Ok. call me sexist, but I’ve always felt that having a woman around the house was more likely to lead to a cleaner house, so when Kevin moved out and Julia moved in, I figured that the house would be just as clean. And – if I’m being honest – I never really noticed much difference.
Wayne and I were aware that the basement did need a good clean out after the Great Flood of 2007, but the sandbagging he and Kevin did protected most of the house even though it didn’t stop the flooding in the basement. (By contrast, my friend’s shop in the next suburb was washed away and he only recently got a job.We just kept on going to work and figured that the levy bank would either save us or not.)
Right from the beginning of the flood, Tony and Joe had been in my ear.
“They’ve built the levy bank too high. You’ve wasted all that time and effort, not to mention the cost of all those sandbags,” they told me.
“You’d be better off with us as housemates,” they assured me.
I nodded politely. At that stage I was just thanking my lucky stars that I still had a job and wasn’t facing bankruptcy like my friend in the neighbouring suburb.
But it was only after Julia’s complaint that I wasn’t treating her fairly because she was a woman, that things changed. Now, I may be a little sexist, but I certainly don’t like it when a woman points it out.
It was then that Tony and Joe told me what a mess the basement was in and that the landlord would probably throw us out; I grew a little bit concerned.
“Look,” said Wayne. “Most households aren’t even aware that they have a basement. And you’ve never even been down there.”
“But what will the landlord say?” I wanted to know.
“I’ve already spoken to him, and he says that so long as we keep the rest of the house clean, we can fix it up in our own time.”
Tony and Joe told me that wasn’t good enough and that I should demand that Wayne set a deadline.
I’ll spare you the long complicated story of how Wayne failed to meet the deadline, why Julia moved out, Kevin’s fleeting visit and why I felt like I’d be better off with Tony and Joe. It’s what’s happening now that concerns me.
You see, Tony and Joe gave me certain undertakings before moving in. They agreed that they wouldn’t touch anything in my room, and the household kitty would stay the same and that we’d be able to clean up the basement.
When they told me a couple of weeks ago that I’d have to put an extra $7 a week into the kitty, because of the mess in the basement, that sort of made sense. Until they told me that the money was going to a fund which was going to look at the reasons for flooding and ways we could prevent it in the future. In spite of my questions, they didn’t have much detail on how the money would be spent.
“Trust us,” said Tony.
“Yeah, our overriding promise was to clean up the mess the others left.”
When I suggested that they could start by doing the dishes or the vacuuming, they scoffed. Besides didn’t I have friends who’d lost their jobs and just sit around doing nothing? Couldn’t they come over and do it?
Last night, I came home to find some of the contents of my room on the lounge room floor. “What are you doing?” I demanded.
“We’re cleaning up the mess,” said Joe.
“But you’ve got all my stuff on the floor.”
“Your previous housemates enabled you to accumulate all this stuff, it’s just getting in the way of our cleaning up the mess. We’re checking through it and throwing out what you don’t need,” said Tony.
“But it’s mine!” I insisted.
“Come on,” said Tony, “we all have to make sacrifices.”
“We’re just going to sell the stuff you don’t really need,” promised Joe.
I nodded and started toward the kitchen to make myself a coffee.
“You can’t go in there,” said Joe.
“Why not?” I asked.
“We’ve made the kitchen more efficient,” said Tony.
“Yes, we sold it to a chef. He’ll cook all the meals, and that way we won’t have people wandering in there all the time, using up electricity and being inefficient with the purchase of food.”
“That’s ridiculous, won’t we have to pay for the chef?”
“No,” said Joe, “just for your meals. Privatisation, it’s the only way to go.”
“Ah well, at least it’s giving someone a job,” I said.
“And Pedro is very grateful for the chance to work in this country. He’s earning far more than he would back home,” said Tony.
“He’s foreign. Shouldn’t we have given the job to someone Australian at least?”
“No, that’s being racist and disgusting, as our Uncle Rupert says.”
“Shouldn’t you have asked me before you did any of this?” I wanted to know.
“We did,” said Tony. “Before we moved in, we told you that we going to clean up the mess and that’s what we’re doing?”
“Right,” I said, “so how much did the chef pay for the kitchen?”
“We can’t tell you that. It’s a confidential arrangement,” said Joe.
“Well, where’s the money going then?”
“Into the basement,” said Tony.
“You’re going to pay someone to clean up the basement?”
“No,” said Joe. “We can’t afford that. We’re just going to put the money into the basement until we find a use for it.”
“But isn’t cleaning up the basement you’re number one priority?”
“Not so much,” said Tony. “Our number one priority is stopping those kids from stealing apples in the backyard. And we’ve done that. If anyone jumps the fence, we have a security guard who grabs them and then locks them in the basement.”
“Isn’t that illegal?”
“Stealing apples is illegal,” insisted Tony.
“Doesn’t it just add to the mess in the basement?”
“The mess in the basement isn’t so bad,” said Joe.
“I thought it was a crisis.”
“Yes, well, it is,” he explained, “but not a very serious one,”
“Ok, I’d like everything put back in my room the way it was. And then I’d like you two out of here,” I told them.
“You can’t mean that,” said Joe.
“Yeah,” said Tony, “we’ve been doing such an excellent job.”
“But you lied to me. You’re doing all these things you promised you wouldn’t do!”
“Who told you that? Have you been talking to Wayne?” asked Joe.
“Yeah, you shouldn’t listen to him. He was one of the people in the house when the basement flooded,” added Tony.
“Look, we promised we’d fix this mess and that’s what we’re doing!” asserted Joe.
I looked around. All I could see was chaos in what used to be one of the neatest rooms in the house.
“And one other thing, from tomorrow, you’ll need to ring the doorbell to get in. We’re having the locks changed,” Joe informed me.
“We don’t want those people who caused all the mess to get back in, do we?” asked Tony.
“But don’t I get a key? I mean, I live here.”
“Yeah,” said Joe, “but it’s not like you own it or anything.”