Once in a lifetime laundry lessons

So I moved about a three weeks ago. It’s been a bit stressful, partly because it was shorter notice than I was expecting and partly because the only furniture I had to take with me was my bed. I’ve basically started from scratch, and honestly moving to fucking Canada (and then back to Australia twenty months on) was easier, if only because I booked the tickets months in advance and gave myself time to plan. But it’s done now and I love my little apartment. Will love it even more when my new couch finally arrives.

Funny thing though, moving. It’s full of very specific lessons that you probably will never use more than once a decade, if ever. Such as when you’re buying a washing machine.

Yeah, I bought a washing machine. A decent washing machine as well, as far as I can tell. Not one of those fancy fuckers that somehow manages to iron your clothes while it’s removing stains, but one that doesn’t seem to tear apart clothes or walk itself across the room while it’s spinning. A decent washing machine. With short pipes.

That’s the first lesson I learned. Manufacturers assume (not without reason) that the taps, outlets and waste points are going to be right next to where you’re putting the machine. So this means if said taps are more than, say, a metre away they’re not going to reach. No big deal, nothing that a trip to the hardware store can’t fix.

So I hooked it all up, plugged it all in, went for a walk back to the hardware store and picked up a clamp so the extension was properly sealed over the appropriate waste pipe (lesson number 2 learnt – always buy a clamp). Realised they’d sent me the wrong fucking washing machine. Gave the company a call, was told that I could keep it if I wanted. Did a quick Google and discovered that this was a probably a slightly better machine than what I ordered. Decided to keep it. Wondered how the bloody hell these people were still in business. Figured the answer was probably “because the internet” (lesson number 3 – the internet). Ran a quick fifteen minute cycle to clean the machine out.

Then I finally did some laundry. And that’s when I learned the big lesson. Never put whites through as your first load in a new machine.

Now I searched the inside of the washing machine before I switched it on, but I apparently missed the silicon pack hiding in the barrel. I’d run desperately low on the clean white shirts I’m required to wear to work, so in they went, and out came the murder evidence.

Seriously, they were streaked and splattered with lines and splotches of vibrant red, as if I’d been finishing each shift by bottling all the customers I didn’t like. As if I’d been out American-Psychoing hookers, hobos and coworkers without wearing the appropriate raincoat or protective smock. As if I’d seen seen the re-animated body of Jackson Pollock working a canvas with a can filled with what may or may not have been red paint, raised both arms and cried “have at it!”

Fuck my life, is what I’m trying to get at.

I needed the shirts the next day, so I pulled out the gel pack and resisted the urge to take it outside and peg it at a moving vehicle. The stain removal spray came out, the shirts went back in with my hopes and prayers. And to my surprise most of them came out passable clean. A few faint marks on the sleeves or hems, where I could hide it, but otherwise clean and white. Except for one, which still looks like Exhibit A two more washes later, and which I’ll have to soak in some proper stain remover. But that’s okay.

So life lesson learned. Never put your whites in first when you’re breaking in a new washing machine.

But when am I going to use that information again?

Merry Bloody Christmas or Whatever

Didn’t have a Christmas tree last year. Talking to my housemates it didn’t make a whole lot of sense, since none of us were gonna be around. A couple of us were on holiday across the silly season, a couple were going to be celebrating it with separate groups of friends, I was always working or sleeping when any celebrations with what was left might have happened. I joked a couple of times about raiding the parking lots of some of the office buildings lining the Skytrain tracks. They’d filled their flowerpots with pine trees you see, to mark the season. Wouldn’t have been all that hard one night to have hopped a fence, sawed off the top of one of their trees and brought it back to the house. We all laughed, remarked that it would have been a pretty awesome attempt at getting into the holiday spirit, but never did. Mostly, I like to think, because we didn’t have a saw. Not sure if I would’ve had the balls to do it if we did, but the fact that I looked for a saw at all says something about my state of mind last silly season. Only positive things, I’m sure.

So my celebrations last Christmas were small. Practically non-existent if I’m being perfectly honest. Most of the close mates I’d made were locals or localish. They had families they were spending time with and there are certain holidays you don’t ask your random Aussie bud to attend, Christmas being the top of that list. It didn’t help that it just didn’t feel like Christmas, hilariously enough. Cold, wet, quiet and a little formal, whereas Chrissy for me had always been hot, loud and casual. Shorts and t-shirt, soccer or cricket in the backyard, water bombs and water guns, loud conversation and gorging ourselves on stew and barbecue. Far different to the semi-rigid traditional family dinners that so many of my Canadian mates described. Then again I didn’t actually attend any, so how the fuck would I know?

Cultural points of reference are different as well. I mean, sure, I’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life before. It’s apparently a classic. I haven’t seen it in about ten years though, and I’ve never watched A Christmas Story. Didn’t even know there was a movie called A Christmas Story and that it was a cultural milestone for North Americans until I saw it on a Cracked video. Nor have I seen A Charlie Brown Christmas or that version of A Christmas Carol with Bill Murray. As for on the Australian side, well, I guess they don’t understand the Boxing Day Test? They don’t actually understand Boxing Day if I’m being perfectly honest. I don’t know. I guess I was just a Stranger in a Strange Land. Doesn’t matter. Aussie Christmas is the superior Christmas.

Fewer concerns about the ongoing “War against Christmas” as well. Seriously, I heard three months of comically stupid bitching about Starbucks decision to stick with plain red cups last year. This year Peter Dutton (Member of Parliament and comically stupid example of the physical and psychological effects of sticking your head in a barrel of botox for extended periods) called upon good, honest Aussie Christians to rise up against the PC crowd’s war on good, honest Aussie Christmas. That was on the news for about two days, and then we forgot about it. Thank God.

I guess the celebrating I did was on Christmas Eve. That was fun. Went with a coworker and her boyfriend to go see Die Hard at the Rio Theater. Went for a walk trying to find an open bar somewhere on Commercial Drive, failed, and ended up just knocking one back in the back of their car. Yeah, that was good fun. Not being sarcastic, I have very fond memories of that. Called my parents when I got back to the house, it already being Christmas Day over there. Here. That was nice. Funny how it was a year ago now. Feels like so much longer, while other memories feel like they happened yesterday.

I helped put up the family tree. I might even claim that I did most of the work. Not in front of my siblings, of course, but they’d make the exact same claim. It’s artificial, and been in the family for over twenty years. Still looks fantastic. The underneath is filled with presents, the results of six people (five of whom earn an income) making up for all those years when beneath the tree was bare. We’re waiting for some close family friends to arrive, ready to eat, drink, laugh and reminisce. I’m downstairs, with my brother, earphones in to drown out the music my dad’s playing upstairs. Shitty music by shitty artists and Coldplay. Swear to god he hasn’t bought a single new song since well before I left. He had to shave off his beard a couple days ago as well, after he mangled a trimming, which is shame cause he had a great silver fox black santa thing going. Mum’s been cooking, prepping and cooking some more. I’ll be pouring drinks later. It’s gonna be a good day. So’s tomorrow.

I hope you guys all have a great couple days as well, whether you’re celebrating Christmas or your own tradition’s or don’t celebrate anything at all. I hope you guys have an excellent time.

Wishing you a very Merry Bloody Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Life in the Avenger’s Barracks (18.5)

The rain was pouring down hard and fast, an uneven and constant beat filling her ears like radio static, streaming off the sharp lines of Li Ming Cheng’s armour like a dozen tiny waterfalls. Down her neck. Plastering her hair against the shaved sides of her scalp. Dripping from her nose, chin, ears, cheeks. A poor substitution for real tears, but Cheng couldn’t make herself cry.

She sat in the mud, legs sprawled straight in front of her and back against a fencepost that had managed to stay upright during the firefight, near where Michelle lay. The Australian woman was pale and unmoving, staring up into the clouds with glassy, unblinking eyes and a calm expression that was in complete odds with the brutality of her death, her stomach ripped open and her guts torn out to make room for a monster.

Just within sight, despite the thick curtains of rain, Dori was sprawled flat on her face. The back of her armour and the body beneath had been burned away, though thankfully the weather hid the far too familiar scent of overcooked pork. Her Gremlin – Titan or Titus or something similar – buzzed around her corpse in a lazy, worried figure eight, chirping and twitching and waiting for orders that were never going to come. Some small part of Cheng felt sorry for the little robot, and she had to remind herself that it was just a machine, a tool, a toy.

James lay just out of sight, but Cheng had already seen his body. Mangled and twisted, his stomach a ragged mess of holes and his limbs a broken, twisted mess of unnatural angles and joints. Half his face had been blackened by the plasma grenade that had ended him, one eye and one mutton chop gone, jaw partially unhinged but his nose completely intact. Maybe that would allow for an open casket when they returned him and his sister to their family.

Fuck, did Dori have a family? Would she want to be returned to that family? Did it fucking matter what the dead fucking wanted? Fuck, just leave them in the mud. Let the Earth fucking reclaim them that had died fighting in its name.

More friends dead in the fucking mud.

“Cheng?” a soft voice seemed to whisper from far away to her right, then louder and closer said, “Li? The skyranger will land soon and Vargas is helping the survivors pick through the wreckage for supplies. Let me take a look at your leg.”

Cheng looked up, away from Michelle’s slack face, to see Leroy standing over her with a concerned frown beneath his shaggy beard and eyes twitching between her face and her leg. Right, she’d taken a glancing plasma round to her right calf in the last seconds of the firefight. It had hurt when it happened, scorching a trail through grieve and flesh, but now it was just numb. Another scar on a body covered in them. She waved her consent and Leroy immediately bent over and began to carefully remove the armour around the wound.

“Are you alright?” he asked after a moment, eyes briefly flicking to her face again before focusing entirely on his work.

“This is nothing.”

“I know, I’ve seen you walk off wounds like this before. I am not asking about your leg.”

Cheng chewed on her bottom lip, an old habit from her childhood long since broken that only came back when she wanted to say something but was struggling to find the words. When she didn’t say anything Leroy just nodded.

“Have you ever asked Vargas why he fights?”

“What?” The question took Cheng by surprise.

“Have you ever asked Vargas why he fights?” Leroy asked again.

“I- No?”

“Perhaps you should. I find it helps create perspective when we struggle with the answer ourselves.”

“Have… Have you ever asked him?”

“Oui. It is revenge,” Leroy smiled softly as he said it, positioning his body so that her wound was protected from the rain, “if you want the details you should ask him yourself,” they’d tried to find somewhere with a roof to hole up in while waiting for the skyranger but the aliens hadn’t left much standing in the camp, “but let’s just say that he lost someone to the aliens once upon a time and now he wants to end them. The answer is usually revenge.”

Cheng thought of her mother snatched away in the early days of the first war and said, “I guess that’s my answer as well.”

“Only because, like everyone else, you don’t understand the question. It is not a question of why you chose to fight in the first place, but why you continue to fight that you want to ask yourself right now.” He looked up from her wound for a second and stared straight into her eyes as he growled out, “I expect it stopped being revenge a long time ago.”

Cheng opened her mouth to say something, decided against it. She looked towards Michelle’s corpse and tried to find better words to describe what she was feeling. It was funny, English felt like her first language these days. It was what she spoke most often, being the most common language on the Avenger. But she still thought in Mandarin. Perhaps that was why she was having such a hard time articulating herself right now.

“I don’t know how many more friends I can lose.”

“It is hard to bear the weight of so many dead.” Leroy said sympathetically, winding a bandage around her calf.

“I don’t know how many more friends I can lose before I don’t feel a fucking thing!” Cheng snarled, “My fucking friend is dead over there! I should feel fucking sad or angry or something… but… I don’t know. I just… I just feel…” She was leaning forward on the heels of her hands, growling at the short black hair on top of Leroy’s lowered head. Fuck.

“Numb?” Leroy asked, still not looking at her.

“Maybe. No. I still feel, but not enough. Do you understand?”

“Oui, I do.” Leroy finished bandaging her leg and leaned back on his haunches, water dripping from his heavy brow, “You should give yourself some credit. You are most likely in shock.”

“Everytime, everytime I feel less and less. What happens if I do become completely numb?”

“Then we hope that there is someone left to help you through it.”

“Like you?”

“Oui. Like me. Someone has to be here to help.”