Most of the Yabbies novel is made up of story-fragments that in principle could come together in any sequence: we make sense of them in whatever way we choose.
What follows is perhaps my favourite story-fragment, “Mishie’. (A gentle reminder that it’s fiction? 🙂 ) A bit of context first, though. The fragment takes place perhaps thirty or forty years from now, some decades after one country has shifted from a ‘conventional’ possession-based economy to a responsibility-based (‘no-money’) economy. The latter is that ‘world’ that Mishie inhabits, has grown up in – and wants, very much, to see more of the world. A few terms: ‘vizzie’ is a ‘visitor’, someone from a different country; ‘GA’ and ‘garda’ are police, ‘tucker’ is a standard current Australianism for ‘food’; the language is basic English with a fair few adaptations over time, and a lot of local slang. The reference at the end to ‘that book we did in Year Nine’ is Ursula le Guin’s sci-fi masterpiece The Dispossessed. What happens in the story-fragment is a simple contrast of before, and after…
Over to you after the ‘Read more…’ link, anyway: have fun, I hope?
U know i said this course was just a trick that Overseas uses to make it difficult to get a passport? Gods is that true or what! This bloody stuff cant be real, u would not believe the crap they make up about what the vizzies are supposed go through for resources – even the most basic everyday stuff!
They made us all sit through the most boringly stupid bloody lecture this morning, about what they called ‘the economics of money’. It made no sense at all: how u have to have credit or this actual money stuff – paper and coins and so on – before ure allowed to take anything, or use anything, or do anything, really. And if u live there u can only get the money by working for someone else, and they have to get it by working for someone else, and so on. If thats real, gods only knows how parents would survive, or kids, or the old, or the sick. Perhaps Overseas think they dont? though apparently theres something called ‘welfare’ which we wont get anyway. They said something about how all that works, with something called ‘taxes’ that everyone hates, and that we would have to give them even though we dont get any benefits, but it was all so bloody complicated i just gave up. I mean, who gives a shit? the headcases get into that stuff, but i just want to get on the road, dont i?
I guess they must be making it look worse than it is just to keep us on our toes and all that. They keep on saying stuff that the money has to do a two-way balance, to the dot, in everything – but everyone knows u cant get that in real-world systems, I mean, thats basic system-symmetry stuff from primary school, isnt it? And then they say that the more u have – the ‘richer’ u are – not only does that get u to more stuff and better stuff, but they give u more money as well, just because uve got the money in the first place. So theres no way it can balance anyway. I really dont get it. I mean, no-one could design something that stupid.
We had a go at it this afternoon, but gods its crazy! Theyve got this place laid out like a store street, like in a country town they said, but all the store windows are these bloody great sheets of glass and everythings on display and all really pretty and stuff. Everythings got prices on, money-labels, except for a couple of real fancy stores where there werent any prices, they said the idea was that if u have to ask the price it means u cant afford it, which apparently makes it better or something, but i cant see the point. And the prices are all different for the same thing in different stores and u have to go backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards to work out which ones less, they called it the ‘cheapest’, in each place and get each thing in turn from each one and it takes ages to do it and noone would do it for real anyway so obviously its just another Overseas fake.
Theyve got actors and stuff to pretend to be storekeeps and so on. So they gave us this stupid moneyfold thing, which the girls are supposed call a ‘purse’ and the boys a ‘wallet’ even though its exactly the same thing, and got us to sit down in a cafe place and pretend to be prissy ladies and gentlemen from some poncy old pommy flick, drinking afternoon tea and all that kind of crap. And were supposed to look at the menu thing and check all the prices and look at the folds we each have and each count all the coins and paper in the fold and make sure we have enough to match the price of everything we ask for, then the biz takes the order and brings it all back and we have the dainty tea and she brings back a single bill and we all have to work out who ordered what and put it all in the middle and it never adds up because noone has the right coins and stuff, and the biz adds it all up again and makes sure weve given her enough and then e takes it away and brings back the extra – the ‘change’ – and we have to check es given us back the right amount and then were supposed to divvy that up and it doesnt balance either so were supposed to argue about that till its fair somehow, and then we have to work out an extra bit called a tip that goes to the biz and we have to argue about who pays what of that too and we put that on the table and then we can finally walk out the door. Overseas must be making all this stuff up to be stupid, of course, i mean, its like the prices thing, would anyone do all of that kind of petty crap for real?
So they took us next to a store and told one of the boys that the travel-pack e uses is bust and e has to get a new one. So e goes looking for a return bin to put the existing pack in for repair but e cant find one so e leaves it by the door to the back storeroom, then e goes to the rack and e picks out one thats the right sort of size and fitout, even waves at the storekeep to let en know es checking it out, and e goes to an unused scanner and e scans it and heads out. U know, just like anyone else would do? But no, Overseas want to make it all complicated just for the hell of it. Alarms go off as soon as e gets near the door, some lump of a guy in a black and white uniform thing comes out of nowhere and grabs en and yanks the arm of en up the back and other people come running up and call en a thief and the rest, and all other sorts of crap.
Its all play-acting of course but the Overseas instructors look smug and say they did it to show us what happens if we get it wrong like that. What es supposed to do is really stupid, even worse than that fart-arsing around we did in the cafe. First thing is – get this – there isnt a return-bin, in fact if e leaves the pack by the back door for repair itd be called littering, es supposed to just throw it away someplace else so it doesnt get repaired or reused. This is ‘good for the economy’ apparently though id say its totally bloody mental. Then e goes to the rack and theyre all different prices with long-use ones more price than short-life ones, which again is stupid because everyone knows the short-lifes are more wasteful. Then e has to look in the fold e uses and see if e has enough money for the pack e chooses and if e hasnt then to use the credit instead and if e hasnt enough in credit e has to forget it or pick out a crappy short-life or something, and i asked the instructors how es supposed to know if e has enough credit or not and they said e has to know the ‘balance’ for him at all times even without a telelink, which again must be just them being petty for the sake of it. Then when e thinks es got the right pack and the right money e has to go find a queue for a scanner that one of the storekeeps is using and wait in line for that and then the storekeep scans the pack and asks for the money and e has to give the coins and paper or the credit and the storekeep then checks all of that and gives back the change if es used coins but this time there isnt any tip, and the storekeep clears something in the scan because when thats all done the alarm doesnt go off and es allowed to go out of the door without being attacked by the thug in the white shirt. It all takes about twice as long as the ordinary way and ties up about twice as many people and its really really stupid. So i think Overseas are just making it all up to try to put us off. Well it hasnt worked for me – Im still going.
There was more of that crap for the rest of the afternoon but i couldnt be bothered, i just went to the cafe instead with some of the others. And we didnt play their stupid money games, we had drinks and tucker in the normal way just like we should.
This evening there was another stupid lecture about how its sposed to be easier if we stick together as a crew and use someone whos been before as a kind of guide. Well im stuffed if ill do that, im nineteen years old for gods sakes and i know how to look after the self and i don’t need a bloody nursemaid, thank you Overseas!
Just two more days of this crap to put up with and then ill have the passport so i can at last get the hell out of this stupid backwater of a country for a while at least, until they drag me back or something. Ive managed to scrib a flight slot on Monday week, so see u again in a few months time!
Im in the pound at the consulate. Theyve booked me on the next flight home, so Ill probably see you tomorrow.
I lasted one day, Baz. Just one fucking day. Thats it.
One fucking awful day.
I got in from the port, dumped the packs at the hostel, went out for a drink, like anyone would. Its real pretty out there, lots happening, lots of girls, the rest. Went through a couple of glasses, pints they said, and had a few laughs with the girls in the bar and the mates with them and all, and they said that i was paying for it all, which was fine, its just a drink, right? that’s what u do, isnt it? Well, not there, apparently, the barkeep said that was most of the money for the week for me gone in one hit. I was just about trying to make sense of that when i went out for a piss, left the fold on the counter, came back and the fold wasnt there any more and the barkeep said e didnt know anything about it and it was the fault of me anyway for not looking after it and told me to piss off because i didnt have any money left.
So fair enough, id had enough to drink so I left and went to a cafe down the road for a feed. All smiles and such, and nice tucker, too. So id finished and i got up to go to the door, like u do, and this biz whod brought me the meal comes running up and says i havent paid. So i says, yeah, i dont have any money with me any more, someones walked off with the fold, so whats the problem, all this money stuff its all some stupid bloody game isnt it? And e gets real pissed off at this, and this big hefty security guy comes up and starts being snarky at me so now im getting pissed off at the lot of them, so i just walk out the door of course. Then the stupid bugger comes after me and tries to grab me, and ive had a couple of drinks and im half out my skull from the jetlag so i think were back in Defence so i flip en onto the floor and leave en there and keep walking.
Next thing i know theres a couple of GA cars come screaming up and they all jump out and they push guns at me – the fucking garda have guns here, Baz! – and they mustve thrown a vomit-comet because thats it, its like someones hit me with a sledgehammer and im on the ground puking the guts out. They pick me up and slam me against the wagon and turn me round and tie the hands behind the back, but as soon as i open the mouth to ask what the fuck theyre playing at, someone says something like, shit, its a jaffa, means just another fucking aussie apparently, and they stop playing quite so bloody rough and just turn sarky instead, which i guess was kind of them but it didnt bloody feel it. And then they do an iris-and-retina and they cant find a match of course and they ask questions and more questions and more bloody questions and they bundle me into the back of the wagon and take me back to the hostel.
So we get to the hostel and at least the doorkeep says es seen me check in before so they ease off a bit at that. But they want to see the ID for me because i havent registered at the GA yet and they keep saying there will be charges but i dont whether they mean money or court or both, and we get to the dorm and the packs arent there which means the passport isnt there and noone knows where theyve gone. So im up shit creek apparently.
They bundle me back in the wagon again and we turn up at the consulate and the sergeant says to the counterkeep im making out im ‘one of your fucking lot’ and that if e can show a match for me e can keep me and theyll hit the consulate with the bill, otherwise theyll take me to the cleaners and the rest of it. So thank the gods for the consulate and for bloody auto-DNA or i really would have been fucked i reckon.
The guys here have been pretty good about it really, specially after i said it was the first day and all. They said i was bloody stupid to try to go it alone as a first-timer, but that was about it: u arent the first and u wont be the last, someone said. So now i got a bunk for the night and a change of clothes and some proper tucker this time, and ill be off in the morning.
They even said i can have another passport and another go if i do the course again and come over with a crew next time, but i dont think ill bother. They are mad here, Baz – fucking insane. And they can keep it. Ive had my adventure – “true journey is to return”, wasnt it, in that book we did in Year Nine? So i reckon im staying home from now on. Isnt so bad after all.
See u soon