Friday, 23 May 2014

Weird to the Maxx

Christmas came.
The Boyfriend and I escaped the bustle of the city to spend the three days he had off over the holidays out in Philip Island , a popular holiday destination off the coast of Victoria. We made our traditional dinner with all the trimmings and took a cruise around the island.
When we arrived back at the Birmy, The Boyfriend was contacted by an acquaintance from home, who had been unlucky in securing work in Brisbane and so had traveled, with his girlfriend, to Melbourne in the hope that he would have more luck down south. We'll call this guy Tod; we'll call his girlfriend Copper.
Tod and Copper were living the other side of the city, in a proper house, with the landlord residing in a granny flat situated behind it. It sounded like a pretty sweet set-up.
Tod explained how they paid their rent weekly - it cost as much as The Birmy, but they were basically getting an entire three bedroom house to themselves. Though the landlord's presence in the background was undeniably a little awkward, Tod assured us it was an infrequent intrusion upon their privacy and rarely, if ever, an issue. For all intents and purposes, they had the house to themselves for a fraction of the usual cost. Tod then proceeded to inform us about the second available room in the house and The Boyfriend and I did something that won't exactly shock anyone who has picked up on the pattern by now - we made a(nother) Really Stupid Decision.
We packed up our stuff and were ready to give the middle finger to The Birmy the next day. We loaded The Boyfriend's truck, and made the precarious journey to Preston from Fitzroy, fervently praying we wouldn't be pulled over by the police for the haphazard mattress placement.
When we arrived at the house, there were gates surrounding it that would put Fort Knox to shame.The house was invisible from the street due to the height of the fence. It was decorated with notices declaring watch dogs on the property and how unwelcome strangers were. I listened for growling while The Boyfriend called Tod. He came to let us in. We waited outside as he slid the copious bolts to the side. We shared a familiar look of dread. Finally, the gate creaked open and Tod immediately helped us bring in our stuff. I grabbed a few pillows - because I'm not above playing the weaker sex card when it suits me - and stepped inside.
My heart fell to my feet. The walls were adorned with pictures of wide-eyed children-of-the-corn-types, complete with black irises and floral-collared paisley dresses. They stared down at us menacingly as we dragged - or in my case, hugged - our possessions through the living room, which  was in itself a veritable obstacle course of carpets, cushions and armchairs. The kitchen was stock piled with teetering towers of mismatched crockery, the bathroom was plastered with helpful signs reminding us to flush and replace the lid after use. We opened the door to what was to be our new room and saw a sofa bed unfolded near the window. There was a stone counter at the opposite end of the room. Another girl with black eyes observed our walk-through from her framed picture at the door.
As we unloaded, we caught a glimpse of a skinny, bald man ducking his head in and out from the back yard. It turned out this was our landlord.
He was bald and hunched, skinny to the point of sickly. One of his eyes swiveled ever-so-slightly to the right and he chewed hungrily at his bottom lip. He was wearing a sarong and a white wife-beater. If one was to judge a person solely on their appearance, one would judge this guy as bat-shit crazy, straight off the mark.
"Maxx Power," he introduced himself as, holding out a shaky hand. "Two x's" he added. He gestured towards a mangled leg, jutting out in a perplexing fashion from his transparent beach skirt."I was attacked in Malaysia, they tried to cut off my leg," he supplied helpfully, providing an explanation where none was requested "I used to play soccer. Had to change my name. Yeah."
Maxx showed us the rooms we'd already seen and then made us reread some of the signs in the bathroom. He showed himself into our room and surveyed the mounds of clothes we had brought with us in boxes. He fingered through some of The Boyfriend's overalls, much to The Boyfriend's chagrin, and held up a scarred hand in epiphany. "I know where we can store your uniforms!" Maxx said, his face alight.
He scrambled back to the living room and started pushing the fifteen-seater modular out from the window. He grunted and groaned, pulling up one of the many rugs. What he exposed beneath appalled me.
There was a trap door hidden beneath the sofa and the carpets. I can't even begin to contemplate what he might have been keeping down there without tasting bile in my throat.
"Can't keep it open too long. Be afraid the girl I have chained up down here would crawl out," he joked.
 I think.
 I hope.
This was all the information I needed. I elbowed The Boyfriend pointedly and we retreated to the bedroom. We sat on the fold-out sofa bed and stared at the tiled floor.
"Why is there a counter-top in here?" I asked, after several prolonged moments of funeral-like silence.
The  Boyfriend shrugged. We exchanged a look.
"We've made a mistake, I think."
The Boyfriend doesn't speak much, but when he does, he generally utters some hard-hitters. "Was he wearin' a fuckin' dress?"
Maxx Power. Don't forget the second 'x'.