500 words New In Town ‘ABC Open’, May 2013
I stood on the cobblestone path looking to the Star Cafe’, the aroma of bacon wafted into the street. How do I get up there? Down the pathway he had said, it must be the one running down the side of the cafe’. Blank windows glared back over the top of the paint peeling Star Cafe’ sign, I walked to the corner, fingerprints and years of grease marred the glass front window and I peered into the laneway. Cool and damp, there was a door to the left at the far wall. It will be unlocked, just enter and come upstairs. I pushed. The door gave way, grunting at the hinge. I heard a cat ‘meow’. Dark green carpet, thread bare in the tread lined a narrow stairway to another door. With every step an uneasy creak escaped from the timber joins.
Knock, knock. More paint peeled surface. More creaking from inside, a jiggle of the lock and the door flew open to reveal quite a respectable looking fellow, Mr Cool.
‘Hello, I’m Bob. You must be the Aussie. Come on in.’
Two black cats circled his feet, yellow glass eyes piercing the darkness as he gently closed the door behind me. All around was dark. Dark furnishings, dark flooring, dark cats and bacon wafted through the floorboards. The curtains were drawn, only a hint of grey London sky could be seen then he flicked on the lights illuminating my surroundings, the burning amber of sunset no more familiar to my eyes than the dark.
‘Have a look around. The room is upstairs.
The main room was rather large, a fire place with remnants in its base of warmer times, cosy chairs and a television. Towards the stairs was a computer desk and opposite was the kitchen with a bathroom alongside the doorway of the stairs. Another thread bare stair climbed the wall to an intersection of three doors.
‘That’s mine, you never go in there. You have a choice of either one of these.’
Each room was the size of a closet with a bed invading the hanging space, both overlooked the back laneway. ‘Umm, this one.’ What’s the difference? There was a fireplace in the lounge and to an Aussie that seemed to make it all OK. Wasn’t I a fool!
One morning I woke to find a note left on the kitchen bench somewhere between the dried weetbix remnants, the saucepans from two nights earlier and a cat. It said, ‘Can you clean the place, I have a party tonight’. By this stage I had my own cereal bowl, coffee mug and chose to eat out. I arrived home from work that night to find the party in full swing and the place pretty much the same as I had left it.
My two year working holiday started a little rough but I did find a new home, wonderful housemates and a considerably well paid job.