There are some people on your roof

They are workmen, and they’re doing the gutters on my shop; they’ve been busy up there for three days. Customers, noticing the boots treading above their heads, tell me that it’s busy up there. There are hammers, drills, voices calling out, ‘Where’s the end of  that one going?’

Crashes. Things dropping. More footsteps, faster this time, criss crossing above me, mapping out a hard day’s work. My customers look up, then down. Some lean backwards, allowing for stiff necks, and screw up their eyes to help them see through the roof.

‘Something going on up there, I reckon.’

‘You got pigeons up there?’

‘I used to do roof work.’

‘I see their ladder out there. It’s in the wrong place. They ort to go up over the tanks. Be safer.’

‘My word, what a noise. Do you have anything by Di Morrissey?’

I fiddle about and tidy the shelves. A drill shatters a customer conversation about Freud (that has been going on for some time).

‘God. What was that?’ (Freud probably).

A man told me about his successful teaching career (nobody can teach properly anymore etc) until a series of precise deafening blows silenced him with a different kind of success. He left abruptly, refusing to buy his book…which lay on the counter looking up at the dust shifting left and right under the hammer blows.

I read a bit more of The Lady and the Peacock and I can’t hear anything around me because I’m in Burma.

A man in History, jerks around at the drill. He says, ‘That’s not right.’

A young man wearing a backpack and earphones can’t hear anything either. He is serene underneath a crash of guttering. He is reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A young mother (with twin babies and a toddler) sways over the infant story books. She is also oblivious. This kind of chaos is her every day. She smiles. She’s reading a Mem Fox. The toddler leans against her. Her pram babies bubble and breath.

The drill screams.

The man in history leaves.

The toddler yawns and leans tightly against the smiling mother, and the babies in the pram joggle about, kicking against the sides of comfort.

Image from “The Sistine Madonna” by Raphael, c.1513

Poor Wombat

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The tradesmen outside my shop need the bakery. They glance in at me, continue past (‘wrong place, this isn’t the food’) and one of them says, ‘lawn weather!’

The rain is blowing sideways.

Back at their ute, the tradesmen, who are wearing shorts and t shirts, stand there with their food, serene, not hurrying. They watch an orange traffic cone skid past them on its hip.

‘Council! They can afford it!’

On the ute, the passenger side windows are all the way down, swallowing rain. But the drivers lean over the ute tray, examining things, passing things, balancing pies and coffee. One man pulled at a rope, help up the end of it. They all look at it and shake their heads. He thumps it against the side of the ute. They discuss something fervently, probably the rope. One man, the youngest, wraps one end around his waist and performs a kind of dance. The oldest man there turns his back and comes to stand in my doorway. The other two laugh. The rain continues – surely they are getting cold…

They are.

‘I’m outta here.’

‘I’ve seen Wombat drive one of them.’ They all look across the road. ‘Wombat is a fool. I told him, too.’

‘All right, Murray Bridge, it is.’

And they all climb into the ute, wet seats, wet clothes, the rope packed in again.

I think, well, goodbye… good luck to Wombat.

 

Artwork by Pascal Campion

Bathrooms

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There is a white ute parked directly outside my shop. And there are three tradesmen who have climbed out and are standing together, all of them checking their phones, and all of them looking up and around for the bakery. One of them carries a can of coke and a set of ear muffs, and he turns and walks to my door and shoulders his way in, he is still reading his phone. Then he realizes a mistake. He says, ‘Oh fuck, sorry mate!’
His friend, still outside, says, ‘You fucking idiot, that’s not the bakery.’
His other friend, who is on his phone, pauses to inform the others (by pointing) where the bakery is. The tradesman who entered my door gives them both the finger (rather magnificently, because he bends his knees and arcs with both arms and the earmuffs and the coke) this fingered insult over the whole earth and especially over them. He says, ‘But I do need a book, I need the next Game of Thrones before the rest of that shit comes out on screen.’
His friend says, ‘Man, you are not John Snow. You are, like, just a dickhead’.
And the tradesman (who is now John Snow) says that he is John Snow, and that he can read.
The third tradesman puts his phone in his pocket and says, ‘I’m eating now. You two bathrooms can just stay here.’
And then they all move toward the bakery; three friends, John Snow, dickheads, bathrooms, whatever.