the saloon bar. frances.
She’s sitting alone in the saloon bar of the Steyne Hotel drinking at 10.30 am on Saturday morning.
So am I.
Frances, never a pretty girl and now grown into a wolf of a woman is sitting prettily next to Alf – and beginning the bearing down she exerts on all men who only want a warm body in their small bed, any hour of the day.
Frances is drinking a chardonnay, another chardonnay, and she still wears the sequined cocktail dress released from her wardrobe yesterday afternoon: the purple chiffon with full-skirted petticoats she wore to the school formal last night.
Frances is a teacher.
English is her chosen vocation, literature and grammar, quiet classes of attentive students.
Frances never married, the only boy she ever allowed intimacy shrank into melancholy as his dependence on marijuana grew unrestrained, and the silent air that swallowed him at North Head remains an embattlement to her reasoning.
Alf moves away, he has a couple of bets to lay in the TAB next door, he needs to take a piss, he has to ring his sister, the parking meter needs a feed.
He doesn’t come back.
Frances is philosophising aloud now, asking and answering herself.
She asks herself to take the opportunity when it comes her way.
She reminds herself to look for the best in people.
She chides herself for being uncaring.
She says watch for love, that uncertain thing that lasts forever.
– and she drinks away the morning.
So do I.
Frances has an eruption of some type on her back, livid weals and scores fester all over the exposed flesh there.
Her feet are swollen and discoloured. Her heels are blackened and crusted.
A more temperate man would be thankful he is not being the subject of such an intimate examination himself.
There are only the two of us in the bar now, now that the barmaid has disappeared. The plasma screen in the corner is silently showing a car race somewhere. The carvery next door is empty; a couple of tourists push open the door off the street but do not enter the silent room.
Frances has moved from over there to over here now, and she sits silently as I turn away from her, and get up, and walk away.
Better to be alone don’t you think.