This afternoon I did some quick shopping before my kids arrived at 4. I hadn't seen them since Christmas morning and I wanted to pick up a few little items like an extension cord but also wanted to look for new sheets. I went to Dickson intending to go to Harris Scarfe (formerly Allens. It's freaky to have encountered Harris Scarfe like this given they were the perennial low-rent department store as I grew up in Adelaide. To suddenly explode across the East Coast after so many years of sketchy docility is a little weird.)
Anyways (rolls eyes at own digression) I noticed a new two-dollar-crap store in Dickson called Bill's Bargains. (I love these stores and god bless capitalism (but mostly China) for being able to serve up all kinds of handy stuff for less than the cost of a sandwich. I mean, 100 LED fairy lights with variable sequences for $21? (Although you can quite readily get three sandwiches for that price I'll grant you). Try explaining that to Edison -- his being dead won't be the only barrier to comprehension)
Anyways, in this store, there was a tall, very thin, weird looking bloke chatting affably to the store owner (who may or may not be "Bill". History does not record. Which is History's loss).
I wandered from aisle to aisle looking for flash gizmos or tasty ethnic handicrafts for the price of a fancy sandwich, all the while eavesdropping. (Confession: I do like to eavesdrop on strangers at restaurants and in shops. You hear some fascinating stuff. I justify this as research for a novel. Any novel. Maybe Watership Down, for example. I would imagine rabbit dialogue is quite hard to do.)
He was talking non-stop to the owner who was merely nodding and aha-ing and mmming.
Here’s what I recall of what the dude said: ‘Yeah, it’s going to be great for Canberra. [blah, blah]. It’s going to clean the scum from the streets. [blah, blah in which I gather he’s talking about a caravan park somewhere which will apparently draw all of Canberra’s impoverished disenfranchised scum into one handy location]. Yeah, I’m going to manage it [may have been: I should manage it]. Because I know all the people and all the trouble-makers and all the tricks and all the deals. [blah blah, something about being interviewed by the police but being kicked out because he’s a drunk.] Yeah, I’m a drunk. [blah, blah, something about it being the police’s loss because he has some tasty information]. I could have told about that time twenty years ago that somewhere broke into the police armory and took all that cord [I think that’s the word he used]. They thought it was terrorists but I know it was right in their back yard. Milo tins full of the stuff with fuses. [So I gather we’re talking explosives. Blah, blah, something about heavy interstate bikers. Blah blah.] Of course I know a lot more than that. But if the police pull me over and ask me now I’m not going to give them the time of day.
At this point, I rounded the final aisle and came face to face with the owner for the first time. He gave me a sweet little eye-brow raise by way of greeting, part hello, part kill-me-now. I gave him one in return, part hello, part I’m-not-sure-the-authorities-would understand. You’re on your own Bill/notBill, purveyor of bargains.
And then I swept out elegantly past the tall thin drunk and went and bought 400-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. Decadence! Now if only I could have got them for the cost of a sandwich.
I will however view powdered drinking chocolate a little more suspiciously from now on.