Roof leaks, flatmates squabble: it is the economy, Stupid!

23:56, May 28 2012

John lives with his mate Bill, a Maori bloke called Pita, and another guy called Banksie, who dwells in the basement and grins strangely.

They inhabit a flat with a fellow called David, who's kind of amiably vague, and the twins Metiria and Russel, who are a bit intense. An elderly chap called Winston lives in the granny flat. He shouts a lot.

Everyone pretends to get along, but as in every flat ever, they all hate each other. John, to try and dispel some of the tension, has suggested that they play catch-up with the Aussie place across the road. Everyone sort of agrees with this, even though they're not quite sure what it means.

Trouble is brewing. The flat is in a hell of a lot of debt and they all worry about ending up like the Greek place on the other side of town, which left a Austerity-brand heater plugged in and burned down.

David reckons that everything was better when his friend Helen ran the flat, but John and Bill say that it was Helen's fault the heating got switched off after the Global Financial Crisis. To that, David says John and Bill shouldn't have let their mates, the Private Sector, run up $315 billion in late video fees.

It's Budget Day. John has discovered the ceiling has sprung a leak. He and Bill call a flat meeting.


"The roof is leaking," says John.

"Naturally, we're going to sell it," says Bill.

David looks a little taken aback. He tries to articulate a response, but a spasm of good-natured vagueness passes across his face, and the twins take the initiative.

"That's completely stupid," Russel says.

"We'll get rained on." Metiria says. They look out the window. Sure enough, a Deficit storm is raging.

"You don't understand economics," says John. He smiles. This makes him look either like a dolphin or a shark. It's hard to tell. "If we sell the roof, we'll be able to afford a temporary roof."

"Why don't we just fix our roof?" say Russel and Metiria together.

"We can't," says Bill. "I sledge-hammered all the load-bearing beams yesterday, to make it more attractive to buyers. We have to sell it now." The roof groans horribly.

"This," says David, snapping out of his amiable trance momentarily, "is like that time you sold the milk to those Chinese guys."

"That was different," says John. "It had gone off. Anyway, Banksie agrees with us, don't you Banksie?"

They look around. Banksie is creeping up the stairs. A fat man is being hauled out the front door by the police. Banksie grins fearfully. His eyes flit about the room.

"Banksie," comes a scream from the granny flat, "who was that fat man?

"Were you paying him for favours?"

"I can't recall," Banksie mumbles, and darts back to his basement.

John winces. "I wish Winston had never been voted into this flat," he says. "Anyway. We have the numbers. I move to sell the roof. All in favour?" He and Bill raise their hands. There is an eldritch gurgle from the basement that might be a "yes." Mr Dunne, who rents one of the linen cupboards, and was too unimportant to mention until now, says yes also. The other flatmates groan.

"You do realise," say the twins, "that you're trying to catch up to the Aussies by doing the opposite of them."

"When Helen ran the place we never had this trouble," says David, wistfully.

"Look," snaps John, his dolphin demeanour vanishing, "it's actually all her fault the roof is leaking. Her lot did too much roof repair. Spent too much money. You have to SELL roofs to fix them."

The twins try to say something, but John moves on swiftly with the rest of the agenda: selling the roof, then the floor, then the appliances. Pita looks faintly worried at this prospect. "We'd better make sure that we sell them to people who've got our stuff's best interest at heart, and who will help us put our flat back together," he suggests.

"Sure, sure," says John. "I'm selling the stuff to my Mum and Dad.

They're scrap metal dealers. Oh, and we're going to dig up the foundations, too," he adds. "My dowsing rod said there might be gold and/or oil under them."

"But, but, but ... we'll have nothing left! We'll never get it back! We'll all have to move to the Australian flat!" splutters David, too late.

"Who cares?" laughs John. "I'm moving to Hawaii."

The roof caves in and pours Deficit all over them. Winston screeches incoherently. The others yell and run. Banksie floats away on a cabbage boat, babbling to himself. John sits, in his element, grinning the grin of a dolphin, or a shark.Joshua Drummond is a Hamilton freelance writer who never did like flat meetings.