It's difficult enough as it is for those of us who are reasonably well-adjusted to handle the day-to-day grind of existence, let alone any of the nastier surprises that members of your own species might decide to chuck at you. It makes you wonder how anybody not firing on all their cylinders is able to cope. Oh sure, there are those who have chosen to opt out of the game in one way or another, usually through either drugs or alcohol, or a combination of both. However I'm talking about the ones who wander through life minus some of the mental and emotional armour most of us employ to protect ourselves.
In his most recent book, Ruby And The Stone Age Diet published by Soft Skull Press and distributed by Publishers Group Canada, Scottish born author Martin Millar takes us into the lives of those who live on the fringes of society. The unnamed narrator of the book shares living space with his friend Ruby, who, no matter the weather, wears the same lilac cotton dress and a pair of sunglasses day in and day out and goes barefoot. While Ruby sits at home, or occasionally goes over to visit her inappropriate and abusive boy friend, our protagonist works a succession of temporary, mindless, unskilled labour positions in order to augment their unemployment insurance.
However, there are weeks when he's unable to obtain employment, and both of them forget to file their claims for the "dole" so they are often without any money. Even when he is able to earn money, Ruby insists that it be spent on things far more important than food and shelter - like an amazing new style of can opener and a crate of tinned beans. While they do spend what our narrator describes as "probably the most fun he has had in a year" opening the cans of beans, spreading them all over the apartment and frisbeeing the lids down the hall, at the end they still haven't eaten and they've spent all their money. Aside from not eating very much, they aren't able to pay rent very often, let alone utility bills, which means they are forced to move repeatedly from one illegal squat to another.