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Free

Free
adj. fre•er, fre•est
1. Not imprisoned or enslaved; being at liberty.
2. Not controlled by obligation or the will of another.
3. Not affected or restricted by a given condition or circumstance.
4. Unconstrained; unconfined.

Setting: exit to Melbourne Central Station, January 28, 2010.

Spruiker one: Chocolate, free chocolate. Do you want a free chocolate? (holding it out to me with an enticing smile)
Me: Is this a dream?
Spruiker one: (Smiling) No
Me: Okay then, I’ll have some free chocolate please
Spruiker two: (holds out a leaflet)
Me: (holds out hand toward Spruiker one for the sweet chocolate treat)
Spruiker two: Would you like to take a pamphlet?
Me: No thanks
Spruiker one: Take a pamphlet
Me: I don’t want a pamphlet.
Spruiker two: C’mon, we’re almost out
Me: I thought you were giving away free chocolate
Spruiker one: (looking around nervously) We are
Me: Except I have to take a pamphlet to get one
Spruiker two: (looking relieved that I finally got it) Yeah
Me: I don’t want a pamphlet, I just want the chocolate thanks
Spruiker one: (starting to get defensive) Just take a pamphlet. You don’t even have to read it.
Me: (setting down my gym bag on the pavement and settling in for the argument) I don’t want a pamphlet.
Spruiker one: How do you know, you haven’t even looked at one
Me: I don’t have to look – I don’t like pamphlets.
Spruiker two: (irritated) Whatever.
Me: Sorry, you said you were giving away free chocolate. Now you’re telling me I only get a chocolate if I take one of those pamphlets.
Spruiker one: So?
Me: Well, it’s just that that’s not actually free, is it?
Spruiker two: It is free. You don’t have to pay for it.
Me: Well, no, that’s not free actually: it’s conditional. I have to do something you want me to do before I get a chocolate
Spruiker one: Are you serious? If you want a chocolate, just take a pamphlet. Otherwise go away.
Me: I don’t want a pamphlet. I want free chocolate. You just made my day by standing there yelling out that there was free chocolate available, and now I find out it was all a ploy to get me to take some kind of propaganda I don’t even want or need.
Spruiker one & two: (look at me, perplexed).
Me: Are you familiar at all with the Trade Practices Act?
Spruiker one: What are you talking about?
Me: Are you familiar with the dictionary?

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Maxine Beneba Clarke is an Australian author and slam poet of Afro- Caribbean descent. Her short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the 2015 ABIA Award for Best Literary Fiction and the 2015 Indie Award for Best Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Her memoir, The Hate Race, her poetry collection Carrying the World, and her first children’s book, The Patchwork Bike, will be published by Hachette in late 2016.

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Comments

  1. A great uncle gave me this advice, “If someone who don’t know you or like you is trying to give you a free cookie, it’s probably a shit cookie.”

    That same great uncle raised a bobcat and still makes moonshine.

  2. Well handled! I get thoroughly sick of people thrusting things in my face at stations and on the streets. Despite what they say, there’s always a condition … nothing is free.

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