Island Life by David Slack


Pregnant Calamity

Halloween is not just for kids. I have some suggestions for a little adult fun this evening.

Here in my leafy suburb, the Greater Depression has not even strolled by for a look.
Ever since I first saw Wile E Coyote suspended in clear air with an expression of perplexity and sheer terror, I have understood the concept of pregnant calamity.

We once inherited a large fat ginger cat with the name of - no kidding - Weenie. We gave him a more dignified one. One morning, we heard an odd scraping sound on the roof outside our bedroom window. We reached the scene just in time for the moment of high comedy. Leo had been sunning himself a little too early in the day and had been undone by a light dew on the corrugated iron. He had lost purchase and slid off the roof, bum first. There had been just enough time for him to sink his claws into the rim of the spouting. And there he hung. His expression suggested a small measure of perplexity and sheer terror, but mostly it was indignation.

Karren is generally kind-hearted and empathetic, but the comedy overtook her at this moment. How she laughed. I swear the cat's look of indignation darkened as she chortled, which only made her laugh louder.

And now gravity and adiposity had their way. The spouting slumped and the cat reluctantly but finally relinquished his hold, dropping several metres to the garden below with a thud. And then in one quick ginger flash, he was gone, springing away in great shamed bounds.

This is largely how I recall the ensuing carnage of the 1987 share-market crash. The afternoon it happened, I adjourned with friends to the Exchange Tavern in Parnell, a place favoured then by trader types. The sky was a gunmetal grey, looming and menacing. "What will happen?" we asked each other. The answer was, for quite a while: nothing.

But then the fun began. Jobs were lost, houses were reluctantly yielded or sold up by the banks, companies traded until they ran out of money and then folded, and the BNZ worked its way, alphabetically, it seemed, through the winding up orders over the next four years. Anzon was one of the first to go, but if your company's name was Zenith, you had about three years more grace.

In other words, just because it ain't bad yet, there's no guarantee it won't be; people will cling to the spouting as long as they can, and then they'll take the fall.

What form will this nightmare take when its chilly fog finally drifts towards your door? This is the question to ask as you choose your adult Halloween costume.

Here comes the debt collector knocking on your door.
Here comes the process server, with a final notice from Mastercard.
Here comes your 'personal' banker.
Here comes the real estate agent with a mortgagee sale sign.
And here comes your middle class nightmare, up the steps of your house: a WINZ officer. If only John Key had won that election; he'd have got rid of the bureaucrats.

Oh the fun you'll have, and the places you'll go, putting the wind up innocent householders!

Don't forget to take a big sack. You can collect a lot of food when you go trick or treating, and those sweets can keep for months and months.

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