The novel is set in Melbourne of 1990 and things have changed some in 25 years. For example, “Myki” did not exist, (old-style Met tickets were used on trams); cell phones didn’t exist either. The hotel I’ve called “The Swan” had several name changes in 25 years but it never had that name; MGIC AM radio moved from 693 to 1278 AM and Barkly Square shopping mall was refurbished and the food court is gone now. C’est la vie.
And Adelaide got some new trams in 2005 to replace
those 1929-built trams as in the picture on page 163.
Friday surprise. -
- part sample
Sometimes, when you reach the top of a hill to see yet another one ahead, you ask yourself “Why keep going; the last valley was as good a place as any?” For Capricorns there’s no good answer: you keep going because it’s compulsive.
Macca knew this, knew what he was; knew it would always be this way. He rolled onto his back under the covers, yawned, went into a long, tense stretch and then relaxed and looked around at the bedroom of his small furnished unit.
“Thank God it’s Friday,” he said aloud.
He took the top corners of the light quilt and top sheet in his left hand and swung them left in one fluid movement, pulled his knees up, swung his legs right to free them from the bedclothes and sat up. He stuck his feet into the flip-flops at the side of the bed where they waited every night for exactly this call to service.
He stood and, having achieved vertical status, walked around the bed, reacquired a hold on the corners of the quilt and top sheet and pulled them down to the bottom right corner of the bed. He smoothed the bottom sheet, straightened his pillow and, satisfied, headed for the bathroom. Ten minutes later he emerged wearing a towel; shaved, refreshed and still beaded with water.
He returned to the bedroom and selected a shirt; each shirt was on a hanger with its assigned tie and underpants and the hangers were arranged (right-to-left) in the order they would be used; it was always the blue shirt with navy pinstripe on Friday and the navy tie with small, bright red flowers. He put on the underpants, the shirt (leaving the neck open) and his socks and shoes: the trousers and tie would go on after breakfast.
He went to the breakfast bench in the kitchen put a teabag into his cup and tucked the little tag under the cup; he added half a level teaspoonful of sugar, put the spoon in the cup and hit the switch on the electric kettle. He poured rolled oats into a melamine bowl, added blueberry yoghurt and sliced half-a-banana on top. The kettle boiled and he poured water on the teabag which (because the tag was trapped under the cup) hung suspended in the cup: he jiggled the bag up and down 12 times and then left the tea to infuse while he ate his cereal and yoghurt. He put the bowl on the lounge table and glanced at his cell phone to confirm it was almost 6:00 am (it was 05:56); he sat on the couch, switched on the TV for the early news and put a spoonful of cereal, yoghurt and banana into his mouth.
Extremists were blowing themselves up in half-a-dozen places around the world and killing civilians at the same time; a number of major accidents worldwide were also killing civilians and the main concern with the reporting seemed to be to get the death toll correct. In five minutes he’d given up watching (as usual) and went to the kitchen to put non-fat milk into his tea. He stirred 30 times, put the used teabag into the trash bin, rinsed both bowl and spoon and placed them in the draining tray.
Returning to the lounge with his tea, he put on his tie, pulled on his pants and sat down again; he would sip his tea while he watched the rest of the news, the sports and the weather forecast.
At 6:55 he emerged from the apartment and walked to the tram stop; he saw the 57 swing into view from Errol St. soon after and he reached into his left side trouser pocket and pulled out his ticket. The tram wasn’t crowded; it was still only 7:07 am so he had no trouble getting a seat. He looked at the other passengers; the depressed looks that had characterised their Monday faces had given way to stoic determination by Wednesday and now a glimmer of hope was visible, like a feeble sun struggling through the clouds. They were going to survive the week.
He switched trams at Bourke Street and rode three more stops to Exhibition where he got off and walked a hundred metres to the Department. He rode the elevator up to his floor, swiped his id card to gain entry and then walked to his desk; he extracted a couple of things from his case then stashed it underneath the desk and powered on his workstation. It was just 7:28.
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