Spotting the hit

July 9, 2016 at 8:15 am | Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment
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Click pic to make big and bigger.

Click pic to make big and bigger.

The dribble of doom …

This little tree did it hard.

Drought killed it outside while critters gnawed within.

Curling bark and chomp trails tell the story.

Now a nice council person has sprayed the tree with the yellow spot of death.

Soon, a woodsperson will be along to cut it down.

Its replacement already incubates at bottom left.

To the right, what might have been.

Life’s tough.

Live it while you can.

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.

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Only in red

July 8, 2016 at 8:54 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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Only in red

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‘OK, so they didn’t have it in yellow!

‘What was I supposed to do: not turn up for work?

‘I don’t know why you blokes have to make such a big thing of it.

‘I honestly think the red provides an interesting contrast …

… ‘Fellas?’

 

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.

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Girl power

July 6, 2016 at 7:38 am | Posted in Short Story | 4 Comments
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Girl Power Med Empire

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Girl evades giant Pac-Man.

Girl meets boy.

Girl starts BBQ fire.

Girl wins see-saw game.

Girl wins swimming competition.

What a fun, successful and totally empowering day!

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.

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Temerity prayer

May 4, 2016 at 9:35 am | Posted in Poem | Leave a comment
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Target audience.

God grant me

the serenity

to forgive people

I can change;

courage

to take out those

I cannot

and wisdom

to know the difference

at 1200 metres

in fading light

with a 10 km crosswind.

Brought to you by Imagine Day the book.

The Kombi-van rail cannon

May 3, 2015 at 7:21 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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Three couples sprawled around the lounge, digesting pasta. Wine lapped at tilted rims as wreaths of smoke cruised into guttering candles, spread against the ceiling and descended. Fairy lights completed the scene.

‘Let’s go out!’ cried Yvonne.

A shudder swept through the others. Liam, the host, shot a visual plea to Neil.

‘Now now, sugar.’ Neil stroked Yvonne’s long hair. ‘We’ve got everything we need right here. Liam and Sylvie have created a lovely environment for us; why not relax and enjoy it?’

Yvonne tossed her head. ‘Because I think we should all go out. Club Foramen is only 600 metres from this ashtray. We’re young and it’s only 10:30. We’ve gotta live, before it’s too late! Come on; let’s hear some sounds and see some cats! Whatta ya say?’

Ever the diplomat, Sylvia calmed Liam with a caress. ‘I’m easy; what does everyone else think?’

Yvonne leapt up and gazed into each face.

‘I do not mind,’ pronounced Ulrik. ‘I will go if every body else wants to go.’

Sonya patted his thigh. ‘That’s my boy; two shots of Finlandia and you’re anyone’s. What the hell, we never go out.’

Liam baulked at leaving the cocoon he’d so carefully constructed. ‘It’s your night folks, but may I remind you we have entertainment here.’

‘Guitars and PlayStation?’ retorted Yvonne.

‘Yeah!’ chorused the boys.

‘No way. You guys can do that anytime. Tonight’s a celebration.’

Ulrik looked up. ‘Of what is it a celebration?’

Yvonne whipped a quarter ounce from her jacket and tossed it to the floor. ‘Of the biggest goddamn joint you ever saw in your life!’

Liam leaned forward, beanbag balls streaming like tadpoles under his thighs. ‘Ahem. This er, hmm. This could well alter the fabric of the entire evening.’

‘So we’re going to experience the greatest girl-band of all time?’ said Yvonne.

Sylvia’s eyes sparkled. ‘I’m in.’

‘Me too,’ said Sonya.

‘I also think it would be fun to go out maybe,’ said Ulrik.

Neil looked hurt. ‘How long’ve you had that ganjar, Sugar?’

‘Doesn’t matter, baby,’ sang Yvonne. ‘All that matters is we’re gonna get out and get it on.’

Liam fondled the baggie. ‘Get me the scissors, Sylvie. There’s something I must do – for all of us.’

**********

A chill wind whipped through the railings. Liam swung from the door and let the bright stars careen around him.

‘Come on, you old bugger!’ said Neil. ‘Come away now.’

The others fell against each other in baseless mirth. Liam crashed down the steps and they set off raggedly, reflections dancing in a glittering alterworld.

‘It is nice to be outside; fresh,’ observed Ulrik.

‘Too right, Vegemite!’ said Yvonne.

The Dane frowned. ‘I am sorry? What is that?’

The group cobbled a questionable explanation and Ulrik again lamented that their history could never be his, no matter how he studied the language.

Yvonne raced like a sprite among the puddles. Neil lit a cigarette and ambled after her and the two embraced in the brash night. The others followed suit, savouring their own styles of intimacy.

Eventually they reassembled at a tram stop, their destination visible through sprays of barrelling taxis. Naked bulbs festooned the venue, pulsing counterpoint to the muffled boom within.

Liam signalled for silence. ‘Well, this is it folks … ‘

‘Over the top,’ added Neil.

‘Yes, quite. On the advice of the young and feisty Yvonne here, we are about to enter an alternate dimension, replete with alcohol and very loud music.’

‘Yyyay!’ said Yvonne.

Liam grinned. ‘I want us to form a cosmic circle, to unite our groovy energy before crossing over.’

‘Unreal,’ slurred Sonya, missing Sylvia and Ulrik’s outstretched hands.

Liam guided her back. ‘Is everyone ready?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Then let us clasp fingers, close eyes and meditate on this moment before it is lost forever.’

Sonya giggled. ‘Oummm.’

Another taxi roared past, leaving an uncanny quiet. The ring of revellers listened. The silence continued – palpable; like air conditioning shut down.

Sonya opened her eyes. ‘Sh*t! The place is deserted!’

The street was indeed empty. All noise had ceased, no vehicles approached and light rain had begun to fall, transforming the scene into a surreal tableaux. The six stood in awe of the strange aberration in such a busy district.

‘It is an omen!’ proclaimed Liam. ‘The stage is set; a sign imminent! We must wait and watch.’

‘I’m getting wet,’ said Sylvia.

‘My love, that is of no import. In any case, I presage that this experience will be brief. Just hold for a moment more and believe!’

‘All right then.’

Neil lifted his long arms. ‘Whence shall come this sign, Master? From the sky?’

Yvonne leapt onto a bench. ‘Yeah, from the sky?’

Liam gazed along the glistening tram tracks, listening like a blackbird. ‘Nay, children; not from the heavens. The sign shall issue from the earth. Hark! It approaches even now!’

At first there was only silence. Then a lone light materialized. It grew slowly, but remained too dull to belong to a modern vehicle. The collective expectation of a motorcycle faltered as the engine’s staccato identified it unmistakably as a Volkswagen. At last the image resolved into a Kombi-van. An ancient, dilapidated Kombi-van, with one headlight.

‘Behold!’ cried Liam. ‘The messenger!’

‘Hurrah,’ offered Ulrik.

The group gazed at rusty panels, faded flowers and dribbling slogans. The streetlights splayed over filthy windows, rendering the driver invisible. The rotting muffler vomited detonations as the van shuddered past on the slippery rails, a scrap yard its only credible destination.

Liam stepped into the street to witness the van’s departure. Sylvia spotted a phalanx of traffic and pulled him to the safety of the opposite footpath. The others followed. As the van disappeared, the spell dissolved and the street came back to life.

‘Well?’ said Neil.

‘It has begun,’ intoned Liam.

‘What has?’

Liam’s face was deadpan. ‘The Kombi-van rail cannon.’

‘What is that?’ asked Ulrik.

‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

Sonya punched Liam lightly in the chest. ‘Oh yes you do. You’re going to explain to my boyfriend, in simple terms, exactly what just happened.’

‘I cannot.’

‘Bullsh*t, man,’ said Yvonne. ‘You got us into this space. What was the bloody sign?’

‘There was no sign; I was mistaken.’

Neil approached Liam from behind and put him in a headlock. ‘Are you sure there was no sign, cobber?’

Liam looked at the ring of expectant faces. ‘Very well. Release me, oaf, and I will reveal all inside the beauteous Club Foramen.’

**********

They entered the dark, smoky space as the headline band came on. Pushing through bodies, Yvonne navigated closer to the stage, trailing the others behind her. The musicians tested their instruments, then launched into deafening orbit.

The lead guitarist was elf-like, her legs clad in velvet. A mesh top sat over a yellow brassiere. Over this hung a large flannel shirt, tied at the waist. Her hair was fastened with camouflage netting that trailed to the stage. A hand-rolled cigarette rode her tiny mouth, twisting as she wrung the neck of her Rickenbacker.

Behind her stood an Aryan percussionist. Her face shone as she thrashed her drums. Tattoos flexed and a thonged top strove to contain her as her arms fell in king hits.

To her left stood the bass player; tall and thin with angular face. Sheathed in a cat suit, her only adornments were a gold link belt and a spider ring that flashed and scuttled over her fretboard. She stood with one leg forward, regarding the audience with faint disdain – occasionally favouring the drummer with an undertaker’s smile.

The singer pranced and posed like a demented bride; prowling the stage in taffeta rags. With wild hair reaching for the rafters, she taunted the crowd, raged against them, lifted them and lay them on her lyrical bed. On her feet were silken points. In moments of complete incongruity, she interspersed her base gyrations with perfect pirouettes.

Spellbound, Yvonne and her girlfriends barely registered the boys’ retreat.

**********

Snooker balls clacked over burn-pitted baize, the music blunted by connecting doors. Neil set three glistening beers on the tiny table and took a stool.

Liam drank deeply. ‘Thanks, man.’

‘Enjoy it, friend. You’ll not get another till you explain the Kombi-van rail cannon.’

Liam smiled. ‘That old chestnut. Surely you don’t want to hear about that?’

‘I certainly do want to hear about it,’ said Ulrik.

‘Shoot,’ ordered Neil.

Liam massaged his eyes, triggering a head spin. ‘Under democracy, issues can be debated ad nauseam, increasing the time it takes for government to act.’

‘What is “Norseum”?’ asked Ulrik despondently.

‘Bear with me man; I’ll recap. This delay frustrates all players and infuriates the public.’

Neil took out his cigarettes. ‘I’m with you.’

‘Good. Now, a perennial threat to democracy is that discontent over inaction can lead to such disaffection that the system is rejected in favour of anarchy.’

‘Of course,’ mumbled Ulrik, staring at the filthy carpet.

‘To neutralize this threat, our government has created the Kombi-van rail cannon.’

Neil regarded Liam narrowly. ‘Go on.’

‘The Kombi-van rail cannon is designed to break deadlocks in the sort of drawn-out debates that really get people’s goats.’

‘Like?’

‘Reconciliation, euthanasia, injecting rooms, the Republic.’

‘I see. And how does it work? Exactly.’

‘Well, simply put, each party to a debate constructs a blockhouse to protect a carton of eggs. They then attempt to destroy each other’s installations with Kombi-van rail cannons. The last side with an intact egg wins the debate.’

Neil took a long drag. ‘Are you trying to tell me that what we saw tonight was … a projectile?’

Liam sipped his beer. ‘Precisely.’

‘You Australians are f*cking crazy,’ spat Ulrik. ‘I am going to the band.’

Neil ignored him. ‘How come we’ve never heard about this bold new concept?’

‘The government wants to enrage the media, to maximise subsequent coverage.’

‘How come you know about it?’

‘It was trialled successfully in Chad and our government loves benchmarking. The signs have been there, for those who know how to look.’

‘But, why Kombi-vans?’

‘Symbol of the people. Worked for Hitler. Did you see the detonator on the bonnet?’

‘No,’ said Neil, with heavy sarcasm. ‘And I suppose the windows were treated to stop us seeing inside?’

‘Bloody oath! Imagine the panic if people realised they were pilotless.’

Pilotless?’

‘Of course! Why do you think it’s called a rail cannon?’

‘So it goes on … rails, does it? On our tram lines, to be precise.’

‘Correct.’

‘So, what if one of these vans hits a f*cking tram?’

‘Impossible; they’re launched according to timetable. You’ll only ever see ’em late at night. That’s the best time.’

Neil crushed his butt. ‘You’re full of sh*t, man; I don’t believe you.’

Liam stared at him. ‘Why not? You think our government isn’t capable of something like this?’

A minute passed.

‘All right smart arse; why haven’t we heard an explosion?’

‘Two possibilities. One: we’re in a club with the loudest band in the world. Two: the van hasn’t reached its target yet. That line runs as far as Kew, you know.’

‘My parents live in Kew!’

‘So you believe me.’

‘Of course I bloody don’t! In any case, I’d know if a blockhouse had been built there.’

‘I wouldn’t be so sure, mate. Who can tell what they’re building these days, once those hoardings go up?’

‘Do you know the location of any of the blockhouses?’

‘No. But I’m confident at least one will be fairly pinpointed by morning.’

Neil drained his glass and scowled.

Liam stood. ‘My shout?’

‘For the moment, you bastard. But this discussion is far from over.’

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

The spruiker

April 17, 2015 at 8:00 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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The traffic lights went red and Sydney Road turned expectantly for Ray’s first syllable.

Ray polished his shoes, put on his best suit and took his resume to the interview. He needn’t have bothered; the Bargain Bin was not a professionally managed operation.

The balding director waved at a couch with a Winfield Blue and hairy, ring-ridden fingers. His mobile battled love handles for a purchase on his belt, while his staff pecked sullenly at computer terminals to hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

‘Siddown. I’m expecting 20 of youse.’

Ray waited patiently. Two more applicants arrived, both nervous and twitchy. Latching onto Ray they began simultaneous, high-speed monologues. After a while, they found two things in common: broken homes and car accident injuries. To Ray’s intense relief they bonded, crossed the foyer and studiously continued their prattle.

Eventually it became clear that the other 17 candidates had better things to do. The director waded towards the three whose chances of employment had improved out of sight. There was no interview or audition, the theme of the director’s address being, ‘Youse’ll all get a go to see how ya get on’.

Ray watched with surprise as his new colleagues, having missed the message completely, began a mellifluous ingratiation contest.

‘Perhaps I could dress in costume – a gorilla or the Easter Bunny – something of that order – so as to entice more patrons into your shop? I was once the Lolly Gobble Bliss Bomb Boy, you know. And the Town Crier at the Cheltenham shopping centre.’

‘Have you heard about the special at Tandy? For $19.95 you can buy a microphone which transmits to a radio frequency. All you need do is bring your own stereo and tune it to the microphone. Perhaps your other employees could make use of this technology. You could save a great deal of money.’

The director heard them out; Ray couldn’t imagine why. When they had exhausted their store of offerings, there began the allocation of territories. Ray was given Coburg. It wasn’t close, but he was prepared to travel for $20 an hour. He thanked the director and took his leave as the others argued the relative merits of Maribyrnong and Moonee Ponds.

**********

The Coburg Bargain Bin has the same stock and layout as every other metropolitan store. It is different, however, in terms of its careworn fittings and the tang of despair which hangs, like machine shop mist, in the fluorescent air.

In Prahran and the CBD, browsers pick up an item or two on impulse. In Coburg, the Bargain Bin is an essential source of substitutes for those unable to afford the real thing. For these Australians, chocolate is waxy, nuts are bitter and perfume loses its fragrance on application. Better than Somalia, certainly. But poverty is relative.

**********

Having scored a park outside the shop, Ray suppressed his nerves and went inside. A stout young woman with the eyes of a survivor greeted him pleasantly and summoned the manager over the tinny intercom. Plastered with pricing stickers and sporting a bird’s nest of dyed hair, Soula bustled from the back room and received Ray’s handshake uncertainly, then pointed out the day’s specials.

Ray took notes, filled two baskets with bargains and carried them outside. The woman plugged in his extension cord and soon all was ready. The traffic lights went red and Sydney Road turned expectantly for Ray’s first syllable. Heart pounding, he took up his microphone and reached into a basket: cat food. He began in a hoarse and quavering voice.

‘Er … good morning and welcome to the Bargain Bin … I’m, um, Ray and today we have some wonderful specials for you … today. Um … specials like this … cat food for only … 50 cents a can. That’s four cans for … um … two dollars. And, um, we have dog food … too. Here … Today …’

The lights went green and Coburg turned its collective back on the performance. Ray felt sick; he had four hours to fill.

He struggled on, having no impact on the flow of customers into the shop. He felt like a failure, both to himself and to his employer. Then the director’s words came back to him: ‘They’re bunnies; they go for noise and movement. Doesn’t matter what you say or do; just get their attention.’

Ray realised there was no need to be boring and facile. He was a writer and performer of things black, surreal and occasionally funny. He resolved to see how far he could pursue his own twisted path while selling crap from a footpath. He returned to the odious cat food, from a very different direction.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, the thing about cats is that they do not watch television. Nor can they read. Hence they are unmoved by the advertising of multinational conglomerates. Cats are not interested in two grams of sun-dried tuna, served on crystal and costing more than cocaine. Rather, they are interested in having sex and forcing as much food down their throats as possible.

‘The Bargain Bin recognises this truth. We have large tins of cat food for only fifty cents. Gram for gram, this represents a saving of over $320 in comparison to the sliver of tinfoil known as Sheba – available in the David Jones food court. Nor have we placed any limit on the number of tins you may buy. As far as we’re concerned, you may arrive with a flat tray truck and purchase our entire stock in one hit. Yes! Unlike the supermarkets, you may exploit our bargains to your heart’s content.’

To Ray’s delight, several people slowed, then turned into the shop.

‘At the Bargain Bin, we have more bargains that you can poke two sticks at. We have everything you could possibly need. We even have a wide range of things you don’t need. And our prices are so low you can afford to hurl your unnecessary purchases straight into the bin, unused, the moment you get home.’

The trickle of customers swelled. Ray held up a six pack of toilet paper and raised the bar.

‘I believe society can be divided into two categories. There are people who pay $3.50 for six rolls of toilet paper, and there are people who pay $1.50 for six rolls of toilet paper. Those in the first category lead miserable, stunted lives, devoid of pleasure and meaning. I, in the second category, choose to spend only $1.50 for a product whose use is temporal and whose fate is preordained. I elect to save $2.00 every time I buy toilet paper. I thus have more discretionary income for really exciting things, like, drugs, gambling and wild, salacious women.’

Inside the shop, a second register was opened to cope with the influx. Ray’s second hour flew and the lunchtime rush began. Superglue, candles, confectionery, sticky-tape, Tupperware, hose fittings, greeting cards, baby clothes. All became subjects of a relentless socio-political discourse. A middle-aged Asian man mistook Ray for a busker and tossed him forty-five cents.

His bold approach thus validated, Ray turned up his amplifier. A screech of feedback startled the street. As Ray fought to bring the unit under control, a shadow fell across him. He looked up. It was the owner of the bottle shop next door.

‘You crack my window with that racket and I’ll crack your face.’

Ray beheld the man’s bloody minded determination, and the blonde he was seeking to impress. He thought of witty retorts, which he was too weak to deliver, and retreated. Victorious, the man smugly took the waist of his mistress and began loudly extolling the virtues of his shopfront. Burning with rage, Ray fiddled with his merchandise. An employee from the same bottle shop sauntered past and bluntly added his disapproval of the morning’s performance.

**********

Ray took a break to settle his nerves, then carefully tuned and oriented his amplifier away from the bottle shop. Slowly, he got back into the swing of things.

‘These jigsaw puzzles are only one dollar each! So cheap that if your child chokes on one of the pieces, you’ll have saved enough to pay for the hospital bill!’

Car passengers wound down their windows and grinned. A knot of youths stood off and endeavoured to look cool.

‘Many of you with gardens will be familiar with their propensity to grow, especially in spring. The Bargain Bin can help you combat this phenomenon with the Big Scary Saw. This saw is not only big, it’s scary. In fact, the American Institute of Weapons Research, which plots tool size and scariness relative to price, has rated this saw a whopping 9.71 on the Big Scary Saw Scale.

‘Nor is the Big Scary Saw’s use limited to pruning. With the advent of Victoria’s gun control legislation, the Big Scary Saw is an ideal substitute for dealing with difficult domestic situations. It can also be used to discipline children, repel home invaders and cut the heads off garden gnomes.’

People smiled as they passed. Many went inside the shop. Curious children had to be dragged away. At the end of a well-received monologue on the Amazonian Tiger Lily’s ability to self-fertilise, the knot of youths moved forward.

With thick lips and pimples, the leader stepped close to Ray.

‘Gi’s a go on the mike, will ya?

‘No, sorry mate, I cant.’

‘Carn mate, gi’s a go!’

‘No, I can’t, mate. Sorry.’

‘Gi’s a f*ckin’ go, C*NT!’

The youth seized the microphone and yelled ‘GET F*CKED M*THAF*CKAAAAR!’ to his suburb. The gang fell about with laughter. Ray snatched back the microphone and summoned his most threatening face. The leader leered defiantly and stared back. Ray held the gaze, panicking for his fragile amplifier. The seconds passed until suddenly, the young man feigned a punch, halting his fist millimeters from Ray’s nose.

To his own astonishment, Ray did not flinch. The leader noted the assembling onlookers. With a final insult, he ceded to the imprecations his friends and withdrew. Ray realised why the money for his new job was so good.

**********

After the third hour, Ray began to come out of shock. Rival shops had hastily pressganged their employees to counter his pull on customers. The bored voices of back-room staff droned through bodgy tannoys.

Ray felt safer for their presence and flattered by their attempts to emulate him. Filled with the desire to blow them off the planet, he picked up a lime green, sausage-shaped draught stopper and swung it around his head, narrowly missing an exiting customer. A tram halted and a group of tourists pointed and laughed.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is without doubt the most exciting product in the Bargain Bin’s range of consumer goods. A product whose use is limited only by your imagination, and one which can save your marriage overnight.’

Afternoon shoppers looked at the whirling sausage and snorted with surprise.

‘Tomorrow is Friday. I want you to get a slab of beer and/or a couple of bottles of red. I want you to buy one of these items and lay it on your kitchen table. I want you to turn off all the lights in your home and fill it with the twenty-cent candles I spoke about earlier. Then, when your partner gets home, I want you to change his or her life by …’

A grey Akubra caught Ray’s eye. He lowered the draught stopper and fumbled to a close. A silver badge reading “Bruno, Moreland Council” moved toward him.

‘How’s it going?’ enquired Bruno.

‘Oh, pretty good. Yeah. Not bad.’

‘We’ve had a few complaints; four in the last hour, actually. Could I see your permit please?’

Ray’s blood chilled. ‘Permit?’

Bruno unfolded a many-times photocopied paragraph.

Ray read the by-law he had unwittingly violated. He pointed behind him. ‘I’m employed by the store. They’ve probably got a permit inside.’

‘They don’t; we warned them three times last week about this.’

‘Well, surely it’s a matter between you and them, then.’

‘No. You’re the one breaking the law. This is between you and the Council.’

‘What’s the penalty?’

‘First offence, $100.’

‘Jesus. Five hours’ work.’

After an impassioned plea, Bruno let Ray off with a warning.

Ray alerted the store manager.

‘Oh, they’re always threatening us. Don’t pay any attention; they’re just full of hot air.’

‘I have to pay attention, Soula. I can’t afford a hundred buck fine! Can’t you get a permit?’

‘I’ll talk to the boss. What d’you want to do? Are you gonna go home?’

‘It’s almost knock off time. Maybe I will go home. Can you get the boss to let me know what the story is?’

‘Sure.’

‘How’d we do today?’

‘You did good. You were fine.’

‘See you, then.’

‘Yeah, see ya.’

**********

Ray is still waiting for his cheque.

The director of the Bargain Bin has advised that he is ‘looking into’ the permit situation.

 Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by Lauri Rantala.

What’s that, Skip?

September 11, 2009 at 9:01 am | Posted in Short Story | 2 Comments
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Truth can be stranger than fiction.

Eleven hundred bucks to insure a ten-grand Barina? I don’t think so. Not unless you’re planning to drive off a cliff. We’d saved too hard for this holiday and nothing was going to stop us living it up in Adelaide.

Nothing, that is, until we missed the Ararat turnoff and hurtled into the Grampians at sunrise.

Of course I’d heard about hitting Skippy in the twilight, but she’d always looked so delicate on the telly. What match was a moth-eaten marsupial for a gleaming tan hatchback with 1.3 litres of power?

When ‘Stumpy’ the seven foot mob champion slammed into us, the windscreen filled with fur and split. The engine shrieked, the chassis shuddered and the cabin turned festive with warning lights as we tracked towards a deep culvert.

With time running at one tenth normal speed, I managed to ease the crippled vehicle to a halt. We exited via the good door and moved away from the sound of steam and fizzing battery acid.

Bereft, I tottered up the road like Ruth Cracknell as dawn burnished the landscape. Stumpy was nowhere to be seen.

Four hours, 22 km and $200 later, I surveyed the ruin of our holiday as ‘Fred’s’ tow truck dumped it among former victims.

‘Kangaroo?’ inquired a broken Commodore.

I turned, too exhausted to be surprised. ‘Yeah.’

‘They call him ‘Stumpy’.’

‘No sh*t.’

A Gemini lisped – engine bay crushed to half its size. ‘Did he get your lion?’

‘My what?’

‘Your little lion; off the bonnet. He collects them.’

I knelt and spotted a tuft of fur where the badge had been. ‘Um … Look’s like it.’

‘Definitely Stumpy,’ chorused the yard, before reverting to country silence.

 Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

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