What have I done?

By Ranee Mischlewski

When Vanessa decided to take in a boarder she didn’t know about accommodation sites so she advertised in the local paper. Three of the replies were from creeps. The fourth wanted to share the kitchen whereas Vanessa really wanted to cook delicious home-style meals for someone, perhaps a Law student at Deakin. The next was unemployed. The last application was from the employer of a tradesman. ​ His rented unit had had been sold from under him and he had slept a fortnight in his car. His boss had realised that his tradie, who did the work of three men, was only doing the work of two men when he was sleep-deprived. He looked in the local paper under Accommodation and phoned Vanessa on his worker’s behalf and said he would be his referee as requested in her ad. ​ Vanessa agreed to meet the tradesman for an interview at 10 o’clock that Friday morning. ​ She stood behind the solid cedar door and took a few deep breaths. It was, she thought, a bit like a blind date. What if she took an instant dislike to him and had to go through the motions? She opened the main door and peered through the security screen with her smile ready. ​ He stood on the porch just as apprehensive as her, but unlike her, on crutches. She invited him in while wondering if she might be bashed to death by crutch. ​ She showed him around the house – the room, the bathroom he could use, the mini-fridge where he could store his snacks and the microwave where he could heat them. She showed him her quite separate part of the big old house where, as her friends kept reminding her, she was like a fart in a bottle, that she should sell up, buy a unit, and travel. She showed him the garage where he could keep his car and ladders, the workshop, and her pride – her beautiful old garden. He told her that his mother loved her garden too. ​ Then they had a bit of a chat. ​ She outlined the financial arrangements, those for meals and laundry and her house rules which included strictly no smoking inside. She lied about having someone else coming at 11.30 and said she would get back to him that afternoon with her decision either way. ​ had gone – ever so enthusiastic and hopeful – she sat down and thought what have I done? Then she thought realistically and financially. She thought about the rates notice looming. The broken mower he could perhaps fix. And the leak in the third bedoom. ​ It’ll be OK. What’s the worst that could happen? He’s the best of a bad mob. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. All of her father’s old sayings - bite the bullet - take the bull by the horns – head down and something or other. ​ At four she rang him and told him that he was the successful applicant. “You are an angel!” he shouted over the phone “A fucking angel! Bless you – you are a fucking angel. I fucking love you!” Vanessa agreed that he could move in with his stuff that afternoon even though she had really wanted one last weekend to herself. She was a bit shocked by his exuberant use of the ‘f’ word. In her private circle only her arty friend from Bendigo used it because it was so working class it was upper class. In her immediate family ‘bloody’ was used in extreme circumstances like about a flood or the car not starting. Sometimes ‘strewth’, ‘bloody hell’ and of course her father said “Oh fer chrissake!” quite often to express disgust or some other opinion. ​ Vanessa sat down and tried to process what was happening. She recalled his appearance. He was a roof tiler, over six feet tall. He was tanned, muscular, had a few tatts, shaved head. Maybe an earring. Piercing blue eyes. The same age as her second son. An iridescent blue ute with a V8 engine. On crutches when he had jumped off a shed roof in a hurry. His family lived in West Heidelberg. Two uncles in jail and a sister in rehab. Offered to mow the lawn and clean the gutters regularly, no charge. A police record but that was when he was eighteen, twenty years ago – nothing since. Bi-polar but on medication - he wanted to be straight with her. Wryly she thought to herself: I’ve retired but after twenty nine years I’m still in bloody Special Education. ​ He didn’t like garlic, mushrooms, fish, sausages or that green stuff – “coldslaw”. ​ He was bringing his stuff around tonight. ​ “Oh my god” she thought. “What have I fucking done?”

(Image by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)