It was a funny picture, I’ll give you that: sitting in a candlelit pub in Alexandra in a Ren and Stimpy t-shirt with a VB tinnie in a neoprene stubbie holder, reeking of smoke. The candles and the holder were because of the lack of power. The smoke was because of…. the fire, of course. And the Ren and Stimpy t-shirt, the one I usually only wear around the house? Well, that was what I was wearing at six thirty pm when we evacuated the Marysville house we’d been staying in, about two minutes after we realised it was two streets from a tsunami sized wall of flame.
I was sitting there in the guttering dark of the smoke-filled pub, feeling a bit sorry for my ipod, which I had forgotten in the mad rush. What does it say about me, human nature, and ipods, that this was the one object I was really upset about?
But it was hard to feel sorry for myself or my iPod once I talked to some of the other people stranded in the pub, real refugees, people who’d evacuated the only houses they had. People who only had ‘the shirts on their backs,’ and not even one t-shirt, like the woman who came up to me, saw my loud Ren and Stimpy number, and said, ‘Oh, I had that t-shirt. I wanted to save it… but there wasn’t time.’ Nor was there time for her to save the sixty or more reptiles and dozens of parrots that had to be left to the flames. Or the neighbours’ dogs, locked in the house next door.
Then, one hour later, the munters arrived. There were two of them (‘cos they always roll in twos, minimum). The Muppet hair, the slack jaw, the visible underpants, the Corey Delaney/Worthington slouch. In fact, one of them was just wearing a pair of hot pants style Bonds undies… and a pair of fluoro Nike high tops, natch.
‘Did you hear anything about Taggerty?’ asked the husband of the woman who’d left Ren and Stimpy behind?
‘Taggerty? Taggerty’s a shithole,’ the munter replied.
‘Not if it’s your home,’ came the rejoinder, which hit a face that…. this was the weird thing. It was a face that knew full well what had happened. And maybe it was a really good coping mechanism. But from where I was sitting, it looked more like the face of someone who not only couldn’t give a fuck, someone who didn’t even know how to go about giving a fuck. A person who wouldn’t know what that was or what it was for, even if you demanded one point blank.
Right on cue: ‘I don’t give a fuck,’ cried munter number two. ‘If this place burns, I’m gonna go in to the city and go clubbin’.’
‘Ye’ can’t go fuggin’ clubbin’,’ said the leathery lady behind the bar, ‘the highways are all fuggin’ closed, ye’ idiot.’
‘Yeah, well I’ll go to Shepp then,’ he said, without skipping a beat.
They stuck around, they got more drunk, they shot some shadowy pool, they called for Jagerbombs, then the big one in the pink said, ‘I’m havin’ a pool party at my place in Eildon. Anyone want to come?’ The bar full of faces, many from places that no longer existed, just looked over at him quizzically. What can you say to something like that?
Fires might kill, destroy whole towns, and change the lives of communities forever, but in the midst of it, there are still munters, and they still just want to party. The irrepressible power of the munter springs eternal. Is this cause for hope, or the best evidence of our doom?
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
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