Roger buys himself a beer, finds a quiet corner. He pulls out a TAB slip, a Keno pencil and the calculator built into his phone and starts doing maths.
He calculates that for every dollar his one-man catering business makes in income, 97 cents of it goes to tax, bills, suppliers, mortgage repayments, insurance, household bills, and feeding and clothing his family.
This means that, for ever dollar he made, only 3 cents are disposable. Only 3 cents are his money.
This means that, for Roger to be able to drink two schooners of Tooheys Old on a Friday ($4.10 each), he needed to earn $352 worth of gross income.
Roger sits, stares into his beer. He thinks about all the mopping and cleaning and driving to Costco. The sitting in traffic and unpacking the van. The béchamel burnt to the base of the saucepan and the diminishing strength of his arms and his back.
His hunched shadow stretches across the Leagues Club carpet, Friday continues without him.
Eventually, his gaze is broken by noise, a voice on a microphone. It’s the meat raffle bloke, calling out the winning tickets.
“Red 41! Ticket Red 41?”
Roger looks down at the four tickets he’d been handed at the bar. Amongst them, soaked in condensation — between red ticket number 40 and red ticket number 42 — was the winner.
He peels it off the table, holds it casually, above his head. The meat raffle bloke walks over, checks it, and declares over the microphone that they’ve found a winner.
The meat tray was a monster; easily $150 worth of sirloin alone. Then there were two whole chooks, sausages, mince, eggs and at least a dozen rashers of bacon.
Roger snaps a photo, texts it to his wife saying he might need her to bring the car down. She texts back the smiley face with rosy cheeks emoji and says she’ll be there in 15.
Roger sits, stares at his meat tray that’s bigger than the table it sits on. He thinks about how they should get Emma and Darryl and them ’round on Sunday to barbie. About how the gas bottle probably needs filling, but not to worry he’ll just do it in the morning.
He thinks about how he may need to earn $352 for every two beers he drinks, but by that logic — he’d need to earn over $7,000 to buy all the meat in this tray, and that was worth celebrating.
Instead of walking straight out to the carpark, Roger pops his meat tray at reception, ducks into the gaming lounge. He pulls out his wallet and slides a twenty into Queen of The Nile. He sits there in darkness, peaceful, mesmerised — face illuminated with the blue-green glow of animated hieroglyphics — as his $20 turns into nothing.
* * *
James Ross-Edwards is a regular contributor at New Albion.