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Sixth Chris Smith story. Chris gets dumped because he cannot afford to take his girlfriend to a David Bowie concert.


Submitted:Dec 21, 2010    Reads: 35    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


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 Chris.
"How could I have afforded to take her when I was on the dole?" Chris asked himself. "Let alone now?"
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 Cooper.
"Is Cindi home?" asked Chris.
"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 league.
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 you."
"Can I come inside?" asked Chris. "I want to talk to you."
"We were just about to have tea."
"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 door.
"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 doing?"
"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 in.
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 Cindi.
"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 him."
"Haven't you told him yet?" asked Larry Cooper, Cindi's older brother, coming into the room.
"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 Chris.
"About Bowie," said Larry.
"What about Bowie?" asked Chris.
"I'm going to the concert," said Cindi, as Larry Cooper walked out of the room.
"By yourself?" asked Chris, shocked.
"No, with Greg Masterton."
"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.
"Yes," conceded Cindi.
"By hook or by crook!"
"What?"
"I said...."
"Yes, I heard you! Just who the hell do you think you are, to give me the third degree in my own house?"
"It's just that..." began Chris apologetically.
"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 of."
"We are ... sort of," conceded Cindi. "But does that mean I can't ever go anywhere with anyone but you?"
"It should," insisted Chris.
"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 see Bowie ... 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 Bowie with him!"
* * *
Norma sat by herself at the kitchen table, mulling over the daily newspaper. Hearing footsteps outside the kitchen door, she went to investigate.
"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 Bowie!"
"Personally, I can't imagine anyone wanting to go to see David Bowie," said Norma as Chris sat upon his bed.
"Well, if 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 Chris.
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.
THE END
© Copyright 2010
Philip Roberts




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