Thursday 1 February 2018

An Impromptu Feast

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

Feeling more starved than usual, Katie Blyth, with the last $10.35 from her unemployment welfare until three more days, decided to buy a small bit of groceries. Entering the Jewell supermarket in Newtown, inner city Sydney, well into the spring of 2016 (which had so far proved warmer than usual), she had a vague idea of what she wanted: sandwiches. Passing by the tinned fish section she decided on pink salmon sandwiches, and so bought a large, quality brand of the fish, a loaf of generic, wholemeal bread, a small tub of generic margarine, and a can opener. She had some change from her purchase - not much - and was feeling proud of her new possessions. Being homeless and buying groceries are largely incompatible (especially if one is partial to very good bottles of Shiraz, and a good supply of marijuana for each day) making her revel in this delightful exception.
     Today still being much warmer than usual, she decided to eat al fresco. So she took up her lunchtime station on a bench on the footpath outside Jewell’s and began preparing what promised to be a tasty, filling lunch. She soon discovered that she had no knife to spread the margarine, and after a quick check of her change found that she probably couldn’t afford a packet of disposable plastic knives. She was too hungry anyway, and eager for the feast, to go back into the Jewell’s and see how much the knives were. So she decided to use the handle of the can opener, which proved very messy and clumsy. But Katie accepted that gratefully nonetheless.
     The sandwiches were more delicious than she had anticipated and she had three of them. But having most of the ingredients left over proved to be perplexing. How was she to store them? Her squat didn’t have a fridge, let alone any electricity. She had a few friends whom were in safe housing and they’d probably let her store the remains of the banquet in their fridge. But then the repast wouldn’t be readily available, and considering that these friends worked, her food, glorious food, would be out of reach practically all day. What was she to do? Was there any way of saving these precious boons?
     Staring forlornly at the remains of her meal she had an epiphany. Maybe if she wrapped all the goodies back in the plastic bag and buried the whole lot underground, that would keep them reasonably cold? It really was the only solution, so she wrapped up her feast and headed back to her squat.


Katie spent most of the night and most of the next day thinking about the food she had safely buried. It felt great knowing that if she got really hungry there was a good meal nearby, to be had without begging. Eventually though, at around six pm of the following day, she decided to take out her treasure and finish it all off in a gourmand ecstasy. She was salivating noticeably while digging up the hoard.
     When she finally had the plastic bag unearthed and opened she was absolutely shattered to see her store covered in worms, ants, and sundry creepy crawlies. Of course she had known that this might have been possible and so had tied the bag securely, but obviously to no avail. She placed the three items separately on the grass and tried to salvage each of them as much as possible. The salmon was a complete write off, as was the bread. The only thing she could conceivably use was the margarine. She felt like sobbing. Well if she couldn’t have her bounty neither would the thieving bugs. She collected the food together and dumped it all in a neighbour’s bin. It looked like she would have to beg up her dinner. Again.
     The beef kebab that she had begged up for dinner was not good that night, not nearly as normally good as it usually was. She kept recalling how close she had been to unlimited food, seemingly, and being able to have a full larder with not much begging. Certainly cheaper than the $6.50 each day for her kebab, not to mention the regular, and costly, Shiraz, and pot. She also started fondly recalling her ex-girlfriend, Mindy, and how perhaps Mindy had made the right choice when she left the streets after being moved on by the police from their squat a third night in a row. Mindy by now had probably just finished a nice steak dinner, chocolate ice cream for dessert, and was settling down to a good movie for the night. It seemed like Heaven.
     And now Katie wanted a piece of this Heaven too. Why should she be left out? Sure she had chosen to squat and opt out of modern society’s greed but maybe she could change the system she hated from within? From within a safe house, with plenty of food and plenty of comfort. Who knows, having such a haven might inspire her to be more proactive in her politics, may even be the catalyst for her to effect some noble change in Western society, doing so from a solid base. It was certainly worth a try since she wasn’t obviously saving the world by squatting.
     Enthused now with hopes of a brighter future she begged up some money for the bus fare to nearby Rozella Psychiatric Hospital, determined to admit she was indeed a depressive, as she had been diagnosed, and that she couldn’t change the world for the better by opting out of it. She would take the medications they gave her this time, gladly, would give up the pot that exacerbated her depression, and she would accept their help in finding her some decent housing.
     But Rozella had no room for her. The nurses in the admission office all knew her well and were sure that Katie had finally seen the sense of taking her meds and living like the rest of society, but there was absolutely nothing they could do for her. There was not a single bed free. She asked if she could spend the night in the admission office but they couldn’t allow that. If they did allow that the admission office would soon be full of the mentally ill hoping for a bed, presenting an occupational health and safety risk. The most that they could help her out with was to let her stay there for two or three hours on the very slim chance that a bed became available. She only stayed an hour though, as she felt tortured in being so close, yet so very far, from safety. She left the hospital feeling well-nigh near to pure despair. Was there a way out?
     Maybe Mindy would take her back, if only for a little while? Mindy would be sure to believe her when Katie acknowledged that she was indeed depressive, mentally ill and unsound, and swore to take the required medications in consultation with a doctor, and to give up the smoko that really wasn’t good for her. Mindy was in fact certain to take her in again if she, Mindy, truly did once love her. Katie wasn’t demanding the moon, she just wanted her former lover’s help for a week or two, then she, Katie, would move on, into a safe home of her own. Surely their two years together could allow so much?
     Katie hoped Mindy was at the same address, already feeling her welcome.


Mindy was indeed welcoming, but she couldn’t make the sole decision for allowing Katie to stay for a week or two, by which time Katie said she should have reached a much firmer domestic and social base. Katie’s fate was also to be decided by Adam, a new flatmate. Katie was quickly introduced to him and all agreed to see if they could realistically help out Katie with her hopes. They certainly believed she was committed to abandoning her wildness but they should all probably have a good natter to make sure each knew where they stood.
     Once Katie had been officially welcomed into the flat by both Mindy and Adam she chose to make best use of the resultant high she was now feeling; no more hunger, begging, and desperation. She first unpacked her meagre belongings and spread the sheets Mindy had given her onto the mattress on the floor of her new room, and then headed out to the local medical centre. The doctor she conferred with was a very well dressed, middle aged, Indian gentleman, Dr Kumar. After Katie’s tale of her sorry, mistaken, homelessness choice, her several admissions to psychiatric hospitals, and her newfound realisation that she did actually have depression, and needed help, he instantly held out his mind to help her. Dr Kumar took her seriously in hand and scheduled an appointment for her every day for the next two weeks. He also prescribed some new anti-depressants which were showing great results. They spent thirty minutes on their first consult, but Katie, at the end, did not fully commit to seeing a psychiatrist regularly. That would take a little bit of extra time. Thankfully, or so Dr Kumar informed her, some psychiatrists were willing to do consults under the Medicare of Aus, so Katie, when she was ready, need not worry about paying for the consultations.
     Katie, she realised, on the way to the pharmacy to fill the prescription (hopefully on credit) had entered Heaven.


Katie had a very severe reaction to the new tablets on the fifth night of her taking them, the same day that she had been placed in a job by her employment agency (Katie said a prayer of thanks when she was told of her new job, thankful that Aus had such a good economy, thus quickly allowing her a job.) She had been at home alone, enjoying her first Shiraz in five days, and enjoying a twenty dollar deal of ganja too, while she looked over her day’s work clothes that she was still wearing, in a mirror - a nice, alluring red dress, elegant, costume jewellery, blue sandals, and her clean, long brown hair which was delightfully pinching the back of her head at the base of a ponytail. She looked over all this and admired it, whilst also denying that she found herself attractive. She thought the mild twitch on the left side of her neck was just jealousy, the psychic jealousy of nameless others.
     When Katie realised that the twitch was getting steadily worse and was completely uncontrollable, she had just finished her first glass of wine, and her third hash pipe. There was not a possibly worse time to be delightfully heady, and warmly stoned. But she mentally evicted the panic and rang Emergency.
     The ambulance got to her by the time her whole head kept involuntarily swinging to her left. She had no control over it and felt that it was only going to get worse. She saw little hope in the paramedics. But they gave her some Cogentin and told her to lay down on her right side. They kept her talking, Katie actively co-operating, while the Cogentin took effect. Ten minutes later she was fine. The paramedics left feeling good, having done well. Katie certainly thought they had redeemed her sentience, allowing her to continue improving.
     But Katie was also doubtful. Since she had such a bad reaction to this medication, a so called ‘modern breakthrough’ according to Dr Kumar, she would most probably have an adverse reaction to any other anti-depressants, all of them being inferior to the new, modern tablet she had tried. Not only that, but now Katie had nothing to fight her depression with. She couldn’t fight all that good fight with willpower alone, and since meds couldn’t help, she had no choice but to leave the field early, before she somehow brought ruin unto the fine Mindy and Adam. She left them a kind note, explaining that she didn’t want to bring them down in her sudden helplessness. She begged them not to look for her, but to welcome her once again if she ever really needed it.
     When she got to her old squat, with only a duffel bag full of clothes, two books, and the remains of her ganja, and Shiraz, she was once again devastated. The place was being torn down. There was a metal fence out the front, signs all over it, and some machinery scattered over the front yard, all of it operated by men obviously intent on tearing down her home. She left dejectedly, but faintly hopeful that things couldn’t possibly get any more the worse.
     Idly wandering around Newtown then she gradually came up with a plan. She would invest in a tent and sleep in parks throughout the day, spending her active biorhythms under starlight. And when she had a tent she may as well see more of Sydney, besides Newtown. Indeed, now would probably be a good time to see Aus in closer detail. Full of a haunting purpose then she headed off to Newtown’s pawn shop and bought a tent. The guy gave her a good deal because she looked to be a damsel heading for distress. She also bought a portable cooler, enough to hold a few day’s groceries before they went off. The first park she slept in was Royal Prince Alfred, Redferne, but she couldn’t sleep that day. So she partially filled her cooler, after begging up some dollars, and read for the rest of the day and night, by booklight during the night, with the regulation bottle of Shiraz, and the regular tokes from her hash pipe, throughout the reading, and slept at dawn the next day. She was looking forward to the ham sandwiches for breakfast. Yum! Yum! Yum!


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