STORY1/ I limit myself to the two pots every night. Dave's there, another regular, the Rye RSL. Two old codgers, part of the furniture. Dedicated smoking area. Dave's an ex builder, thousands of 'em on the peninsula. Watch out for them on the bloody roads. Tradies. So there's Davo and I, Sharing the space with rings-ins from Melbourne on the hot weekends. Young bucks, invading our space, at the RSL. Noisy, damaging the equilibrium. What is funny? They laugh at anything. Why? You know I'm 86. People say "Well done." Patronising. Done? I'm not done. Why not "good for you"? Not bloody 'done'. I had a go at them. I told them I was funny. They said I wasn't funny. True. Cheeky buggers. Bloody nonsense. I'll tell you straight, I am funny. Dry? Yes, Very. Dry, as a bloody bone, like those cattlemen, dry-as-a-bone jackets. They're not funny either, but like the ring-ins they think they're funny. Have you seen those who thought they were funny? Nothing worse. That Comedy Festival on telly - the kids in the audience laugh when the supposed funny one walks on stage? So the people who thought they were funny, but were not funny, believe they must be funny, because the kids are laughing. Not once did I laugh. Did you laugh Dave? Nah, Davo missed it. Bloody RSL, laughs uninhibited there. So dry you may miss it. Good hearing a bloody necessity. Smoking area. Swimming pool, floor tiles. I sit up the back, invisible to the young bucks, male and female. Groups, 4 or 5, laugh their bloody heads off. Clever dicks. Not funny. Swish iphønes, conquests, loud clever dicks. I say to my mate Dave, "They think they're funny" Dave laughs. Dave agrees, knows I'm funny. Also invisible. Dave says, eventually, after a long long pause..."Mind you, I think, when we were young, we thought we were funny." But we are funny Davo, now! Quick as a whip Davo replies, his mind now on the job - "No, back when." Then I piss myself laughing, dry laughing, unseen, unheard. Bloody Davo, he's only a boy, 79. I encourage him: "Spot on Davo....Then I say "you think they're locals Dave?"...Nah he says, pausing for effect - they're not funny enough. We both pissed ourselves laughing, again unseen, unheard. OMG. How bloody funny are we I thought. I like Davo, good mate, good bloke, only the one spoke in his wheel - he's a Liberal supporter. No worries, to each his own, right? Live and let live? And Davo, well...to be honest...he's not funny.   


STORY2/ I had a nasty experience at the old Athenaeum theatre years ago. I was alone, in the men's toilet, having a quiet pee, minding my own business, as one does. Well, to be honest I was in a  cubicle. I'm uncomfortable with someone standing alongside, nothing to be ashamed of, a personal preference. And a presence brushed against me. Invisible. True as I'm standing here. I got a nasty fright. Goose bumps back and chest, shivers. I got pee all over my shirt. The presence brushed against my right hand, the holding hand, and it jerked up as a tremor, and I copped a spray. I washed my face, try drying your face on one of those hot air blowers? I'm not a religious man but sometimes you wonder. I often say goodnight to my late wife, thanking God, whoever God is. I read the sermon on the mount once or twice. Gideons bible in a budget motel in Coonabarabran, or the like. Said it was a sin to think the wrong thing. "Whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart?" I could never accept that one, a bridge too far. Still, living alone is always a work in process, man or woman. Maybe the woman gets it easier, they know how to cook, organise, maybe not, maybe it evens out. Still, how does a widowed man or woman cope with loneliness when/if the kids move out, maybe to another state, another  country? A need to be motivated whatever the age, busy busy, if not in one's body, then in ons's mind. When I reached 40 I was sad, is that it? Then I got to 60 and 40 was a balmy dream. Entering the tracksuit world on special from Target, approaching the invisible senior citizen stage, still with younger thoughts, the pension not far off, and superannuation. And to reaching 70, where what you say doesn't matter, you're not there anyway, almost invisible, and who is listening? And so I sit, cappuccino in hand, watching the passing parade. Remembering the time, some 8 years ago, suggesting to my daughter Sue, who was into genealogy, to accompany me to my old stomping grounds, Northcote, where I had spent the first 18 years of growing up, my history, her history. So off we toddled, in the old Datson, to Westgarth, a cluster of strip shops, still there. We decided to stop, walk the walk, and there it was, 111 High Street, the milk bar where I lived in the bungalow at the  rear, and a back gate to a laneway, the exit to the Westgarth theatre on the left. And where Mum worked for 45 years, including the war years. We just had to go in. It was never a large shop. As you entered the counter was along the right going the length of the shop. A few tables and chairs along the left. I told Sue how we used to sit at those tables, me and the boys, the odd girl, discussing mostly females, and football, sport. Sue ordered. The newer tables were now chest high, and the chairs were gone, replaced by high stools along the counter, three or four men sitting, drinking, what looked like beer? The moment I entered a man started laughing. I knew that laugh. Couldn't remember his name. He came up to me and launched into an argument we had all those years ago. About a broken transistor radio. He admitted breaking it and his name came to me in a flash. Lenny Callaghan! After all those years, same face, same voice, same laugh? I ordered a beer from the surly looking shopkeeper. He grunted and walked off, looking very much like the others on their stools, statues. Lenny bloody Callaghan. Some people never leave home, birth till death. Where was Suse? I had my back to the counter listening to Lenny as the lady shopkeeper approached with my beer. I turned as she put it down, looked at her face, her eyes, and almost cried. It was Mum. I hadn't seen her in all those years, since I was 30, it never occurred to me she would still be there. Am I dreaming? I didn't say a word. Just a half smile, thanks, and paid. Mum's face was a blank, Lenny standing there, grinning. Mum walked away. Was the surly shopkeeper with the rugby league neck her husband? All those years, missing her, wanting to show her the watch they gave me for my 40 years of good service in the public service. It all came back with a rush. Lenny went back to his unknown mates. I drank my beer slowly, or was it coffee? The surly shopkeeper was at the far end of the counter as Mum approached me again. She said nothing. Just put some photographs on the counter. I picked them up, looked at them, photographs of me at my presentation, my watch, my marriage. Cousin Laura and her children, taken not 10 years ago. She knew them all. I looked at Mum's face, still a blank, but that was enough. She knew! I desperately wanted to reach across and cuddle her, but I didn't. She quietly picked up the photos and walked away. I watched her, held back the tears, drained my glass cup and thought I should say goodbye to Lenny before we left. I waved to him instead. We walked back to the old Datson as I pondered Mum. She looked so good. Sue said to me "You're very quiet Dad?" Mum looked terrific. Mum was dead? Lenny was dead? Everything was so real. The goosebumps returned. "Haha. All is well Suse. Just thinking back. Better you drive love" handing her the keys. We got into the Datsun and drove off to see the old houses, different now, upmarket. Religious? Nah. Not me. The catholics are lucky. We have no-one to confess to.