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Snow Business

August 16th, 2011 by admin

The lovely weather break in August is cancelled. School is cancelled. Every discussion that is not about the phenomenon of snow in Wellington is cancelled!

Fingers fly over phones throughout the region, sending updates to friends and family. Helena Hutt is snowbound on her scenic Hutt Valley hill. She bundled her children up and sent them outside, after calling their school. “There’s lots of clean snow on the cars, darlings, you could make a snowman!” Fortuitously, they take up the suggestion. The cars will be cleaned off soon.

With her phone and laptop, she soon learns that everyone else is jealous of her. “Sooo lucky, we’re at work.” “No office closings downtown, just soggy here.” “Trapped but in Karori, black ice, kids going mental.”

She peeks into her husband Henry’s study. “Want some tea, pet?”

Henry looks up from his spreadsheet. “Thanks, love.” He couldn’t make it to the plant today, but most of the staff are in. They need to get paid, the floor foreman says, to pay the heating bills at home. Manufacturing has been reeling in New Zealand this year. First he had to put on more capacity after his rival got shut down in the Christchurch quakes – not bad to crush them at last, but not the way he’d wanted to do it. Then the high NZ dollar has been hammering their profit margin. There won’t be a shopping-and-sports trip to Melbourne for the family this spring. Orders in New Zealand, he knows, will come to a halt before the election in November. Why? He’s got no idea, but it happens every time. And now this snow is mucking up his shipping.

Outside, they can hear the children laughing. “Mummy! Daddy! We did it! We made a snowman!”

Together, they go outside to see. The snowman is a meter high, half-melting already in the hail. The children, unused to snow, did not discriminate between the clean snow on the car and the dirty snow on the driveway, so he is rather muddy, for a snowman.  Still, Henry beams as much as the kids do, and goes to get his camera.

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Largeman’s Run

August 9th, 2011 by admin

If a broken-in cricket glove could speak, it would sound like Largeman, Winona’s old-school-Kiwi uber-boss at the Department of Stodge. He has a baritone that evokes the plummy newsreel voiceovers of yore, slightly muffled, rumbling with deep, slightly indistinct amusement.

He understands why she’s moving on. She’ll do grandly in Marianne Swatch’s department. You go where you can get something done, in government.  And he should know. He’s going to retire in November, when they merge the Department of Stodge with MAF at long last, and he’s had a good run. Been in government since 1969 – rugby mate of his had said, come along, mate, desk in his office.

Winona nearly falls off her chair when Largeman shares a photo of himself from 1969, golden hair down to his collar, matching sideburns, jutting jaw and cheekbones balancing his jutting lapels. No wonder he’d left the vast sheep station where he’d been brought up – though, from the way he talked throughout his career, you’d think he lived there part-time.

His reminiscence rolls on. Even though he’d always been a Labour man, it had been cushy until Britain joined the EEU in 1973. And then there were the Muldoon years, the loss of the farm subsidies. He’d enjoyed the struggles, though. The Labour years had really been his apotheosis – Helen Clark, now there was a woman. It’s all been about getting money for the farmers, at the end of the day. Bringing it back to good old En Zed.

Listening to him, Winona is wistful. “You should write your memoirs.” He swells up with pleasure even as he discounts her as a flatterer. But she is thinking of the difference between the jowly, mottled man before her and the stunner in the photo, and that something vital will go when the Largeman newsreel flaps to an end.

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Their Home Away From Home

July 26th, 2011 by admin

At Wazzer’s pub on Cuba Street, Nigel, the owner/operator, is over the moon. Absolutely delirious. “We’re booked! One of the rugby teams booked for the Rugby World Cup! Yessss!”

Cutlery clatters down, staff spill out of the kitchen. This is what every pub in New Zealand has hoped for – and it’s happening to them!

“Who is it? Argentina? South Africa?”

“Oh, man, Argentinians are hot,” moans one of the waitrons.

“Nuh-uh! South Africans are way hotter!” retorts Wazzer.

Smugly, Nigel says, “You’re both wrong. Namibia!”

Namibia?” Everyone blinks.

“They’ve reserved in case they make it to their quarterfinals! We need flags. Specials. A Namibiaburger! Whatever that is. I’ve got to go Google their cuisine.” Satisfied at everyone’s reactions, he swaggers into his office. Everyone else whips out their phones, does their own quick Googling, and starts swapping Namibia trivia. “Oooh, they’ve got meerkats!”

Of all the staff, the only one not enlivened by this tidbit is Rosie, who keeps her head down, making napkin/cutlery bundles.Wazzer drifts over. “Not a Cup fan?”

Rosie turns her clear blue gaze on her boss. “Wazzer. I need to ask. If I went to work somewhere else, would you give me a reference?”

“Of course, mate. You’ve been the best. I don’t have any problems. But you don’t look happy.”

With tender hopelessness, Rosie says, “I still…I just think it’s for the best...”

Wazzer looks around, then whispers, kindly, “Wanna work at the bar Argentina booked? I know the main night bartender there. Tell Perry I sent you.”

As soon as she whispers the name of the bar, Nigel brays, “Wazzer! I need you on wholesale! How’s this for a special: ostrich burgers!”

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It’s A Cat’s Life

July 19th, 2011 by admin

Wazzer slinks back to her place at nine on Sunday morning. If her flatmate/landlady Willow hasn’t sealed the deal with her new boyfriend by now, well, that’s her problem. She did her part as the tactfully absent flatmate. Loping up to the door, several of the neighbors’ cats observe her passage, calmly. And inside the kitchen, Cilla is sitting on the breakfast nook table, purring.

“Hey, cat,” Wazzer says, chucking the calico under the chin. Cilla tilts her little wedge-shaped head, luxuriating. And why shouldn’t she? The cat is the only pet that works for Wellington.

Most cage birds and most aquarium fish are “exotics.”  The selection in pet stores is rather dull, and prone to keel over if left in an unheated Wellington house during the day.  And dogs? Wellington trounces them socially at every turn. A large chunk of downtown is a Dog Restricted Area. Even outside this, landlords forbid them, they are barred from most large fields and beaches, there are few outdoor cafes for their owners to relax with their pets. Man friends grumble that you never come along for a drink if you’re always running home to let the dog out. The Kiwi tradition of large working dogs means that the lap dogs who adapt best to actual urban life are laughed out of town.

This leaves the cat. The pleasures and downsides of cat ownership, importantly for the council, rarely impact the neighbors. Wazzer has had a taste of these pleasures, living with Cilla as she’s grown from a kitten to a playful young feline. So much so that she’s been thinking lately that she might want a cat of her own. But Willow freezes up at the thought of anything traumatizing her darling kitten. So, thinks Wazzer, it’s another reason to start planning where she’ll live next.


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The Golden Ticket

July 14th, 2011 by admin

While Wazzer has her misadventures, the party continues. Among the IT geeks and policy wonks, two ambitious women talk to each other. The pretty retro one says to the sleek and heedless tomboy, “…so I applied for the writer job at that internet discount coupon place – the cool one!”

“Oh! I applied for that, too.”

Both eye each other sidelong, both thinking: Damn. Each of them ardently wants that job. It’s at one of the most prominent IT companies in the country, one that still provides lavish employee perks.  It would be like one of Wonka’s Golden Tickets, opening the door to new opportunity and all the chocolate you wanted. Writing sassy special offer ads seems like pure fun compared to stock-taking, washing glasses at a bar, or wrangling government administration.

The first one lowers her lashes. Diffidently, she murmurs, “I have a friend there already. I don’t know if it will make any difference.”

“Yeah, no, I used to work there before I went to graduate school for a while.”

It’s a draw, basically.  “How many other people do you think applied?”

“Heaps. Heaps and heaps. More wine?”


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Fancy Meeting You Here

July 6th, 2011 by admin

Wazzer is holding up the dark corner of a friend’s bar, sculling from a pint glass. Of water.  “I gotta drive tonight, and I wasn’t planning to,” she tells the friend, who is keeping the water coming. She’s going to be holding the bar up for another hour or so, at least, giving her plenty of time to rue her situation.

After learning, via  a passionate kiss on the lips, that her co-worker Rosie has a Justin Bieber haircut for a reason, Wazzer had put the girl in her place and fled, leaving Rosie leaking tears from her big blue eyes. Thinking about it, Wazzer swears again. What was it with her and lesbians? Why did the adorable hottie with a totally sweet crush on her have to be a co-worker that she supervised? Was it too soon to start looking for a new job?

“I thought you were at your sister’s tonight?” someone says, behind her shoulder.

Wazzer glares. “Wayland,” she grumbles. Then it clicks. “Wait. Are you the tattoed guy seeing my sister? ‘Cause there’s no other way you would have known that.”

Wayland steps back, eyeing her warily. After a moment’s strange silence he says, “Thought you’d have a pink fit when you found out.”

She shrugs. “My night is so perfect already. You’re not living there, are you?”

“I stay over once in a while. When I’m up there seeing my kid. IRD caught up with me for support, I wanna make sure the money’s spent on him.”

Curiosity gets the better of her. “Where ya’ stayin’ tonight?”

“Dunno. I’ll see who’s keen.” He eyes up a curvy girl, still fresh and expensive-looking this late in the evening.

The bartender puts a fresh pint of water in front of Wazzer. “Thanks, bro,” she says. Then she accidentally on purpose elbows the glass so it dumps cold water on Wayland’s crotch. “Oh, sorry, mate! Geez, that looks awful.”

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The Promised Land

June 21st, 2011 by admin

At Wazzer’s work on Monday morning, the waitrons are bundling cutlery and paper napkins together, using water so that the paper napkins stay wrapped. They’re supposed to use just a dab of water, but these bundles will be mummified like papier-mache, they are all so distracted by one raconteur. “So she’s moving to Australia next week and doubling her salary! Doubling it!”

“Yeah, but, to work at the KFC in a mining town?”

“At least it’s not cold!”

Meanwhile, Wazzer is trying to wrap something up quickly. “Mmmkay. So that’s the three traps, and you fumigated along the…yep…all right. I’ll send your invoice through this week, mate. Better check your parking – they’re ticketing like fiends lately,” she says. It would be great if the exterminator moved his labeled van before any customers seriously arrived.

But the exterminator is distracted by the jolly waitrons. “Any of you going to Aussie?”

Giggles and denial from everyone except Rosie, who just shakes her head, and the loudest girl, who says, “Aussie blokes! The odds are good, but the goods are odd.”

“You might meet a Kiwi. I’m going over soon. Bloody paradise if you’re in my field.” The exterminator sighs, longingly, “Rats as long as your arm. Roaches the size of playing cards. Snakes, too. All the work you’d want in the pest field. Queensland for me!”

Amidst the shrieks and laughter, Wazzer notices that Rosie stays quiet. The Christchurch emigre was visibly shaken up by the additional round of severe quakes there last week. Poor little chook, she thinks. When Rosie is bundling the cutlery mummies into the prep station, Wazzer says, “Hey, want to go to a party with me this Saturday? Good wine, lots of guys? Some friends of mine, they’ll like you.”

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