Here are the first words from the protagonist of my upcoming novella Day of the Drones, introducing you to Isabel 'Hattie' Balast.
I like my footy and I go to a few games, but I’m no fanatic and I had to do some research before I interviewed the newly-retired Justin Proverse. Did I hate him? Was he one of those dirty players I’d yelled at during a game? I tend to blurt things out.
Yes, I’m outspoken; I have no filter. Well, I have a little bit of a filter when I first meet interviewees; my friends love that being a journo means I have to shut up and listen to other people, they think that’s a karmic zinger. But it’s fair to say I can be blunt.
I think it’s just that other people are quieter than me… OK, a lot of people… But I digress.
Justin Proverse was no big star, but in Melbourne, any sort of AFL player offers a hook, even for a sidebar in the employment section on coping with a career change. Yes, your honour, I admit I wasn’t expecting a Rhodes Scholar conversant in Japanese tea ceremonies and 19th-century social theory. But I’m not a cynical snob, I swear. I was hoping this footy player would be decent and fun and smart.
You never know what you’re going to get, that’s the beauty of reporting, or of life really, if you’re in the right headspace, so I prepared to meet him full of kindness and bliss, pretending I’d just been given a free Cupcakes ‘R’ Us voucher, my tinsel eyelashes glittering and butterflies in my bonnet top.
I’m blunt and… I’ve got an overactive imagination. No, bugger that. My imagination is perfectly healthy, and everyone who thinks I’m weird is as boring as bat shit. A very respectable online quiz confirmed that my inner child is aged seven, and is ‘… silly and rowdy and hyper, the kind who hates to be told to sit still’.
You’re getting the picture, aren’t you? You figure I’m an overactive, over-assertive pain in the arse. Well, relax. Sheesh. Sometimes I’m a monk; I swear. I’ve got gears. I can pull off the responsible adult thing, OK?
I pass all this on so you have context when I tell you that my alter ego Michaela Mementori educed herself from me after two glasses of Pinot Gris and an unverifiable quantity of daiquiris on a special Friday night a couple of years ago. Michaela is an award-winning, capital-W Writer my age, a literary superhero with no interest in cupcakes or Battlestar Galactica or cats. She’s won a Miles Franklin, next stop the Man Booker. She is so charismatic even non-readers want her on TV show panels; she is the young feminist superhero of our times and she has a fabulous sex life, though she’s tied to no-one. Et cetera.
Now, don’t get any ideas: I don’t need an alter ego to salve some deep-seated angst, OK? We’re not doing any penny-ante psychoanalysis here. It’s just that when unexpected psychological house guests arrive, you’ve got to roll with them, don’t you? Michaela turns up when she wants, usually when I’ve had a few, and she is fun, more so than me, so she gets to stay, and that is officially that.
Well, lately, I haven’t been myself. I’ve been Michaela Mementori. A lot of the time.
And… Michaela sorta kinda blew off the interview I’d scheduled with the footballer.
Which was very bad, yes. Granted. Terrible, more like it. You’re going to think we’re unprofessional. But we most definitely are not. You can’t be a woman with a seven-year-old inner child and have a career in journalism or high-lit if you’re unprofessional. And we want these careers.