Mick was in his late thirties and had been living there for 10 years. He told me that the city had been too expensive for him and, like me, he had a healthy dislike for the workplace. Any workplace. So I packed my single sports-bag and caught the city rail to Linkholm, a station in the outer western suburbs where Mick said he’d pick me up in his combi.
‘She charges reasonable rates’, he told me as we left the station in a cloud of blue exhaust.
‘Reasonable rates is all I can afford right now’. I noticed in the rearview mirror that the traffic could not be seen.
‘Your engine’s burning oil!’
Mick glanced into his side mirror and shrugged, ‘I only make short trips with her now.’
The traffic, the houses, and businesses; the city life began to thin with help from the sputtering engine as the combi hugged the left lane of the Pacific Highway. After forty minutes, Mick turned off and followed a small coastal road until he made a final turn onto a small, dirt track. ‘I’ve already told her you’re moving in, mate, so don’t worry about anything.’
‘What did she say?’
‘Nothing. She just checks the list of available vans, gives a price she thinks a bastard like you can afford, quotes a deposit.’
Mick drove the combi van through the entrance to the trailer park and stalled it neatly alongside the largest mobile, which appeared to function as the reception.
‘Wait here!’ Mick threw upon the door of his van and shuffled over to the mobile. He returned a short while.
‘Here!’ He threw me the keys and restarted the engine, before crunching into reverse. ‘I’ll take you down to yours. Vera said that once you’ve settled in she’ll come down and introduce herself. She’s busy at the moment.’
The combi slowly turned away from the reception building and sputtered its way towards one of the more dilapidated areas of the trailer park. I looked at the well-tended, semi-permanent dwellings nearest the reception.
‘Who lives in those?’
Mick grinned, ‘retired bachelors.’
‘Widowers?’ I asked, trying to catch a half-hearted glimpse of the residents.
‘No’, Mick grinned, ‘just lots and lots of single old men’.
‘What is this place?’
He gave me a quick glance, ‘It’s not what you think, dude, honest!’
‘This had better not be a set-down joint for down-and-out faggots or I’ll fucking kill you!!’
‘It’s not what you think, man. In this place, people leave you alone, they just let you get on with your own business.’
I glanced at him.
‘It’s true!’ he said. ‘If this were Faggot Central, I’d have cleared out years ago. It’s not like that! It’s just that Vera likes to run things her way. She admits blokes as residents.’
I looked at Mick waiting for a stupid grin as he pulled up next to a van with paint peeling off the side and moss on the roof. The frustration began to sink in. ‘How can you fucking stand it? Don’t you ever go crazy not seeing any chicks! At least in the city there’s chicks to fucking look at!’
‘Dude, I have been here for fucking years and have hardly seen anybody. People just leave you alone. There’s a club just down the road I can take you to, cheap beer, and on Friday nights it’s full of surfee chicks. Real hot wimmen! So THAT is NOT an ISSUE, ok!’
Mick stepped out of the idling combi and unlocked the van while I grabbed my sports-bag. ‘Here’s your keys! Come over for a cuppa when you’re settled in. I’ve got lots to talk about.’
Before I could ask him what he wanted to discuss, the combi had already driven away slowly down the narrow road.
I unzipped my sports-bag and threw my clothes over the bunk. I placed my notebook and pen neatly on the small, narrow table. A gentle breeze made a welcome entrance into the enclosed, damp, musty van…
Mick sat a cup of coffee for me down on his plastic table as I arrived at his van. He noticed a distance in my eyes.
‘So, you’ve met Vera then?’ he smiled.
At first, I didn’t say anything. I gripped the coffee mug that he’d set down for me and recalled the more vivid details of her appearance – very youthful, skin so smooth and as white as milk; short-cropped, rust- coloured hair; mousey eyes… ‘she’s beautiful! Reminds me of a girlfriend I once had, a woman who gave head really well.’
Mick nodded. ‘I asked you up to this place for a reason.’
‘I know you like to do a little research before you write those disgusting bloody stories and there’s something about Vera you should know.’
‘Since when do you read my stories?’
‘I’ve read a couple of ’em, and after knowing what they’re like I knew I had to get you up to this place.’
‘Where have my stories appeared?’
Mick ignored my question and swallowed some coffee. ‘I’ve been here for years now and I’ve never seen Vera around a living soul, male or female.’
‘Maybe she’s a recluse.’
Mick’s eyes shone. He spoke softly. ‘Nah mate, Vera used to work in a hospital in Victoria… ‘
‘And… she very quietly got dismissed after working there for close to ten years.’
‘What was the reason?’
‘Well, her service record was close to impeccable. She did all the late night shifts, you know, the ones that nobody else can stand… ‘
‘… and then a hospital attendant thought he caught her doing something that she wasn’t supposed to be doing… ‘
‘Yes, thought. They kept her on at first, and it was hushed up, but she was given a dire warning not to do anything like that again… ‘ Mick peered out of his front van window before he continued ‘… things went quiet again for a while… a long while… which lasted another few years I think… before they caught her out again… but this was more serious.’
‘What was she caught doing?’
‘She was caught fucking a dead guy.’
I looked at Mick completely stunned. ‘No shit?’
‘Full on. She had taken his body somewhere private, completely undressed him. They found the dead guy with an erection and it looked like she’d been working him big time.’
‘No fucking way!’
‘Yes, way! Somehow she’d made the guy hard. It wouldn’t be difficult with a piece of arse like that humping you, eh!’
‘Yeah, she is fucking hot!’ I had to agree with Mick on that one.
‘But that’s her thing, you see. Which is why you don’t see anybody around her much.’
‘Is it because they know about her past?’
‘No, that was really hushed up. I don’t think anybody else here knows about that. She just likes to be left alone.’
‘Fucking hell! This would make a good story.’
Mick laughed, ‘I thought you’d want to write about this one.’
‘It may be just bullshit, though, ‘ I shrugged. ‘How can you prove this happened?’
‘I found it while snooping about in her office. She left a filing cabinet open and was outside for a while when I found her discharge paper bundled up in the bottom of the cabinet drawer. For some reason she kept it there. The comments made by her manager were vague… ‘
‘Ahh, so this could just be bullshit! You could be just making it up.’
‘No fucking way is this bullshit.’ Mick drained his coffee. ‘And I’ll prove it to you, just wait and see.’ Mick ended the discussion with a confident tone in his voice.
I walked back to my van, disoriented, rethinking all that Mick had told me, trying to match the dark desires of this ‘fictional’ character that he spoke about with the beautiful, innocent-looking woman who had greeted me earlier…
A routine was pleasantly unfolding for me at Seagrove Caravan Park. With my free time, and a boss no longer looking over my shoulder, I was beginning to write again after being locked into a low wage, shitty job for five years. I was catching up, writing about the city life, the women I never had and the few I did have, shitty moments, happy moments, mad-arsed moments that most writers ignore at their peril.
Once a fortnight, Mick and I would drive over to the unemployment office to submit our job-search applications, a small amount of money would come through where I could buy a few groceries and write some more for a little longer. The beach was in walking distance and I would go down there late in the morning. Usually I would leave behind a short story in the van, fresh from the night before, and wade into the ocean up to my neck. The water was always cool, it woke me up quickly.
It was early one evening, when I had just finished cooking dinner on the gas stovetop, that Mick knocked excitedly before bursting through, ‘old man Jonesy has carked it. Vera’s been hovering around his van for some days now with her tongue hanging out, I think she can smell death before it strikes.’
I grabbed a knife and fork, ‘You’re so full of shit!’
I sat down to eat some mashed potato.
Mick let loose with his obsession about Vera and what she’d planned for Jonesy that night.
‘I saw her over there at dusk, it’s going to be an all- nighter in THAT van with Vera and STIFF Jonesy.’
‘She’s wearing a skimpy outfit.’
‘Take a fucking look!’
I carried the plate of food over with me to the window and continued eating. A faint light was seeping out of Jonesy’s van.
Mick was becoming increasingly desperate, ‘She’s banging that old dude right now!’
I gave Mick a strange look and kept eating. ‘Who the fuck would be desperate enough to bang that guy!’
‘There are candles lit inside his van. Jonesy never lit candles in his van!’
‘Maybe he’s out of power!’
‘Look, it’s getting near dark. Let’s sneak over to Jonesy’s van to see what’s really going on!’
I took a bite of hot, greasy sausage, ‘Mick I think you’re fucking deluded. Since I’ve been here I’ve seen nothing odd about Vera and I saw Jonesy just this morning, he was walking along the beach and he looked fit as. So stop talking crap, I’ve got some more putrid stories to get on with tonight.’
Mick looked only slightly offended. ‘I’m offering you something juicy, dude!’
‘Dinner… is getting… cold, ‘ I replied between mouthfuls.
‘You’re going to lose a good fucking story!’
I quickly finished the rest of my meal while Mick left the van. I lifted my cup of hot tea, turned on the pocket radio and turned off the light near my table. The dark interior was a dream for a voyeur, I looked over at the soft light coming out of Jonesy’s van and sipped at my tea, before retreating to my bunk.
With the radio crackling with static, sleep came on slowly that night. Mick’s disturbing words had entered my consciousness and were still echoing through my brain. I was still shaking away provocative images of Vera when I awoke…
That doesn’t normally happen to me. The air felt tense, vibrant, too active for the deader side of night.
I sat up in the bunk and looked through the opening between the curtains that covered the front window. Candlelight was still seeping out of Jonesy’s van. Just as I turned to lie back on my small pillow, movement caught my attention. I looked back at Jonesy’s van.
A pale, semi-naked figure of a woman was moving about inside.
My eyes widened. ‘That’s definitely not Jonesy!’ I thought.
Curiosity was building up inside me whilst I stood looking out at Jonesy’s van.
‘Fuck it!’ I thought to myself. The air was too much, just too much.
Mick’s comment about missing a good story came back through my mind as I carefully unlocked the door to my van and pulled down on the latch. My feet found the galvanised steps in the cool morning air. The surf could be heard crashing in the distance, the sounds of breaking waves were being carried across to the caravan park with a gentle onshore breeze.
I walked toward Jonesy’s van, keeping away from the larger windows and remaining within the darker areas of the park. ‘I must be fucking mad!’ I thought to myself as I slowly ambled towards the van, each step taken carefully so that no dry twigs would snap beneath my feet.
I got down on all fours and crawled beneath Jonesy’s van and waited. I looked for any light seeping through a crack in the flooring and only saw a small gap, just enough to put my ear against…
Mick awoke to the sound of rampant thumping on his door.
‘Who the fuck is it?’
The thumping continued until he hauled himself out of his bunk and unlocked the latch. The door swung out sharply. ‘Mick, come quick dude, it’s Vera. Vera’s dead-fucking humping Jonesy.’
Mick slammed the door on his mate and crawled back into his bunk. ‘I’m eating my dinner, so fuck off!’
‘Mick, Mick! there’s an all-nighter going on with VERA and STIFF JONESY. Come and check it out!’
Mick pretended to make chewing noises, ‘Dinner… is getting… cold… good night!’
‘MICK, DON’T BE A FUCK-STICK! JUST COME OUT!’
The door to the van was bashed several more times.
Mick could not be heard inside his van…
Footsteps, punctuated by the odd snapping twig, faded away into the night.