At breakfast Paul placed the $50 note on Maisie’s side of the table. “It’s for the food and cost of looking after me” he said. Then he went on “Until I can get some money coming in”.
“You can register for unemployment or job search benefits can’t you” she asked, as the note disappeared from the table.
“Mind you” she went on. “This place needs tidying up, that will do for your keep” She then went into the jobs that he could do around the house until he found some paid work.
“I don’t eat much, so I never spend all the money that I get”. She said. “And the empties are just a little bonus on the side”.
Paul was later to learn that she received a widow’s pension, and that the house was fully paid for. Who would have believed it looking at her scrabbling amongst the rubbish for few cents worth of bottles and cans?
So for the next fortnight she set him to work cleaning up the interior of house. This meant that the items she now deemed unfit to be in house were placed outside in the yard for the goat to check out for their food value.
“Do you milk him?” Paul asked.
‘I wouldn’t try it if it was a ‘him’”. Maisie responded with a chortle of laughter.
Paul coloured up, and seeing his embarrassment Maisie went on.
“She’s dried up now, she’s only a pet”
Once back inside, the house started to be transformed into a place halfway to normal. This seemed to worry the dog as he kept coming round to where Maisie was supervising the work and sat right on her feet and stared up at her face.
“It’s got you worried hasn’t it my pet?” She soothed. Then she bent down and let the dog lick her face for reassurance.
“Hasn’t he got a name?”
“Oh yes” Said Maisie. “But he is embarrassed about it so I only call him that when he is naughty.” So Paul was none the wiser.
The next day Paul was surprised to see Maisie dressed differently. He said nothing but his glance at her smarter attire forced her to explain.
“I still go to the cemetery to tell my husband Don and James my little boy what I am doing” she said without any embarrassment. “They will want to know I have a boarder”.
“Do you want me to come with you?” Paul asked.
“Yes, I think so.” She said. “They’ll need to check you out.”
They had to walk all the way over the railway yards by the busy main road to get to the West Terrace cemetery. They strolled along in the February sunshine which in Adelaide even at 9.00 in the morning was quite warm and in through the main entrance gates. Maisie skilfully negotiated the maze of avenues to reach the spot where there was a simple white slab on the ground. Paul stood back a little way and glanced with interest around him at the assortment of memorials of angels and broken columns and black marble slabs. He kept silent as she fussed unnecessarily around the neat memorial. Clearly she was talking to her Don and James as he could see her lips move and when she seemed to have stopped, he approached and stood by her side.
“I think you had better send that money back to your Mother with an apology.” She said.
“You shouldn’t have taken it. Just tell her you needed it to get here and you are sorry to have caused her worry, but you will write later when you are settled, but don’t give her your address”.
Paul was about to say something, but one glance from Maisie was enough to shut his mouth again.