The Work

The Work


Story and Illustration by Sandshoe

Isobella appeared like a tall statue on the edge of the verandah. Suse, a romance figurine, stepped out through the shaded door of Isabella’s moon-and-candle lit room to meet her. The overhang of the roof made an acute angle at the verandah’s corner junction with this moon’s remarkable light.

“Beautiful, isn’t it,” Suse said. Suse had walked through from the living room especially looking for Isobella. She heard her homecoming step on the verandah.

Nobody was responsible for anything at the squat in one sense or perhaps for anybody. Anarchy did rule. Black assumed a role of manager when nothing else could be avoided. Someone had to manage crowds on weekends. The address might well have been advertised on billboards at every city intersection within walking distance. The Castle where townies go and out-of-townies in linen suits with silk neckties and women wore shantung. When addresses in the business district closed their doors. The Castle became playground. No electricity other than to boil a jug and little furniture.

“I’m not happy Ina is spending the nights in your room, Isobella. You have my dog.”

Suse was intent with resolve. Her tone was gently reproving of a fait accompli. Isobella’s gentleness was reciprocal and kind.

“I wondered if you knew. Not that she’s there now. Funny she never comes in until I’m in bed. I’ve never fed her. I would never feed anybody’s dog.”

“Yes.” Suse in the light falling on her face looked even more fragile than usual She had thrown a fine lace shawl around her shoulders. “I’ve been down to see where she was a couple of times.”

“Did you come down with a torch or could you see like tonight?”

No-one would hear Suse in her bare feet.

“I could hear her snoring.”

Isobella chuckled. “She does snore. That was how I first knew she was there. I snore,” she added, “It might have been me.”

“I know my dog’s snore. You don’t snore like she does.” Suse, gentle, scoffed. Her words slurred however. Her focus was spent.

“You know how I snore?”

“No. I know how my dog snores.” Suse emitted a snort that was a laugh. You went out? You look nice. Very dressed up.”

“Thank you. I treated myself to a dinner at The Front Page, I usually stay in. I dance. Drink coffee. Write poems.”

“Goodnight,” Suse said, “I’m tired. I was at work. It’s time for me to go to bed.”

“I”ll be up until the others get in tonight. The moon through the window on a night like tonight fills the room, doesn’t it.”

“That used to be my room. Possum talked me into giving it up for you. It’s good. I like upstairs. What will you do until then?”

“I’ll watch the branches of the oak tree. You know how lovely the view is then. The room was once Ina’s.”

Suse murmured. “No, she’s only lived upstairs. I didn’t have her. Goodnight.”

The Busker was the first in later that night. He put his head in through Isobella’s doorway. A tracery of prematurely grey hair glinted out of the dark of his form. The aged vest he always wore with denim was rough. His rough boots were prominent. “They’re not clean,” he said, “Sorry.” He showed one and the other. He stood his guitar on end against the door frame. “G’day”. Broad and grimacing, his smile and face emitted a chortle that was a visible attack onto the moonlight. More than ever, his eyes shone as if lit by inner demons. “Went to see my parents. Something different. I’ll tell you about it if you like.” He brayed a heehaw laugh.

Isobella had been a resident at The Castle now some time. She had never known or thought of The Busker having parents. The office, the stress of her own once work and its lifestyle seemed years distant, the world itself without telephones, television or radio.

“Have you brothers, sisters? Are you the oldest?”

He guffawed and brayed he would turn the hifi on in his room and return. “Tell you sometime. The others will be in soon.” He chortled, “Maybe the party’s in your room tonight. I’m tired of it in mine. I’ll still DJ. They don’t leave for hours. Can it be? I’ll bring some cushions in. Yuck. Yuck.”

Isobella agreed. She lit new candles when The Busker returned making his strange sounds and grinning. He added cushions to the slate floor and sprawled. The music was blaring through their adjoining wall. “BUSKER! Here you are! How the fuck are ya!” resounded among the cries of the other residents’ discovery coming in and searching to establish the night in bright moonlight that took charge. In no time the room was crammed with residents telling their stories. They made a caterwauling to be heard.

“Let me tell this one. BUSKER! SHUT UP!” screamed a crier.

The Busker grinned in the centre of the fracas. He was quiet this evening, observing, intermittently stroking his beard as he did with his two hands or making a braying noise. Party making was noise. Its crescendo built.