“Give me a pot,” said Jack, standing up against the bar.He handed a ten dollar note to the barman.
“How’s tricks, Jacko?” asked the barman handing Jack the glass of beer, and the change from the note.
“Shithouse, of course,” said Jack pocketing his change then looking round into the bar.
Jack decided to play safe and to sit at a table at the back of the pub, away from the habitual drunks propped up against the bar, away from the loud mouths monopolising the three
dilapidated billiard tables in the centre of the pub.
“Watch out ya mug!” warned a loud mouth, almost knocking the beer glass out of Jack’s hand, as Jack tried to sneak past the table, while the loud mouth was cueing off.
“Sorry,” said Jack.He sidestepped the man to get to the table that he had staked-out.
Jack was halfway through his second pot of beer when it happened.It didn’t seem to matter how often he varied his pub, or his drinking hours, they always seemed to be able to
be able to sniff him out.It was almost as though they had some sort of inbuilt radar powered by alcohol.Bob Bennett had once joked that Jack seemed to have dero-magnetism,
but it was no joke to Jack.
“Mind if I sit here?” asked the wino, staggering over to Jack’s table.
“Yes!” said Jack.
“Ta,” said the wino slumping into the chair next to Jack.“Nothin’ like takin’ the weight off your feet, is there?”
‘Why me Lord, what have I ever done?’ thought Jack.
The wino was dressed in baggy trousers, a dirty grey cotton shirt and a heavy khaki overcoat that was stained almost black with filth.On his head he wore a Collingwood beanie,
on his left foot he wore a leather sandal, on his right a heavy army-style boot.
“It’s a great institution all right,” said the wino.“Just the other day I was sayin’ to the missus, ‘The pubs have made this country what it is today’.”
“Oh come on, you can’t blame the pubs for all of it,” said Jack.“The politicians have to shoulder some of the blame.”
“No, no, I meant greatness.This country fought and died in two world wars to win the right for two blokes to sit around together at the rubbedy, getting sloshed to the gills,
and reminiscing about the bad old days.If it wasn’t for the pubs this country would be in a right old mess.”
“Is that right?” asked Jack, not really interested.He started looking round the pub im the hope of seeing someone he knew, Jon Mayron, Bob Bennett, or his brother Kevin, so
he’d have an excuse to get up and leave.
“Too bloody right it is.Look at all of the hotel owners, barmaids and barmen, brewery hands, and liquor delivery men who’d be out of a job if the pubs ever closed
down.As if there aren’t enough people on the dole as it is.Yes I tell you, grog is the health food of this nation, not vegemite at all!”
“They could soon get work, if they really wanted it,” insisted Jack.
“Nah, nah,” said the wino.“Times are hard.I should know, I’m a bludger myself.”
“Well, I didn’t want to have to be the one to say it,” said Jack.
“You too?” asked the wino.“Yeah, I tell you, times are tough all right.Us bludgers have got to stick together, particularly now that Howard is starting to gear up
for a big blitzkrieg on the unemployed.Slave-labour for the dole.”
“What’s wrong with work for the dole?” demanded Jack who had supported the Howard government at the ’96 election.
“In principle nothin’.But if they can find hundreds of thousands of jobs for slave-labour rates, why can’t they find those same jobs for a proper wage?Nah, I tell
you work for the dole is just a Liberal plot to turn us bludgers into a slave sub-class.It’s about time we did something about it.We oughta have our own bloody union to
look after our rights.We could call it the ‘Bludgers and Layabouts Federation’,”He stopped to think for a moment, then said, “No. no, that’s been used already, but we
could soon think of something else.”
“Look, don’t lump me in with you,” said Jack.
“Nah, look, that’s just what we do have to do: band together to protect our rights.It ought to be everyone’s right to hold out until the perfect job comes along.
Why the hell should we have to settle for less?”
“Because the perfect job might never come along,” said Jack.
“Well, we can’t help that, can we?That’s just our bloody good luck,” said the wino, laughing.“Why should we even have to have a job at all if we don’t want
one?Why the hell shouldn’t we be allowed to collect the dole for the rest of our lives, if that’s what we want?Just because bloody Fraser said that ‘Life was not meant to
be easy’ doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to expect to have an easy life.Fraser’s not God!He’s not even his right-hand man, although he seems to bloody think he
is.So what right does he have to tell us how we’re allowed to live our lives?
“After all. it’s all right for Howard, he was lucky enough to be born rich, he’s never had to worry about earning a livin’.So what right does he have to tell us that we have
to get a job?And that we have to accept any job that comes along, because after all ‘a-jobsa-jobsa-jobsa!’
“Well, he is the Prime Minister,” pointed out Jack.
“I didn’t vote for him,” countered the wino.
“Well...it’s not Howard’s money that pays the dole, it’s the taxpayers’.”
“What?” asked the wino.He laughed out loud: “Don’t tell me that you’ve fallen for that one?Listen, if they stopped paying the dole completely, the government
wouldn’t reduce taxation one iota. They’d find something else to spend it on.Most of it goes into the pockets of the politicians anyway.”
“Oh come on!I know that they’re a pack of no-hopers,” said Jack.“But that’s no reason to bloody exaggerate.”
“It’s no bloody exaggeration!” insisted the wino.“Or how else could they get through all of that money.It’s obvious they never spend it on anything that we know
about.Certainly not on housing. hospitals, the prisons, the transport system, the armed services, or the roads.So what else is there?Nah, I tell you, it has
to be linin’ the pockets of the Politicians cause it sure as hell isn’t going on essential services.”
“Listen mate, anyway, it’s your shout isn’t it?” asked the wino.
“Bugger off!” said Jack.It was bad enough having to listen to the wino, but Jack had no intention of buying him a drink.
“Now you’re learnin’.” said the wino.He patted Jack on the back, “Never pay for anything that you can scrounge off of someone else.Just for that, I’ll shout this
The wino staggered to the front of the pub and ordered, “Two beers pronto!”He banged his fist upon the counter.
“The name’s not Pronto,” said the barman from the other end of the counter.“That’s the Lone Ranger’s horse you’re thinking of.”
“How about some service down this end?” demanded the wino.He banged his fist upon the wooden counter again.
“Hang on,” said the barman hurrying down the counter.On seeing who it was, he stopped and said, “Sorry Bluey, but it’s strictly cash on the barrel head.No credit,
you know the house rules as well as I do.”
“Credit, be buggered,” said Bluey, taking an ancient alligator skin wallet from his shirt pocket, “I’ve got cash.”
“Look out,” warned one of the pool players.“Bluey Thompson is opening his wallet.Could be a dust storm in there.”
“Watch out for the vampire moths,” warned a second player.
“So that’s what a twenty pound note looks like,” said the first player as Thompson slapped a twenty-dollar note onto the counter.
“Why don’t you two yobbos piss off and leave a bloke in peace?” said Bluey.
“We’ll leave you in pieces, if you don’t watch your bloody language,” warned the first pool player, brandishing his cue like a club.
“Watch out mate, or he’ll breathe on you,” warned the second player.
“Bloody smart-arses,” said Bluey carrying the two small glasses of beer toward the table at the end of the pub.
Seeing Jack had left during his short absence, Bluey Thompson asked, “Now where the hell did he go?”
He looked around the pub slowly, then shrugged and said, “Oh well.”He raised the first glass of beer and emptied it down his throat in one long gulp.Then sitting
at the table he began to sip at the second glass.
© Copyright 2016 Philip Roberts. All rights reserved.