris standing there. "I wasn't expecting
"Can I come inside?" asked
Chris. "I want to talk to you."
"We were just about to have
"That's all right, I don't mind
waiting while you eat."
"Well...." said Cindi, thinking
for a few seconds. "I suppose you can come inside."
"This must be my day for
bringing out the best in people," thought Chris as he followed
Cindi down the corridor to her room. He marvelled, as always,
at the thick red shag carpet down the hallway, which made the
carpet in his home look like something they had rescued from a
rubbish tip. Along the walls hung three large landscape
paintings. Perhaps they were not original masters, still it was
three more paintings than the Smiths could afford.
Lost in thought, Chris almost
collided into the back of Cindi, as she stopped at her bedroom
"You can wait in here while we
eat," said Cindi, ushering Chris into the room, "Play a record if
you like, I shan't be very long."
* * *
Chris remembered the first time
Cindi had taken him to her house. She had complained about
having to settle for the smallest bedroom in the house. Yet
Cindi's room was noticeably larger than the one Norma and Jack
shared, and it made Chris' bedroom look like an inbuilt wardrobe.
Almost an entire wall of the room was taken over by shelving
housing a Marantz hi-fi system -- which alone would have cost
more than Chris had received in a year upon the dole -- with four
large speakers, and perhaps four or five thousand dollars worth
of long-playing records: Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Status
Quo, Slade, Sweet, Quatro and all of the other records Chris
hoped to own himself one day, if he ever got a job. "When I get
a job," he corrected himself. "Not if!" He knew he would have
to get a job now, no matter how bad it was. He wondered whether
perhaps he had been a bit too fussy at times, refusing jobs
because they did not appeal to him, rather than because he could
not have done the job. He wondered whether he was expecting too
much, dreaming too much, whether if he had settle for whatever he
could get, he could have had his own hi-fi system, LPs and
large-screen colour television like Cindi had. Instead of
having to settle for the small black and white TV he had bought
second-hand from the Opportunity Shop a few years back.
Jack had told Chris often
enough, "a-job's-a-job's-a-job!" and they had roasted Chris often
enough at the Commonwealth Employment Service for refusing to
consider jobs, merely because he would have hated to have to do
that particular type of work. "Ninety Percent of the people in
the Australian workforce are doing jobs they hate," he had been
told by one CES worker. "Where would we be if they all decided
to quit and hold out until they found work they enjoyed
"Maybe they're right," thought
Chris. He wondered whether it really was wrong to have hopes,
whether Frazer really did pass a resolution against dreaming.
Maybe he just wanted too much out of life. Maybe he should have
been contented to follow Jack and be a good drone. At least
then Chris would not have been in the trouble he now was
As Status Quo blared through
the four hi-fi speakers, Chris walked past the television to look
at Cindi's library. One whole wall of her room was taken up
with bookcases housing the best collection of science fiction
Chris had ever seen: Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C.
Clarke, Dean R. Koontz, Stephen King, as well as the old masters
such as Wells, Verne, Wyndham, and Mary Shelley.
Chris' attention was diverted
from the books, by the sound of the tone arm clicking back to the
off position, with the finish of the record that had been
playing. He went across to select another record, and was still
trying to decide between Slade Alive and Genesis'
Selling England by the Pound, and Sweet FA, when
Cindi walked into the room.
"Sweet FA," said
"I hope you meant the
record," said Chris. He put the LP on the player, and clicked
the automatic start control.
* * *
"Sweet's the best," said Cindi
as the first side of the record finished.
Chris changed the record over,
and then said, "I'm sorry I can't take you to see
Bowie, I know how much you want to see
"Haven't you told him yet?"
asked Larry Cooper, Cindi's older brother, coming into the
"Told me what?" asked Chris
looking from Larry to Cindi. Up close you could tell they were
brother and sister. They had the same blue eyes, the same high
cheekbones, even the same ski-slope nose. But at a distance
their hair set them apart: Cindi's shoulder length and
bottle-blonde, Larry's close-cropped and dyed pink, with streaks
of yellow and green.
"Get out!" Cindi shouted at her
brother. "I'll tell him in my own good time."
"I think you should tell him
now," said Larry.
"Tell me what?" asked
Bowie," said Larry.
Bowie?" asked Chris.
"I'm going to the concert,"
said Cindi, as Larry Cooper walked out of the room.
"By yourself?" asked Chris,
"No, with Greg
"What? But? ... Have you been
seeing Greg behind my back?"
"No!" Cindi said indignantly.
"It's just that...."
"Bowie was too good for you to
pass up," Chris finished for her.
"By hook or by
"Yes, I heard you! Just who
the hell do you think you are, to give me the third degree in my
"It's just that..." began Chris
"It's just that you thought you
owned me! Well, you don't!"
"It's not that at all! ... It's
just ... just that I thought we were going steady sort
"We are ... sort of," conceded
Cindi. "But does that mean I can't ever go anywhere with anyone
"It should," insisted
"Well, it doesn't," Cindi said.
After a moment she added, "Look I'm sorry Chris, you're right,
I suppose. But you said yourself you can't afford to take me to
... And well ... when I
mentioned to Greg that we weren't going, he was kind enough to
invite me. I mean Christ, let's be adult about this. Going
steady means you can ask me not to go to bed with Greg, but
nothing gives you the right to tell me not to go to
* * *
Norma sat by herself at the
kitchen table, mulling over the daily newspaper. Hearing
footsteps outside the kitchen door, she went to
"Chris?" she called out, seeing
him walking toward his bedroom, "Hang on a minute and I'll get
your tea warmed up for you."
"Don't bother mum, I'm not very
hungry," Chris called out.
"What's the matter, love?"
asked Norma, following Chris into his bedroom.
"I've just broken up with
Cindi," he said. "Because I couldn't afford to take her to see
David Bowie. Imagine being too poor to go to see David
"Personally, I can't imagine
anyone wanting to go to see David Bowie," said Norma as Chris sat
upon his bed.
Bowie's out of your league, try to imagine being
too poor to go to see Frank Sinatra."
"Oh, well, in that case I know
how you're feeling."
For a moment Chris looked
around the room, thinking how bare it looked compared to Cindi's
room. The single bed, small wardrobe at the foot of the bed,
and a small dressing table holding a tiny television, were the
only furnishings in the room. Chris picked up a slim book, from
under the bed, and lay back on the bed to read to himself.
Norma sat gingerly on top of the dressing table, watching
After a few moments Norma
asked, "What's that you're reading?"
"It's the latest international
best seller: Stigler Basic Calculus. It's far more
exciting than any boring old Agatha Christie, although the
solutions are a lot harder to guess," said Chris.
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