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Sport 26: Autumn 2001

Mel Johnston — Roll Together

page 181

Mel Johnston

Roll Together

To be working in a bed shop is the greatest insult to Jules. Not a shag in sight, she endures couples and their hire-purchase agreements and their choice of bedside table disagreements on a weekly basis.

—It's a king-sized problem, she jokes to her friend Lou on Friday night.

Friday nights are the worst. Friday-night shopping may be a thing of the past, but the shop stays open. Her boss is convinced: they've got the best foot traffic. In front of the shop is a bus stop. On Friday night, when people are standing, waiting in the cold, the odd person can't help but come in and browse. Jules has never sold a bed to foot traffic. Mid-spiel, they see their bus pull up, and they're off.

Tonight, Kevin, the stockroom guy, is leaving early to see his friend play in a band.



Now the shop is empty and Jules's eyes hurt. Fluorescent lighting gets to you after a while. She sits down on one of the beds and looks around her. One of the challenges of the bed shop is that it's hard to be innovative with displays. In the window this week, there is a wrought-iron bed with a tartan duvet over it. The other bedroom furniture is made of wrought iron and wicker, and Jules has arranged it as if it is embracing the bed.

When Jules first started at the bed shop, the window display hardly ever changed. The dressing table would gather a thin layer of dust and the board advertising This Month's Deal! would slump from upright against the European pillows to flat along the bed. One day, when her boss was away, Jules decided to change it. Ever since then, it has been her job. Jules changes it every week, keeping an eye on the display trends around town.

She walks over to her window display and sits on the bed. Outside, page 182 some people shift from leg to leg in the wind. Others stub out their cigarettes and blow out the last bit of smoke before they board their bus.

Jules leans across the bed and switches on the bedside lamp. She looks at her watch—8.45pm. Fifteen minutes to go. She might as well start packing up. She walks down the back of the shop and turns off the light switches: one (stockroom, office), two (mid fluoro section), three (front fluoro section).

She walks back to her window display. The bedside lamp is the only light in the shop. Jules lies across her bed. She watches the people waiting and listens to the muted roar of the buses. Then she hears a clunk.

—Hello? says a voice.

—Hello? says Jules.

She edges her way out of the window display. There's a man standing there, kind of breathless.

—Are you still open?

—Just. Can I help you?

—I'm not sure.

—Are you looking for a bed?

—No, I don't think so.

—OK. Are you looking…for a bedside table?

—No. I'm—



—So, you thought you'd step in and get some relief and pretend to be in the market for a bed?

The man looks around.

—I'm actually not sure what brought me in here.

He walks down the aisle, surveying the sea of beds.

—What do you do?

—I sell beds.


—Taking into account seasonal variation, yes.

—How many did you sell this week?

—I've sold one, so far.

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—So far?

—I work Saturdays.


—The busiest.

—Mind if I look around?

—Go for it. I can turn the lights on again, if you want.



—Know anyone with fluoros in their bedroom?

—Exactly, says Jules.

—Junk, maybe.

—A damp towel, maybe.

—A packet of Strepsils concealed by the valance, maybe.

Jules and the man smile at each other.

—Guess it's quite hard to be innovative with your displays.


The man looks at the bed in front of him and lies down on it.

—Feels good.


—Now, I just have to put it to the real test!

Jules smiles.

—S'pose you've heard that one before, he says.

—Pretty much.

—Guess you get tired of all those jokes.

No, thinks Jules. I don't get tired of the jokes. The jokes get tired of me.

—We are funny, they shout. Don't you think you need to laugh at the dire and the impossible?

—No! she shouts back. I don't, because that would be giving in to the dire and the impossible, taking comfort in some way, and I don't want to do that. I want to look at the circumstances for what they are.

Then, the jokes, seeing they aren't wanted, walk back out the door.

—So what do people look for in a bed?

—People's biggest worry is roll together. They worry that they're going to get too close.


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—The longer the relationship, the bigger the bed.

Jules uses arm movements to demonstrate this. She walks over to her window display again. The man follows her.

—Is this yours?


—This display.


—It's nice.

—It's all right. You work with what you've got. You can't freak people out. You can't hang the bed upside-down from chains and put a duvet on the floor underneath it and say Think Outside The Square You Live In.


—Nobody has squares. People's lives kind of splurt out. They look around them and they've got one foot on their frayed rug of a past, and their other one is standing in a dried-up pool of something sticky. They can't remember what they spilt, but if they walk anywhere now, there will be a skwick skwick that goes with it. I'm innovative in small ways. Take this bed, for instance. Notice anything about it?


—It's made up.

Jules pulls back the duvet to reveal a top and bottom sheet.

—Woolrest and everything. You might think, Why? It's a display bed! Nobody's actually going to sleep in it.

—I might think that.

—But people know. Something unconscious, subconscious, tells them when a bed's inviting. They know they want to be inside the bed. They want to take the sign advertising This Month's Deal! off the bed and climb inside it.

—I want to climb inside it.

—Come on then.

Jules takes off the sign and climbs under the covers. The man slips off his shoes and socks and takes off his jacket. Jules and the man lie back against the European pillows. Jules reaches over to the bedside lamp.


page 185


Jules and the man look at each other. Jules puts her hand up to the man's jaw, and feels his skin under her fingertips. The man reaches up to the top of Jules's arm and squeezes it. They lean toward each other and their lips meet and Jules and the man kiss deeply, passionately.

Outside, some people shift from leg to leg in the wind. The Number 12 going to Lyall Bay pulls up. A woman stubs out her cigarette and blows the last smoke into the air.