The House At Number 2

© Julie Boyd 2010

‘I’ll walk in front. That way the yobs’ll slow down to perve at me, they always do.’ It was Saturday evening and my gorgeous twenty-something, blonde-haired daughter and I were walking down the road to take the dog to the beach. There is no pathway, and those drunk on a lethal combination of alcohol and a day of sunburn and dehydration often speed along the road, even though it’s only a hundred or so metres. Why- because they can and they don’t care who else is using it- despite the warning signs. She was right, and once again my age grated.

A few minutes earlier we’d been forced to listen to the raucous voices of another lot of yobbos as they sat on the front porch of Number Two, next door. Their ocker voices competing louder and louder like a pack of squabbling seagulls as they skolled beer and picked over the pieces of Tiger Wood’s marriage. ‘Yeah, one would have been f…in’ ok, even two or f…in’ three, but f…in’ twelve, ya can’t expect ya f…in’ missus to put up wiv that. I wouldn’t f…in’ expect mine to if I had one.’ The four-letter words peppered the air, landing as offensively as ash from the deliberately lit bushfires we’d had all week. The smoke from their ciggies stank every bit as much as that from the now dead wildlife still lying where the firefighters couldn’t help them, and every few minutes there would be a bellow to the kids in the pool. ‘Stop sooking Daquiri, Bundy didn’t mean to jump on you’ (I swear the names are true!). The loudest mouth was young and fit, I guess some would consider good-looking, and holding court like King Canute, with about ten others hanging on every word, including what looked like his grandparents. I couldn’t help thinking ‘you’ll be lucky to score yourself a missus at all with that attitude mate. Twelve is really a safer number than one’.

My lip must have curled in disgust, despite my best attempts at tolerance, as my daughter reminded me ‘It’s ok. They’ll be gone again tomorrow.’

Number Two provides serious entertainment. Like a comedian it’s sometimes irritating, sometimes gut-wrenchingly sickening, and other-times hysterically funny. It’s a holiday rental so has only ever had short- term tenants in seven years. It’s great, as most of the year it’s empty, but on weekends and major holidays, a steady string of characters pass through.

Right now young Josh and his family are in residence. They ‘ve been coming for a week each year for some time. Josh comes over to play with my dog and today he announced with all the sageness of a five year old, ‘I was born here, I learned to swim here and I’ve learned to ride my bike here. I wonder what’s next?’ as he looked longingly at my old red sports car.

Last week there was a wedding. The bride and her maids used Number Two to get dressed. I wondered if they’d make it as they seemed to have champagne glasses permanently attached to their hands before the big day. The swimming pool that we share was full of nubile bodies in miniscule bikinis, and the giggling and chattering matched that of the sparrows playing in the birdbath outside my kitchen window. But on the day, the chattering reached a crescendo as the limo arrived, and the girls piled in for the 200 metre trip. They were headed to the sheltered spot on the beach near the reef, where dolphins often play, which has become a favourite for weddings.

The longest term tenant was a real hoot. She arrived one day in an old station wagon full of stuff – plants, clothes, mirrors and dangly things that she immediately hung around the verandahs like talismens.
She spoke in rapid staccato bursts. ‘G,day. How are ya. I’m Linda. I’m a good friend. Do ya like my plants? Ya haven’t got any citronella growing. Ya need it here for the midgies. I’ll give ya some cuttings. Ya can plant it right there.’ Then a brilliant smile before the next machine gun burst of words.

Linda had other locals totally bemused. They all thought she was so cheery. ‘Outgoing young lass isn’t she, just what we need around here’ commented the manager who had rented her the place. I smiled wondering just how long it would take him to realise that the speed of her speech reflected the chemicals pumping through her veins, and the smile hid a life where a steady stream of men wandered through her body 24 hours a day. There were regulars – some stayed a couple of hours during the day, others, just minutes. How did they get the time, and if they weren’t working, how could they afford it? But I guess they couldn’t. One night she vanished. The manager admitted she hadn’t paid any rent for 6 weeks, which was a bit of a problem for him.

Then there was the couple who left a heap of stuff behind. They were short, stout, decidedly unattractive, and rarely left the house. When they did, it was to smoke and head out to the local pokies. After they left, the manager came over to my place. ‘I’ve just been in and the place is a mess. It looks as if they’ve had a massive party.’ ‘Well, no one else went in or out, and they weren’t noisy, so that’s weird’. ‘I found some stuff. Can you come in and have a look?’ As I walked in with him the smell hit like a wall. It was foul. I almost expected to find a body. The kitchen looked untouched as did the loungeroom, but the main bedroom and bathroom were pigsties. Bedclothes and undies everywhere. The smell of smoke and rancid body odour almost made us vomit. ‘Have a look at this,’ he said, pulling open a drawer. It was full of all kinds of implements. Toys for grownups in plastic and leather that vibrated, clanked and shone. ‘What’s this for?’ he asked, pointing to one combination arrangement of leather straps and protruding appliances. As I explained what went where and how to use it to the very best of my ability, and we discussed the relative merits of each object, I did suggest that he may wish to sterilise the lot before proposing the use of any of them with his wife, who fortunately has a great sense of humour.

The funniest part was the couple came back three days later to collect all the bits. I never did ask the manager if he tried them out.