Chapter 1 : The Ice Age

“What was that? Did u hear that,” she asks.
“Yeah,” he replies. “Probably just something going on up Glum St. Expect we’ll hear the ambos soon. Always plenty of bad crack up there, sending them over the edge. Not the good craic that the Irish backpackers like!”
“Harr harr – so corny,” she says. “Speaking of good Irish craic, I saw that Irish Stew is back in town. So the young barmaids will be getting a good serve of Stew again this winter! I can’t understand a word he says – and that’s when he’s not pissed- but he’s a laugh and a half. So, anyway what are u going to do now you’ve quit that shit job.”

“Dunno,” he replies. “This is Fractal so there’s always cash work. Brush hand. Dish pig. Pull some beers. U know, cash work … something, to put beer on the table and food in the fridge. Hey did u go to the Club yesterday? I heard there’s a new member. Someone named Snow.”
“Yeah I heard that too,” she replies.
“Apparently, this Snow person is some sorta financial wiz, a genius at funds management, wealth creation, business marketing and stuff. Is it a bloke or a woman? The Club could do with more women members.”
“Might be a trannie,” he says. “This IS Fractal! Nah. It’ll be a bloke. A chick would’ve got in easily. The Regulars at the Club reckon that it took months and months for the Board to approve this bloke’s application. Due diligence and all that. All the Regulars are pissed off that it took so long. Most of them have apparently lent Snow heaps of money to bankroll his campaign to get into the Club. He must be a top bloke. Someone said Snow even got a lawyer and was gonna sue the Club! Dunno who’d take on a case like that, it’s a big ask. If it’s true, that is. ”
“Hey, that reminds me,” she says, “Remember that local lawyer who was jailed for years? I saw him mentioned in an article in The Hun recently. He used to live just down around the corner from me. Now he was a real character! You wouldn’t reckon we’ll ever see him back here again. Those were the days of true rogues.”
“Yeah yeah, whatever,” he says. “But this bloke Snow sure seems popular with the Regulars. I saw them getting all excited that he was going to drop into the Club late last night. Reminded me of kiddies waiting for the Easter Bunny to bring candy.”
“Fair enough,” she says. “Strange nickname, Snow … cos he drifts from club to club, like a snowdrift? He should head to the Alpine resorts, they’ve been hanging out for good snow this season. So what’s he done that’s so fabulous?”
“Well, someone said he was behind a big TV show years ago. I think it was that ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’ or something, u know. He took it all around Australia and overseas and everything. He was the bloke in the suits, u know, B1 and B2 – at the same time!”
“Awww how can u be both at the same time!” she asks. “If that’s true, that’s amazing.”
“Yeah well they reckon that Snow’s pretty amazing,” he says. “A super coach and sports psych with amazing powers and has won grand finals and pennants and flags and stuff for heaps of clubs.
“But they always rip him off – you know, the Boards and the Managers; always taking the credit and the dollars he brings them and he’s got nothing.
“I heard someone say Snow was the marketing brains behind the City’s Bumblebee trams. Dunno if they were just bullshitting or serious. But it does make sense, if u think about it; to have a genius marketing them. Like, have tram conductors on board selling special little goodie bags, with slogans: ‘MyKey to a Quick Trip’; ‘Let’s Buzz Together on the Bumblebee’; ‘Take the line to a Great Time’. That sorta thing.
“But it was probably knocked on the head by someone in Management before it could get it going properly. That’s what I heard, not that u can believe half what u hear around here.
“Anyway, I was told that the Club’s in for a shake-up now Snow’s in. He’s gonna take over as President and take the Club to a new high!”
(He glances left and right, then continues in a hushed tone:) “Hey, The Prez sure isn’t gonna like that … he won’t give that title up easily, he’s been the driving force there for the Regulars, and he’s done so much for the Players. He’s now got the official Seal of the President on his cap, his jacket, his pyjamas and all. I heard it was the Prez who got Snow to join. Dunno what that’s all about. I don’t follow Club politics.
“Anyway, the lads were saying that Snow’s gonna rip out all of those new security cameras at the Club that the Regulars say invade the Members’ privacy. Starting with that one over the ATM …”
She interrupts: “I heard staff saying that the ATM’s been running out of $50 notes lately.”
“… and he’s gonna instal his own Coke vending machine outside the Club entrance, cos he’s got some sorta exclusive discount direct from the supplier or something. That’s the word, true or not.”
“All this doesn’t bother me,” she says. “I only go to the Club to play darts and have a couple of glasses of Ricard. What the Regulars do is up to them.”
“Yeah, same,” he replies. “But it’ll be interesting to watch. There’s never a dull moment in Fractal. Specially in the Clubs. Someone’s always taking one of them to the cleaners.
“Hey, one of the Regulars told me the Board’s decided to employ a Pastor who will be in every Sunday, and all members will have to fund the cost with a $10 levy each week, and they won’t have a choice. They’re all pissed off at that too and reckon it’s some sorta conspiracy.”
“Wow,” she says, “That’s a bold move. I don’t think any Club’s offered pastoral care for members in decades. Maybe it’s part funded by the Federal Government? I was reading something in The Hun the other day about the Libs wanting to bring back Christian religious instruction in schools and stuff. The rag’s Nutt column was all for it, too.”
“Do u read the Nutt column,” he asks, with a smirk.
“Nah of course not,” she retorts. “I’m just saying, I couldn’t help notice that Nutt was raving on about it. And the Jihadist threat and all that. Anyway, a little bit of religion might do the world of good for some of the little shits u see around here, specially on the trams at night.”
“Yeah,” he agrees. “They are outta control. We were at a stop the other day, when one teenage turd – screaming, off his head on something that wasn’t just choof – ran down the tram, pulling all the emergency stop levers before he got off. The driver had to reset ’em all before we could get going again. I mean, sure we got up to stuff in our day, but that was just a few cans and a joint. These days they don’t know what they’re taking.”
“What’s the time,” she asks, stamping her cold feet and rubbing her chilled hands. “The others are taking a while to get here.”
“It’s just after 9. It’s bloody freezing! I’m sure the weather’s getting colder. I reckon there’s snow in those clouds and it’s about to dump on us. I swear, one day soon we’ll have to ski over white powder to get to the Club.”
“I prefer having to put up with powder to awful ice any day,” she says. “I’m gonna order another latte – how are u going there? Want another?”
It’s another typical windy, winter Sunday evening inside the Club. In a typical wholesome, local community scene, a happy gaggle of mums and dads are gossiping over a few drinks as their young kids laugh and chase each other around the pool table, and the even younger kids quietly play on their digital devices …
“How’s this pasta!” he pipes up, with one eye on the footy on the big big screen. “Only 10 bucks for a big plateful. I’m thinking of going back and getting more. Pity there’s only one choice but who’s complaining!”
“Yeah, this is a great idea,” agrees his mate. “It’s about time someone made use the Club kitchen. It’s got everything u need. What’s the name of the woman who’s doing this? She’s doing a great job!”
But not everyone is feeling ebullient this evening. Some of the Regulars are lounging on the leather sofas, looking downcast and glum, trapped in a malaise, occasionally gazing out from under their hoodies, in this, their winter of Club discontent.
Then Snow swaggers in through the door and suddenly it’s beaming smiles all round!
“Hey guys, Snow’s here,” he bellows. “Good to see u are enjoying the tucker. Things are picking up around here since I arrived, hey! Hey!!
“Boys, come join me out the back in Snow’s Shack, I’ve got something for ya. It’ll help your appetite.”
As he leads the Snow Patrol out the door, he points to himself with both thumbs, saying: “Guys remember that 80s marketing slogan, ‘Things Go Better With Coke’? Guess who was the genius behind that! Yeahhhh …”
On the pool table, Irish Stew unloads with another withering break, and the cue ball whizzes off the table and through the air, its trajectory about as predictable as the first Manhattan Project experiment.
He blurts out something that’s probably an Aussie-Gaelic hybrid of “Oops! Watch out kids!”
At the bar, a couple are taking no prisoners as they destroy a few coldies.
“The Club looks like it’s doing really well,” he says. “The Board says revenue is up, the Players won the Flag in summer, heaps of capital improvements going on, but there’s a huge undercurrent of grumbling.”
“Yeah,” she agrees. “I guess that’s Club Culture for u. There’s always a hard core cabal of plotters who whinge regardless. Someone smart should do their PhD on Sports Club Culture.
“I reckon sometimes a rumor reaches a critical mass and people believe it. No matter how absurd. It’s always much easier to focus on the bad than the good. Just look at the Media! That’s the only reason the daily Hun is still surviving.”
“Yeah,” he says, nodding sagely. “Smart people can usually tell what’s rot and what’s not. Let’s face it, the habitual whiners just can’t see through their own sweet smelling smoke screen.
“But around here, it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s bullshit. And it’s tempting to just believe it.
“Look,” she says. “If you’ve only got half a brain, and that’s suspended in a chemical solution full of artificial additives, it’s easy to believe everything u hear. If u are even just a part-time thinker, it’s hard to know what to believe.
“It’s always ‘he said, she said’.”

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