Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Every Begging Night


© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

Begging every night had always been very easy for Yvette Angelique Temps, but tonight she had worked up absolutely nothing, not even five cents. She had been at it for around an hour, by which time she should have had around twenty dollars. She had a very simple and productive system for begging up money, simply approaching passers-by and asking them for a dollar for train fare. Most of them said no but Yvette always managed to raise twenty dollars quickly enough. She raised it in the evenings and then had enough for a good dinner and a good breakfast to look forward to. She had become homeless a few years before after a former boyfriend, high on ice, went at her with a knife. This was the third boyfriend in a row that had done such, but she again escaped safely. She spent that night in a local abandoned house, Redferne, Sydney, and had come to love the house’s character. The then twenty year old Yvette was fascinated by the fact that the now derelict house had probably once raised many families, families that were happy and normal, the opposite of her love life and current destitution. She felt obligated to keep those happy family memories alive, a necessary counterpoint to the messes all of her romances ended in. Besides, maybe a radical change would radically change her dreadful love life? It was certainly worth the try. She then took to moving from squat to squat, and found the squatting life was also moderately easier, with all of her time her own, as well as more exciting than the shelf packing job at the Redferne Quinnswerth. She never really had had her heart in that job.
     Tonight was the first night that she had been so unsuccessful with her begging and after fruitlessly trying for another hour, she gave up. She did receive welfare but had only about five dollars of that left and she wasn’t due to be paid for another five days. She was in Newtown, inner city Sydney, and decided to call it a night and walk back to her squat in nearby Standmore. She walked home dejectedly, her head down, wondering if it wasn’t time to get off of the streets. It was with her head down that she saw the twenty dollar note, lying casually in the gutter at the corner of Enmore Road and King Street. Well, why leave the streets when they were throwing money at her! She approached the money and picked it up. Yep, it was real.
      Now, what was the absolutely best way to spend it? After all, she had enough with her begging. She’d just wait an hour or two and try again. She was bound to raise her nightly twenty dollars. She always had before. She’d think best what to do with the extra money when she got home.
     By the time she got home fifteen minutes later she had a plan. In the morning she would open an interest bearing account at a bank and add one hundred dollars to it each week, at twenty dollars per day. Pretty soon she’d be wealthy and her squatting life would be even better, more so with her additional regulation daily twenty and her unemployment welfare. It was perhaps because she was now bright with enthusiasm and anticipation of her rich future that she eventually, and soon, raised her twenty dollars that night, in under half the time than usual. Yep, things were again looking rosy.

*

Not only did the bright enthusiasm last until the next day, when she decided to get up early to beg her savings, but over the ensuing weeks. Eight weeks in fact. With such success that by the end of that time she had a little over a thousand dollars in her account. She also had her daily ration of twenty dollars, plus the dole, which was quite sufficient for her.
     But by the time her balance reached three thousand dollars it also became problematic. Had she, Yvette asked herself, in fact become a miser? Was her choice of the homeless life nothing more than her expression of greed, wanting to become rich without having to do anything serious to get the money? She probably was indeed becoming a miser since she went to sleep every night with the printout of that day’s bank balance in her hand. And it was the first thing she looked at when she awoke the next day.
     Yep, it certainly looked like she was heading down the miser’s path so the best thing to do would be to spend that three thousand dollars. She would spend all of it on herself though. But seeing as she really didn’t need anything, what could she buy? She didn’t need the money for movies, or clothes, so what could she spend it on?
     She decided to buy a car and travel the great Aus. She would probably need around another two thousand but that would be easy to get. Things were just getting better and better.

*

After she bought the car she still had five hundred dollars left over. It was an old Holden (the model of which she didn’t have a clue) and after filling up the tank she more or less headed out of Sydney straight away. She planned to drive all through Aus, begging her way across the country. She’d always have a place to sleep in her car, without fear of being moved on by the place, so, after collecting her few clothes into her duffel bag, she headed off north, up to Queensland.
     She picked up Gerard about twenty kilometres from the Queensland border. He was a talkative guy who was also travelling around Aus, doing odd jobs on the way.
     ‘I’m begging my way around,’ Yvette informed him.
     ‘Oh yeah? Isn’t that hard?’
     ‘Nah, I’ve never had any trouble with it. Except once and even then I made some good money.’
     ‘I couldn’t beg. I’d feel so ashamed.’
     ‘I’m used to it by now. What sort of odd jobs do you do?’
     ‘Pretty much anything. I’m a jack of all trades and master of none.’
     ‘You know, we should team up?’
     Gerard looked quizzical.
     ‘Well, we’d halve our costs if we worked together and bought things in bulk. We might even increase our profits,’ pointed out Yvette.
     ‘And we’d always have someone to talk with.’
     ‘Yeah, true, it does get lonely sometimes on your own.’
     So they soon agreed to team up and travel Aus in style. They parked near the Roma Street Railway station and agreed to meet there again at six that night, to pool their day’s income. Yvette went about her work with an enthusiasm that was starting to become endemic and the money seemed to be literally flowing into her begging hands. After three hours work she had a little over eighty dollars and decided to visit the University of Queensland and see what it was she had missed out on in a university education. She bought two shepherd’s pies from the cafeteria and spent the time until about five pm in reading the complete Sherlock Holmes. She was expecting even greater things when she headed back to the car.
     She was not expecting to see her duffel bag in place of the car, its few clothes spilling over its side. She looked desperately around. Yep, the car had been stolen. Gerard, the bastard, was not such a nice guy after all. Mind you, someone else may have stolen it but then why wasn’t Gerard here to meet her? She looked around again, feeling the notes in her pocket while she walked briefly up and down to make sure she wasn’t losing her mind. Yes indeed, the car had been stolen.
     She went back to the university formulating a plan after waiting a half hour for Gerard’s possible return, which didn’t happen. She used the internet in their library to find instructions on how to hot wire a car. Finding the information was easy, as was the actual hot wiring. Then she made her way across the university grounds looking for a car that she could safely steal. She found one easily enough, another old Holden, and headed off next door to the Northern Territory. Gerard once mentioned during their brief relationship that the NT was a great place to live. The people were even more relaxed than the average Aussie and finding work was easy. It was warm all year round so sleeping under the stars was usually never a problem, and was in fact an experience that the average Aussie simply ought not to miss.
     Halfway to the NT she was picked up by the Highway Patrol. The bastard of an owner must have quickly found his/her car stolen and reported it. Yvette’s luck might well now be on the downswing. With this seriously in mind Yvette faked having a mental illness while talking to the officer, intermittently talking to an imaginary ‘Agatha.’ The officer suspected she may be shamming it but had to do his duty nonetheless. He took her back to Brisbane and involuntarily admitted her into the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for suspected schizophrenia.
     Yvette had no choice now, she had to keep up this schizophrenia sham. But not knowing any of the symptoms she was in a bit of a tricky position. No matter, she realised while getting into the hospital pyjamas, there’s probably some pamphlets around about schizophrenia, she’d learn from them.
     She learned well and when she came before the mental health tribunal she was committed to the hospital involuntarily for six weeks. Yvette was pleased with the outcome as it was nice having everything put on for her, food, clothing, shelter, companionship, without having to work for it. The police would also no doubt forget about her, neglecting to take her before the court again once she had ‘recovered’ from her psychotic episode.
     The police did not forget, however, and exactly six weeks after her committal the same police officer turned up at the hospital to have her once again committed, but to remand, until she had her day in court. She had her day of such and was fined two thousand dollars for the car theft and a conviction recorded. No problem, she thought on the way out of court, she’d beg the money very quickly. She headed into the Brisbane CBD with that in mind, planning to pay off the fine in a few weeks. She paid it off in four and a half weeks, and after again quickly begging up for another car, headed back to the NT. She would not pick up any hitchhikers this time.

~~~

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 http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing on September 01, 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com
    
    

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