It was sometime in the mid ‘Nineties and life in Sydney had been an awful trial, his dream of success in the arts fading fast, he was wallowing in the muck with countless other wannabes and possibly about to get trampled in the stampede to the Big Nowhere. Looking back he was amazed he'd survived the years of exultation, horror and danger, but that had all just been a warm up for old age in the gutter, from now on it was do or die time. As Robert kept on hassling for a fag, Arthur flicked the bum a butt then turned his back on him, all the while perusing the flawed human cargo stacked around him in the Lifeboat for Losers Café.
The Old Contrary Mary laughed in her face and told her to hide down in the toilets, not bring her troubles to his doorstep. She was reputed to have been a great beauty once, the toast of the jet-set, enjoying the high life, and then scag had got a hold of her. Twenty-one years later she was a haggard, villainous crow, scraping her next heroin-hit from the gutters, reduced to rifling the pockets of the dickheads desperate enough to go with her. She rushed out of the Café followed by the regulars' derisive taunts, they’d suffered her misadventures day in, day out, even Robert the Wino Werewolf laughed at her with the few brain cells he had left.
Arthur took in the cluttered Café and seemed to glimpse through the haze of marijuana the faces of the many dispossessed souls who'd come and gone over the years, like ghosts still hovering in the corners. There squatted the shrewish Jan Eager, vomiting black bile as she pissed defiantly on the floor for all to see. She was a brilliant painter but as furious a misanthrope as Medusa, and she died alone in her Kings Cross flat, her corpse lying undiscovered for several weeks. Arthur could still see Mad Alice sitting at a table, lifting her blouse to flash her tits at unsuspecting strangers. She had long been a sex worker and had developed full-blown AIDS and was slowly rotting to bits. Covered in weeping sores and bandaged like a nuclear fall-out victim, she often sat on the wall opposite the Café for a breath of fresh air and still got propositioned by the deadhead pussy-punters who’d dribbled down Roslyn Street from the main drag of the Cross, blind-drunk and egregiously horny.