Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wobbly times number 135


After the abolition of the horrid wage system by the workers themselves, the transition from the lower to higher stage of a co:operative commonwealth takes place using socially necessary time (SNLT) as a measuring device.  After all, we're just out of a capitalist society and many people may still be hung up with notions of narrowly selfish individualism.  To prevent the fear of free-loading and the actual act, SNLT will show that we're all doing our part.  A modern communist society is large.  We simply don't and can't know everybody on the modern commons as we might have in our small 150 or less peasant communities in the past, before the commons was destroyed--pre-18th century in the Anglo Saxon culture.  At the current level of technology, SNLT could be recorded electronically.  A good or service would be enjoyed by swiping a card taking however many minutes it took to produce the good or service off an electronically stored balance.  Working in the production of goods and services would enable the producer to add socially necessary labour hours to the card as he or she put them in.  Those who felt a greater need for goods and services or even for work itself (face it...many people enjoy what they do for a living now, why would this not be the case in a classless society?)...these people could put more time into the social store of goods and services.  Those who did the least popular jobs could be compensated with say, double-SNLT being put on their cards e.g. one hour of underground mining equals two hours of working in a library.  But of  course, these matters would all be decided at the time by freely associated producers.  I am merely speculating and proposing from my own era.

This arrangement of using SNLT would make the whole production process transparent; it would leave the mystifications of mass commodity production behind, along with the wage-system which breeds it.  An individual producer could see that s/he was putting in so much time and just like everybody else, could draw that time back out of the common store as needed. Still, this transitional arrangement would lead to inequalities in access to goods and services; but not to classes as nobody would be able to pay others a living sum of SNLT to get control over the collective product of their labour.  Capital is essentially a social relation.  Capital becomes political as soon as one person controls/owns the labour/product of the other, in other words, instantly for as that happens, the one person is able to tell the other person what to do.  Having power over other people is the essence of political power and the foundation stone of the political State.  Socialist praxis is based on equal political power amongst all women and men living in a classless society.  There is simply no room for Capital in a transition to a higher level of a communist society.

The highest stage of socialist society that I can imagine is one where there is no longer a concern about whether someone is or is not doing a fair share of the work necessary to keep the community together and measuring SNLT or using it to obtain goods and services from the collective product of labour becomes superfluous.  Production of wealth for use with its distribution on the basis of need reaches its pinnacle.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wobbly times number 134

1:00pm, October 15th  Location: Forrest Place Murray Street Perth, Western Australia

 "The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as 'an immense accumulation of commodities'." Karl Marx CAPITAL volume I, page one.

We demonstrate our anger amidst the wealth we create. We are the 99%. We produce the wealth of nations. The 1% own what we produce and by virtue of the wealth they own, they run the political show. The 1% select the polytricksters the 99% are asked to vote for. This social relation of wealth and political power is based wage labour. The 99% are obliged to sell their skills and time in order to make a living. The 1% own the product of labour. The product of our labour is called capital. Its owners are the capitalists. The 1% are powerful because they own what the 99% produce.

The fact that 10% of Australian households own 45% of Australia's wealth while 50% of Australian households own only 7% of Australia's wealth is information which is unknown to most Australian workers.

Catch the Perthian Wobblies at the anti-Rulers' Fest demo in Perth on October 28th here

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wobbly times number 133


(by Jenny A and Mike B)

“It’s all their fault!” I’m just going to lie here and cry into my pillow!” Lance looked at his friend Jason. Jason’s eyes were delightfully sea-blue. The sea was a notion which you found in books, and the ideas you read about it would cause you to experience it differently than if you hadn’t read such books. Lance put his fist, hard into the pillow’s end and turned over. Jason slowly awoke.

Marsha reclined on the sofa. She was the ocean itself. Her swollen vulva pressed up against eight blankets. Lance wanted his attire to be significant – It had to “rock”. Jason caught Lance’s eyes for the eighth time. Eight was the number of an octopus’s legs. “Spydiferous octopussy!” Lance said it out loud. The significance of eight was therefore droll. In this instance, any fucking would be droll, and therefore pointless. Lance wondered, if in the overall scheme of things, there was a value to drollness “in itself” but then decided against that likelihood. He already knew, from his university undergraduate course, that there was no point deciding the indecipherable.

It was the fault of things being made too complex. There was no room to manouevre any more – the more you moved, the more life locked down on you until your existence became like a grid around your head – just like in “Matrix”. "One" was truly the loneliest number of the self-centred self.

There was a knock on the door. It opened. It was Jane. “I’m hungry”, she said. “I could eat a horse.” Horses were animals with manes and tails, and the hooves and teeth would have been too boney to eat, all at once. Obviously, then, Jane meant this assertion metaphorically, although in size and demeanor, she resembled an ass.

Context is everything. Jane made this assertion standing in a university dormitory. University dormitories signify desperation and consumption of way too much caffeine. They also signify pimpled faces and immaturity, by and large. Jane’s face was clear as she made this statement, thus signifying her manipulative tendencies as an outsider. Who would pay for this horse that she would eat? Neither boy thought he had it in him. They exchanged glances again – they, too, felt hungry.

Marsha groaned. “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” she proclaimed with a wince. Her groan signified devastation; her utterance, resignation. She had caught the ‘flu, only a week out of the end of winter. How would she ever finish her essay on postmodernism? Nobody seemed to care though. If they did, they did not know how to convey it. No, they didn’t. It didn’t really matter anyway, since wanting to communicate meant reinforcing the dominant ideals of patriarchy and Marsha fancied herself a feminist, par excellence. Gosh, circumstance was immutable. It was better to shut up and preserve the name. They could all eat later, when the time was right. The significance of the correct time would be known when each felt it, synchronised, within each heart. Then, independently, and yet together, they would make their individual ways, beyond the closed door, and outside the dormitory, into the great world, the great intertextual meta-narrative.

Nobody knew the significance of this more than Lance. He knew, somehow, in a way which can neither be explained nor represented, that they would eat Korean food that day. It was just something which came to him in a flash! There was just something about the meaning of it being winter, and the likelihood of them eating Korean. However he looked at it, he couldn’t get away from that notion.

“I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed!” cried Marsha. If I don’t get this postmodernist essay done, then I might have to repeat that whole course! Tears welled in her swollen red eyes. She looked pathetic. “If you want to play with us,” asserted Lance, “ you’ll have to do better than that! You look pathetic!” he added. “Why don’t you buy some decent mascara?”

Marsha certainly seemed to be upset. Her seventies hairdo added extra sincerity to her display of emotion, however Lance remained resolute. Something within him made him think that Marsha was just aiming for a subtle game of sado-masochism. Sacrifice and confess–he would make her sacrifice and confess. Perhaps, he would wear a robe and his black leather mask.

Jason had another game in mind, however. He had grave suspicions that what really would achieve the effect he’d been hoping to with Lance was a high heaping of some good Korean Kim Chee. Kim Chee was hardly acknowledged as an aphrodisiac, and only those who had rare access to a certain multicultural knowledge could possible gauge what they were really in for.

It was a barely known fact that Korean sailors ate Kim Chee. The cross textual reference was this: Genet had also written about sailors. This was a subtle point, to be sure–and yet not one which, objectively speaking, should be overlooked. This was to be a test of mental agility and sexual daring, all at once. Would Lance have the intellectual, je ne sais quoi, to realise what was being suggested, right in front of him? As both partook of the Kim Chee, surely a transition would overcome them? They would realise that they were both dead men, fated to take whatever options still remained to them – either to become like Genet, or die wondering.

The Kim Chee had that hot pickled taste. It was true that it was made mostly of chili-soaked cabbage, but it was also made of love. Love was a concept which reminded you of warm and fuzzy things. Baby octopuses hidden under lettuce leaves, so cutely surprising. Christmas lunch with colleagues who you didn’t totally approve of... That sort of thing.

Lance decided to get into some heavy fucking. Just the thought of the Kim Chee and octopi under the lettuce leaves had done it to them, shoving it between the ass’s legs till he couldn’t cum anymore. Things were getting complex.... which was all to the better. Lance had decided to proposition Jason under eight or nine blankets. Eight signified love. Nine signified treason. Which was it to be? Certainly not ONE!

It was so hard to decide. Such is radical un-decidability. They agreed upon setting fire to the dorm instead. Only, Marsha was still in it.

What could be done? Was it an offence to female self-direction to set fire to the whole room with an actually, existing female in it? Or, was it more accurately a case of gay men’s jouissance? Neither point of view could be decided upon. A compromise would be to set fire only to the bed, in which Marsha was hiding, but it seemed a bit unfair, in terms of more conventional behaviour injunctions. Still, it was reasoned, as if by transcendent force, she would have a fighting chance, if the whole house were not on fire. Only her bed.

Midnight Oil, the band, was playing. They sung the song about beds burning, in order to protest the politics of, well, everything, but especially oppression. They sang:

How can we dance when our Earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning
Four wheels scare the cockatoos
From Kintore East to Yuendemu
The western desert lives and breathes
In forty five degrees

You could just tell that there was a great deal of anticipation in that song. One, ever so secret thing, you could surmise from it was that global warming was not a major issue. We would still be able to sleep ok, because “life goes on”. That insight had been taken to heart at an early age by both Lance and Jason as they listened to their mothers’ Beatles’ records. They knew it well by now -- it was “in” them, and that was totally normal, nothing to beat oneself up about: “Lord, liberate us from Fascism.”

A dog barked. The screams from Marsha’s burning lips – the text she spouted forth – must have been, according to some readings, horrific.

A knock came on the door. The police. A disturbance had been reported. Playing Midnight Oil at high volume had signified these dorm residents as being, “out of date” or was it, “out on a date”? What did it matter -- It wasn’t new. The postmodernist police wanted its free citizens to know that it was now the year 2005. Mayhem was ok, but would they please get with the programme.

The television came on just then via the remote control (Jane’s fat ass had just descended onto it.) Nobody knew what would happen next: Each were rivetted to their seats. Maybe this was “it” – the point when we we're all going to get “new values”. Instead a commercial: “‘Surf’ is a revolutionary new detergent”, it said – something which (from the jaded viewpoints of the students) was patently untrue. Having fringes (“bangs”, some would say) was revolutionary. Didn’t anybody know?

The T.V. news also went on to announce a textual reference – that thousands of women had been killed in “honour killings” throughout Jordan, but that was an uniformed, racist critique from a Caucasian cultural perspective that did not understand that they go to live with Allah. It was also a voice of technology speaking to their Daseins.  To claim to understand it all was wrong, wrong, wrong! It could lead to textual totalitarianism and concentration camps.

Real freedom was ... much like ice, really -- disconcerting enough to tolerate when it is freezing up your gums and mouth.  Impossible when it was placed onto your chest or belly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wobbly times number 132

It's the "Hooray for me, fuck you" narrow individualist principle of 'freedom' 
which has run amok in the USA.  As long as freedom is defined negatively, 
as top down political power of one over the other, all sorts of physical and
psychological interpersonal violence will be taken for granted as being 
somehow, 'natural'.  

Dominance and submission between humans is endemic within the greater
whole of class society in the world, from social relations between men and 
women, to power relations between workers and their employers.  
Dominance and submission ideology is actively expressed in 
racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia.  It also plays out in acts of 
violent crime between people--most of those people being
from the working class and lumpenproletariat. 

The above is not meant to deny that war is probably the greatest State 
legitimised interpersonal violence, all ordered by ruling classes and 
murderously obeyed by the ruled, mostly against each other inter-nationally.  
Finally, the greatest legitimised robbery in history is based on the wage system,
where in the USA 88% of the wealth produced by 90% of the people 
(aka the working class) ends up under the ownership and control of 
about 10% of the population (aka the ruling class). 

But on to the matter at hand, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT:

1.35 million people are prisoners in the USA.  Are they all violent criminals?

102,580 50.6% Drugs
30,756 15.2% Weapons, Explosives, Arson
24,311 12.0% Immigration
10,480  5.2% Extortion, Fraud, Bribery
  9,697  4.8% Sex offenses
  8,403  4.1% Robbery
  7,161  3.5% Buglary, Larceny, other property
  5,563  2.7% Homicide, Aggravated Assault, etc.

Drugs, Immigration, Extortion and Burglary categories aren't necessarily violent crimes at all. Immigration is a mixed bag: it's a growing category in part because it's easier to get a conviction; you arrest someone under suspicion of some other crime, then find out they are undocumented and file those charges instead.  How many of them are violent criminals?  No way to know.  Is it 0%?  Unlikely.

OIC, here's the source:

Sex crimes are not counted as being violent? Probably not.

See USC 18.109, 18.110 and 18.117 for details.

Anyway, there are three times as many violent criminals in the state prisons than there are in the *entire* Federal prison system.  The Federal system, while at historic highs, is a relatively small piece of the picture (15%?).

There are entirely too many people in jail and prison in the US; but, we must remember that more than half of them are actually pretty violent criminals.  Violent crime is a problem in the USA AND so is the 'War on Drugs' (begun during the Nixon Presidency) in terms of locking people up who should have the right to use whatever they want to use to have non-violent fun. 

The roots of contemporary, violent, interpersonal crime lie in the culture of narrow individualism, a culture which springs from the social relations of dominance and submission which pervade class society as a whole. I maintain that a classless society, where common ownership of the collective product of labour would be the norm; where the product of labour would no longer dominate labour as a commodity, alienated from the source of its production as a power over labour i.e. Capital, that such an association of producers would be free of most of the violent crime we experience today and certainly free of puritanical sadists running political States bent on punishing those who wish to live wild, free, libidinous lives. In such a society, equal political power between all men and women would be the norm. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wobbly times number 131

When an Old Woman Vanishes a Library                             Burns

Tommy opened his eyes.  A blue plane flash-flew ceiling high, passing just over his head.  As soon as it appeared, the plane vanished along with any memory of why it had been there.

He was awake now,  the covers felt good.  Frances lay warm, gorgeous and sexy next to him.  Tommy would have liked nothing better than to snuggle up next to her. But Frances had  to be up for job training by five.  Waking her with a cuddle, possibly poking her with his boney knees was not an option.  So, he decided to get up.

It seemed the coldest part of the day was blowing through the partially open bedroom window.  He moved in a semi-drunken, slow manner toward the bathroom.  Shock hit his body like a cold fist, as he splashed cold water over his face, scrubbing night’s crud from his eyes.  “Bald guys need to keep a wool beret around in the winter.”  This was but one of the many thoughts erupting in his head.

He put on his heaviest black sweater, his thickest sweat pants along with the olive green socks Frances had been issued during her stint in the Australian Defence Force.   Moving outside the bedroom, he carefully closed the door and tip-toed into the darkened living room.  He was finally able to switch the living room light on.   “When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.”  He spied his flip-flops on the rug.  It was 3am. “Damn, I thought it was closer to five.”  Tommy had become an inveterate insomniac. It seemed the only time he could write was in the wee hours of the morning when it was quiet and he could be alone with his imagination. 

Now properly, warmly, deliciously shoed, “coffee!”  He made his way to their drip style machine and began his holy morning ritual.  Three tablespoons of espresso beans into the grinder : water up to the  ‘seven’ level.  “Must be seven demitasse.”   As he pressed down on the mill’s cover, the electrical connection was made and it whined, constantly changing pitch turning the dry beans to powder.  “What begins with a whine and ends with a wine .”   After fingering the powder into the filter basket and switching the machine, on gurgling water began splurging over the freshly ground coffee, dripping thick-black into the glass pot.

 At the push of a button, the familiar “beep” and “whirr” of the computer booting up came on as  Tommy began doing his Cobra-trained, full push-ups.  “Chest to the floor. Twenty-five, twenty-six. Not bad,” he mused breathlessly.  Rolling his body over on the red, Turkish-style carpet, Tommy  crunched thirty sit-ups.  He stood up without using his hands and walked backed to the coffee maker, where he poured himself a cuppa.  From a condition of total destruction, his mind was now cooking with gas.

Once he’d shuffled back in front of the blue lit computer screen, he launched into the Internet.  He keyed-in his Yahoo password  and perused  news on his home page. 

“Nothing much unusual...ah Bob Hope died.  He was 100.  And some 22 year old American GI  bought it yesterday Iraq.  Wonder why we’re there?”

“Yankee, you die!” the old refrain from a black and white John Garfield movie passed through his mind.

 “But of course, oil. Here you are boys.  Here’s what you’re fighting for.   Hope was smiling as two bikini-clad starlets rolled out a barrel of crude.   And there was Bob, waving good-bye from a rising Army helicopter to his old theme song, “Thanks for the memories....”

An unkind thought, to be sure.  But hell, it was war and humour helped make the absurdities of same more palatable.  Hope knew that.  The joke was probably lost on the kid though.  Too young to know better.  Never to know better, really when you thought about it.  The kid lying there, bleeding, last thoughts about home, his girlfriend, fading, the pain, then nothing.  Sad really.  “But what could a ‘Poe’ Boy do, sep to play for a rock n roll band....stop it!”  he thought.

He clicked on  his e-mail setting.  Some postings from his various virtual acquaintances across the globe popped up on the screen.  M wrote from Brazil on the vegetarian list about sprouting alfalfa seeds and E passed an article on to the P list from “The Financial Times” concerning the ins and outs of the U.S. dollar’s lower exchange rate.  Then, one guy, who worked in advertising, said that the success of the industry he was employed in was more or less proof of the practical degree that behaviourism worked in manipulating contemporary society.

Tommy got up and got another cup of coffee.  He flip-flopped back to the blue sheet, which served as a curtain and gently moved both ends toward the middle so that he could see outside.  Starlit darkness ruled.

Most predators who eat people are nocturnal. It must be that the equation of darkness with evil is embedded there.  After all, it exists in African societies as well as elsewhere.”

 The cement balcony looked ice cold grey and dull.    “Must be something like seven degrees out there now.”  Walking back toward the kitchen, he grabbed   
his black wool beret impermeable from where he’d left it on top of the fridge the night before.  Immediately on donning it, he felt warmer.  “Funny that, about heat and bald heads,” he half-whispered to himself.

This time, he sat down for the duration, wandering off into his imagination,  writing until first-light began to peek through the thin, blue window sheet.  He immediately immersed himself at the foot of a gorge in pre-historic France.  Cro-Magnons spoke to one another in staccato tones.  They did not speak often.  This tribe was more reserved with speech than perhaps others were.  At least, that’s how he imagined it.

Then, the scene was gone.  After an hour-straight of typing, it was over.  Like the blue plane he’d awakened to, the images of pre-historic life vanished.  Perfect timing really, as Frances had just begun to stir.  He could hear ABC classical radio switching itself on automatically in the bedroom.  Music from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” wafted from the darkened door.

Frances stuck her head around the corner in a  t-shirt, greeting  Tommy  with an, “AbBa!”   She was a funny animal.

 Tommy answered by frying sliced potatoes and onions with the pan cover on.  He also put  bacon in and finally two eggs.  He opened some baked beans and placed them in the pan as well. When the potatoes were brown, he spread a small amount of barley bran and parsley over them.  Then he flipped the whole conglomeration over.

Tommy and Frances didn’t speak  Frances checked and responded to her e-mail, while absentmindedly eating her eggs, bacon and potatoes.   Tommy launched into the beans and potatoes spreading gobs of Farmland Tomato Sauce and Bornier’s Dijon Mustard over his fried spuds.

When they’d finished breakfast, they jumped into the car and drove to the train station. Frances’ trip to Joondalup would take thirty minutes, about as long as it would be  for her to drive there, plus there was the hassle of parking.

Tommy saw the usual gaggle of workers and students making their way to their expected, allotted places by 8 in the morning.  “Disturbed honey bees.”

When he got back to the apartment, he took a shower, got dressed and swept a bit.  The only thing he absolutely had to do was pay Frances’ credit card at the Post Office.  It was a fine day outside.  The prediction in the “West Australian” was that the temperature would hit 29.   Twenty-nine and partly cloudy was his  favourite brand of weather.

After pounding out a newsy letter to his daughter asking her what she thought of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, he folded it in half and half again and put in an envelope, sealing it with a lick of his tongue.  Then he wet the stamp and air mail sticker and carefully addressed it to Texas.          
Tommy did the morning dishes then stepped out, credit card and bill in hand, along with his letter to Solange.  Down the sun-drenched sidewalk he walked, heading for the Albany Highway some two city blocks away.  He turned right, making his way past the local news vendor, the music store, the clothing store, past Verlanda’s coffee shop, the Vic Park launderette and then crossed the highway to the Australian P. O. 

“Small line as usual,” he thought to himself.  Just another thing that he liked about living in Australia, at least Western Australia.  The post office seemed oh so much more efficient and friendly than the ones back the U.S..  And why?  Of course, it was because they were more adequately staffed.  It stood to reason.  But another, more amazing thing was that one could pay most of one’s bills there, including one’s credit card.

“Good day, sir.  How can I help you?” the woman smiled. 

“I need to pay my wife’s credit card.”

“Certainly sir.  How much were you going to put in?”

“A hundred.”

“Check or savings?”

“Savings.  There you go.”

“Thank-you.  Is there anything else?”



As he exited the flourescent lit P.O.,  he noticed a grey-haired woman sitting on the sun drenched sidewalk propped up against the shade of a wall of the Commonwealth Bank. 
“I say,” he said after crossing the Albany Highway, “you seem to have picked the right spot.”  Tommy was being half sarcastic, half serious.   Actually, he felt a bit powerless.  Charity was never an option for him.  He was poor and he knew it.  No illusions here, not for Tommy anyway.  The poor giving to the poor, sharing crumbs, this wasn’t the way out of the cycle of poverty.  Sure, you could be a good Muslim or Christian by being charitable.  But Tommy was neither and as far as he was concerned, charity only kept people from the kind of righteous indignation they needed to stoke fighting spirit.  Charity was not the same thing as solidarity in struggle.  Most poor souls, most of whom were workers or formerly employed workers never understood this dynamic and actually preferred the role of errant members of the flock who just needed a hand out now and again.  As he looked down on her in her in what seemed to him to be a passive position,  he felt a bit stronger.

 Tommy was prepared to walk on as he usually did when he encountered homeless people.   Then he heard the woman remark, “There’s no place like home, until you have to clean it.”

 “Excuse me!  Are you ok mam?” 
“What a strange thing to say,” he thought to himself.

She looked up and startled him again.  “What’s housework?  Just something you do that nobody notices unless you don’t do it.”    


“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more, don’t you know.” she muttered. 

“Are you ok?” he asked again.

“Yes.  I’m fine,” she said looking up through squinting eyes.  Two of her teeth flashed golden in the sunlight. 

“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”  Tommy asked.

“Don’t know,” she answered.  “I’ve been a lot of places in my life.”

“I mean, where do you live?”  Tommy asked.

“I live here,” she answered.

“Where’s here?”  he insisted.

“Just up the street....”

“I know where it was!  You’re the person living in the wash house,” Tommy blurted.

She looked up at him in earnest now.  “I don’t know that’s any of your business.”

“Brendan told me that there was someone sleeping in the wash house.  I saw you going down the driveway yesterday.”

“Ok, you got me,” she said.

“Hmm.  So, why are you doing that?”  Tommy asked.

“I need a place to sleep,” she mumbled.  “You wouldn’t begrudge me that.”

“No, no.  I mean, what in the world made you end up sleeping in our wash house?”

“Life. Besides, it’s not your wash house.  It belongs to the landlord.”

“Sure, ok, but what’s your story?” 

“I’ll tell you for a bottle of wine,” she answered with a twinkle in her eye.

“You got it,” he said.

“First the wine,” she grinned.

They walked like the most unlikely couple down to  Liquor Barn, where she insisted on a bottle of “Poet’s Corner” shiraz. 

“Got something to open that with?” he asked.

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that sonny,” she replied, pulling a jack-knife complete with cork screw out of her pocket. 

“You know, you don’t have bad taste in wine for a street person.”

“Look, this stuff isn’t that expensive.  I know what’s what with the reds though.  You alright about that sonny?”

“Look, I’m as old as you are.  How about laying off the sonny stuff.”

“Sure.”  She took a large swig.        

“Ok, how about that story.”          

“Okay mate,”  she said, sitting down on the kerb under a gum tree near a seagull infested parking lot.  “You see, it was like this,” taking another pull.   “By the way, why do you want to know?  You’re not a social worker or a cop or something, are you?”

“I’m just curious.  I’m a writer.  Stories hold great interest for us, do they not?.”

“I see.  Ok.  Here goes.  You’d never know it to look at me but once I was a nice lady.  I had the whole shebang, a husband, a child, a house, the whole shebang.  Everything was going along just fine.  Chuggingly well, really.  Then, it happened.  My husband got layed off from his welding job at the plant.  He’d been working there for fifteen years.  Ever since his mid thirties really.  Well, that put the old financial kybosh on our lives, ‘cause try as he might, he couldn’t find another job–leastwise none he’d take.   When you reach your fifties and beyond the party’s over in the old job market.  He tried though.  I’ve got to give him credit for that. 

“Anyway, we had house payments to make and I had the bright idea to send my son to private school.  Only the best for our son. 

“We’d agreed to that.  Well after I pestered my husband some, we’d agreed.  He really didn’t really fancy it.  Never did.  Well, I wanted my son to have better than we had.  I wanted him to have something more than a crappy welding job like his father.  So, it was off to private school.  The point is that what with his layoff and all, we were beginning to hurt.  Our savings were cleaned out after the first month and bills started piling up, not to mention the already existing credit card.  I decided to start looking for work.  Jack didn’t like that.  He didn’t want me working.  But I told him, someone had to find something, so’s we could  pay the bills.  The bank wasn’t going to let us keep the house for nothing and then there was our son’s private school.  He threatened to take Jimmy out of the school to save cash.  Well, I wouldn’t hear of it.” 

She stopped for awhile and looked around at the traffic, birds and people passing by.  After a few more swigs, she continued.

“In fact, I did manage to find some work at the local Coles.  But they were only paying me $11 an hour.  We needed more than that, just for groceries.  So, I kept looking.  Then one day one of my workmates, a woman, read me this story in the “West Australian” about prostitutes.  I couldn’t believe what they were being payed.  I thought, why not give it a try.  I mean, sex had become something I more or less did as a duty for my husband.  I really did it without wanting to.  Why not do the same thing for $200 a pop?”

She stopped talking and sat silently on the kerb, fingering the label on the wine bottle.

“In fact, when I finally did get in the whoring game–oh mind you, it was a respectable place with lots of respectable men coming and going–but when I finally did get in to the whoring game, I met a lot of women who were like me or who were unlikely candidates for this kind of work.”

“Really?” Tommy asked.  “Who?”

“College girls.  I even met a woman who had done her PhD and who hadn’t been able to find work in her field yet.  She said that she’d more or less worked her way through school this way and she saw no reason not to continue as long as the need arose, so to speak.”

“And who else?”

“Wives.  Lots of wives, supporting their kids and or husbands or both.  I found others in my position there.  It was a good house.  No disease.  Lots of respectable Johns, really they  were.”

“Well, what happened?”

“My husband began to get suspicious.  I mean between footy matches on the telly.   I was able to keep sending Jimmy to school and pay the mortgage.   He’d say, ‘How much you making there at Coles anyway?  I heard they don’t pay much’.  You see, I’d kept my old job as a cover.”

“And then?”

“Well, and then I told him.  I broke down.  I cried!”

“And his response?”

“He hit me.  He hit me hard and then he walked out.”

“What do you mean, ‘he walked out?”

“He left me with a black eye.  I didn’t know where he’d gone, but he left.  I think he ended up in Melbourne.  I’d stopped crying for good by then.  I was only trying to make sure that my son got a good education and that we’d have a nice house for him to come home to.”

“And your son?”

“He found out too.  My husband made sure of that.”

“And what did he do?”

“He was so ashamed.  He screamed at me, ‘Mommy, you’re a whore!’ He wouldn’t speak to me.  For weeks, he locked himself in his bedroom and wouldn’t come out.  My childless sister in America found out about the whole thing.  I think either my husband or son e-mailed her or something.  Anyway, she and her husband flew to Australia and got a whispered court order.  They live in America.  They took him away.  It broke my heart,” she said taking another swig.  “I told them, I told the law that I’d never go back to prostitution.  Soon after my son left, I lost the house.  I’d lost everything, everything that really mattered to me.  It broke my heart.  And so, I’m here.”

“How long ago was all this?”

“Oh, it’s been years.”

“Have you ever seen either your husband or son again?”

“Never saw them again.  They don’t want to see me.  My son goes to Harvard Business School now.  My sister makes sure I know those insipid things.”

“And prostitution?”

“Gave it up permanently when I went on the road.”

“I can’t believe this happened to you.  You sacrificed your integrity for them and they ditched you.”

“Seems all to typical,” she said.

The kerb side conversation fell silent.  What more was there to say?

Trust could exist.  Solidarity could exist.  Even charity could exist.  But what the hell.

If hardly anybody could be counted on, what could you do?

The gulls flew around now and again and the occasional car pulled into the parking lot.  She drank the last of the shiraz and without another word made her way down to the Albany Highway.  Tommy ambled back to the apartment and found the door open. 

“Where have you been?” Frances asked.

“Paying your credit card,” he answered.

That night Tommy dreamt that he was in a forest with three other people.  They were wondering how to warn another group that something bad was about to happen to them.  The trouble was that they were so far away from those people, none of them could think of a way to get to the people who were in danger in time.  Tommy felt a surge of adrenalin go through his body and he jumped, staying in the air for longer than he had expected.  He reached the top of a tall tree and pushed himself upwards and forward again and again to other, further trees and on until he reached the place where the people in danger were.  He shouted to them and awoke in the dark.  Frances kicked him in the knee then pushed him over and told him to stop snoring.  After awhile, they both went back to sleep. 

The next morning, when the Sun had come up, he took the garbage out.  On the way back to the apartment from the trash barrels which were located just outside the wash house, he checked inside.  The woman’s sleeping bag was gone.  She’d vanished.

Nobody ever saw her in Vic Park again, not even Brendan--Brendan sees most everything which goes on around these parts.