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My Squalor Was More Squalid

May 12th, 2010 by the_lifer

Winona has joined Will and his co-workers for after work drinks.

One of them has asked where Winona is working, and gotten more than he bargained for as she describes her ongoing interviewing experiences with the Department of Stodge. “…so then I spent all afternoon taking those bizarre employment-fitness psychological tests. The ones where they ask you if you feel like killing people always, sometimes, or rarely. I assume they’re determining whether I’m sufficiently mad to work there.”

“Where are you living?” he asks, politely.

“Oh, Mt. Vic. It’s all right, I suppose. I think it’s the coldest flat we’ve ever had here.”

Everyone in their cluster of 10 people blinks sharply and turns. And the Dreadful Flat Stories begin.

“I used to live on Cuba Street in the 90s. In our flat…the walls didn’t even reach the ceiling! We got this freaky draft.”

“Remember at that time all of Mt. Vic was a slum? I was flatting in a house with six others. No insulation. Just heaps of blankets. It was like insulation hadn’t been invented then.”

“I was in Mt. Vic, too. But on the hill. The very top. We caught the southerly full on. Windows used to rattle, even fly open. I caught what they call ‘walking pneumonia.’”

“I had a boyfriend once and – who’s that comedian who says that men are “bears with furniture?” He was a bear and a half. At his man-cave the shower was lined with black plastic. I don’t date men who say they’re living in a warehouse loft anymore.”

By the laughter, nods, and requests for more drinks, this last raconteur seems to have won. The storyteller is the only other woman in their group. While she was speaking, she slipped out of her hooded black coat, and revealed an amazing head of hair, dyed deep ultramarine. It makes her look unreal, jewel-like. Winona gapes.

“Ulrika,” she says, holding out a hand that, when Winona takes it, is bony and cold. “I didn’t know Will was married.”

“Um, we’re partners, not married,” she mumbles, abashed. And doesn’t quite know what to say after that, as Ulrika settles in to be the centre of attention.

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