NINETY SECONDS!

FictionIssue SixIssue Six Fiction

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By Goldie Alexander.

 

Brett is setting himself up in the middle of Station Street where anyone driving past will see him. He’s brought a chair and a table and placed a sign on it saying, ‘Engineer for hire. References provided, and his mobile number.’

He’s been doing this these last two weeks, only no one took any notice until last night when Channel 8 phoned, and this morning a reporter and two camera-men turned up.

While Brett’s still unpacking, I sidle into the General Store and hide behind a stand of ‘Come to Australia’ cards to watch what’s happening. Brett’s in a business suit and tie to show he’s serious, not just looking for sympathy. He’s combed and jelled his hair so you can’t see it’s thinning. The only giveaway is his best shirt that got shoved in the machine with Skye’s red pants.

While the TV people are setting up, Brett places a photo on the table of his wife, that’s me, holding our new baby Aidan, and our daughter, Skye. She’s still got that infectious grin she had before we came to live with Brett’s mum. Then he takes out a folder with his updated CV and shots of the project he was working on at before Advance Mining Company halved their staff.

Now the Channel 8 people are talking to Brett.  I guess they’re telling him where to look and what to say. People are starting to turn up. So little happens here, just the rumor that someone is being interviewed brings everyone out.

For once I’m on my own. I made Doris, that’s Brett’s mum, promise to give Aidan his bottle and take Skye to school.  There’s a small TV hanging above this shop’s counter. Thomas, the owner, is watching a DVD.  I wander between his shelves wanting to tell him they need a dust, then go back up the aisle to ask him politely to turn to Channel 8. He pretends not to hear. I keep pointing outside before he finally catches on.

Brett is saying. ‘…. sent out three hundred and five applications and had five interviews, but so far nothing.’ The camera zooms in close enough to pick up the little twitch around his mouth that was never there before he lost his job and we came to live with his mum. And though I’m with him all the time, seeing him on TV feels different… as if I’m far, far away … like in another country, and my heart turns over to see how it’s all getting to him; what with having no money, and everyone putting their staff on half time or closing down completely, and there being no job  not unless we travel to places where there still mightn’t be any work.

The Channel 8 reporter is young, blonde, in a low cut red dress, black leather jacket and knee-high high-heel boots that I know cost heap. My best friend Kylie claims everyone on TV gets freebees. ‘You’d have to,’ she insists. ‘Just like footballer wives, pop groups and movie stars. I mean, you have to look good, don’t you?’ Kylie often says things twice to make them sound true even if they aren’t. These days we don’t get to talk too often as Doris gets cranky if we hold up her landline, not that anyone much ever calls her, and my mobile top up get low. Instead Kylie sends me texts saying ‘cheer up’ and ‘luv u’, and ‘miss u’, and lots of smiley faces. I miss her too, but in a way I wish she’d lay off – like she’s not the one who’s had to move back in with her hubby’s mum, is she?

I wake up the reporter, her name is Carla, is saying. ‘Brett, have you thought about taking another job, maybe not as a mining engineer…’ her eyes narrow a little, ‘maybe something else?’

I lean forward to listen to what Brett’s going to say because that’s what Doris is on about, though I keep telling her how good Brett is … only I know she isn’t convinced because she gets the same look Carla has right now. Of course, Brett gives Carla his usual answer: ‘I’ve spent fifteen years building up my skills so I reckon that’s where I should stay…’

Two of the local hoods slide in front of the camera and give it the finger. Not that there’s anything for them to do… not since the local meat works and cannery closed down last year.

I wake up that Brett’s talking about six-year old Skye, and our new baby. Oh my god, now he’s telling the world how sick I’ve been. My heart sinks as I’m sure he’s going to tell the world what I’ve been like since Aidan turned up, though the doctor keeps saying it’s natural to feel low this soon, and that worrying about money hasn’t helped my hormones kick in. But the pills she gave me only made me feel worse. And poor Brett, what with him being up all night with a weepy wife and a colicky baby, those interviews he did get to, he wasn’t at his best. Still, being on TV is important, and maybe someone will give him a job seeing how serious he is about finding work.

Doris, Brett’s mum, says Aidan’s got colic because he turned up six weeks early, and though the doctor keeps saying he’s fine and to stop worrying, I feel much worse than after I had Skye… though Aidan is so gorgeous he more than makes up for it. But what with him crying all the time, and losing our home, everything went dark, as if I was in a permanent fog, and the harder I tried to stay happy, the blacker everything looked. Most days I can scarcely drag myself out of bed, like I can’t see the point of getting up? It’s Brett who claims that with a bit more rest I’ll be back to my old cheerful self. But when I think about what I was like, it’s as if that person was someone I hardly know, it’s too far back in the past. Most nights so I can get some rest, Brett puts Aidan into the baby capsule and drives him up and down the highway, though Aidan wakes as soon as they stop.

One night I completely ran out of tampons. It was the only time Aidan slept more than two hours and poor Brett was out like a log so I couldn’t send him out to buy more. Though I lay on my back trying not to move so I wouldn’t drip, next morning Doris was furious when she saw the mess I’d made of her sheets.

Back in in our old house, we had three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an extra large family room. Brett was planning an in-ground swimming pool. ‘Come summer we’ll have lots of barbies,’ he kept telling me. ‘As the kids grow older it’ll keep them at home.’ This being in his line of work, he’d already figured out how to get the digging machine into our back yard. We bought that house on minimum deposit, so when Brett’s job fell through that was the first thing that went. Now we’re squeezed into his mum’s cottage in Moloney, all four of us in the spare bedroom with his old single bed, Skye’s mattress and the baby basket.

The bit of the program with Brett is now over, because the TV’s showing a commercial for skin cream, and a voiceover is saying ‘Go on, you deserve it.’ Back at the window I watch a hot northerly blow dust and papers around. Carla turns away to talk to the cameramen. I don’t know whether she’s pleased with this interview or not, but certainly she doesn’t intend hanging around more than she has to. She shakes Brett’s hand and then I watch her click-clacking on those high heels back to her car, the camera-men trailing behind.

I figure that gives Brett exactly ninety seconds of TV time. I can’t help wondering if anything will come of it? I suppose I shouldn’t complain because he couldn’t be more caring if he tried. It’s just that I so wish we could go back to what things were like before we had to live here.

Last week in the medical centre waiting room, I read in WHO how movie stars, singers and pop bands will do everything anything they can to appear on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. The magazine called it ‘fifteen minutes of fame’. So I reckon that if my Brett can get ninety seconds at least that’s something, because he certainly isn’t a celebrity, only looking for a job and we can only pray that being on TV will help him find one.