“Did you hear what Scabbott said the other day?”
“Hang on Ted, I’ve just got to duck out to the cellar and the turn down the gas.” Rachel the barmaid, who opened the Mapleton Pub every Saturday morning, held aloft a madly frothing schooner that she was attempting to pour for Ted – his heart starter.
“No worries love, I’ll man the fort.” Puffing out his chest he scanned the empty bar room, just in case for the first time in history someone else was there at 10am on the dot.
Rachel had taken a second job out of necessity. Thankfully, Saturday penalty rates hadn’t been bargained away yet, so the six hours at time and a half made it worthwhile – just.
“Bloody fascists the lot of ’em.” Ted was never short of an opinion. “They must think we’re a bunch of dimwits who’ll sit by and watch them whittle away the entitlements we fought so bloody hard for.”
“So if your not going to sit by, what are you going to do then?” That kept the whinger quiet for about thirty seconds.
“You know love, those bloody…sorry dear, excuse me language will you, you know how I get riled up about this stuff! But the bloody mongrel employers and the government are in cahoots with each other; so there’s not much we can do at all. Basically we’re screwed, you know.”
Monday to Friday, Rachel worked as an admin assistant in an office in Nambour. She’d taken on the pub job three years ago when her husband developed emphysema after forty odd years of smoking. He needed a lung transplant and it was looking more and more like that was never going to happen. His rare blood type, B negative, didn’t help. The fact he kept puffing away supposedly didn’t affect his position on the list, but when a twenty six year old B negative lifesaver from Mooloolaba got a set of bellows last month, Rachel was pretty sure Allan had been bumped down the list.
“I’ll give up when I get the transplant. I promise.”
“Do you really think Doctor Benjamin believes that. You know you’d be doing yourself a favour if you could at least show some sort of will to live.”
“They can’t discriminate because I smoke, you know that.”
“Yes Allan, I know.”
The long list of medications and the oxygen cylinders were expensive and never on discount. The Saturday shift kept the wolf from the door.
“Why are you doing this to yourself Rachel?” her mother would ask.
“I know Mum. I love him and I know that Allan would do the same for me. One day the lungs will turn up.”
“Don’t bet the farm on it dear.”
Come to speak of it, the farm was on the brink of going under. Rachel kept financial matters private but the once lucrative avocado and macadamia orchard was now a liability. Allan couldn’t work it any more, and their son, even with an expensive Agribusiness degree under his belt, had decided that an acting career and importing Goji Berries was more to his liking.
Philosophical and always generous with a smile, even to Ted the ten o’clock regular, one would guess that Rachel didn’t have a care in the world.
“Now Ted, that should have done it. Let’s see if we can’t get your heart started.” She took a clean glass, poured a perfect beer and stood it on the bar.
“Thanks love. Yeah, so as I was saying, did you hear what Scabbott said?”
“No, actually I try to tune out from the news as much as possible. But go on tell me, what has he gone and done now?” she asked with her usual lightness of being. Not a skerrick of malice, or judgement, or aversion ever existed in her voice. Rachel was a rare beacon of light in an increasingly dark world.
“He said that coal was good for humanity! Can you believe it?” Ted quaffed a large draught from his beer. “The man’s an ignorant fool.”
“But we did vote him in Ted.”
“I didn’t vote for him that’s for bloody sure.”
It seemed that nobody voted for the democratically elected prime minister. Strange that, thought Rachel.
But she knew the truth first hand. She had volunteered to hand out how to vote pamphlets for the local Greens’ candidate and apart from the occasional snide sentiments directed at her like: “you’ve got to be kidding,” or “bloody hippies,” Rachel observed an overwhelming apathy and distrust for the political system. Some people were openly angry at having to vote at all.
“They’re all as bad as each other.”
“Guess we’ll give Abbott a go, he can’t be any worse than Gillard, or Rudd. Look at that.” A disgruntled voter pointed to a massive cor-flute displaying a picture of Julia and Kevin kissing. Sure it was out of context, but the point was being made loud and clear by both the Liberals and by the Murdoch press that hounded Labor relentlessly.
Needless to say the local LNP candidate romped it in. His previous track record, as a minister in the Howard government, included numerous allegations of corruption and the outrageous fabrication of rumours that paedophile rings were operating in remote Aboriginal communities. His latest antics to get back into power involved instructing two workers to steal a personal diary from the sitting member and a fund raising dinner embellished with a menu slandering the female prime minister in the most disgusting way imaginable. No one seemed to care.
Rachel did though.
“So tell me Ted, if coal is not good for humanity, what do you think we should we doing about our energy needs?” She started to pour his second schooner.
The ritual never varied. Ted finished off the heart starter, placed it on the counter, reached into his back pocket for his wallet, burped and needlessly asked, “One for the road, eh love?”
He ignored her question and mindlessly ploughed on. He vented about the Ebola Crisis, “they say it was from having sex with monkeys”; the Islamic terror threat, “they should bomb those crazy rag heads off the face of the earth” and the Chinese free trade deal, “they’ll end up owning the whole country, you mark my words.”
Rachel humoured him. She would call him to task once in a while, but pointless activity was not a luxury she could afford. Besides he would be gone at 10.27.
Out of the blue, Jason the licensee, interrupted Ted’s tirade.
“Rachel, there’s a call for you. I’ll look after here. Take it in my office.” She quickly wiped beer dregs off the bar and left Ted to her boss.
“What’s going on?” Ted asked.
“It’s her husband. He’s taken a turn for the worse. I don’t like his chances.”
Ted was silent as Jason informed him of the sick husband, the bank’s attempts at repossessing the farm and the son with stars in his eyes and the back shed full of rapidly depreciating Goji berries.
“I had no idea,” said the stunned patron nursing a now empty beer glass.
As it turned out the expert on everything wrong with the world didn’t know a thing about the happy soul he unloaded upon every Saturday morning. If you had asked him anything about Rachel, stuck for words he may have managed, “She pours a bloody good beer.”