It was after one pm by the time Lacrosse arrived. He clearly disregarded Trudy’s assertion, that Chateau Unction prefers punctuality at all times. The stupendous Trebbiano of ’93 from La Bella Estate, Umbria stood carafed at the table invitingly. I was deeply in need of several glasses of the stuff but knew I had to remain clear-headed for my encounter with the Teasurer
Lacrosse’s tardiness had made me grumpy and when Trudy ushered the man in I made no bones about what I thought of his bulk. I unabashedly sized him up and asked Trudy to provide a bigger chair. His largeness was of a perpendicular nature as well as horizontal and he looked down on me with a grimace of unadorned scorn. He’d only just passed the threshold and already things were not looking good.
A rather dishevelled looking and flour dusted Racine emerged from the kitchen brandishing a mallet and whining something about the Halibut being less than fresh. The diminutive chef instantly recognized Lacrosse and bowed deeply, disgusting his employer in more ways than I can count.
‘For goodness sake man, our guest is not royalty. Clearly the Halibut is off the menu. Thought it was a daft idea anyway, considering the beast originated in the North Sea. Make something else you fool. Sorry about this minister.’ Racine evacuated to the kitchen after which an explosion could be heard which could only be the sound of the mallet colliding with something hard.
I thought it best to placate Lacrosse, particularly as he appeared to be a tad traumatised at the sight of the small rotundity in the snood. Racine, at the best of times, is a contradiction to the very idea of humanity. He is both obsequious and intimidating at the same time, fat and yet prim, bold and yet effeminate, intelligent of mind but stupid of behaviour. He sports a moustache and goatee which at all times is shrouded in a hair net…even when he is not cooking. All I can say in his favour is that it is very fortunate for him he is a master craftsman in the kitchen because if that were not so, he’d be arrested for overstaying his visa by several years and winging it back to Naples.
‘Please’ I soothed, pointing to the freshly set table. Lacrosse’s approach to the table, coincided with Trudy’s immaculate positing of a suitable chair. Ensconced, but rather surly, he looked about him and then fixed me in his gaze, as he would a young buck about to receive a head shot. I surreptitiously turned on the voice recorder.
‘My mobile phone,’ I replied.
‘Funny looking phone mate.’
‘It’s from Tasmania.’
‘Ahh, say no more. You know, Unction you’ve come a long way. Last time I clapped my peepers on ya, you were up against that bloke for pre-selection in Gough’s old seat.’
‘Yes, bloody mayor from Liverpool, took it from me by a nag’s nose. Bloody Sussex Street slipped on its arse that day Joe. Anyway, as you see my circumstances have changed a bit since then,’ I said.
‘How is Dympha anyway’ He replied significantly.
‘You will probably see her loping about the place. ‘I’d hazard a guess, she’s out by the pool on her second bottle of Krug,’ I said.
‘So where’s the grub’ Lacrosse looked longingly towards the kitchen. If the Halibut is off what the fuck are we having—what’s Halibut anyway?’
‘Haven’t a clue old bean, on both counts. Some sort of creature purloined from the waters off Norway. Perhaps Racine will surprise us.’
‘Well, he certainly surprised me…what’s with that guy’
‘Oh, enough said, so whaddya want to know?’
‘Well, I saw the remark you made on Telly about the poor.’
‘You said on national television, most poor people don’t have cars and if they did they don’t drive much anyway, so the hike in petrol tax is not going to affect them. I’m paraphrasing here,’ I said.
‘Just telling it like it is mate; shit I could eat the crutch out of a rag doll,’ Lacrosse looks about the room and addresses my assistant Trudy, who was fidgeting at the sideboard, ‘any toast love,’ Trudy not given to much in the way of verbal communication looks worriedly at me.
‘No toast Lacrosse,’ I said. I have to admit, I was finding it difficult to disguise my distaste for the lump of political corpulence taking up space in my dining room.
‘Look mate, you asked me here for lunch…where the fuck is it. I told the young bloke I’d take him for a spin in the Ferrari this arvo.’
‘OK, so where are you going?’ I said in an attempt to divert the conversation away from his appetite.
‘Thought we’d head out West. Maybe Penrith and back’
‘So taking the opportunity to mend some fences then?’
‘Well, isn’t that where the poor people live?’
‘Is it, crikey…didn’t know,’ thinking, ‘wait a minute—I’m the treasurer mate, what would I be doing mending fences? You’re a bit fucking weird Unction, aren’t you?’
‘I suspect I am. Alright, well what about this GP co-payment business?’
‘What about it?’
‘Some are saying it’s a tad unfair’
‘Look how are we going to fix the hole in the fence, I mean the deficit, something’s gotta give! I mean we didn’t create this mess, your mob, the commies fucked it up for us well and good. We are here to manage the economy. Nurse it back to health as it were.’
‘So the poor cop it sweet again, right?’
‘Too bloody right’
This fascinating tete a tete was interrupted by a low growl followed by a shrill scream from the kitchen, followed by the sound of smashing plates and utensils. I glanced at Trudy who rushed off to see what all the fuss was about. For some reason our conversation made me think of Marie Antoinette. I again addressed Lacrosse, in an attempt to divert his preoccupation with the affairs of the stomach. He still peered ruefully towards the kitchen.
‘You know how “let them eat cake” is often ascribed to Marie Antoinette’
‘Yeah—are you trying to have a go FU, because if you are—.’
‘No, no it’s just that I have it on good authority, she didn’t say that at all. According to my sources this is how it really went down.
One day, the Queen and Louie were strolling about the gardens of Versailles, when the gamekeeper approached them, cap in hand. Before the guards had a chance to pike him the King, curious, asked him what his business might be. The poor man fell to his knees, hat in hand, and proceeded to talk about the palace pheasants. These ludicrous creatures were encouraged to grace the gardens until they were called upon to provide lunch.
‘Sire,’ whimpered the gamekeeper, ‘the pheasants have nothing to eat. Maize and wheat and the other grains upon which they sup are in short supply. I fear for their continued suitability for the table,’ at this point the rather silly Marie Antoinette piped up.
‘But surely Louis, the pheasants can eat cake,’ giggling adorably.
‘Ha! You see gamekeeper, my wife’s a genius,’ said the king and signalling the captain of royal guard, their highness’s continued their promenade.’
‘Now it so happened, the captain of the guard, only heard Marie Antoinette’s shrill reply. After connecting his not inconsiderable boot to the gamekeepers bottom he considered the Austrians princesses atrocious French and conflated pheasants with peasants. The guard having come from peasant stock himself was outraged at the callous remark in regard to his countrymen, who at that time survived on a diet of nettles and mead. As this occurred on a Friday afternoon, he galloped home for the weekend after a challenging week’s work belting up gamekeepers and the like. As he sat ensconced in his abode, tankard of mead or whatever it was palace guards drank, he repeated what he thought the Queen had said to his wife. The guard’s wife, a dreadful gossip, immediately spread the word and thus a myth was born and the seed of a revolution planted.’
‘I still can’t help thinking you’re having a go Unction, you oily fucker,’ Lacrosse said.
‘Oh look, here is some food,’ said I. Lacrosse looked up to see Trudy approaching with a platter, which she placed in the centre of the table. On a bed of carefully selected fresh green leaves nestled 12 bite-size brown squares. Also nestled amongst the leaves were two small pots. One contained an Aoli and the other a dry Gremolato of salt, pepper, lemon rind, garlic and chilli. Trudy placed small a card beside the platter on which I read in perfect copperplate…
‘Sardine con Pangrattato’
I had seen this appertizer before but Racine seems to have artfully tortured the varmints into perfect squares. How extraordinary, I thought as I forked one of them on to my plate. I spooned on a little of the Aoli and the Gremolato and ate it, immediately transported into ecstasy. I was sans superlatifs. ‘My goodness—mmm—delicious,’ I whispered dreamily to myself and cast my eyes hungrily to the platter to find that the object of my desire had vanished. It has not gone far, because Lacrosse had it gripped in both hands and slid the remainder of its contents onto his plate. Seething with rage I gripped my fork with murderous intent. If it had not been for the appearance of my better half at that moment, I feel sure Lacrosse would have been released from this vale of tears, via his carotid artery.
Dympha swanned into the dining room from the direction of the kitchen mumbling a series of expletives. She stopped to stare at Lacrosse.
‘Joseph, I had no idea you would be here, FU tells me nothing. I am a stranger in my own home, he’s a very bad husband,’ she said, winking at Lacrosse.
‘As it happens I did tell you last night poppet, but you were falling over pissed. By the way could you go and put some clothes on, I’m sure Lacrosse cannot possibly know where to look.’ This assessment of Lacrosse’s eye arrangements was nothing of the sort, as clarified by a hideous smirk starting with his mouth and ending on Dympha’s chest. She was in her usual summertime attire of micro bikini and some sort of flimsy gown, a garment so diaphanous, as to make a mockery of modesty.
‘Gosh, I’d kill a brown dog for a glass of bubbly. Be a dear Trudy.’ She seated herself on the table beside Lacrosse and rested a sardine from his plate. ‘What precisely is this FU?’
‘I have it on good authority, that morsel dear was once a fish, but has now become another of Racine’s fabrications’ At that she dropped it back on Lacrosse’s plate and said, ‘Oh dear, is he still here,’ Her sweet mouth descended to a pout. Trudy appeared with a flute of champagne and Dympha swigged it like a navvie.
‘I’d go easy on that, my love; the day is yet young’ I said, knowing full well that it would not make a blind bit of difference. Come six o’clock she’d be under the table.
‘Now Joseph, tell me, what’s been going on in your life’ she turned her pretty pout on Lacrosse.
‘Dympha have you really no knowledge whatsoever of what’s been going on,’ I said.
‘Not a fucking clue, FU and not entirely sure I want to,’ she said.
‘Well, Lacrosse has just released his first budget, and is copping a shitload of backlash for it.
‘Oh dear, poor Joey, are they being mean to you, my dear,’ Dympha patted the fellow on his plump shoulder, after which, she surreptitiously brushed his dandruff off on her gown, with a little smirk of disgust.
They’re saying it’s the worst budget since the very idea of a budget was first suggested three millennia ago. Backbenchers are crossing the floor, the greens are disappearing up their own fundaments with angst, Labor is threatening to temporarily re-introduce the death penalty, solely for the purpose of disposing of our guest. Doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, judges, paramedics are up in arms. Not to mention unemployed people, the few remaining employed people, off-road vehicle owners, mining billionaires, mining disaster victims, SMH columnists, extra-terrestrials, people who work in shops, people who steal from shops, porn stars and the list goes on. An expat comedian working in the US topped himself on stage, when he heard about the federal budget. ISIL took the opportunity to subjugate half of Iraq to Sharia law. Our neighbour drowned a kitten because he didn’t want it growing up in the shadow of this budget.
‘Poor Joseph, they are being mean, what can we do for him FU?’
‘Not a lot, I suspect. Dympha dear, I do believe I just spied the pool maintenance chap out there. You know how the young fellow requires supervision,’ I said. At that she rose and sashayed towards the French windows overlooking the pool.
‘The poor boy looks absolutely starved for company. See you when I’m looking at you Joseph—say hello to Trixie’, she said and sailed out the rear deck.
Lacrosse downed his glass of my unspeakably expensive wine and reached for the bottle. At my signal Trudy made her way to the kitchen. Lacrosse’s phone beeped. He pulled it out of his pocket and read the text. ‘Shit mate, gotta run. The PM wants a sit down,’ still reading, ‘he says not to utter another word to anybody, especially that cunt, Unction. Wonder what’s eating him?’
‘I might venture a guess Lacrosse, would it be….Another text beeps.
‘Shit, what the fuck is it this time,’ reads, ‘Jesus, my electoral office is on fire,’ pause, ‘Fuck, I am to be arrested for treason.’
Even I felt sorry for him at this point. He got up and paced the floor then slumped back into his chair. Hard to imagine, given his girth, he seemed diminished, smaller somehow. He rung his hands, sweat formed on his forehead and he began to keen, rocking in his seat.
‘Shit FU, you’ve gotta help me,’ he said urgently, his eyes struck with terror, ‘nobody but the PM knows I’m here…can I stay with you mate….it’ll just be for a few days.’
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a beleaguered pollie. He now hides in my attic. Trudy takes him his meals and assures me he will be OK soon, but she didn’t sound very convincing. It’s been three weeks now and the press has had a field day…”Treasurer Disappears in a Storm of Acrimony” (Sydney Morning Hysteria) “Lacrosse bounces off his Last Goal Post.” (The Daily Tattle) “Where is the Treasurer – PM remains Silent” (The Sage). There was some back and forth regarding the whereabouts of his remains and conspiracy theories abound to this day. For instance, ocean swims and submarines were mentioned, but eventually the brouhaha petered out and he was forgotten.
On a lighter note the remainder of lunch was superb. Racine once more outdid himself. I ate alone but not without relish. While Trudy made Lacrosse comfortable Racine himself served the main and what a tour de force it was. I have posted the recipe for my readers delectation.
Please feel free to add your comments on the issues raised and anything else you might find of interest. Here are some prompts:
Do the poor people live in Penrith or is this an insidious falsehood.
Is Racine insane?
Was the treasurer unfairly reviled?
Should Dympha wear less or more?
What are the ever inscrutable, Trudy Festival’s thoughts about all this?
Was the neighbour’s mercy killing of the kitten unwarranted?
These are important questions and FU would love to hear your thoughts.