TTT Stories    Debt Propelled

Debt Propelled

Back then Rosie enjoyed her Saturdays at home catching up on her study. Sunroom couch. PJs. Laptop. IPod. Periodically her mother, Moira, would wander in to bring her cups of tea and snacks. Yes, there was a trade-off but Rosie adored her mother and could put up with her somewhat random interjections of motherly advice.

“Please darling girl marry someone sensible and reliable like a dentist or a lawyer – actually, could you make it an accountant – I could do with one of those at the moment.”

“What on earth are you talking about Mum?” said Rosie distractedly.

“Don’t marry an artist or a salesman – they’re too flighty and it would all end in tears.”

“Don’t worry Mum,” said Rosie who’d heard all this before. “No artists, no salesmen – I promise.”

Rosie was in her second year of university, studying international and global studies and law, and planning on having a career that would make a difference. The global refugee problem troubled her greatly. Marriage wasn’t even on her radar.

Marriage wasn’t exactly on her mother’s radar anymore either. Moira’s first husband, Jack, had been a potter who’d become obsessed with the aesthetics of Japanese pottery during the time he spent as the stay-at-home dad. When Rosie started school Jack sold the family’s second car to go on a ceramics study tour to Japan. He’d fallen in love with the Japanese tour guide and after a messy exit was now living in Tokyo helping his new wife, Hikari, and her family run a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant.

Dennis, Moira’s second husband, had an air of stability about him when Moira first met him. He was clean cut and handsome which was also very appealing after Jack’s chaotic ways and bohemian appearance. Moira liked a man in a polo t-shirt and boat shoes – it reminded her of her Dad, Rex, who’d been a big weekend sailor.

Rosie had found Dennis good fun to be around before she moved out of home to leave her mum and her new partner to their love nest. It hadn’t been long though before the phone calls from her mother related that all was not going so well in the marriage.

When Moira married Dennis he was the regional sales manager for an international sporting goods company, hence the exhaustive wardrobe of polo t-shirts. This job lasted only six months, which is about the time it took Moira to work out that as well as being a smooth talker, he was a big drinker with a fondness for the pokies. She put with all this for another 18 months during which time he had had three more jobs: selling motor homes, then insurance, and finally condom dispensers in restaurants, bars and colleges.

It wasn’t easy for Rosie to watch her mum go through the process of disappointment, despair and then anger over Dennis’s erratic behaviours and constantly changing financial situation. “The decidedly desperate decline of Dennis” is how she described this period to her friends. She’d moved back home the week after Moira finally got Dennis to move out.

Rosie knew that her mother was lucky to still own her house after the divorce as the mortgage had blown out during the time she was with Dennis. Moira told Rosie that she’d have to stay on teaching until she was at least 65 to get it paid off.

“I hope you are going to get out tomorrow and see some of this nice weather,” said Moira on her next foray into the sunroom with a big vase of fresh flowers for the sideboard.

“Kate and I are going for a paddle on her new kayak,” said Rosie yawning. “It will be good to get off this couch.”

“I hope you’ve got something nice planned too, Mum?” asked Rosie.

“I am meeting a friend at the Bondi Beach market in the morning,” said Moira, ‘’but I also have to tackle the accounts for the community garden – why I put my hand up for that job I don’t know.”

Rosie loved getting out of the city and going to Kate’s place even if it did mean a long trip on the 190 bus. She’d met Kate at university and enjoyed hanging out with her. Her parents owned a rather grand old house at Palm Beach overlooking Pittwater. Kate’s flat was underneath the house and was tiny. It was also damp and musty but the view was sublime.

“Wow, this really is paradise,” said Rosie when she arrived at the flat.

Tall windows framed by cascading bougainvillea looked out on sparkling, sun-glinting Pittwater below. On the other side directly opposing was the dense green tangle of foliage of the national park. The occasional yacht and cruising boat drifted in and out of view.

A few hundred sandstone steps from the flat wound down to a boatshed on the water’s edge below.

“What a beauty, eh?” said Kate showing Rosie her new acquisition: a double kayak. It was second hand and just a little worse for wear but still stable looking and seaworthy.

“Here’s to our maiden voyage,” said Rosie.

“It’s probably the narrowest part of Pittwater here,” said Kate. “We’ll paddle across to the other side. I haven’t got any lifejackets yet but I’m game if you are.”

It was around midday when they pushed the kayak out. Both girls were fit and tanned. Rosie was wearing shorts and a bikini top and Kate had on her polka dot one-piece bathers. They had debated about whether to go back up to the flat for water bottles and towels but Rosie moaned that it was such a long way back up the stairs.

“Let’s just do it.”

They were a bit wobbly with the paddles to begin with and Rosie had a fit of the giggles before Kate set the pace and called out who did what and when. They were soon in a rhythm.

Twenty minutes later they hadn’t got very far. Although it was a long way now from the boatshed the other side of Pittwater seemed, if anything, further away. They paddled on for another ten minutes or so.

“I think we are drifting sideways too much,” said Kate.

“We probably should turn back; I’d really feel much better about this if we had lifejackets on,” she added.

They turned around and started paddling back but the current had carried them a long way from their starting point. They ploughed on for another ten minutes before Rosie stopped paddling and leant back in the kayak for a break.

“Puts a bit of perspective on the boat people problem,” muttered Kate. “Not funny if that’s what you are trying to be,” replied Rosie.

They were both quiet for a while. Their arms were aching and the perfect sunny day was no longer so perfect or sunny. A big mass of clouds was coming up behind them.

“Look there’s a boat over there – they’ll see us,” Kate said, resting her paddle across her knees and waving an arm frantically at a cruising boat a few hundred metres away.

The boat slowed its engine. The crew on board had obviously seen them and worked out they needed help. Rosie and Kate watched as the boat idled towards them.

“Good afternoon ladies – need a bit of help?” said a balding middle-aged man with a pleasant face as he leant over the back of the boat and grabbed hold of Kate’s arm.

“I think we do,” said Rosie. “We don’t seem to be getting anywhere very fast.”

“Well don’t worry. My name is John and if you just hold on to my mate Eric’s arm we’ll get you up on board.”

Eric, who was tall and lean leant over and held on to Rosie and helped her up the rear ladder. Once on board he handed her a large towel, which she gratefully wrapped around her shoulders.

“Welcome aboard the magnificent Debt Propelled, said the third man who was at the wheel. He had a large red nose, was wearing a battered Skipper’s hat and introduced himself as Peter.

“What you need is a large gin and tonic while John sorts out the kayak.” “Very civilised. Thank you,” said Rosie smiling.

Meanwhile John was trying to work out how to attach the kayak with Kate still in it to the boat. As the kayak’s bow hook was non-existent and the seats were moulded it was proving to be difficult.

“Look there’s nowhere to tie it to,” said Kate. “How about I just get into the water and hold onto the rope with one hand and the kayak with the other and you tow us over to the jetty. It’s not that far.”

Before there was time for any further discussion she jumped into the water and slung an arm across one of kayak’s seats and held on to the rope with the other.

“Gosh, I think I am the lucky one,” said Rosie looking on from the aft deck. “I think you might be,” winked Peter.

Kate held on stoically as the boat picked up speed. As the wake increased she was lifted out of the water, her one-piece bathers rapidly ballooning with water.

As they headed towards the jetty Kate’s bathers continued to be dragged into the water. Soon her breasts were completely bare and as the boat shuddered over the small waves of the wake they rose and fell, bobbing above the water level. With both hands busy Kate had no opportunity to adjust her top. She had a very grim look on her face.

“Less on the throttle mate,” said John when he realised what was going on. Rosie was impressed with his sensitivity. The other two men had silly looks on their face like little boys caught with their hands in a lolly jar.

When they reached Palm Beach jetty John helped Kate and Rosie get the kayak out of the water. He mentioned that he had his car in the nearby carpark and offered to drive them back to Kate’s house with the kayak on his roof racks. Gratefully they accepted.

“So what’s with the name Debt Propelled,” asked Kate on the drive back.

“Ha,” said John. “Yes very corny isn’t it. Eric and Peter own the boat. Eric’s a dentist and Peter’s a lawyer. I’m just the mug – actually I’m Eric’s accountant – who happens to get asked along as crew every so often.”

After John dropped them off Kate and Rosie recovered from their ordeal over a cup of tea at the flat. Rosie had a good laugh over Kate’s titillating tow to the jetty.

“You should have seen their faces – you looked like a very majestic mermaid figurehead,” giggled Rosie. “You are lucky John shamed Skipper Pete into slowing the boat down and restoring some of your dignity.”

“You definitely made those blokes outing today,” she added.

Kate didn’t seem to find the retelling of the incident quite as amusing as Rosie did but she did warm up to it after a while.

“Well it’ll be a tale to tell the grandkids I guess.”

Later Rosie was sitting at the bus shelter opposite Kate’s house waiting for the bus back to town to arrive. She heard a horn beep and looked up to see their rescuer, John, in his car. He pulled over and asked if she wanted a lift.

“I’m just on my way back to town. Happy to give you a lift if you are heading in that direction?”

Rosie couldn’t really think of a reason not to accept his offer. He had been very considerate earlier and gone out of his way to get them safely back to Kate’s.

They spent the first part of the drive with John asking Rosie all about her studies and plans for the future. She told him she was hoping to get into international aid, which of course worried her mother greatly.

John told Rosie that he’d lost his wife a couple of years ago to breast cancer. He filled in his spare time going to writer’s festivals and travelling to visit his daughter who lived in Paris and worked as a translator and to see his son who worked as a geologist in Perth.

“So neither of them wanted to be an accountant, like you?” asked Rosie.

“No, accountancy as a career doesn’t seem to be very appealing to a lot of young people,” laughed John.

He explained that he got into accountancy because he had loved maths at school and didn’t really know what else to study at university.

“What surprises me now is how interesting the job has become,” he said.

John told her that he did a lot of his work with medical research bodies and scientists and was involved in helping them to manage and account for the money they received through grants and other donations.

“These amazing men and women, many of them still quite young, are flat out working on medical breakthroughs or helping save animals from extinction so it feels good to be able to make this side of their jobs easier for them.”

“Wow, I’d never thought about accountancy like that,” said Rosie.

John mentioned that he also did volunteer accounting work for the Asylum Seekers Centre, which led Rosie to tell him about how her mother had started doing volunteer work with their local community garden after her divorce. She told him she found it amusing her mother had put her hand up to look after the garden’s accounts.

“Mum’s always been hopeless with the household finances so I don’t know why she thought she’d be good in that role.”

John smiled. “Being part of a community garden sounds interesting. We used to have a big garden but I live in an apartment now so I miss getting my hands in the dirt.”

Rosie had so much to tell her mother when she got home that night. She downplayed how stupid she and Kate had been going out in the kayak without lifejackets on but she did embellish Kate’s titillating breast-baring tow back to Palm Beach jetty and the jolly mood on the boat. Moira found it very amusing.

A few months later Moira came home from the community garden and told Rosie she’s met a very nice man called John who had just joined the garden – an accountant – who’d told her he’d found out about the garden from meeting Rosie on Pittwater. Rosie smiled. She had great hopes her mother would be able to get John to help her with the bookkeeping for the garden and that she and John might strike up a friendship.

Fast forward three years. Did Moira and John strike up a friendship? Well, they went out once or twice and John even took her out with Peter and Eric on Debt Propelled. Consequently Moira has now hooked up with Peter. She admits boating makes her feel “almost young again” and Peter is great fun to be around – although she’d never contemplate marrying him. As for Rosie she has moved out of home and is living with Max, a marine biologist. She still plans on having a career that will make a difference but is so glad she switched courses. Soon she’ll be graduating with a Master of Professional Accounting post grad degree, with Honours.

By Lee Buchanan from Australia