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Patricia

Patricia

Patricia
Caviar
Solstice
Lou Lou
Korkal

 

Solstice

I arrive in Castlemaine. It is unceremoniously quiet. It is a long weekend and the town is dead as it was when luck ran out. It's a friend of a friends place. They assume that I'm here to relax and to envy what they would not call their 'alternative lifestyle'. They offer me carrot juice, organic chillies, books on raw-energy, meditation, permaculture, strawbail house construction and they offer lengthy and desperate lectures on it all in the manner of Jehovah's witnesses with their strange suits and pamphlets on Saturday mornings. I take it in the same way. With a hangover, from driving in this instance, and struggle to shut my minds door on it all. Like all obsessive-compulsive-cult-hypnotised types courteousness and hospitality are blinkered out. I'm starving, tired, hankering for steak and mash, an open fire and Guiness. Rather than directing me to a pub they inflict a plate of raw vegetables and assorted beans on me and congratulate themselves throughout about how it took no time at all: 'no trouble at all', they kept saying. I refrain from grumpy agreement ('how long can it take to slice a carrot, broccoli, squash?') and ask them if they would mind giving me directions to the nearest pub. They skirt the issue and vainly attempt to tell me that the only pub open is full of rough bearded graziers who chain smoke and leer. I struggle to keep them from my rising temper and tell them that I'll go for a quick drive around town. They of course warn me against driving lest I inadvertently kill another dolphin or part of a rainforest somewhere. I say something about unleaded petrol, pick up my keys and power-walk down the chilly hall and out the door before they can say 'whose for a Chamomile tea?'.

The Carrot Cafe was exactly the cliche I had imagined it to be. All of the waitresses have long, unwashed and dreadlocked hair. They wear old, muddy Doctor Martén boots and they take your order when they feel like it. When she felt like it she seemed to be focussed on something else, perhaps it was the white chakra at the top of her head. I wonder if this is Korkal the witch who was rumoured to need the cross for the winter Solstice. I order a winter salad and try to hear the staff calling each other by their names over the clanging of pans, the running of taps, the sizzling of tofu. I have heard only two staff addressed by the time my salad arrives, Toby and Tea-Tree. When my waitress returns, eventually, I resort to chit-chat, small-talk. I introduce myself hoping that she will also introduce herself, but good manners are clearly not on her shopping list. I attempt to make her smile, but she does not respond happily, or even gracefully to what I subsequently realised was possibly an insulting idea: that perhaps someone could transport the larger than life statue of the Valvoline man, who stands in his blue suit on Ferntree Gully road waving a Valvoline racing flag, to the front-door of the Carrot where he could wave an almighty stick of burning incense. She instead glances disapprovingly at my red stilettos, and dispassionately asks whether I'd like anything else. I am full, but order a piece of carrot and walnut cake and a coffee. 'Chamomile, Peppermint, Valerian, Green, Lemon, Ginger or Blackcurrant', she sings and sighs. 'Just the coffee, thanks', I reply. Less patiently she tells me that they do not do coffees. I tell her that I'll be back in five minutes. I get in the car, throw back one of Marté's beloved Cuban cigars, grab a small bottle of brandy from the Railway Hotel and return, small brown paper bag tucked under my arm. After two strong Brandy's and vain attempts to identify Korkal, I begin to wonder whether Boris has indeed lied about the cross being in Melbourne. It must, after all, have occurred to him that he does have a reputation for telling flagrant lies. Perhaps he's caught us all out now by telling the truth. Perhaps there is no Korkal the witch in Castlemaine, no cross? And to think I wasted all of that Adeva almond oil on Boris's pimply hairy back, that I spent that awful hour in the backrooms of his dingy, mildewy church, prising out the truth, or something near to it with vodka, oils, and steaming towels. Of course its all just a bit of a power game for our Boris. He has no idea that the cross contains the Black Plague virus which could kill him and his beloved and sacred and pious Russian followers if it is not recovered quickly and very delicately. I sincerely hope that the cross is not in the possession of these feral twerps. May all of Boris' angels and cherubs and almighty and heavenly powers be with us if they use it as a fire twirler. I leave, burdened by each and every one of these unpleasant thoughts, and resolve to return for breakfast in the morning.

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