I was surprised, to say the least, when Scott Morrison phoned me out of the blue last week and invited me to a cards night with old uni mates of ours. The evening took place at a mansion on Sydney Harbour. Sitting on a large second-storey balcony, absorbing a multimillion-dollar view, I was struck by the vagaries of life; how one day you're eyeballing a toilet bowl, heaving a recovering junkie's tune, and years later you're cocooned in opulence enjoying the company of friends.
As I savoured a fine cigar, ScoMo verbalised my inner thoughts when he elbowed the bloke sitting next to him and said: "I would imagine this is quite a change for you, Mark. It certainly beats prostituting yourself in a seedy motel in order to score smack, doesn't it?"
ScoMo's guffaw was accompanied by the awkward laughter of the two other men at the table: the owner of the property, a self-made millionaire known among his close friends as Boomer, and a successful lawyer widely known as Macca.
The four of us had studied together at UNSW Sydney in the '80s. I had recently run into ScoMo at a UNSW reunion. I hadn't seen him since our uni days, and had revealed to him my unfortunate life for much of the subsequent years, including working as a low-rent gay prostitute in order to support my heroin addiction.
When ScoMo had learned those sad facts, he comforted me. Now he was using the sordid details to mock, and an unsettling feeling stabbed me.
A police siren wailed in the distance when ScoMo's three of a kind trumped my two pair. Meaty paws raked in the chips - the shoulders hunched, the delight ungraciously displayed: he patted his back and called himself a "winner".
He then sipped wine from an elegant glass, eyed me and said: "Have you told Macca and Boomer about the time your wife left you for your Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor?"
What the f**k, I thought.
"That must've been so embarrassing," ScoMo said. "You must've felt like such a loser."
Boomer piped up: "Is that really necessary, Miami?" (That was ScoMo's nickname at uni.)
ScoMo waved his hand dismissively. "Ah, I'm just joking. Mark doesn't mind, do you, mate?"
"I, um, guess not."
"That's what I thought. Anyone who gets up each day, after enduring such a miserable life, can certainly handle a little ribbing."
(I then had an epiphany. ScoMo had invited me to the cards night for the purpose of using me as a punching bag, to feel better about his deficiencies as a leader.)
A short time later, when ScoMo's four of a kind bettered my full house, he guffawed and said: "Seriously, mate, you'd have to be the unluckiest bloke I've ever met." He picked up a cigar from an ashtray and puffed on it. "Hey, boys. Did Mark tell you that his mother revealed on her deathbed that he was adopted and she hated him?"
A smugness creased ScoMo's face, and I said: "So, Miami. As a Pentecostal, you were baptised in the Holy Spirit, right?"
"Of course I was."
"Is it true that you were baptised an unprecedented three times because your pastor didn't think the first two took?"
ScoMo slammed his hand on the table, knocking over a wine glass. "A lie, a bald-faced lie!"
"That's what I thought."
A short time later, I looked up to my left. "Thanks for your help, Lord, but I had already figured that out."
"What'd you say?" ScoMo said.
"Jesus told me you were bluffing."
Blasphemer! Jesus wouldn't talk to a heathen like you.Scott Morrison
"Blasphemer! Jesus wouldn't talk to a heathen like you. He talks only to true believers like me."
"Take it easy," Macca said. "Your big head looks like it's about to explode."
ScoMo calmed down. And when my pair beat his nothing, I looked him in the eye and said: "I've thought deeply about your disastrous visit to Cobargo, and I've concluded that the devil made you shake those hands. And I think I know why the devil so easily manipulated you. You've become, in the terminology of your brethren, a loathed backslider; you're questioning the Pentecostal core belief that mankind is engaged in a spiritual war and the end times are upon us."
ScoMo sprang up and pointed at me. "Begone, demon! Don't you dare attribute to me your twisted logic. The world burns ahead of Jesus' return and the slaying of the devil." He raised his right arm. "Except Jesus as your saviour, or be condemned to eternal suffering."
I leaned back in the chair and slowly released cigar smoke from my mouth. "I'm sure you've heard of the term rope-a-dope, Miami. Well, I'm looking at the dope."
Mark Bode is an ACM journalist. He uses satire and fiction in commentary. His writings are not meant to be taken literally.