The Rider to the Sea.

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Ah, youth!…a time of plenty..so much to want, so much to desire, so much to love…yet one had the feeling of so much to lose..so much to lose..there was never enough of anything, least of all patience..

Adam reached out for the handful of peaches out far on the branch. He quickly picked these and shoved them into his bag, it was now full. He clambered down the ladder and strode over to his bin. This was the last load for the day, the bin was now full. The overseer nodded his approval and checked it into his book. His third bin for the day, not bad, he was no gun picker but it wasn’t bad. A wave of fatigue swept through his leg muscles as he leant against the bin. Sweat flowed cleanly down his chest, his hair sticky and stringy from the heat and fuzz from the fruit. he felt tacky all over.

“What a day for Chrissake”  He spoke to himself as he sat on the trailer.

“Ok boys, let’s go home”. The overseer had hooked up the trailers that carried the bins and started the tractor.

The pickers flung their ladders on the empty trailer behind and clambered aboard, the dust thick and yellow in the air.

“You still going to Sydney tomorra’ Jim?”

” K’noath, can’t see me stayin’ here another week can you”.

“He’s got the hots for his wife already.” Someone called out.

“Oh yeah, if you’d felt it once you wouldn’t be here even.” Jim retaliated.

The tractor slowly- bumped and twisted through the orchard. Adam clung sleepily to the edge of the trailer, gently rolling…Life, small moments of awakened senses, aware: Daylight bright, the clatter of loose leaves dancing and whirling over the road in the buffeting wind of a passing car. Long strands of gum leaves hanging low and hot in the humid afternoon, with skinny shadows stealthily creeping like thieves from the glaring sun.

The banks rose steep from the river’s edge and the water flows faster with soft swirling eddies clipping the far bank and ripples fanning out from projecting arms of sunken logs, like drowning swimmers grasping for the sky, scratching, clawing.. A long white sandbar swept smooth around the bend with scattered leaves over the grit and heavy gums leaning long fronds into silent waters of the Murray River creeping past in the afternoon.

( A.E. & J.B. Cameron. Fruit growers. Blockers: Owners of vast acreage of fruit trees. Peaches, pears and apricots. Pickers employed every season. Seven am – five pm, an hour for lunch.)

Adam was a nineteen year old picker…working the seasonal crops.

“Hey Casey, comin’ for a swim before tea?” …Ear cocked for an answer from the next room. A creaking bed, he’s there.

“No, I’ll just have a shower.” Another creak of his bed. He won’t even shower, Adam knew.

“Well alright ,but it’ll be nice…cool and fresh..”

“Yeah, so what.”

Adam left him there…

Dust and insects filled the yard between the dormitory and mess shed, with its rattling pots and pans and the cook’s yells and songs crackling between the weatherboard walls. The sweet-smelling trees all around the compound. Crowds at the showers, sticky men jostling each other, towels and dirty shirts and shins and bristly chins, water overflowing on smooth cement sheen floor, muddy puddle by the door. A singer; Gerry….”0′ Gerry boy, th’ gurls of Cobram are calling….” Then lost in the roar of the motorbike coasting the long straight into town. A quick trip through to the river in the hot afternoon, his shirt sticking to his back, small insects glued to his chest with the dried sweat.

Adam parked his motorbike at the top of the riverbank on the dirt track. A path cut down the edge onto a flat lowland of sand built up over the years. Tall gums and shrubs between, all thick and scratchy down to the river’s edge. He placed his helmet on the sand, stripped to his shorts and placed his shirt and shoes with the helmet.

Halting at the river’s edge, he gazed up and down, then slipped quietly into the water. The smooth liquid washed up his back and filtered through his hair, its soothing coolness cleansing the sticky sweat and insects from his skin then washing away with the current swiftly flowing. He dug his hands down into the sandy bar, floating motionlessly, body pointing upstream with water slipping around, caressing, soft… Every few moments he ducked his head below the surface to come up again with a swish and shake the lanks of hair off his face, the droplets flicking away with a splash on the smoother surface of the river.

A large grey log jutted out from the bank on the far side. He decided to swim for it. But the river was swift, so he crawled with his hands digging in the sandy bed upstream a little to allow for the drag, then with six deep breaths, struck out for the far shore.

The river grabbed him straight away as he swam, its liquid fingers grasping at every portion of his body, trying to pull him down the busy stream to a far away ocean…a body riding the river to its mouth…a rider to the sea!.. The thought of just letting himself be taken like a leaf on the water crossed his mind, the thought of being supported by the river’s strength and coasting slowly down the ribbon of wide water to the rushing sea. He stopped for a second feeling the deep waters.. Nothing below him:  He sank a little and came up again spitting and swishing his head to clear his hair. Nothing below him, he thought as he struck out again, his feet churning steadily behind him.

Nothing below but hidden depths of liquid, soft flowing liquid’ deeper down below, lovely warmth  …( he thought of Jennifer ). A Willy-wagtail alighted on the log just before he reached it, to wag its tail a couple of times and then dart away as he swung an arm over and hauled himself up to rest. Adam lay on his belly over the warm log, his legs dangling in the cool river, the rattlings and scratchings of scrub animals and birds in the vicinity a relaxing tonic for his tired body…his memory switched to a story his mother told him about the river when she was a child..about a man who drowned and his body washed up on the bank of the river and they were told not to go near there to look at the drowned man washed up on the bank of the river but they did go there on the way to school and they saw the drowned man all bloated and bumping and bobbing against a log on the river bank, surrounded by a mass of oranges all a bobbing there with the drowned man…oranges dumped in the river when the orchards couldn’t sell their excess fruit..and they would pluck one of those oranges each to take to school..but not this time and never more..for the drowned man’s eyes had been plucked out by the little creatures of the river..” ..eyeless in Gaza before the mill with slaves..” Samson Antigones..and they ran and ran away from the drowned man…but they couldn’t run from the memory..

A new sound pitched high above the others pierced his ear, squeals of delight and giggling laughter. Girls, young girls, splashing in the river up by the bridge. He looked to them, all white in the surrounding bushland, their bodies springing about with youthful energy, purity to think of. Tender youth not yet caressed with a lover’s gentle touch, young voices never lowered to a lovers ear, whispering lover’s desires.

Adam lay quiet, the water rippling about his feet softly. He listened.

” Julie, I’ll race you across “.

“Bet you won’t “. Two girls splashed in, a glimmer of white before becoming submerged in cooling water.

” Hey, wait for me!” A third racing across the sand, her legs flashing with carefree running, the line of her swimsuit seen for a moment , gone into the river, laughter, splashing,  voices,  a moments desire quietly breathed the afternoon air, river water flowing down deep, deep down clinging, touching, Adam closed his eyes…he desired…

“Jennifer”..he mumbled …. lost….

” Do you like it Adam?”

” Mmm, more than anything.” Her hand moving over his body, searching, feeling…her finger trailing along his spine, sending thrilling sparks to his muscles..

” Do you like that,..hmm,..do you feel that?”

“Ah…Now where did you learn that trick?”

” Do you like it?” Her hair brushing his cheek, soft whispers into his ear, the song of Circe..her arm under his over his back, her palm open flat, warm in the small of his back moving softly, gently, her voice, he remembered the tone perfectly, right in his ear, she was inside his brain, sweetly tacky. Gone, lovely woman, lovely life. Nineteen.

” Do you love me Jenny?”…Nineteen….gone..

Adam slipped back into the water, kicked off from the log to swim back to the sandy bank, striking furiously at the water with each stroke, harder and harder, self-derision tearing into him. He finally dove deep to cool the heat in his head, deep in the river, the deeper you go the cleaner you become, it’s a game, you see, and the one who swims deepest and longest wins.

His lungs ached as he burst the surface about thirty yards down from his clothes. He gulped the air and swam the rest of the way to the bank.

The Sun dried his body, soaking right into his skin as he lay on the warm sand. He flipped his shirt over his eyes to shade them, only the heat now touched his body, the river moving gently away, quietly shifting…humming..water, the essence of life: All life emanates from the sea. The heat warmed him while the river swayed his thoughts slowly. as a limb in a breeze, rolling wave upon wave ….drum .. “ . . . rolling drum we lay down gently with the wetness drum of the sea drying in sunshine…. children! laughter trilling in our hearing mind…She is here too, her finger brushing down drum along our closed eyelid so gentle, the laughter, her person here beside us, touch removed why?  Opened our eyes to see her but she wasn’t there…soaring drum ache of desire rushing longingly through our body… Oh that it were only possible for us…. for us…we lay back down in the warm sunshine the wetness drum of the sea drying in the sunshine wave upon wave rolling O…”

Adam woke suddenly, he had dozed off for a few minutes, restfully, He collected his things and started back to camp.

The evening meal was being dished out when he arrived, so he dressed and stood in line with the rest of the pickers to collect his serve. The mess was empty of any sound other than the clatter of eating utensils employed in the consumption of food.

After dinner Adam lay on his bunk, hands behind his head and staring at the water-stain pattens on the ceiling. Casey stopped in and placed his shoe on the edge of the bed while he tied his shoelace.

“You comin’ to town, Adam?”

“What for?”

“Jim’s leavin’ you know, we’re gonna have a cupla drinks”.

“Yeah, I might be in that. When are you leaving?”

“O, a cupla minutes, you better hurry, Pete’s drivin”…

Adam raised himself lazily and reached for his shirt.

“I’ll be ready in a sec”.

“Meet you outside then, ok?” Casey tromped on down the corridor with his heavy steps echoing through the dormitory.

Pete screamed the car on the dirt road through the orchard and careered onto the bitumen heading into town. All along the left side of the road were peach trees heavy with fruit, their branches supported with crutches of forked branches of other trees. Jim talked of his wife, house, and car he had left in Sydney. He drolled on in his boring monotone in tune with the humming of the car motor, Pete just mumbling; “Yes” or “Oh yeah” to Jim’s comments. Adam sat quietly in the back of the car, the sun heating his face through the glass. Bright spots of fruit, the green of the leaves flicking past; harlequin. A man appeared for a second, on a tractor towing spraying equipment, mist fanning out from the rear of the machine. The afternoon finishing slowly as they bumped down the long straight.

The town appeared up ahead, Jim talking continuously, quietly, to no-one in particular…just his usual meaningless babble about his wife, kids, and home…the suburban dream slowly turning into a nightmare of endless debt, remission, work and more debt. Small snatches of his talk filtered through Adam’s observations of the world around him…

Big gums flash past…”You come here to get away from home, to have a good time, save some dough for the little luxuries, you know”..outskirts of town, all the neat gardens, then the rubbish gardens, trellises of creeping plants being watered by an old lady….”You buy these little knick-knacks, to keep you happy. . .” shoe stores, hardware stores, deli’s with cracked glass windows..a town swinging on the survival of the fruit industry…”…..doing nothing but work and you end up a slob, like Casey here, only joking son, but just hanging around, waiting for the next season..the next job..”  residents of the town shuffling along permanent footpaths, ancients, middle aged, youths too soon to look as ancient as their grandfathers….”… property clinging like..like leeches on your time as years slip by..” …no-one really gives a shit for Jim’s woes…

Pete pulled the car up at an hotel with ugly stone facade and arches plain, brown painted wood angular cleaved.

There were crowds of bawling blockers, pickers, packers from the sheds..red-faced from too much grog..  “It’s weird if you ask me, a body just can’t seem to win with this life.”

A chord was struck in Adam by those words, simple as they were, the mere babble of a selfish man, they were a prophecy so clear for the moment. Of course, living, being alive, nineteen…nineteen!..that’s what matters; life, those places he’d been, all alive, still there, waiting for his return to pass through to newer places, towns on towns, states on states, countries, people, over seven billions of them in this world, all living, a living breathing world of people. World, so round, whirled, world so round, those girls at the river, youth just starting to live. The joy of revelation cooled his head and cleared all cluttering thoughts from his mind, a new energy flooded through his body.

Jennifer is gone…so be it..so be it.. Let life begin again!

Loose leaves danced flittering along the footpath with each eddy of wind around the buildings, their clatter of slight sound a moments awareness.

“C’mon Jim, wipe that frown from your ugly puss, the first round’s on me”. The four of them pushed through the throng of drinkers to the glittering bar all a clatter of glass. The evening was alive with light. “Ah!…Here’s the boy!”..a cry from a friend at the bar..The silent river cruising steadily between steep banks to the sea..the mad whooping from a room full of rolliking drunks…riding a wave of booze-filled reverly…riding to the sea..

Down, down..the Murray River flows..down to the sea…John Millington Synge..we are all riders to the sea!!

Albert Namatjira..: A Story in 3 Acts.

[ Warning : This story contains names of indigenous persons who have passed away ]

The Namatjira trust - The Painters Keys

Act One ; Scene #1.

It is the 1950’s, Albert Namatjira applies for a grazing licence so as to try to take his people away from the influence and reliance of charity from the Lutheran mission for their living.

Scene:

A government office; a sign: “Department of Native Affairs” Two men in Regulation public service dress (open-necked plain shirt, belted plain shorts, knee-high beige stretch socks and patent-leather shoes) are in the office…one is seated ,the other walks about the room as he speaks, stooping over the desk to address the seated man when making a point..

1st man.: ” So that’s it in a nutshell…we have the unique situation of an Aborigine trying to lease some of his tribal land to use for grazing cattle.”

2nd man( seated): (picks up manila folder, flips through it then replaces it casually on the desk)”So what’s the problem?..he’s an Aborigine, not an Australian citizen….he can’t own or lease land…tribal or otherwise.”

1st M : “That’s just it….this isn’t just any Aboriginal, its Albert Namatjira….THE painter .”

2nd M : (leans back in swivel seat, puts hands behind head…snorts)” So he’s a painter…so what?…I got an Abo’ doing my gardening for me and he can’t buy land neither!” (laughs).

1st M: “Well…I thought we better approach the subject with a little bit of diplomacy… not to mention covering our arses with the newspapers. So I’ve dropped it into the lap of the boss…he’ll be here in a sec’ “.

2nd M : “That useless pri.. ! (door suddenly opens , suited man strides in)…oh, g’day Ron….(leaps up)..here, have a seat (obsequiously holds seat for the boss )…now, about this situation, what do you think?”

Ron : (sits)” Just what we don’t bloody need….not at this moment.”

1st m: “What do you mean .. at this moment?”

Ron : “I mean..(Ron stands and paces behind desk while speaking) the whole bloody centre of the country is being sounded for mineral exploration….from the Kimberleys to the Blue Mountains….from Port Augusta to here, Port. Darwin….every man-jack mineral company with a licence and a prospector’s pick will be scouring the desert within the next decade and the last thing they want is to ask permission from a tribe of Abo’s if they can sink a shaft on their land.”

2nd M : “What about the other pastoralists?”

Ron : (stops, sneers)”What about ’em?…they welcome it.. royalties per ton of ore will be money in the bank plus the company will sink bores in those god-awful places that the cocky can draw on for water (snaps fingers) That’s it!…water.”

1st M :”What water?”

Ron :“Ha Ha!…No water!..(slaps hands together and rubs them..no water.. Mr Namatjira can’t lease that land for a cattle station b-e-c-a-u-s-e ..”

2nd M:(cries gleefully) “Because there is no permanent water supply!”

1st M : “And so we don’t refuse permission because he is an Aborigine but because there is no water! our arse is covered, the mineral companies are happy, the newspapers are appeased and the only one to miss out is Mr Namatjira!?”

Ron : “And he’s just one Abo’ after all said and done, gentlemen…this calls for a beer….(they gather together, Ron points to the door ) To the “Darwin” quick march, two three four (they march out in file). ”

Stage darkens for fifteen seconds, then lights up same scene the same two men in the same postures as before…the door flies open and Ron strides in again .

Ron :”What’s this bastard trying to do, get me posted to Roper River? (throws newspaper on desk….pokes it with finger) quote : Albert Namatjira buys town block in Alice Springs dress-circle….(reads mockingly)” I want to build a house and studio near my agent and friend, Mr Battarbee”…There.. he wants to be near-his-friend (shouts) I’ve had nearly every resident within half a mile of the proposed site on the blower to me this morning, threatening to have my balls if I give permission…and that’s the women!….the blokes are a little more lenient…they’ll just lynch me!…why oh why can’t he stay out in the desert like all the other Abo’s and leave me alone…The southern “liberal” papers are having a field day!”

1st M: (reads paper)”Give Albert a fair go!”.

Ron: (snatches paper, throws it on desk)”Yeah, give him a fair go….that’s because they’re down there safely out of the way….let him build a house next door to those hacks and then see who screams the loudest….what to do, what to do?”

1st M. (sits on edge of desk, swings one leg) ” Just refuse permission.”

Ron: “And have these jackels (stabs paper ) on my back?”

2nd M : “No, he’s right..refuse permission on the grounds that it is a federal law that is the problem…(strikes off points on finger) a: He is not an Australian citizen so he cannot buy land..b: He is an Aborigine so he must obey the curfew and not remain in the town limits after dark….see?, not your problem..you are only enforcing the law.”( spreads hands, pouts, raises eyebrows).

1st M :”Our arse is covered, the citizens are happy…the only one to miss out is Mr Namatjira, and after all . . .”

All three : “….He’s only an Abo’!”

Ron: (smiles) ” That’s a very sound law too….but we mustn’t be too churlish, offer him a block of land on the nearby reserve..as a sort of consolation. (smiles again)….Gentlemen, this calls for a beer…to the “Darwin”, quick march, two three four…”

Stage darkens again for fifteen seconds, lights to find the same three men pacing the floor , Ron is agitated and waving some papers in the air as he paces.

Ron : “What are these bastards trying to do to me?  I thought we’d got rid of the bastard and now these other bastards have gone and given him citizenship!…nigger-loving bastards!”

1st M : “Christ! That’s put the kybosh on the residential allotment scheme.”

Ron : ” I’ll fuckin’ say it has….now there’s no stopping him….thank Christ citizenship only covers him and his bloody wife.”

2nd M : “What about his kids….there must be a mess of them?”

Ron : “Nah..they’re out of the picture ” ( he stops his striding and gesticulates excitedly) “Yes!…of course  his children!…WAIT!… Here we go, as a citizen, HE doesn’t have to adhere to the curfew of all natives out of town limits by nightfall….but as technically “wards of the state”, his children do! ”

1st M : ” Eureka!…he can have his house but not his children….brilliant.”

Ron : ” Yeah , brilliant.. screw him and the same to those nigger-lovers too!”

2nd M: “Bewdy!…our arse is covered, the good citizens are happy and the only one to lose out is Mr. Namatjira and after all….”

All Three : “He’s only an Abo’!  to the Darwin three four!”

Exit scene.

Act 2; scene # 1.

Stage is in darkness save for Albert sitting near a soft glowing campfire, left centre stage. he is alone.. He lifts head and calls..

Alb : “Rubina  Rubina  where are you? Children? Friends? where is everybody?….(he stands, turns slowly) Anybody? Am I all alone?..”

Elder: “Namatjira!” (almost a command..The Elder remains unseen, his voice echoes around the stage …rythmn of clapsticks in background)

Alb : “Tjamu?….Tjamu? (Albert hunches his body, afraid) …is that you?….but you are gone ,Tjamu..gone these two years..’

Eld : “Namatiira…You have crossed the boundary of your country.. you are in white-man’s land now….you have no weapons, you have not the skills to hunt their game…beware Namatjira…they will hunt you now….”

Alb : ”Hunt me?..but why…I am only an artist…I am only one man trying to live amongst them, as they would have me.”

Eld: “Fool!….they would have you dead!..so they could put you in a museum and study you, piece by piece they don’t want your art….they want your soul!”

Mb: “My soul, Tjamu?….but how can they take my soul unless I give it to them?”

Eld : “You already have, Namatjira…in colour and form…and now they will play creation games with you and yours…”

Alb : “What am I to do ,Tjamu? I am alone.”

Eld : “I cannot help you any more….as you said, I am now gone.. You, Namatjira are now the Elder.. Seek your own wisdom.”

Alb :” Tjamu? Where, Tjamu (silence)…Where do I go for wisdom? Tjamu!..(he cries aloud) Tjamu, Tjamu!” (stage darkens)

Exit scene.

Act2 ; scene #2.

After Albert Namatjira’s initial success, one of the more obscure friendships he developed was with the broadcaster and public figure of Jack Davey…appearing on stage with Davey and also with his son being taken out fishing with Davey on his (Davey’s) boat ; the “Sea Mist”.

Scene:

The after-deck of Jack Davey’s cruising boat ..”Sea Mist”.. there is an awning and deck chairs about. there are several fishing rods leaning against the bulkhead….a door in this bulkhead is open. Enter an ebullient Jack Davey followed by a smiling Albert and his son Keith..

Jack: “Well…that’s the story of all fishermen, Albert..ha ha!…(places rod with others) The one that got away…Just prop those rods over with the others..”

Albert: “Anyhow, its closer than we get to them in Hermannsburg! (both laugh heartily) though we do get fish in the desert you know.”

Jack : “In the desert!..really!..How big?”

A : (Albert holds hands apart about one foot, with thumbs pointing inwards) “About this big.”

Jack : (looks extremely surprised) “Really!?”

A : (winks to Keith) “Yeah! between the thumbs.” the old joke is sprung on Jack….he throws his head back and laughs).

Jack Davey twists back in his chair and calls into the cabin.

Jack : ” Bill!…bring us out some cold drinks if you will…” He then turns to Albert and gestures conciliatory…”I’m sorry for not being able to offer you any alcoholic beverages but, well, it’s the law….dumb as it is I hope you’re not offended?”

A : ” I’m not sure if I’d be more offended if you presumed I wanted alcohol.” he laughs.

Jack : “Well….the law is an ass….and the trouble is also I am watched whatever I do”.

A “You, Jack….I would have thought you’d be free to do as you pleased. ”

J : “Ahh! (tch) you see Albert, and this is something that will soon concern you too, so if I may presume to offer a bit of advice…I am what is called a “performing artist”….that is I get up on a stage, be it radio or theatre or wherever and “perform” to an audience…the public. You , likewise in a different way are hoisted onto a stage of a kind and expected to “perform”….or at least through your paintings….and more so in your case with the novelty of being an aboriginal artist! and we get paid to “perform” so in effect we are “owned” by the public and believe me, they want their pound of flesh!”

A : “What do you mean : “owned by the public” and “pound of flesh?”

J : “Well…they don’t “Own” you by possession, but rather by expectation….The public expect us to perform to their expectation, and if you don’t. . . “  he makes a gesture with his index-finger across his throat.

A : ” Yes, well, I suppose you’d get cut up in the papers, but I’d just be forgotten”.

J : ” Don’t kid yourself, Albert, You’re much more vulnerable than me”.

A : ” How so?”

J : “Well…look at me; Jack Davey ; raconteur, comedian, congenial man-about-town….I tell some dirty jokes for them, they love me….I wash their dirty linen….when they get tired of my jokes they’ll say “Piss off Jack, we’re sick of you”…an’ I’ll piss off but you; Albert Namatjira….with their eyes they soak in your beautiful landscapes and it washes their souls….I suppose a painter is a washer of souls… you have a deeper talent than me (he holds his hand up to block Alberts protests), when they tire of me they will cut me in the press and the cuts will be shallow…but the universal rule is ; ” The greater the talent, the deeper the cut!”….(he pauses and considers if he has said too much) there are people in this country whose souls need an awful lot of washing…. just..just watch out you don’t become their Black Christ.  ” He suddenly stands and reaches for a fishing rod. ” Alright, enough of the maudlin conversation, lets catch some fish and talk about jokes, say..have you heard the one about the travelling salesman? …..”

Exit scene.

Act 3 Scene: #1

The final act in Albert Namatjira’s journey can be said to be his imprisonment for the “supply of alcohol” to some companions at a favourite gathering place named “Morris Soak” that led to the death of a young woman…

Scene:

Rex Battarbee and Albert on stage. Albert sits in the dirt in front of a ramshackle shelter, but he is dejected, morose. Rex is standing before him, arms outstretched. appealing to him to cheer up.

Rex : “Listen , Albert…You’ve got to bounce back from all this….”

Alb : “You don’t understand, Rex…I was the Elder there, it was MY camp. there should not have been drink there.. that girl….she shouldn’t have died.”

Rex : “But they were all grown people there, you can’t be responsible for the actions….”

Alb : (raising his head and voice) “I was the Elder.. l WAS responsible….that is the trouble. Rex. I was thinking as a white person would… I neglected my part in the tribe.. I was responsible TO my people, not FOR my people, but TO!”

Rex: (turning and welsh combing his hair)”Well, Albert, Mabey you know better in that matter…but surely what’s done is done…you’ve had other setbacks like.. like when Mr Lindsay of the Melbourne Gallery knocked back those paintings a couple of years ago….that was very disappointing.”

Alb : (looks up, puzzled) “You know, I can’t understand why he did refuse those paintings…they were good ones…and they got them cheap because Mr Lindsay asked me when I was in Melbourne if I could give him a painting (Albert glances right then left , then in an exaggerated whisper) “A little bit cheap”…. er, Rex , does Mr Dobell give paintings “a little bit cheap? (a laugh).”

Rex “Well…(makes a shrugging gesture) but listen Albert, you remember that time they refused you permission to build a house in The Alice….That upset you then.. eh?…but you remember we went out bush to Glen Helen gorge and set up camp out there in that beautiful country and we forgot about it, eh?”

Alb : “Did we?..”

Rex :” Yes we did….and it was so hot, you remember and..and you made that joke about. how some people ask why there is always a gum tree on the side of your paintings…and you said it was there to give you shade as you painted….(a laugh from Rex, a guffaw from Albert)  I remember it was so hot for two days, then that cool change came through with that rain (Rex plays a pantomime with his hands wiping over his face…Albert stands up, staring at him silently) Ahh!…it was so beautiful…so cooling…I remember us standing there with the rain just running down our faces…” Rex has his eyes closed reminiscing)…

Alb : (He gazes steadily at Rex, then nods his head slowly)”Yes …. I remember….The two of us were there standing in the rain and it was pouring down our faces like a river of tears.. but only one of us was really weeping.”

Rex takes his hands from his face. opens his eyes, blinks a couple of times. turns slowly to face Albert who stands staring at him. Both remain motionless…stage-light fades out..

Darkness….

Exit scene.

A Mother’s Right.

O Mom!” | Coffee With The Lord

I see her even now so clearly..like a child sees his mother…like a son sees his mother for what was honoured what was loved and what was wanted…what was wanted and also what was lost…What tragedy is a mother?…can the loyalty of a legion of national heroes match her dedication and honour?…what an investment is her love of her offspring, to give so much of her heart so that in the end she can only watch as they leave her and leave her care..she must watch as they leave her care..she cannot hold them to herself any longer…then they are gone..and she grows old.

My younger brother had an accident while riding his motorcycle, the damage to his leg was quite severe and left him with steel pins and plaster cast for around eleven months. I had just returned from working in the north of Australia and the cold weather was not conducive to a good mood.

Winter…The carriage of the morning 8.28. train to the city was cold and draughty. Rain streaked on the panes of glass, angled and beaded by the wind. I sat chilled, committed to endure the ritual of confronting the almighty twin towers of LAW and ORDER..but rather, not exactly me, but my mother. I was brought along for moral support. We were going to the small-claims court to contest a hearing that went against my brother in the cause of the accident..My brother lost that case and had resigned himself to the result, but our mother was adamant that “justice and a fair decision” was our right.

I had already leaned in my young life that which a more trusting older generation did not seem to be able to grasp: You cannot for the love of Mary expect a fair shake from those tombs of Law ( those dusty-musty tombs) without pouring everything paid for and promised into that gaping maw of “legal representation” . It ‘d be cheaper to run a Rolls Royce.

A child over the road from the station. On her way to school no doubt. Yellow raincoat with bag clumsily slung over shoulder skipping carefree in the drizzle….(O’ …, child run past my window…wide, … something-something-with every stride….O’). The image started a rhyme growing in my head..

“Daniel?”

“Hmm, Yes mum.”

“Did you see that young girl over the road there? Ah, the young, they don’t seem to feel the cold like we do. ”

“hmm……(…youthful life in every…nuh..doesn’t work)”

“How many witnesses did you get hold of?”

“Well..the legal aid people said to bring along as many as possible, it looks good in the magistrate’s eyes.” Mother replied.

“Yes, but how many did you get?”

“Only Mrs. Rowe….Mrs. Morris wouldn’t come…I can’t blame her..she’s expecting, she’s nervous.”

“Hmm. Do you hold much hope?” I asked.

“I’ve just got to try…I..I can’t let that Wishart chap have clear run of it…. It grates on my….my nerves. To see poor John..a year in plaster…an all that University study down the drain.. an’ that smarmy lawyer at the first hearing….I just have to fight it a bit…I’m his mother an’ I won’t see him hurt without sticking up for him a bit…..it’s…it’s my right.”

“John saw fit to give it best…” I pondered.

“Well he shouldn’t have. He should be here now instead of me…But, well, at least I have his signature for me to represent him today.” And she clasped her handbag tight in her lap.

“I don’t know, that legal aid crew…I don’t know.” I said doubtfully..then self-reflecting that I wasn’t much good at this “moral support” thing…

“Well…I can only go by what they advise.. an’ if they won’t come in with us, then I have to go alone and this time I have Mrs Rowe!”

“Trump card.”

“Well she wasn’t there at the first hearing so she will be new evidence…and she says she saw the whole thing…the whole accident.. right there outside her window…. it’s a wonder that other legal fellah John hired didn’t bring her along to the first case.”

“Good of her to come.” I mused.

“Oh, I said I’d pay her for the half day she missed at her shop.”

“But her husband runs the shop doesn’t he?”

“Yes I know but….well, I have to give her something….I..”

(“..a child run past my window wide… Less a child with every stride.. er..nah!)

Central Station roared with life. So many people, so many people. I like crowds , but I don’t like to think myself part of the crowd. But I guess I am. To those other people I’m just, well..one of those others…(Doctor, my eyes..can you see… can you feel….the child runs..)

“What did you say?”

“The bus, here, we’ll take the bus.” Mother paid the driver..” The law courts thanks,”

Those little sayings on the back of the tickets…what does this one….”There is no rainbow at the end of pot,”, ..Oh I don’t… no rainbow at the end….silly thing, can’t believe it…. Two punters were having it out over the races.

”No, I don’t want to see your tips..Like yesterday at Randwick..knew it would win,  just knew it…But nooo, you said it wouldn’t an’ just what ‘appens….It’s the last time I listen…”

“I know, I know, you just can’t win. So, who can?” the other answered..

The cold sterile buildings of the law courts. So neutral in design, so impartial in colour, so sparsely furnished, as though it was a crime itself to give the place any character at all. Here we met with Mrs Rowe. She suited the surroundings.

“Hello, so good of you to come .” My mother greeted her.

“Well… we’ll see Mrs Clarke.” She returned.

“Here, we’ll sit here, Oh, this is my son, Daniel.” We were introduced.

The seats offered little comfort. I was crowded to the end when another couple entered the waiting room. Gradually more people filled the room till there was standing room only. We all sat there in silence, trying, I thought, to sus out what each other person was doing there. I had to rush off for a “nervous”.

“Excuse me, I have to go to the loo..” I even felt guilty for that. The rest seemed to frown on me as I edged out the door…. Air, open air…ahh!

While I was in a cubicle, a man came through the outside door. He sounded angry with another person there.

“Listen here, I don’t give a tuppenny damn what his excuses are, I need that machine this weekend without fail.” The urinal flushed and a tap sprayed into a basin while the other answered.

“But sir, you must understand the difficulty he has in getting parts…..Here is a little list he wrote of the pieces….”

“Give us that list.” the paper was snatched, a door of a cubicle flung open and the toilet flushed. “There, that’s what I think of your “little list”….This weekend, that’s all.”

The outside door slammed. I thought they were both gone. I went to wash my hands and there was still one of them there. He glared at me when I appeared, one of those cold looks you get from an official who has some sort of authority deciding to deal with you in some way.

“Good morning.” I said.

“Mornin’.” The other man curtly replied and walked out, it was the angry one.

(.. child run past my window wide, Less a child with every stride….happy now in innocent age..goorr).

A motley crew it was there in the court room. A furtive bunch of clients with a shifty lot of solicitors. “Pearson please, of Pearson versus National ..” The clerk of the court called. “Pearson plea…”

“Oh yes Frank. here, it’s been deferred. They couldn’t arrange a witness.” And on and on, until;

“All rise please, his honour John Mathews presiding. ” It was the man shouting in the toilet. I almost chuckled out loud. The cases were got through speedily, but with little result. It always seemed they were deferred to a later date because of some obscure reason. One time a young man in a crushed and creased blue, pinned striped suit rushed in with a sheaf of papers addressed the magistrate for no more than a few seconds then dragged a sheepish looking client outside for a quick consultation. He never returned. No-one seemed to miss him. The court steamed on like a cargo of pilgrims to the promised land .Till finally: “Wishart verses Clarke.” Was called.

“Give ’em a run mum.” I encouraged.

Wishart was there with his lawyer.

“Your honour. We wish to present no new evidence at this appeal, but will rely on the judgement bought down at the preliminary hearing. Thank you.” The lawyer spoke then sat back down.

“Well, Mrs Clarke…You are the defendant’s mother it says here.” The magistrate read from his notes.

“Yes your honour, my son, John, is away working up the Riverland at the…” my mother explained.

“Yes yes…But you see, he is eighteen years of age, and so you cannot represent him here. You were explained that …before.”

‘Yes I know your honour but this time I have a little note he signed allowing me…”

“Regardless of your…little note, Mrs Clarke, I cannot let you represent your son.”

“But the Legal aid people said….” Mother tried to speak…The magistrate raised his voice in anger..

“I don’t give a tupp…well I’m afraid they led you astray…what makes you think you have the right to come here as a legal authority?” the magistrate tried to belittle mother.

I saw her eyes narrow and her jaw set..there was that moment of threatening silence that mothers impose as a kind of “clearing of space” before they speak…and then my mother spoke boldly..sharply..

“I have a mother’s right to defend my child!” my mother stood her ground and quickly but sternly replied…I could hear several soft gasps from people behind me…

This simple logic pulled the magistrate up and he seemed to give some thought to the reason. He then replied in a more conciliatory and polite manner.

“A mother’s authority, I’ll grant, has a reach so far,  but THAT doesn’t extend into the law courts…yet..”

“More’s the pity” my mother mumbled quietly.. The magistrate paused and raised one eyebrow as if to chastise her..but then thought better of it..for every man knows : A mother’s temper ought not be tested.

“…But this thing has dragged on long enough,” he continued ..” a decision must be reached on this case,” The magistrate rustled amongst some notes on the bench.”It’s best, I think , to defer this till we have an assessment of damages. If that’s agreeable to both parties?..Very well, case deferred for cost assessment and a hearing set on completion thereof.”

And that was it. No witnesses called, no discussion entered into, no completion.

“Short and sweet?” I sighed when we were outside.

“Damn and blast…What a waste of time.. what’s the use of those…” My mother was piqued at the result.

“Mrs Clarke.” It was Mrs Rowe.”I really must be off, if I only knew it was going to be this useless…You said you would reimburse me the half day…” We stood on the pavement at the corner of City Square.

“Oh yes Mrs Rowe, I’m dreadfully sorry….Here” and she handed Mrs Rowe a fifty dollar note.

“But Mrs Clarke, I thought we agreed on eighty dollars.” Mrs Rowe complained.

“What..Oh no Mrs Rowe it was fifty.” and they stood there, both frowning till Mrs Rowe shrugged her shoulders and walked away.

“A disappointing day all round eh?” I was trying to ease the feeling.

“A useless day would be more correct…Strange that It seemed so clear and simple last night in bed…” She sighed.

That rhyme started up again in my head…I was getting sick of it…(”A child run past my window wide, Less a…”) ahh forget it, don’t corrupt the memory..Leave the child run…

A Candid Conversation.

17 Man Sitting By Calm Blue Lake In Depressed Lonely Contemplation Stock  Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

. . . And the afternoon sun illuminated the panorama with dazzling glare so that the sea, with its distant choppy water flashed a glitter reflected off the waves. There were trees out the front of the hotel over the road, big trees, shrubs and bushes, the tops of the tall trees hidden from view by the edge of the roof from the fascia up with leaves hung in long hanging fronds down the trunk and out a little, dangling heavy like those big gum leaves do, the palm trees swirled a little with the slight breeze that had whipped up from the north across the backwater swamp.

The beach sand a muddy colour with the tide right out and a couple of kids throwing handfuls of the stuff at each other down by the creek, laughing and running away with a quick glance over the shoulder at his chaser, their laughter a stabbing staccato, rattling across in the heat from a distance.

Two of the few “long-grassmen” that lived down by the make-shift shelters next to the beach crossed the road, their hair lank and greasy, the same could be said for their shreds of clothing.

“You could be worse you know” the friend said, “You could end up like those”.

“At the way I’m going I’ll be worse than those” the man answered. He picked up his beer and had a sip. They sat quietly for a while, and one fiddled with his beer glass, the kids swimming now down across the creek, splashing and ducking each other , childish squeals between the silences of the hubbub of the hotel bar behind them.

“Have you told her then?” the friend asked.

“No, I’ve been sort of putting it off on the chance of an improvement”. He winced and sipped.

“That won’t help you know’, the friend motioned to the beer.

“I’ve got to.”

“Why? It would be better to leave it alone..well..at least until they finish the treatment?”

“I know, I know.. but if I don’t get sozzled these nights, I’ll have no excuse for not doing it.”

“Oh come on, she must think there’s something wrong if you come home drunk every night?”

“Yes, she thinks I’ve developed a drinking problem.”

His friend grunted. A waitress come to the table, picked up the empty glasses and wiped the table top down with a damp rag.

“And how are you gentlemen today?” she spoke as she wiped.

“Oh, very well thank you, Min, very well.”

“That’s the way to be,” and she smiled a little smile..”No good being crook in this sort of weather.” The men just grunted. The waitress went on to the next table.

“How are you boys today?……..” she repeated.

“Nice girl, Min, always friendly,” the friend remarked.

“I’m beginning to think no girls are nice.”

“You just picked the wrong one that night.”

“Yes, I should’ve left her well alone.”

A fisherman steered his dinghy up the small creek, water slipping off the bow and fanning out in ripples behind, the man standing erect in the boat with tiller in hand. He gave a little wave to the excited kids running along the bank. His progress tracked by flashes of boat and man between thick green bushes and trees, going to his moorings.

The man brought his fist down firmly but quietly on the table, his face twisted in bitter frustration.

“I don’t know, a man’s a fool”….His friend was quiet.

He wiped his hand over his face, then dabbled his finger in the condensation made by the drink.

“I know I’ve been a fool, but then I wanted it, for some strange fucking reason I needed it more than ever that night, after all”( he did a quick movement with his finger in the liquid )”I’d just become a father then…and it’s been so long.” He had a quick draw at the beer as if to wash the weak excuse of words away.

“How in heavens name do you put her off?”

“Well, its (let me see) about two months now since little Pauline arrived, and I’ve been saying that we ought to be careful cause it might not be best to start just yet, give it another coupla’ weeks. And then you know she’s not supposed to go back on the pill just yet, so I’ve used that as a backup. And now I’ve got on to this drinking thing.” Here he reflected a little. “Trouble is she’s starting to blame herself for my not being able to get it up. She thinks it was all those months of confinement that bought it round..Shit, shit, shit.”

“Why don’t you come right out and tell her?”

“No!” He looked shocked “Hell no! she’d leave me, by Christ, she’d leave me quick, it’s one thing we got, or HAD between us; trust..no she’d just give up and go.” He looked suspiciously at the friend. “You won’t tell anyone else about this will you?..You better not.”

The friend was shaking his head quickly..

“No, no.. don’t you worry…boy, I wouldn’t tell anyone about that don’t you worry.”

They sat quiet again for a little. The friend stood up.

“Well..I gotta go.”

“0, well, I’ll see you later, I guess.”

“Yeah, listen..I hope this works out for you…”

“Yeah, thanks” The man smiled weakly. the other smiled back. He tried a joke.

“Just watch out all this pissing on doesn’t develop into a drinking problem.” They both chuckled a little and the friend walked away. The man finished his beer, walked over to the bar got another and went back to his table. He stretched his legs out in front and clenched his hands behind his head. He just stared out to sea.

“Damn that bitch,” he thought “and she looked so clean..that’s the trouble, who’d have thought that a quickie in the car-park could cause all this. Bugger it, I just hope those damn doctors can fix it soon as…”

He sat there staring out to sea.

The kids had gone home. The leaves of the eucalyptus trees had come to life a little with the coolness of the evening, while the tide crept stealthily over the brown sand and up the  running water of the creek, the big gums threw soft shadows crookedly over the bonnets of parked cars.

Decem Fabulum / Ten Stories.

Ten Tales .. Dieci racconti .. Decem Fabulum.

English, Italian, Latin..in whatever language stories have come down to us as a delightful medium to offset worry or boredom … In the time of The Plague in Italy, Giovanni Boccaccio wrote of the stories told by just such a group as they while away the hours in isolation from the Black Plague.
In keeping with this tradition, we offer you likewise some stories here. These stories may or may not have appeared on this site before, but it could be from a long time ago and many may not have read them. Let us now go to story number four..:

Amazon.com : Campbell's, Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce with Cheese ...

A Trivial Inquiry.

Peter Haffney took his latch-key from the deadlock and closed the front door behind him. He paused inside the entrance as one is want to do when first coming home, and looked about. He was not seeking anything in particular, just reassuring himself that everything was as when he left it that morning. An air of suburban mustiness pervaded the house and the dreary silence echoed even the polished rustle of his suit. He then proceeded to the kitchen pantry and easing his portly bulk between the ironing board and bench top he placed a plastic shopping bag with several regular sized cans of food on the bench nearest the pantry. Taking one of the cans from the bag, he raised it to eye level and read the label. On satisfactory completion of this task, he shook his head slowly and sighed. Taking a similar sized can from the pantry, he held it next the other and compared … the brand was the same, the content was the same, even the advertising slogan was the same, however, they had changed the layout of the label!

Gone was the old familiar pattern that had for more years than he could remember been the hallmark of the company’s product. The label, it could be said, was of greater recognizable value than the product contained within the can! indeed, when he thought about it, that old familiar label must have been the same since before he was born! But now that was all gone and, heaven forbid, perhaps too they had changed the mix of ingredients in the product …

Peter was a worried man. A worried man because for many years, because for a goodly part his life (or at least his married life, for that was when his little strange mannerisms first came to public attention), he had suffered from what is called a “obsessive-compulsive disorder”. His peculiar obsession was concerned with the cooking and eating of food … he would never eat any food that he had not himself prepared, with the exception of fish and chips. Though this condition may seem humorous to the layman, it can single out the victim for mischievous mockery. Peter had been many a time made the butt of poor-taste humour. For instance, although he would never eat any food his wife would prepare, he did bend this rule for a roast dinner (his mother always had the Sunday roast) … but he had to guard his portion at the table against mischief … such as: If anyone was to touch his food, never mind with a finger (Heaven forbid that!) but with just a clean knife or fork, he couldn’t help but sweep the corrupted article off his plate with a flick of his fork at the speed of light! So on a really bad day, bits of roast would be hitting the walls or television or whatever ‘til a cry of exasperation issued from him and the protagonists buckled over in convulsions of laughter! Such is the life of those that suffer this neurosis. Because of this complaint, Peter’s mainstay of nutrition from Mondays to Fridays was canned spaghetti on toast! Saturdays were fish and chip days … Sundays were … well if his wife was cooking one; roast day, otherwise … you guessed it; canned spaghetti on toast!

But now, all this was thrown into disarray with the shock of discovering that “the company” had changed the label and perhaps, the ingredients! Fortunately he kept up his supply of cans to allow a weeks ration of meals … in case a family member took a liking to spaghetti on toast. So all was not lost, he still had a week to sort this nagging doubt out … he would write to the company seeking reassurance.

A gentle beam of afternoon light shone through the lounge window. Peter folded back the top sheet of writing paper and placed the pad squarely in front of himself. He then sat and thought … while he was thinking, he carefully examined the point of his pencil, for, you see, he always wrote with a sharp-tipped, “Staedtler Bl” pencil, preferring it to a ball-point as it was not likely to clumsily “slip over” the paper and make for illegible writing. The house, except for himself, was empty. It exuded that unexciting silence that is common to outer suburban houses … nothing extraordinary would ever happen there and was tinged with the stale mustiness of yesterday’s air-freshener. Peter touched the tip of the pencil to the tip of his tongue and began:

Dear Sir/ Madam,

I am writing to you to make a small … trivial … enquiry. For many years, I have held your product above others on the market as being greatly superior in quality and flavour. Indeed, I have traveled great distances to full-fill my obligation to purchase your product when the local supermarket was not able to supply your particular brand! However, today, when purchasing my usual supply from the supermarket, I was astonished to be informed that you had changed the layout of the label! Upon inquiry if there had been some sort of mistake, I was reassured by the proprietor that this was indeed so! Though he hastened to add that the ingredients were the same, I was far from reassured! So I am writing to you seeking that reassurance and I don’t think I can exaggerate the importance of this reassurance required to myself!

I, fortunately, have a number of cans of your product (see the accompanying label) to see me through another week. So I would appreciate a swift response to this letter (may I suggest return post?) to reassure me of your continued high standard of ingredients.

I await, in anticipation, for your reply … may it be favorable …

Yours truly,

Peter Haffney.

Peter gazed at the letter with a sense of satisfaction. It said no more nor no less than he wished to say. It was written in that clear, concise script taught to him by his primary school teacher, Mrs Herreen, who enforced such a high standard from her star pupil with the aid of a flat, slim, wooden yard-ruler that would cut over his knuckles when a grammatical deviation was observed by the attentive Mrs Herreen gazing sternly over his shoulder!

Even the underlined words were encouraged by that same teacher, with the logic that:

“It does no harm to the correspondence, Peter, if you draw the reader’s a-ttention to a par-tic-ular point you wish to em-phasise by the use of underlining speh-cific words or phrases in nee-ed of their a-ttention!” And she would invariably finish her homily with a steely gaze over her glasses down the pointed rule.

But all this was inline with the mathematical precision of Peter’s mind. For his was a very mathematical mind. Indeed, perhaps the obsessive affliction itself was a result of conflict of reason versus reality. Perhaps the fact that the uncertainties of life did not adhere to his own personal equation resulted in the withdrawal of his eating habits to a more precise routine … a routine that he had complete control over. A cabinet maker of our acquaintance was of the same type. His obsession was with jokes and satirical humour. His over-exuberant laughter would ring through the rafters on all occasions and he became known by his laugh, his nickname being; “The HO! HO! man” … but that did not disguise to us his mathematical brilliance … and it became most visible in his skills with the chessboard, even at state-level competition. That and his swift response to subtle mockery. He too, like Peter, controlled his lifestyle through his obsessions, and with these obsessions, distracted and distanced themselves from too close a familiarity with the unruly chaos of life.

However, it was now nearly two weeks since he had written to the company. His supply of the older brand labeled cans had run out, and he had searched in vain for others at more distant markets. His fidgeting restlessness had not gone unnoticed, though, for the sake of sparing himself from inevitable ridicule, he had not said a word of his predicament to any member of his family.

“You’re not giving up smoking and your football team’s on a winning streak. You’re breaking even at cards, though you lost a little at the dogs the other night so I’m buggered if I know what’s eating you … but you’re out of sorts this last couple of days,” his wife accused.

“It’s nothing, nothing … I … I’m on a bit of a diet.” Peter excused himself so.

His wife let out an explosive guffaw …

“That’ll be the day!” She narrowed her eyes cunningly: “You haven’t been tucking into your spaghetti the last couple of days I’ve noticed that … what’s the prob’ can’t find the can opener? Got worms?”

“Look, piss off, love! It’s nothing … leave me be I’ve just been making a little inquiry … that’s all.”

“But you’ve got some cans … ” She moved to the pantry and took out a can. “Why look!” she announced gaily. “They’ve changed the label … crikey, after all these years,” and she gazed pensively at the can. Peter came and took it gently from her hand and placed it with the others on the shelf.

“So they’ve changed the label? So what? It’s their label they can do what they want with their label.”

His wife had been watching him closely while he mumbled this little discourse. She suddenly let her jaw drop a little as it all dawned on her …

“Oh, I see … the label! The label has changed … OK! Ok! But what of the ingredients? That’s why you’ve not been hoeing into it this week, and I thought you were coming down with something … ha! ha! … you poor bastard! … ha! ha!”

“Don’t let it worry you, don’t let it worry you … I’ve made inquiries and I expect an answer any day now!”

But his wife didn’t look as if she was worried at all … as a matter of fact she had to ease herself into a chair so as not to crumple up with laughter. Peter reflected on the wincing humiliation he would suffer when this new one got around.

“Oh! You poor suffering dear,” his wife spoke between gulps of breath, then the look of comical angst on his face set her off onto another round of laughter.

Still, it was another three days before Peter was able to set his mind at ease as to the ingredients in his favourite food.

He walked in through the doorway from work with a bundle of letters in his hand. He was thoughtfully sorting through the mail when his wife asked:

“Anything there for me, love?” But she already knew the contents of the mailbox … she had looked before and saw the “brand-name” letter among the others and decided to leave them in the box for Peter to find.

“Yes … yes a couple the usual bills.” But here his eyes widened in anticipation.

His wife was watching from a sly vantage point in the lounge as he slit the envelope with his pocket-knife. Peter was a study in silence as he read the letter … then, slowly, his eyes closed with delight and a small smile spread over his lips.

“Anything else?” his wife asked.

“Oh … yes, one for me.”

“Important?”

“Well … sort of … just a reply to a trivial inquiry.” And upon completion of the read, he methodically tore the letter into very small pieces and placed them into the waste-bin. Next, whistling a little self satisfied tune to himself he went to the pantry and took out a now familiar can. His wife spied this little pantomime from her vantage point in the lounge and shook her head smiling …

“The poor dear,” she said to herself

 

A Visit from an Old Couple

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A visit from an old couple.

Geezus!..the old couple that came to the nursery workshop…I almost forgot…ah!.I was buggered after a lousy sleep the night before, what with all the lightning and thunder…I went straight to sleep after dinner last night.. I’ll tell you now.

It went like this…

This old couple..Now we get a few curious people come to these free “how to pot and grow” workshops at the nursery, some tree-change people who want to grow their own..some for company and a day out…we got one couple who grew lilliums for show…they moved out here to stop other ‘breeders” from stealing their bulbs and such..very jealously competitive is the flower showing fraternity….we had a couple of minature horse breeders once…the horses were miniature, NOT the breeders.. but I won’t go there!

This old couple turned up, John and Helen…never seen them before..said they were up visiting some rellies and thought they’d come see ( we advertise in our newsletter). A nice couple, smartly if a tad conservatively dressed, sharp-pressed slacks and trousers, cardi and collar shirt …snug-fitted slip-on sandles..a lot of pastel shades..you know ; the “eastern suburbs grandparents look”.

As a matter of fact, it was that which drew my attention to them…they had that exact look that you’d expect the perfect grandparents to have…Her; that soft-featured countenance with the “look of the listener”, hair; short, curled and permed ( I suppose that’s what you’d call it). Him; soft, groomed moustache, kindly, inquisitive eyes with a keen ear..his hair, silvered, short, parted to one side, held in place with some sort of hair crème. They looked a picture of genteel grandparentlyness.

At the end of the workshop, when they were purchasing some pots , soil and a few plants (our prices are very cheap…cost only), I approached them with my observation…the lady laughed out loud and the man smiled..

“Touche’” he said..”Or rather; “Une touché de elegance” !”  and they both smiled.

I raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“I am afraid you see us in our theatrical get-up..it becomes very difficult to shake off at times” The lady explained.

‘This sounds interesting” I remarked  “Can I coax you in for a cup of tea and biscuits while you tell me about it?” I offered .

They accepted keenly and we sat at the kitchen table with cuppa and a saucer of iced vo-vo’s while they revealed all.

The lady spoke.

“We hire our persons out to people or organizations that want couples such as ourselves to add a certain “touch of elegance” to an occasion..or as John said ;”Une touché de elegance”..as a matter of fact, that slogan is on our invoice.”

“Let me get this straight” I pleaded “…people and companies hire you to come to their events just to give it a sort of respectable elder citizen cred’? “

“Exactly.” He answered

“What sort of companies?”..I was curious.

“Oh financial investment houses, aged care providers, companies selling certain products for the elderly..we go there and ..well..mingle..that sort of thing.”

“Mingle?”

“Yes…look respectable…like you’d expect a grandparent to act…sweet, polite, gently condescending…that sort of thing…full of good, sound advice…provided by the organizers of course.”

“And private people?” I asked.

“Now THEY are the difficult ones!” he sipped his tea and placed the cup and saucer back on the table. “ We have some who want to claim us as their real grandparents so as to have a kind of “geneaology  line” to impress another party..They supply a few pictures and we refer to them in conversation, sometimes we photo-shop ourselves into another photo..say “at the beach” or somewhere…for that extra touch of reality..”

“Isn’t that a bit risky?”…

“You mean in case someone recognizes us in another place sort of scenario?…well, my dear chap, that’s where the theatrics come into play…”

“We are both “retired” actors.”  Helen took up the telling “ Small repertory theatre, that sort of thing..Noel Coward farces and comedies..Unfortunately those small companies and theatres mostly closed down with the internet and “demand streaming”….and of course, the time of slapstick or double entendre vaudeville is now “persona non grata”..and we got bored with a dull life at home..no kids, you see…so we thought of this..”

“I tell you,” John leaned over the table to me…”we could come in next workshop as different people and I guarantee you wouldn’t recognize us!”

I believed him.

“But we did have some beauties before we got saavy on how to handle “situations”..John , you remember that Italian woman…the fiancé of the orphan gentleman…”

“Dammed embarrassing!..almost made a fool of myself!..But I plead innocence in the matter..I was ambushed! ” John protested.

“Shall I tell him, John?” Helen touched his hand gently.

“Oh go right ahead..so long ago now it’s almost funny”.

“Well” began Helen “ We had this commission from a wealthy Australian business chap, rather dodgy if you ask me…that was going to marry an Italian woman…from Italy..in Italy, but he was an orphan and her family expected him to have certain “credentials” so to speak.. respectability I suppose you’d say…Anyway , we were hired to play the Grandparents…his closest relatives since his parents were killed in a motor accident…He was on holiday in Australia with the lady and they were to “drop in” on “Gran and Papa” for afternoon tea..in the English manner, and we were to impress the lady with our quaint charm and so on…”

“And did they? “

“Did they bloody ‘ell! “ Helen blurted.” Like a cloudburst!..I’d no sooner answered the door when SHE was in the hallway like a stray dog after a square meal!”

John took up the story.

“The woman was unstoppable!..All bouffant,  bottom and bosoms!”: John phewed  “ I was sitting in the club chair and she came straight over to me…I was about to get up when she came and planted big, fat, juicy kisses on both my cheeks…my nose wedged into those voluminous bosoms like Edmond Hillary descending into a crevasse on Mt Everest!..and I tell you what, the perfume she had soaked down there nearly knocked me out cold!..I’d just come up for air when she exclaimed..: “ You are Brendan’s Granpapa but now you are my new Nonno!…and she sat BANG down on my lap!…”

“Ha!” Helen exclaimed “ dammed hussey!”

“..and no sooner than she sat down, IT came up!”

“IT ?” I pondered….

He pointed meaningfully toward his crotch.

“Lazerus rising!” Helen mocked.

“Whoa!” I exclaimed.

‘You’re not kidding ; whoa..I quickly jumped up, sending her to the floor, spun around to conceal and readjust the “inconvenience”. and then doubled over pleading “my old war-wound”.. “

“Anyway, we got it all sorted out and they departed happy if apologetically after a suitable time…I believe he informed her some months after the wedding in Rome that we had both died of a heart attack..one “followed” the other into God’s care..a nice romantic touch, don’t you think?”

They both smiled…

“I say” John leant over to me..” I don’t suppose you’d mind me taking a couple of those nice vo-vo’s with me …for a snack on the way home…the old blood-sugar, y’know..Ta!…” and they stood to depart.

I gave them the invoice for the plants and potting stuff they took.
“You’ll accept payment in seven days, I take it?” John asked, eyebrows raised, wide eyed.

I hesitated…then smiled “knowingly” in return.

“Of course, of course…and thank you very much”.

Lovely couple, but I don’t think I’ll see them at too many more workshops.

Decem Fabulum / Ten Stories.

Why the Decameron Is on Everyone's Coronavirus Reading List

Ten Tales .. Dieci racconti .. Decem Fabulum.

English, Italian, Latin..in whatever language stories have come down to us as a delightful medium to offset worry or boredom … In the time of The Plague in Italy, Giovanni Boccaccio wrote of the stories told by just such a group as they while away the hours in isolation from the Black Plague.
In keeping with this tradition, we offer you likewise some stories here. These stories may or may not have appeared on this site before, but it could be from a long time ago and many may not have read them. So let us begin with one of the first stories offered here…:

Pearl.

Image result for Pics of Pearls.

The tide had ebbed.

He was strolling down the still waxy sands, she, with her two frolicking children, aged three and five approached from the opposite direction. Suspended from a coarse, frayed piece of rope gripped in his hand, was a glass net-float. It swung, pendulum like as he walked. As they drew near to each other, their eyes met and their gaze held one another with that curious cognizance that lingers longer than is usual with strangers. A search not timid nor wanting but rather, as with like minded travellers in new lands, a polite familiarity in each other. The wide open sands of the tidal beach allowed plenty of room for personal space. The older child, a boy, saw the glass float, its surface sheen reflecting, with rhythmic precision of the swings, a shaft of evening sunlight into his eyes. He ran over and touched it, open mouthed, wide eyed and with the innocent inquisitiveness of a child.

“What is it?” he asked, his fingertips palpitating over the glass surface.

“A float, a glass float off a fishing net” the man continued to explain. The other child approached with the mother, its tiny arm clutching around the mother’s leg.

“Where did you find it?” The boy persisted.

His query remained unanswered because the man gazed at the woman who in return exchanged greetings with her eyes. He held out his hand.

“David MacKinnon”. he announced. She took the tips of his fingers lightly.

“Suzanne”. she replied with the natural caution of omitting the surname.

“What is it?” she asked. one hand waving across her face to chase away flies. The bridge of her nose pinched in a wrinkle.

He held the orb up by its rope, looking for all the world like a severed head with the bits of straggling seaweed.

“A glass float, rather old though.. they use plastic ones now.. or styrene foam..”

She didn’t remark on the information, just stared at the orb as it gently turned on its rope axis this way then that like a mesmerist’s fob watch, the “oily” aged glass swirled marbled with rainbow tracks.

“It’s almost… like…a pearl!” she delightfully exclaimed. there was a pause as he gazed.

“Why.. yes, yes…I suppose you could say that”. the thought attracted and attached itself to his mind. “But then it’s only appropriate to find a pearl at a pearl-fishing part of the coast.”

The little boy reached up to spin it around, but his hit swung it against the man’s body….he lowered it to the sand and let the boy roll it around…it had no value to him.

“I dug it up back there” he motioned toward a dark hulk of a wreck of a boat back up the beach, its rusty skeleton softened by a cluster of mangrove fronds over it.

“Maybe it’s from that boat?” she remarked.

“Maybe..but that’s not a fishing boat, it’s a pearling lugger.” he said.

“How do you know?”

“By the sweep of its’ deck, ….oh, I don’t know really..I’m just guessing…a feeling rather….it’s the way they used to build them”.

She laughed gaily.

“Well perhaps that is an old pearl.” she said pointing to the float “After all, I bet they don’t make THEM like they used to!” and they both joined in the friendly levity.

They stayed there together as the children played with the glass float. he looked intently at the children.

“I have two children myself.” He announced vaguely.. “A boy and a girl…”

“Oh…how old?”

“Seven and eleven.” ..

She nodded.

Here was comfortable ground and a chance to talk to another human being after that interminable drive up from Perth, with every town a seeming thousand miles from the next and oh! the dreadful endless road and the tedious bitumen.

“Where are you headed?” she asked.

“To Perth.. home ….And you?”

“We’re off to Darwin…to a new home….or at least we hope to call it that for the next couple of years.”

“I’ve just come from there.” (as if it was just up the road).

“Oh.. what’s the place like?”

“The tropics are beautiful this time of the year. It gets very oppressive in the “wet”….yes, I enjoyed it there.”

“What do you do for work?”

“I’m a carpenter.” he replied.

She smiled…for there was something secure about a carpenter, the thought of his hands smoothing over a piece of wood…the trueness of his eye, turning the wood, gauging the grain with a sureness of judgment to match and make….a workshop strewn with curled shavings, the odours of Pine and Fir resin…joss-sticks…sandalwood? ” Yes, a carpenter must have a patient touch” she mused.

“Are you driving straight through?” she asked.

“No…not tonight..I’ve just arrived..” he pointed to a distant campervan…

“I’ll book into a caravan park for the night. Get a bit of a clean-up.”

“There’s a nice one just up the road a little…at the edge of town, we’re camped there ourselves for the night too.” She gave this information over lightly, without invitation.. just as information.

“I s’pose that’ll do then…I’ll give it a burl..Gosh!..look at that sunset!” they both turned to face the ocean. the sinking star shimmered and quivered into the lapping mercury of sea. He snorted humorously.

“It’s a pearl too”.

They both stared silently.

“Yes.” she softly murmured “It’s quite divine..”

David turned to see the children frolicking, their stretched shadows flickering over the waxy sands…

” …and we live our lives in the shadow of the divine..” he said.

The caretaker showed an informal interest in his booking as there were few people staying there that night.

“Just find yourself a park over there near the ablutions block an you’ll be right”.

As he steered his van to the site he saw again the woman outside a station-wagon. She was with her two children.

“Hello!” he called, “Do you mind if I park nearby for the night?” and he smiled.

“Suit yourself it’ll be good company”.

They crossed paths to the showers later that evening and after more small talk agreed to sharing a coffee after the children had gone to sleep.

The sweeping silence of the night lent a comforting familiarity to the talk and it wasn’t long before they were sharing confidences and laughter.

“Yes, I did meet some real characters up there in Darwin there’s some beauties, especially in the building trade.”

“Tell me about one.” she leant over the little table in the van, her face supported by her fist under her chin.

“Ahh!..they’re too crazy”.

“No, really, tell me.” there was a tenderness attached to her inquiry.

He rubbed his fingers over his brow as he pondered, aware all the same of the purring sensuality in her voice, an early indicative sign that men interpret as woman’s intention and act instinctively. He sat upright and began.

“Here’s one….There was this bloke I knew up there…a Kiwi fellah…a contract painter…any how, he was telling me he done this big job for a wealthy family, the whole house, inside and out….a couple of months work..and they didn’t pay him…couldn’t get the money out of them….rich people can be the worst payers….and him with all the material costs, all the paint…and the other blokes he had working for him…a fortune..and it was sending him broke but he got this other job…with another wealthy family. He was up on a ladder painting the cornices with this dark, crimson paint one day and thinking of going down the tube what with these others not paying and thinking one thing an’ another an he didn’t know how he did it but he dropped his pot of paint!…and it fell outside the groundsheet!…all over the white carpet!….”Holy shit!” he cried “I can’t afford to pay for that!…” and he was just about to panic when the woman’s poodle walked past (he knew she wouldn’t be far behind)….He quickly grabbed the dog and threw it onto the spilled paint and cried in an exaggerated yell…”You little bastard!” ….the woman came rushing into the room ,threw her hands up in the air ….”Oh Pickles!…oh you naughty dog, I’m so sorry,..I’ll…. I’ll pay for the paint ”

Suzanne laughed as she threw her head back.

“Oh the rotten bugger!” she cried.

”Yes, I guess so…though I suppose he had to do something and I daresay the insurance would pay for the carpet…”

They both giggled a bit more, then a silence fell between them, and within that silence there rose in each of them a warmth of companionship and familiarity so they both knew the others desire, but the restraining codes of society held them yet apart. Instead, he pursued the desire with some small-talk.

“Huhm….and what are you going to do in Darwin?”

“Me?…oh..I work in jewellery shops…an assistant….so I suppose…” she left the answer open to the inevitable conclusion.

“Jewellery…” he repeated, his eyebrows raising swiftly. “Then I may have something that will interest you.” and he turned to reach into a drawer on the side of the van.

“Just a minute” she said, her hand raised and lay familiarly on his shoulder “I thought I heard one of the children…be back in a minute.”

When she returned. David had a small, dark wooden box on the table. It was very ornate with chunky carvings, of the chest-type from Thailand, only smaller, about ten by six inches. Suzanne pulled her stool up closer to David, her hair brushing over his shoulder, she noticed the “goose-bumps” that arose and she smiled to herself.

“And what has he got in his little black box?” she smirked…He chuckled.

Lifting the lid gently, a chamois bag was revealed, he lifted it from the chest and placed it between them on the table. Dave slowly untied the soft, woven cotton pull-string that choked the neck of the bag….slipping two fingers into the opening, he eased the bag apart wide. In the tarnished glow of the mozzie-candle, lay, like the waxen orbs of many tiny eggs in a nest, a regular bounty of…pearls!

Suzanne pursed her lips, for they were indeed attractive, and in this light, their buffed skins took on a living glow, like the promise of an egg about to hatch! she put her hand forward as if to touch, but David, not noticing her movement, had placed his own fingers into the burnished silvered cache. As he lifted the pearls up and let them fall dull-tacking back into the fold, he looked to her face . It was intent on the pearls, the dancing flame of the candle light lapping into and onto the soft features of her face, a face not yet drawn with the lines of care nor bitterness, a face still open and serene..David pondered on his own features, were they as easy to read? were his eyes still capable of showing impromptu emotion?…but he quickly dropped these introvert thoughts.. he longed to touch her…would she allow….?

“Where did you get them?”

“From a Melville Island local….they call these “roughs”, as you can see, they aren’t nicely rounded. but they are still pearls…”

“Why did you buy them ?” Suzanne asked, not taking her eyes off the luscious hoard.

“I liked the look of them.. the feel of them.. the sound as they touch each other….”

“Were they expensive?” she asked…he laughed.

“No…”  then softly, almost dream-like he ran his hand through them again. Suzy placed her hand on his shoulder…he gazed at it, then rubbed his hand over hers, they smiled together.. she turned her attention back to the pearls.

“Why do you keep them?”

“I keep them because of how they feel.. because I like how they feel.”

“I have to ask…it’s the way you run your fingers through them.”

He looked to her eyes to gauge his answer, to feel out her capacity for a simple truth…a male truth.. for there are some secrets neither men nor women would share with each other.. her eyes answered him encouragingly. He stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers, she pressed her cheek against them..but how does a man reveal that named desire for the untouchable, the impermissible part of a woman that he is both slave to and yet feebly jealous of without himself sounding feeble, or foolish in a description..a name for that most powerful sexual part of a woman.

“They remind me…” he paused in trepidation, to consider, then spoke , the timbre of his voice firm, but softly tender “I sense..they remind me..of..a woman’s  – – – –  .” and here he used the old Saxon word of description, a brash word of men’s language. His eyes moved away from hers to the pearls as if in apology for using such a vulgar noun, even though his pronunciation of the word was rather a deliberate reverential tone than a cutting slander. But how else could he say it in truth how does a man describe such an overwhelming yet beautiful hunger?..He once again dipped his fingers into the pearls, their satiny surfaces making a sound like…like silver….He continued ; “sort of velvety-smooth…and pleasant to touch, a sense of moist….but these, of course, are dry..” he picked one pearl up, pinched between thumb and forefinger….he rolled it gently around the ball of his fingertip….”and by themselves, like this, they are like a woman’s firm nipple….almost erect yet…so gently pliable”.

David spoke in a detached but tender tone. She had at first balked at his use of the vulgarity and she watched him closely, looking to detect any trace of lechery in him, but no, while certainly he could be called a sensualist, there was not that oleaginous sleaze that is attached, film-like, to the seeking voice of the degenerate. No, he had used the word as such because in the descriptive circumstance there was no other with the strength of emotion to encompass the fierceness of that strange male hunger.

Suzanne stretched her hand over his to touch the pearls with her fingertips. The smooth opalescence of her skin in vast contrast to his tanned workman’s hands….and as she dabbled them into the glistening bag, his hand moved to the inside of her thigh….Her head came forward to rest in the crook of his shoulder, his lips sought her ear….his other hand moved down the spine of her back to lift up the base of her blouse, his touch had found her so warm..he felt his hunger for her body rise..and ohh to touch that forbidden place and then to be encouraged to go further..David sighed . He freed the clasp of her bra and slipped his hand to cup her breast…. lovely breasts, so full and voluptuous he squeezed the nipple so very gently between thumb and forefinger as she softly gyrated her hips to his caresses…

“Mmm, “she cooed….”I see what you mean.” she spoke as she fingered the pearls.

“How do you know?” he teased.

She smiled.

“Oh…just a wild guess..” and she pulled back arms length with her hands clasped at the back of his neck.

They sat looking at each other for a full minute without speaking, the insect-candle sending its whisper of citrine scented plume curling over their heads. David placed his hands on her hips.. it was settled, and it seemed as if some enormous imprisoning weight had lifted from their hearts to be replaced by a freedom of movement liberated from the constraints of the artificial dualism of civilized human – spiritual animal!

Suzanne moved her hand down and took his now firm manhood in a gentle clasp, as one would hold a thick stem of a flower …

“All rise to the power of the beast!” she laughed quietly…he chuckled with her…”how good a carpenter are you?”

“Oh…fair to middling I always try to put my heart into my work.” he smiled.

She worked his zipper down and released his “beast” from its “cell”.

“Mmm..with a bar like this you should be able to jemmy any door!” they both laughed heartily but softly, then again a small silence…Suzanne gave his penis a gentle squeeze, noting again that soft, silken feel of the hardened flesh…with the oh so gentle undulations along its length…she felt a rising anticipation for it to press against and then to enter the soft opening of her body slowly pushing in deep up to its full length…..her breath deepened at these thoughts she had…David’s words on the beach reverbetated in her mind..” … and we live our lives in the shadow of the divine.”

“Will you stay the while ?” and David patted the cushion of the seats….”It folds down to a double bed.”

She felt a sudden flush of colour rise to her cheeks, a warmth of emotions that she had not experienced since her teens when her body was master over her mind…before the demanding constraints of social convention had enslaved her desires.

“Will she stay the while?….” Suzanne repeated his request. She looked into his eyes, she leaned toward him, her breath quickened, their eyes held till the hiatus was broken by the gentle touching of their fingers intertwined….

A kiss! a kiss!

The first glimmer of dawn sweetened the charcoal sky as Suzanne changed into top gear and headed up the highway toward her ultimate destination, the memory of parting still warm on her lips. They had made love on awakening and she had left him there in the park and drove away so as to get a good start before the children awoke. A kiss and a wave of hand the last time she would see him….oh yes!..also the pearl! The pearl David had given her as a momento. She took one hand off the steering wheel to feel into her breast pocket…there it was!

She took it out, held it up in front of her eyes and gazed at it, its polished husk glowed like a moonstone….but wait!..the moon!…there, suspended in space on a lightening horizon was the full moon, as polished and opalescent as the pearl itself! a compliment to each other! she smiled as she thought of that morning’s quiet love-making in the bed and ahead of her lay the interminable road. She glanced back at the children still asleep and then, smiling wickedly, took the pearl and dexterously slipped the treasure down inside her panties to place it strategically and comfortably just there.

 

Proverbs / Parables for the young and old.

Pythagoreanism - Wikipedia

 

I suspect many readers here have heard of that old parable of the Sun and Wind having a competition as to who could get a man to remove his overcoat the soonest…The wind blew and blew its hardest, but the man just pulled the coat tighter around his body. The Sun on the other hand shone warmer and warmer so that the man got hot and removed his coat at his own leisure ..

I have given up on writing political posts because there being a plethora of such on many blogs and social media, demanding change or attention to this or that current topic … and all with the good intention of bringing about a change of heart in if not the already converted then .. presumably .. the many undecided readers .. I have to conclude that because of the still predominant angst of some regular posters in the many forms of social media, not much success has been achieved in that quarter.

I have gone another route .. trying instead to use the art of persuasive language of story and tale as exemplars of the humanist struggle against oppression, be it political or social .. Who knows, I may have as minimal success as the aforementioned political posters, but I would like to think that at least in my stories I show compassion or irony but do not exhibit the strident demands of the soap-box spieler.

In the spirit of both storytelling and that age old methodology of parables, I hereby offer these few Proverb / parable cameos to you for a kind of exemplar of life.

Proverbs and Parables for the young and old.

 

Proverb: It costs a lot of money to die comfortably.

Parable:     Nickolai Petrov was moderately wealthy. He was also so cautious with his money, that many times his friends would chastise him with the old adage; “You can’t take it with you, you know!” ..  Now he was old and was dying of cancer. The surgeon told him this at his bedside in the hospital.

Nickolai’s wife sat at his bedside consoling him, holding and stroking his hand. A tear fell from her eye on to the bed cover.

“Ah Nicky … my dear Nicky … what can I do for you?” She sang in sympathy.

Nickolai thought about this for a while … then said

“Trishka, my dear … one thing you can do … ”

“Yes, my dearest … just say it.”

“A … a cushion … an embroided, red velvet pillow .. like they have in the old country … to lay my head on when I … pass on … to put in the coffin for me to rest my head on … ” He turned his eyes to her.

She wept a little at his request “So like the man” she thought,

“Yes, Yes my sweet … I’d love to.”

And she made him the soft velvet cushion of the dimensions he wished , embroided with also a tasselled edging. She brought it to him in the hospital the day he was to be sent home.

The doctor had given him a couple of months to live and he spent these finalizing his accounts and business and even arranging the funeral services. He insisted on doing this work himself and said:

“While I have the strength, let me have the dignity.”

And so he died and was buried with the red velvet embroided cushion under his head. His wife mourned for weeks in sadness, but, life goes on and the bills keep coming in.

One day she went to the bank to take some money out,  there was none there! – the account had been closed. She went to the building society … that too, closed! … No money? Where had it gone? She asked all the relatives if Nickolai had given them proxy after death to handle the money? No, no one knew … Had he hidden it in the house? She turned it upside down in the search … No … gone … lost!

At last she went to the grave of her husband.

“Nickolai, I know you’ve hidden it … but where?” She glared at the tombstone through slit eyes. “You old devil.” She hissed “Where did you hide it?”

Then she looked to the photograph of Nickolai Petrov fixed in the left side of the tombstone. He had a certain “Mona-Lisa” smile fixed on his face. “Damn it Nicky, I need . . .  ” She stopped short as a niggling, nasty realization crept over her mind. She flung her hand-bag to the ground. “You swine! … 0h you, you bastard! … the cushion, the cushion … you did take it with you after all! You little pig!” She shook her fist at the grave.

It cost Trishka five thousand dollars and a lot of affidavits to exhume the coffin and redeem the money from the pillow. She replaced the cushion under his head when they reburied him … but this time she filled it with rocks!

 

 

Proverb: “Those with sour mouths cannot spit sweetness.”

 

Parable:  Jim Parker worked as a motor mechanic in his own garage in Darwin. His wife: Cynthia worked in an hotel in one of the outer suburbs. After work, Jim would drive to the hotel, pick up his wife and give her a lift home. This evening he was late.

 

“What took you so long?” his wife complained.

 

“I had to finish Mr. Black’s truck, he wanted it tomorrow.”

 

“Oh yeah, so who’s more important; me or Mr. Black’s truck?” She didn’t want or expect an answer but snatched her bag from the desk and pushed the door open to the carpark. Jim followed two or three steps behind. As she strode toward their car, she came near a group of aborigines lounging about drinking beers. One of the women was sitting on the bonnet of a car that belonged to one of her workmates Cynthia didn’t like aborigines at all!

 

“Get off that car you black bitch!” She snarled as she walked past.

 

Suddenly: “Wham!” she was hit and knocked to the ground by one of the aborigine men standing close by. Jim pulled up in shock with his arms spread and his mouth open. The Aborigine women, as if by some pre-arranged strategy quickly removed one of their shoes and thrust them into the hands of their men standing there. Jim dashed forward for the fight and was confronted with a “wall of men” with the shoes in their raised fists ready to strike. Although a seasoned “scrapper”, Jim saw at an instant this was too much to take on. He halted and glared around in anger, the men glared back, their raised arms wavering.

 

“Hit him Jim, hit him, hit him … go on you coward … hit him!! .. his wife yelled, one arm propping herself up off the bitumen. Jim felt the taunting insult rake across his brain.

 

“Go on, hit him I said … oh you … you coward!” She wept.

 

“Shut up Cyn, for Gods sake shut up and get in the car before I hit you!” And they drove away. But all the way home she lay into his manhood so that he dropped her off and grabbed his shotgun and returned to “settle things”. But of course there was no-one in the car-park when he got there. Jim sat brooding in his car with nothing to calm his anger and the sour bitterness of his wife’s accusations biting into his soul.

 

 

Proverb : “What the eye doesn’t see, The heart doesn’t grieve.”

 

Parable : ” I laugh now when I think of it”. The old lady chuckled, “But I was young then, about fourteen .. or sixteen .. but I was a ‘young’ sixteen …. you know? .. and I had gone to the millinery store in the town and bought a dress for the fair. The dress was pink floral with a blouse all in one and it had two pieces of material, like braces, with big buttons on the waistline and those two braces went over the shoulders down the back.”

 

“Ahh .. I was young then …. anyway at the fair there was the excitement of a merry-go-round and bucking horses and shearing contests and …. and tug-of-war .. an … and .. horse races .. you know, that sort of thing and everybody from the district and from beyond the bend of the river .. and they’re dressed up to the nines,  oh dear,ha! … the big day of the year for us then, ha!”

 

“Well, there was this aboriginal girl there the same age as me it turned out, and she had on EXACTLY the same dress that I had .. exactly! … and we ran up to each other and laughed and became great friends that day … she worked, like me, at another station on the Murray …. cooking, cleaning, looking after the children that sort of thing ….. anyway, we were great friends that day an’ we walked all around that fair together arm in arm, laughing and having great fun and we’d tell everyone we met that we were twins! .. ha! ha! … TWINS! …. you’d laugh now, but we didn’t even think of her being black and me white then .. some people smiled and others threw their heads back and laughed and we just thought they were as happy as we were, ha!”

 

“Oh, a jolly good time we had that day ….. I can’t even remember her name now …. ha! …. Ah well …. twins .. twins indeed … I can’t imagine what my mother would have thought!”