Monday 1 January 2018

Believing in Visions

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

‘Love attaches itself to something prominent, even if that something be what others would hate. One can scarce feel extremes for mediocrity.’ Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Falkland

Had Helena known that Justyn, despite his roguishly sexy, manly, look, and good clothes, was a homeless beggar, she would never approached him at Kelly’s, in Newtown, inner city Sydney. She did not approach with the standard offer of a drink, but with a question; did he tie-dye his own jeans? They were certainly well done, also naturally highlighting his plain white buccaneer shirt. And, come to think of it, where did he get such a shirt?
     It turned out that, yes, he did tie-dye his own jeans. Hemp jeans made the process easier too, being so malleable. He had three pairs like it. The shirt he had found in a bin. It was then that Helena found that this studly hunk was nothing more than a bum. A bum who obviously knew how to look after himself, but a bum, a dero, nonetheless.
     Helena now found herself in somewhat of an annoying quandary: though Justyn was a real pleasure to talk with, appeared intelligent, smelt of enticing woods, he had absolutely no prospects. He also affirmed to her questions that he planned to live on the streets forever. He had a place to sleep, somewhere to shower, and food was never a problem thanks to his regular fortnightly federal welfare pension payment. He also declaimed to her how it was so enervating to be able to do whatever one wanted. He mostly chose to read all day, though. Upon closer questioning, however, Justyn agreed that homelessness was sometimes horrible: no toilet, no security, usually no electricity, and it was somewhat lonely, not being able to confide in one’s fellow desperados. He briefly agreed with her that if he were offered safe, clean modern housing he would give it a good go for a while, to see if he was missing out on anything.
     When Justyn posited this last, Helena saw a slim ray of hope. So, she got him another schooner, and then persisted in the conjecture. To the point where Justyn agreed he would move in to her share house, and spend a month living like a regular young man in Sydney. He quickly became excited at the prospect.


Justyn took to the sheltered life very well, so much so that after his third day in the new share house (the other housemates, Sandi and Rory, were happy for him to stay, as a favour to Helena) he had easily landed a job. It was at Flemington Markets, twenty minutes by train from the Sydney CBD, and he would be offloading trucks. He had been out of the workforce for three years and was thus even more surprised at his success. The hiring foreman obviously trusted to Justyn’s good build being able to do a good job.
     He started that night and naturally enjoyed this novel experience, his body in constant motion, his mind engaged. But not pointlessly, with no form of a reward envisioned. Instead he would have a good paycheque in a week, a veritable fortune after the poverty he’d just realised he’d been living in. He would even have enough left over to save and invest with.
     Events unfolded even more wholesomely along this track and after a month Justyn had over a thousand dollars saved, after his rent and share of the bills.
     It was after setting up a good interest bearing bank account with this thousand that Justyn for the first time saw that he could become considerably wealthy with just hard work. There was plenty of overtime at the markets so doing even more, maybe twelve hours a day, he could quickly enough set himself up as somebody to observe. If he could then cut his bills down to the bare minimum he’d be even wealthier. But his biggest bill, by cutting which would have the biggest impact, was his rent and he really could not cut that. Or could he? After all, he just needed somewhere to shower before work each day. He had got by before on only that, the shower being provided by Ulysses House, a homeless shelter in Kings Cross, near Sydney’s centre. Sure he would miss the ready access to a bathroom, but he had survived without it before and he was sure he could do such again.
     So he eventually left Helena’s place on the night after depositing his new riches, a night off from work, leaving a thankful note, and found his old squat to be in the same shape. No-one was home and his mattress was in the same place. His candles and books were in their same place too. He lit a fresh candle, wondering what he’d read before retiring for the night.


He had no problems in any shape in his new beggarly rich life. He had virtually no expenses and he saved virtually all of his pay. It was no problem attending to his duties in a professional manner whilst at the same time his domestic life was so very unstable. He hadn’t been moved on by the police for a while, but that was only a matter of time though. He had been at this squat for around ten months so far, less the time at Helena’s, so a visit from the police, moving him, and any others, on, was bound to fall due soon.
     But maybe the police had already been by, explaining why his two fellow squatters still hadn’t returned home. He could be here another ten or so months then, getting richer and richer. Life just keeps getting better by the day!
     Helena tracked him down near the end of this sixth week of increased riches. He had allowed himself two pints of Guinness at Kelly’s for passing $5,000 in his high interest savings account. Once again, she was the one to approach him.
     ‘Justyn?’ He turned around, stout to his lips. ‘Oh yes, thank God! I’ve been coming here for the past two weeks hoping to find you.’ Justyn put the pint down.
     ‘I hope I haven’t done anything wrong,’ he said. He was as well dressed, and as handsome, as she remembered him.
     ‘No, but something very wrong is going to be done to you.’
     ‘How’s that?’
     ‘Justyn, for two weeks I’ve been having this one vivid, recurring dream. It’s a horrible dream. Horrible. I see you being burned alive over and over again. Alone. You have to come home with me now. Move back in. To save yourself.’
     ‘It’s just a dream,’ said Justyn, but he was also spooked by its vivid, recurring nature. ‘No-one can predict the future, least of all with dreams. I always blow out my candle before sleep so, since only a candle could start the fire, there’s no need to worry. You worry too much.’ He resumed his stout.
     ‘Justyn, I can feel it. You have to come home with me so that you won’t be roasted alive. I’m serious!’
     ‘Look, Helena, you’re just scaring yourself, not me. Nothing’s going to happen. That I too can feel.’
     And so they continued, arguing back and forth, until finally Justyn agreed to move back in, just to placate her, and after she assured him she wasn’t trying to take away his streets again. But he would move in only temporarily, while Helena’s forecasted doom passed over. He would pay no rent either. Helena was naturally agreeable to this, but her housemates would probably want him to pay his way. After all, a good life in Sydney was not at all cheap so his extra rent monies would be handsomely appreciated. Besides, Justyn already had lived with them rent free for a month and another rent free month might cause tensions with Sandi and Rory if Justyn didn’t chip in.  But no, said Justyn, his money was entirely his own, and he could easily remain in his squat. He was only moving in as a favour to Helena, so it was unfair to ask him to pay as well. But both being rational, clever, people they agreed on a compromise: Justyn could stay there rent free but he had to do all the household chores. All of them. This compromise Justyn was very pleased with, even considering if he could, after a month’s due diligence, make it a permanent arrangement. It would be the best of all possibilities: he’d have his rent free, rich, working life, and safe, clean shelter with all the mod cons, all for about an hour’s cleaning per day and cooking dinner each night. He didn’t need to cook breakfast, Helena told him, because everyone ate cereals for breakfast. Lunch the house mostly had outside. All up, both Justyn and Helena felt it was a very, very good arrangement, and that her housemates would also consider it such.
     Helena’s housemates did indeed agree to the arrangement, quickly, and their first dinner with Justyn as the house chef was a resounding success. He cooked up a personal favourite, fettucine with creamed pumpkin. He also added chilli paste to it which gave it a real kick. Over dinner on that first night he told of how his parents had taught him to cook from an early age, that by his mid-teens he was doing all of the cooking at home. He enjoyed it, the best part being making people fundamentally content with his food.
     So when he was fired from his job, five weeks later, for mouthing off and swearing at his boss (Justyn really had been working too hard for too long, becoming unknowingly stressed as result) his house wasn’t too perturbed. Justyn didn’t need to bring in money to the house because he was doing a fantastic job in looking after it with his cleaning and his cooking. He would always be welcome with his contributions.
     ‘Well, let’s have a party then,’ said Justyn when he was told he could stay if he still did all the chores. ‘We’ll drink to new horizons.’ The other two housemates offered to get the wine but Justyn only let them if he owed them the favour. Happiness, thus, reigned supreme.
     It was Helena who suggested they get some pot. She had never tried it and today seemed the perfect time to try. Besides, it was still only Saturday, so she should have plenty of time to recover before work again on Monday. Justyn smoked a little and so knew somewhere he could get it. They only delivered and only did fifties, three grams. Helena got out the fifty cash from a nearby ATM and when she returned, with two bottles of scotch whiskey and cola, and some cigarette rolling papers for the joints, Justyn made the call.
     The pot arrived about an hour after Justyn ordered it but by that time they were beginning to be all well-oiled on whiskey. They rolled up a big joint and Helena, never having imbibed, was given the first few tokes.
     She liked it. Liked it a lot. She had Justyn show her how to roll a joint and by the time she finished sharing a third one she felt like a goddess. So much so that she told her friends she had to take a walk in the dark so she could talk to the stars. She was only barely heard and left the house in raptures.
     She returned at dawn the next morning, not knowing where she had been or how she had got home. She was still talking with the stars when she saw the fire truck leaving what could only be the burned shell of her home. She temporarily sobered upon the instant, and ran up to the wreckage. She was told by her neighbours, whose houses on both sides were seriously damaged by the fire, that her housemates had been taken to hospital unwillingly, injured, but wanting to see if Justyn had made it out. A police officer, also with the neighbours, said that he probably didn’t, that one burned body had been discovered in the living room. Helena was asked if she could identify it, despite the body’s charred state. She identified him by the tie-dye cuff on the left of his jeans.


If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to Other ebook and paperback options are available at Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing in 2018. You can follow its journey at