Bill Shorten is sitting at the breakfast table of his Melbourne home the morning after Labor's election defeat. He's deep in thought:
Strange. I've eaten this breakfast every day for most of my adult life, but this morning it tastes different. Bloody hell, is that what happens when you become a loser: even food tastes different? Strewth! Get out of your head, man. You're being ridiculous.
"Do you know what that breakfast is, Bill?"
"Of course I do, Chloe. It's a breakfast of champions."
"Are you trying to be funny?"
"Umm ... no."
"Okay then. Allow me to educate you. It was a breakfast of champions yesterday and the day before that ..."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Work it out."
Did she just call me a loser?
"How could you mess this up so royally, Bill? You've destroyed everything. You've condemned this family to a life of ridicule. Hell, the Shorten name will be forever linked to one of this country's biggest ..."
"Biggest what? Biggest what?"
"Don't make me say it."
"What did I do to you to warrant such disdain?"
"I think you should go. I need to be alone."
"What's with the hostility? What happened to my sweet Chloe Bear? Hmm? Where'd she go?"
"She died on the vine, Bill, just like your political career. Now go. Please."
"Where am I supposed to go? Hmm? Don't turn your back on me! Come back. You come back now!"
Oh God, I'm in a nightmare. How could this happen? You have to get your act together, man. You need to think.
Several minutes later, Shorten is jogging along a footpath.
Yes, that's it! Now I feel better. Nothing like pounding the pavement, in the fresh morning air, to make you see sense.
Now, Billy Boy, let's unpack what's happened and design a strategy for your resurrection: this is what you do. You're a winner. And winners always rise from the ashes of disaster like ... like a singed koala after a bushfire. Oh wow, what a turn of phrase.
Maybe you should become a novelist. Write under a pseudonym - a female pseudonym. Write about the patriarchy and its insidious tentacles: the woke crowd loves that kind of stuff.
And when the novels become wildly successful, reveal yourself, but pretend you wanted to stay anonymous: you'll be hailed as a feminist hero. You'll rise above the political sewer, above your failure.
Stop it; stop it with the nonsense! Come on, Billy Boy, stay grounded in reality.
I've got to get out of here. I've got to get back to my sweet Chloe Bear. Surely she's calmed down. She can't really feel that way ...Bill Shorten
OK, you lost an unlosable election. It's not the first time it's happened. John Hewson lost an unlosable election, and it worked out all right for him. Oh God, it didn't work out well for him: he's a media tart, a rent-a-quote, a ... urgh, a columnist.
There's got to be a better example. Think. Think, man. Latham. Latham?! Don't go there. You're at a low enough ebb already. You don't want to disappear down a black hole you can't escape from; where you should be ashamed to show your face in public; where you're filled with so much bitterness your face is permanently twisted into a sneer. No, Billy Boy, you don't want to go to that dark place ...
"Hey, Shorten, ya loser! Here's some free advice: stop runnin' in public."
"Big man! Insulting someone while you're driving past in a car. Come back here and say it to my face, punk!"
"Shorten, ya loser! Why don't you run off a cliff, like you drove the Labor Party off a cliff."
Not another one! Don't take crap, Billy Boy; be strong: "Get stuffed, lady. Do you normally accost people on the street? How dare you harass me when I'm just going about my business, and do so in front of your child. Have you no shame?"
"Mate, you're the one with no shame: the morning after you condemned the country to more years under that God-botherer and his fascist mates, and you're out here like nothin' happened! Take a good look at this bloke, Timmy. That's what abject failure looks like. Ah, that's right. Keep runnin', loser."
I've got to get out of here. I've got to get back to my sweet Chloe Bear. Surely she's calmed down. She can't really feel that way. It was the shock of defeat; she wasn't herself ...
Several minutes later, Shorten opens the front door of his Melbourne home.
"What're you doing back so soon, Bill? I thought I made myself clear: I need alone time to think about things."
"But I need some of that sweet Chloe Bear TLC, baby. I really need it. I'm begging you."
"Jesus Christ. Get off your knees, Bill!"
Mark Bode is an ACM journalist.