With her own key, Lenore Bloom let herself in through the front door. On Mondays, at six o'clock in the morning, it's a sure thing that any door looks the same as any other. The foyer of the Star Hotel in Hunter-street, Newcastle is, as usual, everything normal: Piles of empty beer cans, bottles, and glasses, some broken. All scatter the entrance and Reception Office and beyond. Cigarette buts, thousands of them, are stubbed out on what had once been a beautiful ruby red carpet. On every window ledge, counter and corner is the mess left over from the Saturday/Sunday night bash. The usual half-filled glasses stack high and lipstick has been used as a pencil for writing words, unutterable to Lenore, all over the foyer mirrors and the large glass inner double doors. The wooden staircase, bricks, and mortar, walls are rank lending the atmosphere heavy with laziness. It's always worse on Mondays.
The big glass doors that have been scrawled on with lipstick open and Harry walks in to start work.
"Whew, glad it's you and not me, looking at it won't help."
"Thanks a lot, I know I won't get any help from you, Harry," she told him pretending to be stern, "just look at this filthy mess. no matter how long I work here, there's no getting used to it hey.
"Anyone else around" Harry looks in the office to see.
"Don't be silly, who else in their right mind will be up at this hour except for us pair of twits" Lenore mentions as they go up the winding staircase to the kitchen, Harry walks on to room no. 1 and stops outside the door. He knocks a couple of times and when there is no answer, disappears through the door.
"Get out ya bastard,' said a voice.
"Come on, you've gotta get up," said another.
"Oh, piss off," said the first voice, and then Harry appears with the keys.
"It's been a wild and woolly weekend by the look of it."
"Well look, throw him under the shower if you have to, have to do something and get a move on before Floyd gets up," Lenore is saying as she unlocks the pantry and the dining room.
"You go in and shake him then, be my guest," now Harry is laughing while daring her.
"Not on your life, you never know what you'll walk into in this place - no - you can do the honors."
"Go on be a devil," he threw back at her as he goes out the door to try to wake the cook again.
The dining room is laid for breakfast and the morning paper bought for Floyd's tray when Fras, the cook, finally came into the kitchen.
"Gidday Fras, rough weekend""
"Gidday yaself, don't talk to me, I ain't conscious," he told her while lighting the gas elements on all the stoves. Even though it is always so hard to get Fras out of bed of a morning, once in the kitchen he has a dynamic way of moving things along. Gas comes on, pots come out and eggs bacon and toast all seem to happen at once along with tea, coffee and juice.
"Want some breakfast or toast or something Fras""
"Dig some coffee, forget the toast. By the way, I think those apprentices are back, the ones what made that shit mess in one of your rooms last time. Thought I saw 'em arrive about seven o'clock last night"
"Really, well thanks for letting me know."
The apprentices come to the hotel from the surrounding regional areas to attend Tech School for a week once every term. During the routine cleaning of their rooms at the last visit, Lenore was required to clean up one of the rooms left with broken furniture and bottles, beer cans and four-letter words scrawled on the walls, and worse, one of these boys had emptied their bowels in the corner of the room. It was at this time Lenore began to wear a mask while cleaning their rooms.
When breakfast is nearly over and the dining room almost empty, she approaches the boys she knows to have used that room. She didn't sit at their table, she stood up with hands on hips.
"Righto boys," she starts, "while you are all still together, how about a little talk""
"Why what we done"" asks one of the five seated 'round the table, each and every face stared at her in disbelief. No-one spoke or even looked sideways at any particular boy.
"None of the other boys thought it necessary to trash their rooms and wouldn't you know there would have to be one who will spoil it for everybody else."
"Gee lady don't shout, it weren't me," one boy says.
"I'll shout my head off if I catch that boy. To him I say this, I'm here to make your beds and look after your meals, I'm not here to wipe noses and bums. If I catch you I'll hang you up by the balls and render the family jewels useless, and by the way, if you want to write on walls, I'll leave crayons and slates like I would for any five years old."
Lenore turns on her heel and heads back to the kitchen. 'The old bat' she hears one of them say. Harry and Fras are doubled up laughing and slow clap her as she comes in through the door.
"Ya can run off at the mouth," Fras says, never the polite type.
"You two bums probably put them up to it."
"Who else, who else."
There are no more different people than these two. Harry Meloni, the quiet one, is tall, has a dark complexion and hair the color of bitumen, a bit longer than traditional and is wavy. Calm and gentle, Harry is concerned and giving in a selfless kind of way. There is nothing dark about his spirit, Passion is obvious even at sixteen years, he has all the ingredients of a Greek Adonis, and yet Family and Cheffing have priority.
It is not an exaggeration to say Fras, on the other hand, is an 'old soul'. Rob Riley is one who's already lived a lot of life, and who possesses all the extreme passions of most youths his age of eighteen years going on fifty! Nicknamed 'Fras' when Rob was just a little kid owing to the fact that 'he drove everyone to frazzle'. Small, almost delicate, he is scrawny and gaunt. Orange freckles scattered over white skin on a long thin face and blond curly hair which is so dry it resembles straw. He wears it just below the collar line and often complains that the long straight hair he cultivated for so long was sacrificed for the sake of the Establishment. His eyebrows almost knit between high on the bridge os his nose. Pathetically thin with three-dimensional ribs and arms much too long. Mature manhood, or rather 'Fras, the adult' has not yet found him and he has no-where to go.
The two friends run the Star Hotel kitchen entirely on their own ability. Every week, Floyd Leon, owner and manager, gives Fras an amount of money, and he does all the budgeting. Between them, Fras and Harry prepare breakfast for anything from 6 - 60 people, depending on the clientele. A daily counter lunch can be had from the back bar, a very popular affair with all the local businessmen in the locality of the pub. Bar-B-Que's are held in the central courtyard for lunchtime crowds on Wednesday's and Friday's. on those days Floyd employs two extra girls who dress in mini skirts or hotpants and especially knee-high boots. Of the kitchen, being on the first floor, and the Wednesday and Friday functions held in the courtyard Fras, Harry and Lenore learn to dread these two days of the week. Steaks, sausages, potatoes, masses of coleslaw, along with all the trimmings like bacon, sauces, and gravies are transported there by way of the stairs. Not being blessed with patience, panics at the slightest delay and, at times, can be heard all over the hotel roaring at one of his three 'slaves.'
"Floyd the boy,' as he is affectionately called, has his rooms at the top of the main stairs, and aware of all movements, coming up the stairs and down. Always ambitious, yet he is no closer to realizing those dreams than reaching the line of the horizon. At thirty-five and still unfulfilled, Floyd surrounds himself with women while his mates' bath in his charisma. An urban man who wears the 'classical casual' clothes, wears his ebony hair thrown to one side, almost like a horse's mane. Floyd 'the boy' drives around Newcastle in a flash MG........a green and black convertible.....
Neither Harry or Fras respect this child masquerading as a man - there's no formal training for either of his apprentices and Lenore, in her ignorance, believes she couldn't find anything better at her age of 32 years, Fras doesn't care - or says he doesn't, and Harry will not give in and allow something he cannot control beat him.
"How old are you Fras"" Lenore is asking out of pure curiosity.
"Come on be serious."
"Oh I didn't realize, thought you and Harry both around sixteen. What does your Mum think about you working in a place like this""
"Nuthin much! Fact me ol' man's stayin' here too don' 'elp."
"That guy in six, that's your Dad""
"Yea, 'e's drunk most of the time, but 'e's 'armless enough."
"I thought I'd seen you with him a few times, he keeps asking me out all the time."
"So I saw," he said and a big grin spread over his face, "a skirt's a skirt to 'im where do ya think I get it from""
At their lunch break, while Fras and Lenore sit over lunch break, Frank Riley, Fras's father comes to the door of the kitchen and leans against it.
"You got time to come down an' 'ave a beer Fras""
"Can't, gotta be at the League's Club two o'clock." He hesitates and changes his mind, "well okay but you gotta 'ave some some chow first."
Frank is very drunk and almost falls, only the doorway holds him up. Fras leads him to a table and sits him down then retreats back to finish what he was doing. When he gets back to his Dad, Frank is asleep head on the table arms loose at his sides. Fras finds a clean washer, runs it under the tap and wipes Frank's face and neck, rubs his back and places a plate of curried prawns in front of him. Within minutes Frank has fallen face first into the meal, again Fras cleans him up and leads him away to his room to sleep it off. Lenore could ee the funny side of it but she wasn;t laughing.
"I'll look after six while 'e's 'ere Lenore, don't take any notice of 'im," Fras tells her while he cleans up the table where his Dad sat.
It's okay Fras, I don't mind."
"I'll do it I said" he shouts at her
"All right, all right."
"You get on with your Dad Fras""
"Yea I don' mind 'im, 'e's orright. 'E goes off on binges, they might las' a coupla years, then 'e'll stop for awhile then 'e's off again.
Then as if to change the subject Fras goes on....."Our Harry, 'e's worth two of anyone else 'ere, in fact I once said to Floyd 'e's lucky to 'ave 'im. But Floyd don't care."
"What you want me to do, wipe his nose or something. Anyway, I know that so if the cracks under the pressure I put on him then the bastad's not worth having is he!"
The fact is though, Harry has everything Fras doesn't. A loving family, stable home life, transport, confidence and especially support of every kind. And yet these two know each other as only brothers do.
"Still a virgin is our Harry" Fras will say, "sad state of affairs really. I'm workin' on it, gettin' 'im fixed right up I am." He'll sneakily look at Lenore, "interested Lenny"" Knowing full well poor Harry has a king size crush on the housemaid.
"How did you and Harry get this job anyway Fras" You're both so young, really I can't imagine what Floyd must be thinking of."
"'s mate Stan Morlen is 'ow. Stan and Floyd 'ave a lot a business 'round Newcastle, so when Ron the cook left 'ere we was sort of borrowed from the League's Club. I got a feelin' it's gunna be sumpthin more permanent."
"What makes you think that""
"Dunno. I jus' feel it."
"That's a lot of hours you two are doing between the Club and here," Lenore is more reflecting about this, "how long can you keep it up - it's a fair few hey""
Lenore just doesn't believe Floyd. Apart from having no control over himself, most of his kind of pressure is sadistic and hot tempered. While Harry just plods on, Fras is never spoken to, or treated, as is Harry. Fras doesn't care one way or another as Floyd knows that he would down tools at the first outburst and there aren't many who would work at the Star Hotel. Fras boils beneath his collar everytime Harry or Lenore are the butt of one of Floyd's rant and even intervenes if he thinks it helpful.
And just then, as if to bring her thoughts to life Floyd storms into the kitchen, shouts and stomps around showing the side of himself they all see the most.
"What the hell are you doing in the kitchen Lenore""
I"m just finishing the saucepans off, why""
"The kitchen here sounds like a circus, gets worse everyday."
"That's strange I thought it's really quiet in here today, usually there's a lot more noise than this." Lenore makes the effort to smile in an effort to take the sting out of Floyd's rage.
"You shouldn't be in here anyway, have you started your rooms yet"" Now Floyd is booming at her.
"That's right Lenny don't ya dare laugh," Fras says dryly.
"Who asked you"" and Floyd spins around to face him.
"Anyway no I haven't started them yet." Lenore now tries to distract him.
"Why are you in the kitchen so much""
"I always do the sausepans."
"That's not your job, there are two others in here," he yells raising his voice a few more decibels.
"Well" she said looking him straight in the eye, "I always did the dishes when Ron was here and if I remember rightly you are the one who asked me to keep an eye on things in the kitchen when Ron goes."
"That was then it isn't now, and those two know the routine enough to get along mostly on their own, I didn't know you always did the sausepans anyway. All you are supposed to do is help get breakfast out and clear the dining room and the dishes. Why is it I have to teach every stupid bastard 'round here to wipe their bums."
"Excuse me have you finished"" Lenore flung back at him, "Who do you think you're speaking to, where's the respect""
That same day while Harry, Fras and Lenny sat having lunch at the long staff table Pat, the Manageress comes to the kitchen and Harry relates the incident to her while Fras treats it all like a joke. As usual everyone sees the funny side, but Pat is not laughing. Considering her position, as Manageress, Pat does not easily 'join' with her staff, instead she keeps a distance that appears more about class than her rank. She has pale skin and hair, her clothes are office-like, usually a small narrow skirt, plaid and tops akin to twin sets and flat shoes. There have been times Lenny has tried to talk with her if only because she is the only other female at work.
In the early months Fras is never there on the really busy days, he leaves to go to the League's Club around one every day and Lenny moves to the kitchen after the rooms are done. Given time she becomes used to Fras saying of her 'Chris' ya' dense.' She knows it's not far from the truth being 'non-compos-mentis' when sizing people up, that is unless it is dowbright obvious as in the case of Floyd, the boy. It is almost as is she cannot bear to think a bad thought about anyone. A situation clear to others might have to be painted black and white before she can fathom it, she was never good at math either.
Fras is very popular at work, his magnetic personality spreads right throughout the pub, friend or foe and none remain unaffected. Like the time he found out the front bsar manager and one of the barmen were 'married'. From that day on the bar manager's name became 'Daisy' or 'poofta', bloody queer or whatever, along with anything else he could think of to make the point. Yet at the same time, it is obvious he thinks the world of them for theit honesty and deep feeling for one another.
Somehow, Fras discovers that Lenore's middle name is Sophia, she says she hates the name and is not too fond of Lenore either, so, the next time there is a phonecall for her and she has to be called from one of the rooms to the kitchen to answer it, he stands at the kitchen door and in the most screechy voice he can conjure up screams out - S-o-p-h-i-e. The sound went all over the hotel, the staff heard it and from then on the name 'Lenore' is never heard again.
Fras and a mate pick up two young girls (chicks as he calls them) in Hunter Street and they bring them back to Fras's room. The story of the incident is that they 'screw' the pants off them (Fras's words, find out they are virgins in the process. They conn the girls into cleaning his room out, which is always disgusting, then tips them out the next morning but not before charging them three dollars each for the privilege. The story doesn't stop there. Fras says he finds out later they are both under age. Lucky for him the incident slid under the radar so there were no repercussions. He's like that - but Sophi suspends her belief and sees much of it as teenage boys musings. Then there is that time Fras plays an obscene record from his upstairs room window, especially timed to tickle the ears of two policemen walking through the inner courtyard. They never do find out who is responsible. Dubbed 'stirrer' or 'public enemy no.1 and two and three, a candidate for the wooden spoon, it is impossible to know him and remain indifferent. He is either hated with respect or loved affectionately. Sophi begins to observe him and realizes when he thinks no-one is taking any notice, depression claims him inside. Indeed he will hound Sophi about being depressed until one day she turns it around the other way.
"you needn't talk to me about being down all the time Fras, you think I don't see out of these eyes, even if I was blind Freddie I can see you always trying to hide it."
He tightens his grip on the knife he is using to slice the steak he is working on, places it precisely on the large wooded chopping board and turning sharply away from her yells "Sophi why don' ya' min' ya own busness"" And stomps out without looking back. One day he stirs Sophi to the point of tears and she moves towards him with closed fists. Suddenly she is flat on her back, dragged bodily from one end of the kitchen to the other, thrown into the pantry and the door bolted shut on the outside. He left her there for an hour or so and when she asked for a cigarette he rolls one in under the door - unlit. Of course - no smoking in the pantry!
At the end of a long day Harry and Fras sit at the staff table while Sophi, who has just knocked off, makes coffee for herself and joins them.
"Oh well come tomorrow it won't matter much I"ll be outa evryone's 'air any'ow."
Unaware of what the conversation's about a surprised Sophi asks "Why's that Frazzle Dazzle""
"Be in jail is why>"
"Gotta go to court."
A long silence in the kitchen is broken when Pat arrives to join them, She has heard Fras's remark.
"Well tell us what for," Pat and Sophi ask in unison.
"Nah, you's don' wanna know 'bout that," he doesn't want to say anymore but the girls continue to prod him and he reluctantly produces a summons from his pocket.
"Do you mind if I read it"" It is Pat asking.
He nods his head but his eyes stare straight at the floor. The charge reads: being possession and under the influence of an ellegal drug, namely L.S.D., it is the 12th December 1972. Before Sophi leaves work she asks Fras if there's anything he is especially worried about the case he has to face tomorrow. He makes a negative gesture, cracks a joke and has everyone laughing
The next Morning Sophi hurries to work, earlier than usual, Harry is of the same mind and Pat too comes in early, and considering she doesn't usually make it in before ten, the reason is obvious. Even Fras is out of bed dressed and working. Everyone expected to find him nervous, upset and depressed, if he is he does not show it. Instead he is straight, sensible and down to earth. Everyone who work at the Hotel come to see him before he leaves to prepare, they wish him well and ask if there's anything they can do for him.
"What time do you think you'll get back Fras"" Absolutely everybody asks the same question.
"Don' worry 'bout it," is all he says.
Fras," Pat stops him on the way out, "If you can't make it back straight after, ring and let us know how it goes for you because everyone here will be thinking of you."
The time moves very slow after he leaves, the girls spend it bumping into each other in and out of the kitchen and it is hard trying to concentrate on work, like walking on eggshells. The staff became pessemistic when four o'clock came and went and then Fras makes it back at 4.30. Probation for one year is the sentence, in default will mean a six year jail term. There's no doubt Fras is very happy with the result as indeed everyone has a sigh of relief. At the same time, Pat and Sophi recognise that one more month, when Fras turns eighteen, he will have been tried in an adult court and most certainly received prison. Is strange to Sophi that none of his so called 'friends' are nowhere to be seen - where was Al"
Sophi tallies up the long hours Fras works, between the League's Club and the Star Hotel. Why does he find it so hard to sleep properly, yet waking him in the morning is always difficult" Recently he visits the doctor with a very swollen sore foot which is said to be gout, supposed to have blood tests but 'never gets 'round to it.' Harry helps him anyway he can as do his parents. Pat notices that he always wears long sleeves and lets her mind run riot with what it all can mean for him.