Copyright 2014 Don Caswell
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people and events is purely coincidental.
A proportion of the population find humour in scatological references. Unfortunately perhaps, I am one of them. If you are offended by such attempts at humour then you should exit this book right now. For the rest of you – enjoy.
Table of Contents
Chapter One – Parasite Horror
Chapter Two – Carlo’s Revenge
Chapter Three – Pooper-Scooper
Chapter Four – Yowie Poo
Chapter One – Parasite Horror
Great Aunt Maude used to visit us most years. She was Mum’s aunty. Mum’s mother had passed on long before and there was some sort of implied obligation to host Maude when she caught the train up to see us. I remember her visits from when I was not much more than a toddler. And, of course, her last visit which took place when I was a teenager is engraved indelibly in my memory, and the family’s too.
We never got much pleasure out of her two week invasion of our otherwise harmonious domain. She was always a dour old thing, but in later years became a dreadful snob as well. Not that she was anything special, just plain working class folk like us. However, after her children went through university, with Kevin eventually becoming a professor, and her daughter Claire high in the Federal Public Service, well you would have thought she was the Queen Mother.
In her later years, once her children had reached what was in her eyes the stratosphere, she suddenly affected a sophisticated accent. In reality it was gratingly fake; an absolute parody of a real sophisticated voice. She was prone to putting her nose disdainfully in the air and say, “Oh, yaiss,” quite a lot. Dad used to say she was a character straight out of Dickens and occasionally in asides to Mum, which he thought we could not hear, would refer to her as Eliza, or Miss D. As a youngster I thought that was some sort of confirmation of her self-declared greatness and so my younger siblings and I held old Maude in awe for a long time.
Dad normally did not say much at all about Maude, or anyone for that matter, so when he expressed a rare opinion of somebody in our presence it seemed to have great authority. It was not until I was a bit more mature and in junior high school that I began reading Shaw and Dickens. When I did, suddenly the true import of my Dad’s thoughts on Maude became clear to me. It was a bit of a shock, but meshed with a growing feeling of dislike for her that had been quietly dwelling within me for some years.
The starting point for what transpired began quite innocently enough. We were mercifully nearing the end of Maude’s latest visit. The conversation around the dinner table was becoming more strained with each successive evening. Even us kids could feel it. Maude was utterly oblivious to such signs of social unease however. She was completely self absorbed, I reckon.
We had just finished our main meal when Mum, striving to maintain pleasant small talk, asked with a wan smile, “I noticed you got a letter from Claire today. Anything interesting to report?”
“Well, yaiss as a matter of fact, I do. Claire has sent a photo of her friends in Canberra. They are all very important women, you know. All very highly qualified. From university.”
Maude passed the photo to Mum. After some scrutiny, Mum passed the photo to me.
“Pass that along to your father please. That is a nice outfit Claire is wearing. Very business like. They all have rather short, severe haircuts, don’t they?”
“Oh, yaiss. It’s all the latest fashion, you know. Amongst important and well qualified ladies like Claire and her friends, at least. The clothes are tailor made, naturally. Power suits they are, for women in positions of great authority, you know. Oh, yaiss.”
I glanced at the photo. It looked like a group of women wrestlers, squeezed into men’s business suits and on their way to a fancy dress party. They were all big solid women. The haircuts were really short, military style. Crew-cuts we used to call them. There was no make up to be seen. Even to my tender years and emerging understanding, the photo just screamed butch!
I passed the photo on to Dad. We made brief eye contact and I raised my eyebrows as he took the photo. He studied it for a time.
“Hmm?” he said. That was mostly all he said, in any conversation with Maude, at least. But after a pause, he surprised us by expanding on that.
“Have Claire and … her chums … joined the Marines then?”
I had just enough understanding to fully appreciate that comment. An involuntary snort of laughter escaped me, but I managed to disguise it, poorly, as a cough. Mum looked askance, at me and Dad. She gave Dad the rarely seen, but ominous, look of daggers.
“Well, of course not. You don’t say much Gerald, but when you do it’s the strangest things. I wonder just what goes through your mind sometimes. Claire is way too qualified to go into the services. They would not let her. She has a very important role in Canberra. Her group advise the Prime Minister you know. Oh, yaiss.”
“Hmm! That big Maori girl there, with her arm, the big tattooed arm, around Claire, looks like Sergeant Major material to me.”
Mum’s look of daggers turned into the look of swords, but Dad seemed hell-bent and committed to this fascinating new path in the conversation.
“Oh, that’s Naomi. Lovely girl. She’s a princess in Tonga you know. Oh yaiss. Why, just before I came up here I visited Claire in Canberra. Naomi and her family organised a traditional mu-mu in my honour. Wonderful it was. Roast pig and all that. Oh yaiss. Her father and brothers actually hunt the pig and prepare it for the feast. The royal way, of course, oh yaiss.”
“What? They eat wild pig?”
“Oh yaiss. But, of course, it’s not just any old pig. Naturally, they are experts in all that. They take only the very best wild pigs, of course. Not just any old pig, like the hunters up here chase. Oh, no. These chaps are the top of the game, you know, in a class of their own. Oh, yaiss.”
“Eating wild pig can be dangerous Maude. There are parasites you can catch, like tapeworms, and worse. Things that can kill you or make you very ill.”
“That’s right Aunty Maude. Nobody we know eats wild pig,” Mum agreed with Dad.
Maude chuckled derisively, “Well, the hillbillies up here wouldn’t know anything about that. These Tongan Royals are extremely knowledgeable. They could run rings around your pig hunters up here. Oh, yaiss. Anyway, that was nearly a month ago and I never had the slightest reaction. Beautiful pork it was. Cooked perfectly, of course. Oh, yaiss.”
“Well, some of the things like tapeworm and other nasty parasites don’t always show their hand immediately. It can be quite some time.”
“Well really Gerry. You don’t seem to realise that these people are way above all that mundane stuff. They are leagues above and beyond all that, Claire and her friends are. Oh yaiss.”
Mum tried to rescue the deteriorating situation. Dad was sitting there, looking grim.
“Gerry’s getting up early in the morning to go fishing, so we should have fish for lunch, that’ll be nice, won’t it?”
“Well, I do like fish. Sometimes. Only some fish mind you. Kevin fly fishes for trout in the Snowy Mountains. Now that’s fishing. It requires great skill and only the very best in fishing gear. Very expensive. It’s quite exclusive, you know. Not any old Tom, Dick or Harry can hope to fish like that. Oh. Yaiss.”
“Gerry catches Whiting. They have lovely, delicate flesh. Fresh pan fried whiting with salad from our garden and homemade deep fries is one of our favourite weekend lunches,” Mum smiled reassuringly at Maude.
“Whiting, well yes, Claire and I often order whiting from the magnificent restaurant near her unit. The chef always comes out to talk to Claire because she is such a foodie. The chef recognises that of course and goes out of his way to try and please her. The whiting is not just any old whiting, naturally. It’s caught by master fisherman and flown straight to the restaurant. You couldn’t possibly get fish of that quality in these parts,” she put her nose in the air and sniffed disdainfully, “Oh, yaiss.”
“The whiting that Gerry brings home, fresh from the sea, are beautiful Maude.”
Maude smirked condescendingly, “Really Deidre, you don’t know much about fish. Then, I suppose you haven’t had the opportunities that Claire and Kevin have had. Or have acquired that degree of sophistication, either. Never mind, oh yaiss.”
For the first time I saw Mum visibly burr. Every meal for the last ten days had pretty much followed that script, as it always did. Jibe, after condescending jibe from the pompous, nasty old Maude. Mum had the patience of a saint with a prevailing kindness of epic proportions, but she came so close to losing it that night.
Dad saved the day by neatly diverting Mum’s simmering wrath. “Darling! What’s for dessert tonight, again? You did tell me, but I’ve forgotten.”
We moved past that awkward moment. Maude was oblivious to that, as she always was, and rolled on with her dominating monologue about how wonderful Kevin and Claire were. Mum and Dad pleaded tiredness after a busy week and the need for an early night given Dad’s early start in the morning. After I went to bed, and before I went to sleep, I could hear the quiet murmur of my parents talking in bed. I reckon old Maude gave them plenty to talk about.
The next morning, with Dad gone fishing, Mum went on a baking frenzy. I figured she just needed something to keep her occupied while Maude droned on and on. By mid morning the house was filled with the wonderful aroma of homemade baking. The kitchen table was covered with a great selection of cakes and biscuits. Perhaps alerted by the delightful smell, one of Mum’s friends called in. Mum was busy whipping up a large bowl of brightly coloured icing. It was one of our favourites. We lined up and took the warm cupcakes, slathered with rich icing, as fast as Mum could trowel the icing on and pass them to us.
“Goodness gracious Deidre, surely you are not letting the children eat all those cakes and that icing? I never let my Kevin or Claire eat such things.”
“That figures,” commented Mum dryly, without pausing in her feeding cakes to us.
“Of course, I don’t normally eat such sweet thing myself either. I don’t really like sweet icing or cakes. Claire and I normally get proper French pastries from the most amazing shop. Pierre is a wonderful pastry chef. He just adores Claire. Because she knows so much about French cuisine, of course. Oh, yaiss.”
Despite her protestations to the contrary, the old girl was fairly hoeing into the cakes and icing. Mum made a pot of tea and took cups and a plate of cake out on to the veranda.
“You and your friend have a chat over a cuppa. I’ll help the boys to clean up the kitchen while you have a rest,” Maude offered. Her idea of helping us clean the kitchen was to sit on a kitchen chair and continue to eat icing-laden cakes while issuing commands to us.
Sometime later, as I passed through the kitchen, Mum asked, “Where did you guys put the leftover icing and the last tray of cakes?”
“There wasn’t any leftover icing, or cakes.”
“Don’t tell me you boys ate it all?”
“Then where is it?”
“Aunty Maude ate it.”
“What! All of it?”
At that moment we heard Dad coming up the back steps. He put a bulging bag in the sink and walked over to put his arm around Mum and give her a kiss.
“How was your morning, Love?”
“Phew! Okay, I guess. I did a heap of baking and the boys were extra good and cleaned up for me.”
“Cool!” Dad reached out to tussle my hair, “good on you Spike!”
“You caught some fish I see,” observed Mum.
“Yes indeed my Dear. Twenty nice whiting,” Dad paused then corrected himself, “well, not proper whiting, of course! Just the hillbilly rubbish we catch up here.”
Mum smiled and gave him a hug, “Don’t be like that Honey. Only a couple more days. You’ve been so wonderful. I’m proud of you. But, you stink of fish and sweat! Go and have a shower, please.”
“I’ll scale them for you Dad, while you are having a shower.”
“Crikey, my day is getting better and better. Good one Spike! Maybe next time you better come and help me catch a few, eh?”
I took the bag of fish to the laundry and tipped them into the wash tub. Having filled the tub with water I began scaling the whiting. Suddenly the laundry door burst open and Maude barged through in a great hurry. She was half doubled over and clutching her lower stomach.
“Oh! I have a terrible tummy ache.”
“You might have to wait. Dad’s just gone in for a shower.”
Our house was a simple three bedroom house with a single bathroom that included the WC.
“No, no, no. I have to go, Right now! Oh!”
With that she ran off through the house and hammered loudly on the bathroom door.
“Gerry, quick. Let me in please. I have to use the loo. It’s urgent, hurry! Hurry!”
After a short delay Dad emerged with a towel wrapped around him. Maude nearly bowled him off his feet as she leapt into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Dad wandered into the kitchen as Mum came in.
“Maude’s got a ferocious gut ache, I reckon.”
“That’s no surprise, she gobbled a whole tray of cakes and a huge bowl of icing.”
“I thought she didn’t eat sweets?”
“Well, she protests that all the time, but put anything sweet near and she vacuums it up real quick, I can tell you.”
Mum made a cup of tea for Dad, who was perched awkwardly on a kitchen chair, holding his towel tight around his waist. The minutes passed, the suddenly there was an horrendous shriek from the bathroom. Mum spit her tea and leapt up, running to the bathroom door.
“Aunty Maude, are you alright?” Maude wailed loudly again before replying.
“No, call a doctor. I need a doctor right away, hurry.”
“What’s wrong. Let me in to help.”
“No. Call the doctor. Hurry. Get him here fast.”
Mum spent a few more moments trying to cajole Maude into letting her into the bathroom, but to no avail. So, Mum raced off to grab the phone and call our family doctor. Dad and I waited in the kitchen. Mum paused to talk quietly to Maude through the bathroom door for a while, before joining us in the kitchen.
“Maude won’t let me in or tell me what’s wrong.”
“Is Doctor Carson coming?”
“Oh, yes. Luckily, he had just finished his Saturday morning clinic and was about to go home. He should be here soon. He said he would call an ambulance as well.”
“Bloody Hell,” said Dad.
We heard the siren first. It was faint and a long way off, but very distinct in that quiet weekend neighbourhood. Doctor Carson drove up a bit ahead of the ambulance. Mum met him at his car and gave him a quick briefing before leading him through to the bathroom.
“Aunty Maude, Doctor Carson is here to see you.”
Maude opened the door a crack. Her face was deathly white and she was trembling. Having assessed the doctor, she let him in to the bathroom and closed the door behind him. We could hear the murmur of their voices. Outside the ambulance arrived in a blaze of flashing lights and its blaring siren. A posse of kids on bicycles trailed it into our street. Up and down the road neighbours were coming out to see what manner of catastrophe was unfolding. The ambulance guys finally shut the siren off and then busied themselves in getting the folding stretcher out of the ambulance.
The bathroom door opened a crack and the doctor looked out.
“Deidre? Could you get me a small glass, or jar. Nothing special. You might not get it back.”
Mum looked a little puzzled, but took one of her stash of clean, empty small bottles that she used when making jam. She walked down to the bathroom.
“Ah! Excellent. I’ll take the screw top lid as well, please.”
The doctor withdrew into the bathroom and closed the door. The two ambulance men now managed to wheel their stretcher into the house.
“Where’s the patient?”
“Doctor is in the bathroom with her at the moment. I expect he’ll be out soon.”
Inside we could hear the low murmur of voices, which suddenly escalated.
“What?” we heard Maude yell loudly, followed by some more murmuring. Again we could hear Maude’s clearly agitated voice but could not hear what she was actually saying. The murmur of the doctor’s voice had a reassuring tone .
Suddenly the bathroom door swung wide open. Maude strode out of the bathroom without looking left or right, not saying a word to anybody. She stormed through the house to her bedroom and slammed the door shut.
The gathered family and the ambulance men looked to the doctor in some bewilderment.
“Ahem,” said Doctor Carson, “your Aunty Maude thought she was suffering from some sort of gruesome parasite as a result of having recently eaten wild pork.”
“Yes, we were only just talking about that. Is she alright?”
“Yes. I have no evidence that she is suffering anything of the sort. Mind you, eating wild pork is a risk factor that I would not recommend. However, your aunty has not been the victim of a cruel joke, I hope?”
“No of course not. Why would she think that? We said pretty much what you just said about eating wild pork. That’s all.”
The doctor raised the jar for all to see.
Mum stifled a shriek and looked faint. She clutched at Dad’s arm.
“Oh My God! What is that horrible thing? Is it a tapeworm?” Mum looked sick at the thought of it. Dad looked sheepish. The ambulance men laughed heartily.
No, it’s not a tapeworm. Or anything like that,” replied the stern looking doctor.
Mum took a tentative step closer to the jar, without relinquishing hold of Dad’s arm. In the water filled bottle a semi-transparent, viscera-coloured, segmented shape with multiple legs and feelers was swimming vigorously about.
“It’s not a tapeworm?” Mum sought assurance.
“No,” said the doctor, who I could see was struggling to keep a straight face while glaring at the sniggering ambulance bearers, “but I am sure Gerry can tell you exactly what it is.”
“It’s a yabby. Some people call them ghost shrimp. I use them for bait when I go fishing. They’re a soft shelled sort of prawn that lives deep in the sand.”
“But how? ….”
“When I go fishing I put a handful of them in my shirt pocket, after breaking off their nipper, so they can’t pinch me. I forgot to let the last few of them go at the beach before I came home, so I was going to flush them down the loo. When Maude kicked me out of the bathroom I didn’t notice this one was still swimming about. Sorry.”
“Yes. When your aunty suffered severe diarrhoea, and then saw this thing paddling about, she leapt to the conclusion it was a parasite of some sort related to her recent eating of wild pork. As we have all seen, it gave her a terrible fright.”
“Is she alright Doctor?” Mum’s caring nature quickly resurfaced.
“Well, she is a bit distressed, so I am leaving her these tablets, which she can begin taking immediately. That will help calm her down. She is also angry as all get out, but that’s your problem. Good afternoon.”
The doctor wasted no time in getting into his car. I was pretty sure I could see him laughing as he drove away. The ambulance bearers were trying to curtail their chuckles. One of the guys developed severe hiccoughs as a result. They seemed to be in a great hurry to be packed up and be gone as well.
The next couple of days were very quiet. Maude had gone silent and only the barest monosyllabic responses could be drawn from her. It was a great relief to all when we got Maude to the railway station for her return trip. She had saved a few words for her departure.
“Goodbye Deidre. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life and I am never coming back!”
With that she took her seat and stared steadfastly ahead waiting for the train to depart. Clearly there was no need for us to be there anymore so we walked back out into the car park. Mum was a bit upset and went on ahead with my little brothers while I walked with Dad. He leaned in close to me and, in the quietest of whispers so Mum would not hear, he said, “Oh yaiss!”
Chapter Two – Carlo’s Revenge
Back in the late 1940s my father worked as a boner at the Lakes Creek meatworks in Rockhampton. It was a large processing plant situated right on the shores of the Fitzroy River. The works employed a large workforce. Quite a few of the meat workers, like my dad, were returned servicemen from WWII. Coming from an era where men resolved their own differences, and tempered by the recent brutality of war, there were some hard and uncompromising men amongst them.
That post-war Australia was changing in many ways. Until then it had been of largely Anglo-Saxon and Celtic ethnicity deriving from the British convicts and settlers that had pioneered the newly found continent. Suddenly, in that post-war period there was the beginning of another series of immigration waves, coming this time from war-torn Europe.
It was a shock to the WWII veterans to find these newly arrived emigrants appearing in their work places. That was especially so in some cases where these “New Australians” were from countries that we had only recently been fighting. This was particularly the case in regard to the Italians.
The Italians, to their credit, were hard workers keen to establish a new life, raise families and prosper in the peaceful and promising Australia of that time. However, the Australia of those days was culturally insular and a long way from the homogenised and politically correct society we have today. Blatant discrimination and racism was the order of the day.
There was a strong union movement, organised and run by especially hard case veterans. The Italians mostly had little or no English skills and were relegated to the more menial tasks and largely excluded from the better paying and easier jobs.
So it was that my dad and his co-workers found one day that they had half a dozen new Italian labourers and cleaners. Mostly they were older guys who kept their heads down and just got on with their work. They stoically endured the jibes and insults of the bullies amongst the Australian meat workers.
There was however a youngster amongst them. He was a lean, good looking young fellow of about nineteen. There was a spark in his eyes and the hint of a feisty spirit in his demeanour. One day as my father was working at his station one of his co-workers called out to the young Italian.
“Hey! Luigi! Come here and clean this mess up.”
The young fellow sauntered over, mop over his shoulder.
“I’m not a Luigi. My name Carlo.”
“Just clean that up … Luigi.”
“You wanta Luigi, I go a get him? But maybe take a time. No Luigi work here. Not yet.”
“Smart arse Dago. Just clean that mess up!”
“I not a dago. I Italiano. Carlo. You want Carlo clean a mess, you ask a proper.”
The Aussie made a move to get down from the elevated platform he was standing on.
“I’ll give you bloody Carlo,” he snarled. The Italian did not take a back step either.
Luckily, the foreman came over before the situation escalated.
“Carlo, please clean that up,” he indicated the spillage.
“Yes. Sure a thing boss.”
“And you Bob, get back up there and get to work. The war’s over you know.”
“Too right it’s over and we kicked those dago’s arses,” he glared at the mopping Carlo, “and don’t you bloody well forget it!”
Carlo totally ignored him and kept mopping.
There were little or no environmental considerations for industry in those days. The meat works pumped a large flow of water out of the river and used that for cooling and cleaning. All the bloody wastes, including bits of offal and meat trimmings were simply hosed into the drains. The various open drains then combined and simply flowed straight back into the river.
The toilets were in a row, perched over the big concrete drain of flowing river water. Human waste joined that of the slaughter house on its way to the river. The seats in the toilet cubicles simply had a large hole with the flowing water passing directly underneath. In winter it could be a bit nippy, but in warm weather it was cool and pleasant location to answer a call of nature, or just plain chill out.
The cubicles were quite popular in summer. The boners worked to a tally system. The better boners would finish their quota, or tally, ahead of the other, slower men and then retire to toilets to leisurely read the paper. There were no crib rooms or such in those days. Facilities for the workers were rudimentary at best, if not totally lacking. Hence the attraction of the cubicles.
On Carlo’s last day at Lakes Creek meatworks he had gone to the toilet to answer an urgent call of nature. The eight cubicles were sitting there empty. He chose the nearest, the first in the line of loos. As he sat there the gun boners started to take up their positions in the other cubicles. There was the rustle of newspapers being read. Mostly the guys were there to just read their papers and they did not even bother to close the cubicle doors.
Now it so happened that the boners union rep considered the first loo his own private territory. He was Dan Morgan, tough as nails, a hard-core WWII veteran with an attitude.
“Who’s in my spot,” he bellowed. All the other early finishing boners knew better than to take the first cubicle. He had thumped a few guys who had the temerity to think otherwise.
“Who’s in there!” He rattled the door for emphasis.
“Hey, is a Carlo. Hang on a minute.”
“Hang on yourself,” bellowed the union rep and he slammed the door open.
“Hey!” yelled a surprised Carlo, sitting there with his pants down around his ankles.
The big man grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and hurled him out and down the few steps to the ground below.
“Go shit in the bush you Dago bastard! This is my spot.”
The young man sat there on the cold hard floor, stunned for a moment. There was a chorus of laughter down the row of cubicles.
“That’s telling him Danny,” somebody called out approvingly.
Carlo pulled his trousers back on and then stood up. He did not display any emotion as he looked up and down the row of loos.
One of the cubicle residents looked over the top of his paper, “Go on, piss off, before I come down there and give you a flogging!”
Carlos unconcernedly dusted himself off and adjusted his shirt and belt. He appeared to have reached some sort of decision. One of the older workers, a caring old guy, came over and took Carlo by the arm.
“Carlo, don’t go looking for trouble here. These buggers will kick the shit out of you. You wouldn’t stand a chance. So, just walk away.”
“Thanks a Jimmy. Carlo no cause trouble, not look to fight. It’s a okay.”
Carlo walked casually away. Firstly he went and got his bicycle and placed it at the front gate. Then he went and saw the foreman.
“I a quit. No more work here. I leave right now. I collect pay later sometime. Bye.”
Carlo walked back to the toilets. Only ten minutes had elapsed and the eight men were still enthroned in their cubicles. A collection of other mere mortals had started to gather as they finished their tally quotas as well. The gathered men smoked and chatted as they waited for the ruling elite to vacate the loos. They had heard of Carlo’s eviction. While not on Carlo’s side the gathered men had no great love for the eight guys in the loos. They were well down the pecking order and not part of that tough little group. All had previously suffered varying degrees of bullying from those hard men.
They watched Carlo with interest. The young Italian had kept out of sight of the men in the cubicles. He picked up a number of old newspapers and took himself up to the wall where the big effluent drain emerged through the wall of the building. The concrete trough was about three feet high and about as wide. The flowing water came up to within six inches of the trough lip. The toilets were perched a bit higher that the concrete drain. The gap between the bottom of the cubicles and the water was about two feet high.
Where Carlo stood against the wall of the shed was about ten or fifteen metres from the first loo. He began to disassemble the newspapers and loosely crumple the pages. In a few minutes he had constructed a large fluffy sausage of crumpled newspaper that was about two feet in diameter and nearly six feet long.
The watching men were intrigued as to what he was doing. Carlo carefully lifted his construction up onto the concrete lip of the drain and positioned it there. He ran his eye over it and then down the length of the drain and the toilet cubicles. A few of the crowd of spectators began to get an inkling of his intentions and whispered their perceptions to their friends. There were some suppressed chortles and growing anticipation amongst the spectators.
Satisfied with his construction, Carlo pulled out his cigarette lighter and his smokes. He casually lit a smoke and drew on it reflectively for a while. Then he snapped his lighter once more and ran it along the paper torpedo. He kept it balanced on the lip of the drain until it was burning nicely. Then with a delicate push he rolled the flaring mass of crumpled newspaper into the flowing water.
Carlo stood for a few moments as the current sped the water-borne conflagration toward its target. With a nod of approval he then turned and sprinted for the front gate at full speed. Leaping onto his bicycle he pedalled furiously and disappeared out of sight. Rumour has it that he checked out of his boarding house and caught the midday train out of town; a wise move on his part.
His revenge on the bullies worked better than he could have expected and the story was widely circulated around town for years to come. Danny was the first out of the blocks. He had actually dropped his pants to better appreciate the water-cooled breeze blowing down the drain. The heat and flames of the now vigorously burning newspapers burnt the hair off his arse and scrotum and scorched those areas most tender on a man. With a roar of anguish he leapt out of the cubicle and tumbled down the stairs to the hard floor, just as Carlo had done ten minutes earlier.
Perplexed, the other occupants wondered what ailed their companions as each in turn found out they too were scorched about the nether regions. The tumbling mass of half naked men rolled about on the floor bellowing. Wisps of smoke and the most unpleasant smell of burnt arse hair filled the air. The spectators could not contain themselves and roared with laughter. This of course was far from appreciated and the tough Danny hastily pulled on his trousers and proceeded to grab the nearest laughing spectator and punch him.
Maybe it was years of suppressed anger, or maybe the strength of numbers, or perhaps Carlo’s revenge had enthused them, but the onlookers were having none of that from Danny and his mean mates. In no time there was a major donnybrook in full swing. The eight occupants were hard men but they were outnumbered. Even the normally meeker members of the onlookers felt emboldened and sought to land a few blows of their own. It was described as the best brawl in Rocky for years.
For the management it was a golden opportunity and they took it. A dozen men got the sack, amongst them the eight toughs. Carlo’s revenge was more than complete.
Chapter Three – Pooper Scooper
Back in the late sixties I was a teenager. A friend of mine lived on a farm not far from me. I used to visit there frequently. We shot targets with our air rifles and generally hung out in his Dad’s large shed. One day we spotted an advertisement in the local paper for army surplus which listed crated WWII vintage military courier motorcycles. Apparently these were still in their original packing boxes and had never been assembled and used. With hundreds of acres of farm at our disposal we had visions of tearing about the place and doing all sorts of nifty tricks on such a machine.
These surplus bikes were cheap but even so would require us to pool our meagre resources for a purchase. Bobby and I were still a bit short for such a transaction. That’s where Pete came in. He was Bobby’s cousin and lived on a ramshackle farm a bit further out. Pete probably would not have much in the way of cash to contribute, but he did have some mechanical skills and tools. He and his father and brothers were all self-trained mechanics. Not a lot of farming went on at their place; in fact other than a few scrawny dogs there were no farm animals at all and the fields featured an abundant crop of weeds. The house and shed was surrounded by a small sea of derelict cars and farming equipment.
The boys were always acquiring broken down wrecks and rebuilding them. Pete had been helping his Dad and older brothers in that activity since he was a toddler. In fact, the only real interest that family harboured was in rebuilding old vehicles. What little money they lived off came from those activities. The farm, inherited as a working unit from Pete’s grandfather, had slid straight to rack and ruin as soon as the old boy had checked out a couple of decades prior.
Pete looked like your archetypical hillbilly. He was a scrawny kid with a rough, freckled skin, thin wispy hair and old man’s eyes. He was fifteen going on seventy. His choice of clothes did nothing to dispel that impression. Like the rest of his family he invariably dressed in overalls. His were hand-me-down, threadbare overalls which were way too big for him. Unusual for that era, he also wore rubber flip-flops and a baseball cap. His uncle had served in the post war occupation force of Japan, returning home with a supply of flip-flops, or thongs as we called them, and baseball caps acquired from the US forces he was stationed with. Pete’s family rapidly adopted that loose, open form of footwear and the caps. Pete’s thongs were hand-me-downs from his brother, many sizes too big for his horny bare feet.
Similarly a grubby, second-hand baseball cap was cinched right in and sat low on his ears. Those ears! Pete was blessed with the most enormous, protruding ears; regular jug handles. His nickname at school was “Wing nut” but only the unwise referred to him by that if he was within earshot. Like his brothers, and despite his thin, gawky frame, Pete could fight like a thrashing machine and seemed impervious to any injuries inflicted upon him in return. He had grown up hard and it showed.
He was an uncommunicative sort of kid, taciturn in nature. When Bobby and I rode over to his place to discuss our proposition, his eyes lit up. It turned out he had very little in the way of personal possessions and a meagre handful of loose change was his sole source of capital. As the go-fer in the family business he did not pull any sort of income and only got a few bucks from his brothers on the odd occasion they made a good profit on a rebuild. The prospect of having a share in his very own motorcycle, and the chance to actually build it, was of great allure to him however. After some lengthy negotiation we agreed that by providing his knowledge and any special tools that may be required he would get a one fifth share of the bike. Bobby and I would have two shares each.
Bobby and I went in to the army surplus shop and talked with the owner, who we knew pretty well. Army surplus was the only place we shopped. He had half a dozen large crates out back, all stencilled with US military markings. We negotiated a holding deposit on the proviso that we would pay the rest within two months. It was a frantic couple of months as we struggled to rake up the princely outstanding sum of ten dollars! Ten bucks was a lot of money in those days, especially for kids still in high school.
We just made it. Mind you, there had not exactly been a rush on those ex-military bikes and I’m sure we could have extended our deadline, but that was lost on us at that time in our excitement. The next big challenge was getting the prize back to Bobby’s place. It took a lot of pleading, and two bucks, to convince one of Pete’s brother’s to back-load their family’s small flatbed truck on one of his runs into town.
Once at Bobby’s farm it did not take long to unload the bulky, heavy crate from the truck onto the loading ramp. Bobby and his cousins were well practiced at handling large and heavy items on their farms. We eagerly dragged the crate into the shed with the tractor. Excitedly we armed ourselves with pinch-bars and attacked the crate. We quickly discovered that it had been built to last! Thick pine planks and lots of large screws securely protected our treasure. A concerted effort from the three of us, and not a little swearing, was needed to strip away the protecting timber.
Luckily, the bike was not broken down to all its component parts as we had feared it might be. It had been disassembled into a dozen or so of the major segments. Everything was heavily greased and wrapped in some sort of heavy brown paper, all tightly lashed with coarse string. As we exposed the parts it became obvious that the motorcycle was enormous. It was like a two-wheeled tractor! A huge fuel tank sat above an equally large two cylinder motor of daunting proportions. A surprising small, unpadded seat was held in place by a couple of large springs. It was like straddling a 44 gallon drum, getting your legs over and around that tank.
The assembly turned out to be easy. A comprehensive instruction manual and the necessary tools were provided in the crate and only a few large bolts were required to join the segments. In a hushed aside Bobby and I regretted diluting the ownership by including Pete in the deal. As it turned out we did not need his dubious mechanical skills anyway. However, it was too late to change that and we felt obliged to put that behind us. The biggest challenge was the physical manoeuvring the heavy components in order to align and bolt them together.
Fitting the drive chain turned out to be the most difficult part the whole procedure. It took multiple attempts and, in the end, it was Pete’s experience that finally triumphed. Flushing out the motor internals took a while too, but eventually, on the second afternoon we were ready to attempt a start. With the gearbox filled with oil, various bearings freshly greased and a tank full of petrol we stood back and surveyed our project.
It was really the first time we had looked at the project as a whole. The impression of size was reinforced. The motorcycle was huge. From the massive tyres to the great fuel tank and motor, everything was oversized in comparison to the new civilian motorbikes of that time. Pete, with his motorcycle riding experience was the obvious test pilot. Bobby and I had never even sat on a motorcycle to that point in time.
Pete hauled himself up onto the beast and threw his leg over the bulk of it. He sat his bony arse on the skinny little seat and checked his controls. If my memory serves me right, it only had three gears to choose from. Pete jiggled the gear shift, making sure it was in neutral. Then he flipped down the kick starter pedal and stood up in the saddle.
It soon became apparent that despite his wiry strength, Pete’s scrawny frame lacked the weight needed to kick over the large high-compression motor of the beast. After he wore himself out, Bobby and I took turns, without success. Half an hour later, the three of us were standing dejectedly next to our project when Bobby’s Dad drove up. He was working in the back paddock and had returned to the shed for a few tools. After a quick chat he came over and took a seat on the bike.
Bobby’s father was a big man and had ridden motorbikes in his youth. He tweaked the controls then stood up and brought his weight sharply down on the kick-starter pedal. Joy of joys, the motor coughed and spluttered a few times. We were exalted. A couple more kicks and the engine roared loudly into life. Bobby’s Dad revved the engine a few times and the shed reverberated with the throaty, brute roar of the machine.
He got off and hauled the bike off its large stand. We helped him to push its awkward, top-heavy weight outside. Holding the idling bike upright, he looked at us and asked, “So, who’s first up?” Bobby and I pointed at Pete. Skinny Pete mounted the machine. Bobby’s Dad yelled over the noise of the motor, “You’ll need to get a bit of speed up. It’s really top heavy and wants to fall over. The stand is fairly stiff to kick down too. You aren’t strong enough to lift it, so keep it moving until you really want to stop. Make sure it doesn’t pin your leg when it falls over.”
Pete nodded and revved the motor a few times. Then he gripped the clutch lever and pulled the gear shift back to first. Opening the throttle to get the revs up he started to let out the clutch. The clutch bit unexpectedly and the bike jerked forward. The rear wheel threw up a shower of dust and gravel. The bike was powerful and low geared with lots of torque. The sudden lunge had surprised Pete and for a few moments the bike kangaroo hopped as he struggled with clutch and throttle. The bike meandered and lent. Pete looked in danger of either toppling or running into a nearby harvester.
Letting go of the clutch he fought the throttle which was proving to be sticky. More by good luck than inherent skill, Pete managed to clear the obstacles around the shed and reach the open confines of the house paddock. In front of him was ten acres of open, flat pasture. With an open paddock and a bit more speed to stabilize the bike Pete declutched and revved the motor hard in attempt to clear the sticky throttle connection. That seemed to work and he popped the bike back into first gear and opened the throttle further. The big chunky rear tyre threw up a fountain of turf clumps and lumps of mud.
The only other occupant of the house paddock was Bessie the house milk cow. She looked up from her contented grazing with some concern at this bulky, bellowing apparition which was now coming in her direction. She trotted off along the fence line. Pete was finding the wide handle bars and the sheer bulk of the bike hard to control. He cautiously steered to his left, inadvertently following Bessie, who with some alarm broke into a canter.
Bessie raced past the three of us, giving us a disapproving look in passing, as Pete completed his first half lap of the paddock, hot on her heels. Bobby’s Dad yelled out as he passed, “Get to second and go a bit faster. It’ll be easier to steer.”
Pete dutifully changed the gear to second. The bike responded with a wheel-spinning shower of sods and wobbled alarmingly. Pete gave it some more throttle and the bike steadied, as it leapt forward. Bessie bellowed in fear and broke into a gallop. Anybody who has any experience at all with cattle will not need to be told that she did not attempt to turn and evade the horror rapidly gaining on her but just maintained her panic-stricken gallop along the fence line.
Pete steered and leant the bike to the left and gave it some more juice. He veered away from the fence and passed poor old Bessie easily. Feeling a bit more confident, Pete increased his grip on the throttle and then changed to third. There was another shower of mud and grass and the rear wheel bit and spun in response. A bit more throttle increased his speed and the bike steadied again. He managed a big grin as he came past us once more. We heard the revs pick up as he accelerated further. The bike surged forward. Pete was now prescribing a large oval as he followed his wheel tracks around the paddock.
He passed us once again and, as he did, gave it some more juice. The bike responded as the powerful motor growled loudly in response. He was now leaning to the left and the bike was tracking nicely at speed. He shot past us again in no time. We heard him rev the motor a couple of times and then the revs stayed high. The bike was fairly flying now. He shot passed us once more. Bobby’s Dad yelled, “Slow her down Pete!”
Pete yelled something in return. The only word we heard clearly was an alarmed “STUCK!”
“Shit!” pronounced Bobby’s Dad, “Oh well, he’ll just have to run it dry. How much fuel did you put in for the test run?”
Bobby looked a bit sick, but answered, “We filled it up.”
“Shit! How much was that?”
“Shit! He’ll be going around the paddock for a week!”
Pete roared past us once more, casting an imploring look our way in passing.
I mentioned before that Pete lived on a farm without animals. Unlike most farm boys, who grow up on farms with lots of animals, Pete lacked exposure to the more common aspects of living on a farm. A particularly unusual result of that was manifested in his profound abhorrence to animal dung. He had a proper phobia in that regard. Over the years a few kids had played pranks on his weakness, but Pete’s handiness with his fists had deterred other pranksters from venturing there again.
As his number of laps increased Pete had started to carve a muddy track around the paddock. The bike was starting to slither and slide on the now bare wet ground. Pete realized that he needed to get back onto the pasture for more stability as he vainly tried to unlock the throttle and gear shift. As he turned to come towards us one more time Pete managed to jump out of the rut he had created and get the bike on the pasture once more.
Now that he had been doing laps for a few minutes, the urgency of the situation had rapidly faded and the comic aspect had come to the fore. Bobby giggled. It was infectious. So did I. As he came toward us he presented a bizarre spectacle. His oversized thongs hung down and acted like wind scoops. As he hurtled along on the big old motor bike his flip-flops channelled a regular gale up his trouser legs. The many sizes too large overalls had inflated like a balloon with the air flow and pressure.
Poking out of the gaping neck hole of the tightly bloated overalls, Pete’s scrawny neck and head looked absurdly tiny, like a tortoise caricature. His grim old man’s expression completed the picture perfectly. The three of us began to laugh hysterically. As he roared past Pete gave us a look of puzzled, angry sadness. We were laughing like lunatics. But, the best was yet to come.
On his next turn toward us Pete was making an effort to avoid his wheel marks. In concentrating on that he failed to detect one of Bessie’s better efforts. Bessie, I should add, had now wisely sought safety in the middle of the paddock, turning to keep face on to the orbiting Pete. She was plaintively mooing and pooing. The stress of the afternoon had brought on an attack of diarrhoea for poor old Bessie.
However, the artefact she had deposited in Pete’s path was from before that unfortunate development. It was a large, fresh, firm effort stacked up nicely. Pete’s projecting left thong scooped most of it up in a split second transition, with a wet, resounding blop! The sudden impact, assisted by the wind flow instantly dispersed the mixture into a regular vapour cloud inside the ample free volume of his overalls.
A large hazy green halo enveloped Pete’s head. His cap was blown off. It went straight up into the air pursued by the expanding green cloud. There was even a green geyser out of each sleeve. It was amazing how long the green plume persisted.
Pale, ethereal fountains of green streamed from his sleeves and vented chimney like up past his head. It took Pete a second or two to realise just what the green maelstrom inside his overalls actually was. Letting go of the handle bars he frantically tore open his overalls with both hands. It was not a pretty sight. His bony, lean torso glistened wetly with a dark, earthy green. You could not have done better job in a spray booth. We shrieked with laughter and staggered about. Bobby wet his pants even.
Pete let out a despairing wail of horror and flopped off the speeding bike. The riderless bike continued on its way towards us, bouncing and bumping along like some sort of mechanical, headless chicken. In the paddock, Pete had regained his feet and was ripping off his overalls while still screaming in distress. Desperately he tried to wipe off the plastered green paste that covered him from head to foot.
But our immediate concern was now the riderless bike, still speeding along and heading right at us. The laughter ceased abruptly as the threat came rushing onward. The bike slowly developed a lean to the left and peeled gradually off to head towards the fence. Our sense of relief was short lived. Just as we thought the impact with the fence would bring the event to a close, the bike smashed into a solid strainer post.
The impact did several things. It stood the bike upright once again and set it straight back towards us. What is more, the impact broke a fuel line and the bike quickly became a blazing meteorite. For good measure, a couple of strands of the barbed wire fence had somehow snagged on the machine. With its brute, powerful force the demonic, blazing apparition simply pulled two great swathes of writhing, twanging barbed wire from the fence posts. Faintly above the roar of the bike we could hear the musical sound of the barbed wire pinging free of the staples that held it to the wooden posts.
“Shit! Run!” yelled Bobby’s father.
We scattered as the fiery burning monster roared back into the farm shed, trailing a wicked, flicking mass of barbed wire behind it. There was a resounding series of crashes as the bike cascaded off the benches and equipment in the shed. In no time the big farm shed was a roaring inferno. The shed doorway was effectively blocked by a gigantic metal tumbleweed of barbed wire. All we could do was watch as the shed was engulfed by the fireball.
In the silence left by the now still motor we could hear screaming from the paddock above the crackle and whoosh of the flames. A stark naked Pete, smeared from head to foot with fresh dung was sprinting across the paddock pursued by one very irate milking cow. Every now and then she would gore his bony arse with her short but sharp little horns.
Pete finally reached his goal. With a desperate leap, aided by one final jab from old Bessie, he leapt for safety onto the fuel stand. Scrambling up out of reach of the circling and still angry Bessie, he clutched at the metal latticework of the fuel tank stand.
The Fire Brigade and Police arrived quite promptly. There wasn’t much they could do about the shed which rapidly burnt itself out in a towering inferno that was seen from miles around. The big effort was peeling Pete off the fuel stand. He seemed to have suffered some sort of emotional meltdown. Having retreated into himself he hugged tightly to the metal stand and was unresponsive to all entreaties. It took the combined efforts of the Police and Fireman to prise him loose and get him into a waiting ambulance.
Not unexpectedly, interest quickly centred on Pete. The Police, not to mention the neighbours and everybody else in the district, were keen to know why a stark naked boy, painted from head to foot in cow shit, was found in a mentally distressed condition clinging to a tank stand and suffering from a severely lacerated bottom. Rumours and theories abounded and caused a lot of grief to the participants in the episode. It is a firmly established colourful tale in that area to this day. At least Pete got another nickname out of it all. Folks now refer to him as the Pooper-scooper, but by golly he better not hear you use that name.
Chapter Four – Yowie Poo
“Shit!” exclaimed Dick Evans as the slam of the outer door echoed down the corridor to his workshop. With a well practised response he quickly disguised the evidence that he had been working on a private job. He then positioned himself in front of a work related project and prepared to look surprised when the visitor walked in. He cocked his head to better hear the approaching tread. The footfalls were brisk, purposeful, solid.
“Shit,” he repeated himself as he identified the unmistakable approach of the women he knew as The Buffalo. He had other equally uncomplimentary names as well. Dick was a rotund tradesman in his mid sixties. He could not be described as the happiest camper in the woods. Dick possessed a dour nature and was not disposed to being jolly. Like many men of his age and circumstances he had adopted a cloak of grumpiness as protection from the world around him.
He had been a workshop technician at the university for more than thirty years. It was a pretty undemanding job with a well equipped workshop and minimal supervision, especially so over the latter years. Originally it had been much busier. He had once shared it with three other techs and a constantly changing contingent of mayhem-producing engineering lecturers and students.
Over the last decade the engineering faculty had moved to a new building and, in one of those convenient political but otherwise strange compromises, the workshop and two of the technicians had remained and come under the control of a new faculty. In a move typical of publically funded organisations, where assets are never surrendered and the annual budget must always be spent no matter what, another deal was done and Dick and his workshop had fallen under the humanities clan. His aging co-worker had soon retired and for the last five years Dick had been left pretty much to himself. Things had got quieter in the workshop. He missed the more technically challenging engineering projects that he had been involved in, even if he did not miss the dramas of having engineering students underfoot, messing up his workshop.
What little work came his way from his new masters was not very satisfying. Typically, these projects involved no drawings or specifications, as they had under engineering. Rather there were long-winded meetings with the humanities types. These people could not draw a cork to save their lives and had only the vaguest ideas of what they actually wanted. Not surprisingly, the results satisfied nobody. Dick was annoyed at having to produce projects without any clear instructions and his clients generally got something well removed from the misty visions of what they thought they wanted.
The door flew open and in strode Professor Edith Hamilton-Brown, The Buffalo. Dick worked at suppressing the look of annoyance that was keen to play across his face. As always he marvelled at the tall, brusque woman that barged straight up to him. Edith stood over six feet in her stockings and was a little overweight with a solid, imposing manner. Her head was welded permanently at a slight backwards tilt that added nicely to the condescending and assured look on her face.
‘Where does she find those clothes?’ Dick quizzed himself as he had done on countless earlier occasions. Dick figured that the tweedy English country look, with accompanying thick fuzzy stockings and heavy, lace-up brown shoes had been virtually extinct when he was a kid. ‘Does she secretly raid the museum basement at night, or what?’ he added to his self-interrogation.
The Buffalo was, as always, direct. She dispensed with obligatory niceties and, in her style cut straight to the issue. Typically, this excluded any pre-amble that might give some context to where she was coming from, and heading to. She opened with what a casual observer might think was a question, but was really a statement.
“You have a university recognised four wheel driving accreditation.” she said in her powerful, deep voice. “The Dean …” she paused to roll her eyes theatrically and huff before continuing, “The Dean has approved the use of the departmental 4WD for a forthcoming …” again she paused, “ .. trip … on the condition that the driver is 4WD accredited. There is not enough time for my colleagues or I to attend such a course.”
Dick opened his mouth with intention of saying, ‘So what has that got to do with me?’ but he never got the chance. Sensing his imminent intention to speak, The Buffalo raised her voice a notch and powered on. “There are very few suitable drivers for this … trip, and you are the obvious choice. The trip will be in four week’s time from today. That’s not negotiable.”
A dark look flitted across Dick’s face and he opened his mouth to protest. Again he did not get a chance to state his many, and varied, objections.
“You will be paid at overtime rates for the week we are away, and apart from some help setting up the camp for my colleagues and I, we will require little else from you. It is a remote spot on the McIntyre River that can only be reached through a series of locked conservation zone gates, for which we have both permission to pass and the necessary keys. You can relax, read, fish – provided you have a license – or do whatever else might interest you while we conduct some … investigations.”
Dick frowned. As much as he detested the idea of driving The Buffalo and her cronies out into the bush and being their Man Friday for a week, there were some attractions. The overtime would add up to a nice bonus. Then there was the area. Dick knew of it. It had always been a difficult spot to get to, situated in a long, deep and meandering gorge through an extensive state forest. The fishing and deer hunting there had always been reputed to be excellent. Then, about fifteen years ago, the whole vast area had been declared a conservation zone and all recreational access had been banned. It was really just a vote pulling exercise at the time of a tight state election, with the incumbent government seeking to curry some green credentials and votes.
The conservation of the area simply involved erecting barriers and heavy locked gates. It was rugged country and it had been quite easy to block the few vehicle access points. The gates were locked and the conservation effort consisted of doing nothing at all after that. The area had quickly gone feral. Bordering landowners had been complaining ever since about the growing hordes of feral animals that used the park as a breeding zone to raid surrounding farms. Fire and weed control had also become a major issue and the area had, sadly, become severely degraded by the unchecked wild fires and exotic weed species that proliferated as a result of the “conservation”.
Dick managed to get a few words in about access difficulties and over-grown tracks. The Buffalo airily dismissed them. One of the few semi-maintained tracks led directly to a big sweep of river gorge where there had been some desultory test work being conducted by the hydrology people. But that had recently stopped as well. The whole area was off limits to virtually everybody. Even other government departments struggled to get access rights. However, The Buffalo was on close personal terms with the Director of Conservation, who shared a strong interest in the subject of the … trip, and that had opened many gates, so to speak.
Dick quietly nodded to himself. The fact that the Director of Conservation was a chum of The Buffalo put a whole lot into perspective. No wonder the Department of Conservation had such a wide and well deserved reputation for being a band of complete lunatics. He added that titbit to the growing pile of reasons why he detested The Buffalo and the Conservation mob.
So it was that four weeks later Dick found himself driving the departmental Toyota Landcruiser and pulling a trailer full of camping gear. The Buffalo sat in the back with her henchman, a mature age Humanities Masters student who was nearing the completion of her PhD. A sour-faced, women in her mid thirties she radiated a dislike of all men and everything to do with them. Her name was Margaret Croft, but with her severely cropped black hair and black grunge clothing she was to Dick, The Crow.
The two carried on a lengthy but guarded conversation. They were carefully avoiding discussing any details about their mission in Dick’s presence. And, clearly they were on a mission. It was all very secretive and reeking of self-importance. The two considered they were on the verge of some world changing discovery. They excitedly discussed how The Crow’s forthcoming doctoral thesis would support a joint paper on their imminent discovery. After a lengthy discussion the two had agreed on a modification to The Crow’s doctoral thesis title. It would now be “Irrefutable Manifestations of Projected Human Gender Prejudices and Inequality Demonstrated in a Primordial Situation Free of the Urban Cultural Influences and Ingrained Subliminal Attitudes and Habits of the Aggressive Male-oriented Western Cultural Matrix.”
Dick could not suppress a snort of derision when he heard that. As much as he had been annoyed when working with the Engineering and Science faculties, at least they had some clarity and focussed purpose to their work. Every exposure he had to the Humanities lot just reinforced his strengthening opinion that they swam in an ocean of self-congratulating bullshit. The two in the back were too absorbed in the conversation to notice Dick’s involuntary expression of contempt. The front seat passenger heard it though and stole a quick look at Dick from downcast eyes. The girl did not say anything and returned her gaze to the passing scenery.
The front seat passenger was Marjory Hide. A diminutive, elfin Honours undergraduate who was clearly in awe of The Buffalo. The girl was only 20 years old, pale and frail looking. Her huge dark eyes, pixie face and closely cropped hair accentuated her elfin look. She was quiet and timid. She had never spoken in Dick’s presence, but he had heard her getting in the occasional squeak when the three were conversing. To Dick, Marjory was the The Mouse.
Dick set up his camp about half a kilometre from the coven, as he thought of them. They had elected to camp close up against the steep, heavily timbered ridge, surrounded by dense forest. Dick had chosen a spot over-looking the broad sweep of the river. It was on an outside bend with deep water right up against the bank. His camp was about twenty metres from the edge of the escarpment that fell away to the river’s narrow flood plain. The tent was pitched amidst scattered, large old-growth forest. The big old red gums that grew along the river bank were about as high as the escarpment itself, making for a largely unimpeded view up the river.
The Buffalo had made it clear that Dick should keep himself close to the river and north of the women. They would call him if needed. A hand-held UHF radio was provided for that purpose, which he was required to carry with him. There were some sensitive investigations being conducted and they did not want him inadvertently interfering with those. The only task, other than assisting with the putting up and breaking of camp, was to collect their rubbish each evening just on dusk. The Buffalo was concerned that the presence of food scraps in their camp at night might draw unwanted foraging animals into their camp. The women would prepare their evening meal in the late afternoon and wanted the food scraps removed before dark.
The first few days went smoothly. The women did not call on Dick for anything and kept themselves busy doing whatever it was they were up to. Dick had set a series of yabby traps and done a bit of fishing. There were not many yabbies about. It was probably a bit cold for them, but he had caught a number of nice fish. He had brought more than enough food; his wife had insisted on that and clearly over catered. Dick was quite happy being by himself. He spent his day working his yabby traps and trying different fishing spots. At night it was cool enough to enjoy a camp fire and a few reflective rums.
Apart from the ample provision of food, his wife had also provided him with a bundle of dried, stringy-looking stuff she had acquired from a Chinese herbalist. Dick was under instructions to consume some of this material every evening. So far he had not and was feeling a bit grumpy about having to do so. Dick did not like anything out of the ordinary.
His wife though, under the influence of some of her friends, had recently developed a strong interest in traditional Chinese herbal remedies. These ladies had got it into their heads that administering these various dried bits and pieces to themselves and husbands would cure the various ailments and conditions that beset people in their sixties. Dick thought it was a lot of bloody nonsense and was an unwilling participant. That bundle of black, dried sticks was a good example. It smelt rather weird but was supposedly intended for invigorating and cleansing men of his age, whatever that meant.
It was also a bit unfortunate that in visiting the ancient Chinese apothecary, who spoke limited English, some important caveats and instructions had been lost in the translation. It was also a bit unfortunate that Dick had not paid much heed to the, already, misconstrued instructions that were relayed to him by his wife, along with the mysterious bundle of dried black material.
So it was that, after a substantial evening meal and a couple of rums, Dick was cleaning up and found the bundle in his tucker box. His first reaction was to throw it in the fire and he very nearly did just that. Dour and grumpy he might be, but Dick was a dutiful husband of long standing. He checked his arm in the very action of lobbing the stuff into the camp fire.
It occurred to him that he had promised to consume the funny Chinese stuff. He would eat a little and throw the rest in the fire and report back with a clear conscience. Dick extracted one of the sticks. In the light of the fire it glistened blackly. It appeared to be quite fibrous and tarry, looking like some variety of large leaf that had been rolled up and dried into a wizened stick. He tried to break a bit off, and after quite some bending and flexing, resorted to cutting off a piece with his knife. Dick popped it into his mouth and began chewing. It was hard and dry. As he worked away, chomping lustily, the object began to moisten. It was quite salty and had an unusual, tart flavour with a hint of liquorice. The taste grew on him as he chewed diligently.
Dick poured himself another rum, and took that and the rest of the stick over to the fire. He drew his chair a little closer to the warmth, for the night was getting chilly, and made himself comfortable. It was a bit like eating jerky. The repetitive chewing was quite nice in itself and the flavour slowly evolved as the prolonged mastication released the juices. Even after much chomping there was still a pithy, fibrous wad that seemed impervious to further chewing. Once the flavour began to disappear, Dick washed the pithy residue down with a swallow of rum.
It had been a pleasant day, he had walked a few kilometres and fished many different locations with good result. The last few days had been very relaxing and Dick was feeling quite mellow. He got up and poured himself another rum and selected a couple of the dried sticks. They actually were quite pleasant to chew on, he had to admit. He made a mental note to ask his wife to get some more of that Chinese stuff. It would be good with a few beers when watched the Saturday afternoon football broadcast.
Over the next couple of hours Dick consumed the entire bundle of material and a few more rums before retiring to bed feeling quite replete. He slept soundly and awoke feeling unusually refreshed. Dick stoked the fire and brewed himself a cup of tea. It was still quite early and he did not feel hungry enough to make breakfast just yet. Low in his stomach there was a slight warning rumble. The need was by no means intense and he figured he could kill two birds with one stone that morning.
He dropped a roll of toilet paper into a bucket and picked up a shovel. Dick hesitated, he had already explored for worms in his recent travels down the river, without much luck. He wanted a handful of the big, fat worms that were to be found in the lower, moister parts of the river bank. The section of bank he had explored so far was fairly high and dry.
Upstream however, about a kilometre or so away, he could see that the escarpment merged down onto an extensive floodplain. It looked like good worming country for sure. The only problem was that in walking up river it would take him closer to the women’s’ camp, and the area he was supposed to avoid. Still, it was early and they were unlikely to be up and about. Besides he would stick close to the river bank and that should meet his contractual obligations. It would not take long to walk up there, answer a call of nature, dig a few worms and be back at his own camp for breakfast.
Dick pulled on his floppy bush hat, picked up the bucket, shouldered the shovel and set off upstream. The sun was just rising and it was crisply cool with a wisp of mist on the river. The birds’ morning chorus was building in volume and a light dew had bejewelled the twigs and spider webs. Dour as he was, it was still an admittedly pleasant walk along the river bank. Five minute’s walk saw him about level with the women’s’ camp. He could not see it, the camp was a few hundred metres back in the bush, but there was the telltale wisp of campfire smoke hanging in the air. It had hung there through the still of the night and would not clear for an hour or two, once the morning breeze picked up.
As he glanced in the direction of the smoke something caught his eye. About a hundred metres away there was a small pale shape on one of the big tree trunks. He paused, but could not quite make out what it was. Curiosity got the better of him and so he walked over to it. It was a small plastic open-mesh box and was fixed a bit above head height on the tree. There was something inside. Dick stood on tiptoe and peered intently at the object from close up. With his nose nearly touching the cage he suddenly realised, with horror, what he was looking at.
Being of that older generation he had never seen his wife use that sort of thing, but in recent years the television was full of advertisements for feminine hygiene products. “Ee-yew! Faarrk!” he said aloud as he realised he was just about pressing his nose up against a used item of feminine hygiene. He backed off fast. He stood for a second and repeated, “Fark!”
Dick shook his head and wondered what the hell these crazy women were doing, nailing up stuff like that all around the place. He did not have time to give it much more consideration because suddenly his stomach gave a big growl and a rumble vibrated through his abdomen. ‘Easy Boy,’ he said to himself, ‘I’ll let you out real soon.’ It was clear that the call of nature was drawing closer apace. He was still on the hard escarpment. A few hundred metres and he would be on the soft soil of the lower flood plain, amongst a thicker forest of river red gums. There it would be easier to dig a hole and a bit more discrete to make use of it.
Dick quickened his pace, heading for the beckoning river flats. Another fifty metres and a veritable earthquake rumbled through his bowels. It suddenly became clear that a change of plans was going to be necessary. Dick was a very controlled individual in all aspects of his life and that included bowel movements. He was very regular and particular about his visits to the toilet and he could “bake it” if he did not feel conditions were right. But not this morning. Another mighty rumble shook his belly and it was clear that an express train was coming.
He was going to have to find somewhere suitable real quick. He headed straight for the escarpment edge, hoping there might be access down to the river’s edge where he could find a sheltered spot to meet his urgent need. Dick was veritably trotting as he approached the edge. The escarpment was steep and there was nothing obvious in the way of a track down to river’s edge.
Dick had heard the expression “shit now or die”, and chuckled at the concept, but this was the first time he had ever experienced anything like this himself. He clenched his cheeks together and looked about desperately. He was in quite open forest with mainly scattered large trees and very little undergrowth or bushes. There was no time.
He suddenly felt chilled, clammy and a little light headed. It was clear that this was unstoppable. He ripped his pants down and quickly squatted, grasping onto a spindly sapling for support. It felt like he was trying pass a watermelon and the urge to push was irresistible. His body shook and he could feel goose bumps all over. Suddenly he could feel it coming out. He felt quite faint and hung onto the sapling with all his might. After an initial resistance there was a prolonged rushing sensation. He felt quite numb from the waist down.
For a moment or two the world spun and it was all he could do to hang on to the bush and not topple over. It took a little while for the sensation to pass and for his composure to return. He cautiously released one hand and wiped his sweaty forehead. His hand was still trembling. “Whoee!” he said, with the distinct, but dizzy feeling that something momentous had just occurred.
It was the smell that helped jolt his composure back into place. “Phew!” he exclaimed with disgust as a truly pungent, sharp odour jolted his sinuses. It was so bad his eyes began to water. “Phew!” he repeated, and felt obliged to investigate. Over the years had done a few stinkers, usually after a big night out. But, hell, this was a champion effort. He felt an urgent, morbid need to see just what manner of beast had produced such a terrible smell. Dick, still squatting, twisted slightly and glanced behind him.
What he saw made him start involuntarily and he would have leapt up if not hindered by the trousers around his ankles. And he had not even seen all of it. He quickly pulled his pants up above his knees and arose. What he saw stunned him. It was the biggest poo he had ever seen. It was gigantic, massively larger than his normal line of product. The diameter was well over two inches and it was nearly two feet long, a bendy but almost uniform cylindrical shape except for the briefly tapered ends. His ass was still feeling numb and he carefully reached behind him to explore for damage. He half expected to find a gaping hole and gushing blood. Luckily there was none. He felt a sense of wonder that somehow his body had passed this dreadful object without tearing itself apart.
The thing was gleaming with a bright green sheen, but streaked through with black whirls. It was fascinating in its gruesome dreadfulness. Dick could not take his eyes off it.
Standing up had momentarily lifted him above the spreading miasma, but not for long. Standing, holding his still unfastened pants at thigh level, his contemplation of the dreadful thing was broken by the renewed assault on his nostrils. The smell was insidious and appalling. Something bumped off his leg, then another, and another. For a split second he thought it was big drops of rain.
It was no rain however, but huge blowflies that were being drawn in by the spreading aroma. Clearly, the thing was abundantly attractive to blowflies. They were flying straight in, almost drunkenly, making full speed to the thing. Like little magnetic particles the blowflies zoomed past him to impact onto the green shining surface. Bzzzzz! Thud! They hit it at full speed and stuck immediately, making a delirious, happy buzzing as they trampled about on the spot where they landed.
The spectacle was gross in the extreme, but no less fascinating than everything else about the entity. It was enthralling in its sheer awfulness and Dick was engrossed, until he heard a voice. “Fark!” he muttered and hastily pulled his trousers up and fastened them. He had heard the unmistakable sound of the The Buffalo’s voice. Christ! What was he to do? He looked across in the direction of the women’s camp. Faintly, he heard the women talking as well. Shit! They were obviously coming to check on the other dreadful think fixed to the tree. He could not yet see them, but any second they would emerge from the heavier forest into the more open area and he would be spotted.
There was no time, or opportunity, to hide or bury the giant turd. The ground was pretty much bare and too hard to dig with just a shovel. There was little in the way of fallen leaves that could be raked over the thing.
And the smell. It was getting more horrible by the second. Raking a few leaves over the shocking object would do nothing for that evil, spreading, foul stench. The river! His only hope lay in shovelling it up and chucking it into the river below. It would take a good throw, but he felt he could do it. The turd would probably break up, but he did not have time to spare in cutting into smaller chunks with the shovel. He cast a nervous glance in the direction of the approaching women, and thought he could see movement. There was no time to lose. He hastily slipped the shovel under the middle of the terrible cylindrical object. Both ends extended well beyond the extent of the shovel blade. He reasoned that the ends would most likely break off, but he would just have to deal with that as it came.
He lifted the turd and, while it drooped, it did not break. In fact it demonstrated a rather rigid plasticity. The weight surprised him as well. The thing was damn heavy! Dick swept the shovel back, took a couple of steps toward the edge of the embankment and gave the shovel a lusty sweep. There was an angry buzz as the hundred or so blowies were disturbed and took off.
He probably tried too hard and under-estimated the incredible cohesion in the object. That, the smell, the explosion of angry blowflies and the imminent arrival of the women all contributed to the mis-timing of the attempted throw it into the river.
The thing did not break up. Its sheer rigidity was as disgustingly appalling as everything else about it. It did not sail out to land safely in the river either. Alarmingly, it detached itself from the shovel and shot pretty much straight up in the air.
“Fark!” an alarmed Dick instinctively ducked and held up his arm protectively, fearing that the horrible thing was about to descend on him. The blowflies swarmed angrily about Dick, buzzing and cannoning off him like hard rain. The thing was making a tumbling ascent into the heavens. With great relief he sensed that it was heading toward the river and, while it was clearly not going to reach the water, the much worse probability that it was going land on his head had, somehow, been narrowly avoided.
Still tumbling, it reached its apex then began the descent. It plunged down, spinning wildly, but still stubbornly resisting the centrifugal and gravitational forces it maintained its dreadful integrity. It thundered through the canopy of a big river red gum that grew from the river bank below. Dick stood, shovel in hand, and fixated by the ever more appalling episode in which he was starring.
It its passage the turd disturbed a veritable flock of birds that had hitherto been quietly feeding on the blossoms of the river gum. The canopy exploded with parrots, honeyeaters and other small nectar eating birds. Slowed a little by its trajectory through the leaves, and showing no sign at all of breaking up, the huge glistening turd smacked squarely onto a great horizontal branch with a sticky thud. It stuck and gleamed in unobstructed and plain view, not five metres from where Dick stood.
The birds shrieked in unison. The surprise attacker was now visible. It was clearly some sort of python and there it was stretched out on the branch. The cries of alarm alerted other nearby birds and they too flew in to join the whirlpool of birds that was rapidly forming above the tree. A flock of passing cockatoos and a few crows joined the parrots, willy wagtails, kookaburras and other birds that were circling and screaming in alarm. A few of the braver birds began to dart at the snake on the branch.
It had all happened in a few seconds and it was appalling. The ever-growing, whirling cloud of birds had materialised as if from nowhere and the noise was incredible. And he was standing right next to it. He cast another glance over his shoulder and there, not a hundred metres away, the three women were emerging from the bush and looking in his direction.
The trio strode purposefully toward him. Seeking desperately to generate as big a safety margin as possible, Dick set off to meet them. As they neared each other the Buffalo bellowed, “What are you doing here Mr Evans. I thought I made it clear that you were to stay down river from here!” Again, in her style, it was not really a question, more an accusation. The Crow looked daggers at him in support of the Buffalo, but did not say anything. They generally let the Buffalo do the talking, bellowing rather. The Mouse never said anything anyway, not that he had ever been present to witness anyway. As always, she looked timid and kept the protective bulk of the Buffalo between them.
Dick managed to get out a couple of lame words about worms, but they went unnoticed as the Buffalo wound herself up into speech mode. She never heard a word he said. The Crow squinted in disapproval at Dick and gave a little, pecking, head movement to accentuate that point. The Mouse, who considered herself a bit of a bird watcher, had now become aware of the avian whirlwind that had developed above the tree. You would have to be deaf, or completely absorbed by your own self importance, not to notice it.
She slid past the trio and headed for the river bank. Dick was aware of her doing so, but with the verbal storm and glowering disapproval he was weathering he was in no position to counteract the Mouse’s intentions.
It only took the Mouse a few moments to take in the situation. With a squeak of surprised delight she went scampering back to try and get the attention of her colleagues. It required a concerted effort on her part to do that. She hopped excitedly about and tugged at the sleeve of the Buffalo. Repeated tugging and hopping was needed to get her attention. The Buffalo broke off her broadside on Dick and bellowed, “Marjory, What on earth is wrong with you!” Not a question, of course.
The Mouse could not manage to squeak out a word but did drag her towering companion toward the river’s edge. The Crow and Dick followed along behind. Dick was in silent agony. How could he possibly explain the turd? But he did not need to worry about that. The trio had forgotten his very existence in their excitement.
“Look there!” commanded the Buffalo. The trio gazed intently at the glistening entity that was draped along the smooth white horizontal branch. “Phew!” exhaled the Crow, “it doesn’t half stink.” A delirious swarm of blowflies were seeking to envelope the wonderful prize they had found. The birds were still going nuts, in the belief that they had found a python out and about in their patch.
Dick stood back taking in the surreal scene being played out before him. The Buffalo continued her sonorous dialogue, “Clearly, the creature has been drawn to the bait, thank you Marjory,” at which the Mouse went bright red and looked about ready to die of embarrassment. This of course, was lost on the Buffalo who continued, “Only a creature of outstanding strength and agility could have leapt the distance from this bank to that branch. The immense size of the fece is indicative of a primate but it’s clearly way too big to be human in origin. The dreadful smell is exactly as described by other investigators. We must obtain that specimen for scientific study!” she boomed.
Dick had been slowly regaining his rattled composure, but when the Buffalo declared she wanted to capture the specimen for science, it was like a blow to the stomach. The last thing he wanted was some boffin dissecting his poop and declaring, through means vague and mysterious, that it was human in origin. Dick felt quite alarmed. That turd must not fall into the wrong hands.
The thought had no sooner occurred to him than he was further alarmed to hear the Buffalo quickly organising a recovery effort. She sent the Crow and the Mouse off to find their way down to the river bank and commanded Dick to gather some sticks to throw at the object.
“Marjory, take your shirt off. Don’t be silly dear, Mr Evans will keep back from the edge and can’t see you. Besides you have a t shirt on underneath. You and Margaret can stretch the shirt out and catch the sample when it falls. We have to make minor sacrifices Marjory. It is too important to let it be lost.”
Dick was instructed to throw sticks at the poo until it dislodged and fell down to the waiting catchers. He did so in a lack lustre fashion, but this drew the ire of the Buffalo. “What is wrong with you man. Surely you played sport in your time. Put some heave ho into it.”
While Dick went to gather some more sticks, the Buffalo was inspired enough to attempt a shot herself. It was an awkward throw that flew awkwardly up into the air and fell short of its mark. The Buffalo called out to her waiting colleagues below. This made them both look up, just in time for the stick to hit the Mouse square on the nose. With a yelp of pain she dropped her grip on the shirt and clamped her hands over her nose, letting out a longer wail as she sat down.
The Crow attempted to help, as a trickle of blood ran down the mouse’s arm. The Crow was yelling at the Mouse, “Let me see Marjory, let me see, I want to help you,” while the Mouse maintained her grip on her nose and continued to howl. The Buffalo continued to bellow commands non-stop from her vantage point above. Dick arrived back with an armful of sticks just in time for the finale.
With a chill feeling of dread he realised that the poo was starting to slide on the smooth bark of the tree. The sheer mass of the mighty turd was starting to tell and gravity was not to be denied. The inherent tackiness of the apparition slowed its release somewhat. If the coven had not been so engrossed and loud about their business they may well have heard the warning sounds, even above the on-going racket that the birds were making. A sickly, science fiction, horror movie sound. A moist, visceral warbling. The blowflies sensed the potential loss of their prize and rose in an angry protective buzzing swarm. The circling birds too realised the thing was on the move and increased their alarm cries and consternation.
The women did not notice these danger signs and continued their loud and pointless discourse. With a final sticky crackle the turd let go and plummeted down. Dick continued to watch the whole episode in speechless enthrallment. The turd did not just fall. It was like a downward rocket. With its sheer weight and density it plunged to earth. Well, not earth exactly. The Crow was unfortunately dead centre at ground zero. With a wet and heavy thud it hit her. The impact moulded the plastic obscenity across her neck and shoulders. Like a hearty smack from a sodden, rolled-up beach towel, it winded and startled her. She sagged and stumbled from the sheer momentum of the impact.
The Mouse had the unfortunate opportunity to observe this outcome from a distance of less than half a metre. As the Mouse stifled her wail and gasped in shock, the Crow partly recovered from her stumble and turned her head to glance at the thing that had landed on her neck and shoulders. The blow flies had flown straight down the vapour trail at maximum velocity and rained down upon the two women. It was awful. It was terrible. It was utterly disgusting. The smell had been slightly delayed, but it arrived in its full and reeking glory along with the last of the blowflies to completely round out the full experience.
With a surprising harmony and volume the two women shrieked in concert. A drawn-out cry of desperation and horror, it rolled down the river and echoed back from the far bank. It was all way too much for the Mouse. Her eyes rolled back and she flopped over onto the river bank in a dead faint. With a guttural grunt of utter disgust the Crow jerked upright and flailed her arms about. She had never fully recovered her balance after the initial hit and the sudden lurch only served to put her more off balance. With a howl of despair and fear she tumbled into the cold depths of the river. The turd took the opportunity to relinquish its victim and like a big predatory crocodile it simply and silently descended into the dark depths of the river, never to be seen again.
While the Buffalo berated the drenched and bedraggled Crow about what she should have done and on what a momentous loss to knowledge had been allowed to occur, a much relieved Dick went to administer to the fallen Mouse. Dick, despite his gruff ways, was a kindly man. He had administered first aid to his own kids and was a gentle and effective carer. He soon had the ashen faced Mouse sitting up while he tilted her head back and applied pressure to her nose. It was not broken, but just a good solid knock on the hooter like you often get playing sport. Meanwhile, in the background above the Crow and the Buffalo were trading loud and contrary opinions on the whole expedition.
With the bleeding stopped, the Mouse regained her composure. Dick wiped her face clean of the blood that been smeared across it. He asked the Mouse, “How do you feel Marjory?” The Mouse’s pixie-like face briefly hosted a hint of a smile. Her large dark eyes stared back into Dick’s. A range of subtle but unexpressed emotions flitted across her face. Her lips parted. She took a breath and leaned forward. She glanced sideways then returned her intense stare onto Dick. “Yowie poo,” she whispered in a conspiratorial sort of way, then leant back looking pleased with herself and said nothing more.