Read Sue and Laurel's Book
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The Squat
Sue Clennell

   There's a house on Guildford road that looks pretty good on the outside, except for

the graffiti in the dust on the windows, and the broken front door pane.

   That's where Terry, Sharon and I squat.

   Sharon does voluntary work at the hospital for the dole, and she says all the other

volunteers talk about the places they've eaten at, and today they were talking about

Pumpkin and Coconut soup and Tomato and Orange soup.

   Sharon asked if she bought an orange could she mix it with our can of tomato soup,

but I said I didn't want my soup messed up.

   Sharon's pretty cool with the kids because she wears different colour laces in her

right foot to her left foot, and she asks them riddles like, "What lies on the bottom of

the ocean shivering?"

   The answer is, "A nervous wreck."

   She wears mens' plaid shirts rolled up at the sleeves, and is a whiz on the internet

when we go to internet cafes. I bet she was the sort of girl who mucked up the

computer deliberately at school.

   Terry is a Vietnam veteran who takes double the anti-depressants a day I do.

That's the little red ones. His doctor says he can as he's got more body weight.

    Terry bursts into song, anything from operas to advertising jingles from the


   I'm glad we don't have a television or he'd be singing all the advertisements.

   He said his ex-wife had cable TV and he would watch just one video hit after

another, all day long, and when it rained in the video hit he felt it, and when

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Madonna kicked the dust with her boot, he smelled it. He said all those

energetic dancers were doing his exercises for him.

   Terry's wife thought he still lived in the sixties. He certainly dreamt about it a lot,

and often woke us with his cries. He sleep-walked too, which was a bit scary when

we first knew him.

   Terry has got a book on where famous people are buried in England, and one day

he hopes to go visit them all. He knows that the head of Cromwell is buried in

Cambridge, and Roald Dahl is buried in Great Missenden. Or is it vice versa?

   When he feels down over not seeing his children much, we ask him, "Where's

Winston Churchill buried Terry?" or "Where's Emily Bronte's resting place?" and

he brightens up.

   He is also unemployed. I once had a dream that the world was flooded and

everyone was standing on a cliff to keep away from the water. And there were so

many people, the unemployed were asked to get off.

   Terry was a carer for a while but got sad for the old fellow he minded.

   "I wanted to reach in his head like those Philippino healers are supposed to get at

your organs without cutting, and unscramble his brains. He was alright before the

fall and then he got everything mixed up."

   Sharon has heavy eyebrows like a European woman. She can do wonderful things

to her hair at the back of her head, without looking in a mirror. It always amazes me

how women do that with those little combs.

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   When I make love to her I pretend she's Meg Ryan/Julia Roberts, and when she

makes love to me she pretends I'm Harrison Ford/Brad Pitt.

   She had to buy a pair of shoes for a job interview. She said she was sitting on a bus

stop putting a band-aid on her heel, when another woman walked past with a band-

aid on her heel. She had a vision of all these women with band-aids on their heels

limping along St. George's Terrace.

   "Men get sore feet from new shoes too, you know," I said.

   "I never said they didn't."

   "Well you women always act like men never hurt."

   "That's not true! You only have to look at Terry to know men hurt."

   This was right. Terry was the tragic hero, like we used to read about in Greek


   We haven't got a fridge so we have to buy food every day. The greengrocer's

Italian and tries to teach us a phrase each time.

   "What are you doing today?"

   "Nothing much."

   "Niente di bello."

   "That is so cool for nothing much," said Sharon.

   He and his wife often have Terry, Sharon and I to tea, even though we buy so little

from him. A couple of tomatoes, some green apples, the small cartons of milk.

   They have tea really late at night, in the back yard, with the radio talking a different


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   The greengrocer sings too, maybe it's something to do with older men.

   The first night we had minestrone, pasta and meatballs. Sharon felt sick as she

wasn't used to eating so much.

   Those were the good times, but it all turned sour when Terry found another guy to

squat with us.

   This guy, Martin, wouldn't look at your eyes when he spoke to you. Sharon said he

was just shy, but I thought he was shifty.

   He could shuffle a pack of cards half a dozen different ways.

   "Lucky at cards, unlucky at love," I said. (One of my mother's sayings.)

   Martin sniggered and proceeded to tell us of all his conquests.

   He'd also turn up with dozens of shop articles, which I'll swear he hadn't paid for.

   "Could come in handy for the groceries," said Sharon.
   But it was all useless stuff. I reckon he got a kick out of the act itself.

   Martin always worried about his hands, wouldn't help us ever shift anything.

   "My hands are my trade," he said. Whatever that was.

   On Thursday Sharon and I went into the city and sat for a while in Forrest Place

watching the marble ball turning in its fountain of water. Kids would put their hands

on it to follow it around. When guys did that to try and smart alecky hold it back, I

waited hopefully in case the spray would come up and hit them.

   There was a silver angel and a South American band in Hay street.

   On Friday I had been out delivering brochures. When I returned Sharon said Martin

had cleared out and she was worried because Terry hadn't come out of his room all


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   I knocked on his door and peeked inside.

   It looked like an overdose. I didn't even know he was on the hard stuff, unless it

was alcohol and pills. Maybe it was just too many anti-depressants. Ten to one

Martin had something to do with it.

   "No more English graveyards, huh Terry?" I said kneeling at his side.

   Sharon went outside and made a daisy chain to put around his neck, and then we

rang the police anonymously from the Service Station across the road.

   We sat in their restaurant watching the ambulance taking him away.

   Sharon was shredding the sugar packets. This was the only way she ever showed

her nerves, shredding paper.

   "I guess this means a new squat."

   "What is yellow and very dangerous?" asked Sharon.


   "Shark infested custard."

   Sharon and I would get by, we always have.

   We pushed our chairs in and left.