10th January 2018.
The waves that tickle Melbourne’s Brighton beach are more bonsai than Bondi and there’s a tidal range little more than the height of an Aussie’s Ashes winning thumbs up. Yet for a pom caution is a given. Things lurk in Port Phillip Bay.
It’s less than six months since news desks from Anipernza to Zacatecas posted shock and awe photos of teen Sam Kinzay who immersed lower legs for a cool down after AFL practice. Stood still for far too long he had his feet reduced to gore by amphipods suckered into thinking him dead meat. Why the surprise? For the past 350 million years, give or take, the shrimp-like beasties, ‘sea fleas’ if you will, have been carcass nibbling in rock pools. And Port Philip is just that, a rock pool, albeit a gargantuan one.
Nobody’s been reported eaten since young Sam, mind you. Yet has any boffin cogitated whether Neanderthals paddled? The thought furrowed my brow when last week at five to midnight and sipping a mug of rooibos tea – a habit inspired by Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ – I stood a couple of steps back from the water’s edge. Room enough to toss a 10 cent coin. Head or tail? Tail. Good. A head, and my New Year resolution would have meant constructing a catapult.
For on a bench hidden from the foreshore the annoying drone couple sit side by side smirking shamelessly. Twenty-somethings, VR goggles, sized like those old school seaside viewing binoculars, strapped to their bonces, they fly their little weapon-like objects on these drowsy summer evenings about my ears, and around those of other beach strollers and their mutts, like thumping undiscriminating, potshot worthy, zizzing mozzies.
Instead, after the firework dazzles and their drifting cordite clouds above the towers of CBD had celebrated 2018’s arrival, the ‘tail’ meant I simply had to be nice to ‘Petal-Podge’. Yes, I’ve given the back-yard possum, the catalyst of the catapult notion, a name reflecting both its diet and profile. A sweet but evidential snap had the ruddy marsupial blissfully munching the wisteria. There’re also before and after photos of the roses. But a resolution is a resolution. I’ve even gone so far as to show the mug shot around.
“Wanna see something cute?” I said, conscious of my gritted teeth.
Maja, way north of six foot, Serbian genes, gave Petal-Podge a mere momentary glance. “Urgh! Sorry. I hate possums. They scare the crap out of me. They hang out in the tree beside my house making horrible noises. Rather than walk under the tree I give it a huge wide berth getting to the front door. One pissed on my mum’s hair. Made it stink of eucalyptus. Couldn’t get it out. They also shit on my car. And you can’t kill them. The Government stuffs you a $10,000 fine if you do.”
“10,000. Dr. Bob told me that after telling him I shooed away two possums canoodling on the pavement. The lovers ran straight under a car’s wheels. Tragic. That’s $20,000 right there.”
“That wasn’t really your fault.”
“Yes, it was. I instigated it.”
“Hmm. Perhaps the possum I spied chewing on traffic light cables at the busy Moorabbin/Hampton junction was a relative seeking payback. On your way home isn’t it?”
A look of horror crossed Maja’s face. “Anyway,” she said, “now I go red if I see the police. When I told Petrina what Dr. Bob said she panicked. Didn’t you Petrina?”
Petrina, south of five foot, Greek heritage, nodded vigorously. “I did! Blade, you know, one of my huskies? he bought a headless possum into the house and it was dead.”
“But… er… Dead? Was it really Petrina?”
“Yeah, it was. It was dripping blood all along the corridor. I didn’t know what to do because of the fine. So I buried it deep in the garden. Otherwise I’d have worried having to save for years and years.”
“That’s awful,” I sympathised. “You should have chucked the carcass into the bay. It’d likely vanish without trace. That simple.”
So to Monday’s result from the Sydney Cricket Ground. Another England loss. The Ashes series gone four-zip. Doh! I should have expected it. It’s not as if there weren’t clues. A monitor at the MSG’s wacking edifice hailed England off break spinner Moeen Ali bowling ‘offbread’. The Plan B to dislodge Cap’n Smith and Co., perhaps. Certainly crumbs of insight that help fathom my homeland’s stuffing. On whom could I vent my frustration?
Best I resist temptation. Instead I’ve inspired myself to concoct bread and butter pudding. Comfort food before any blues set in. Might even go so far as to wish Petal-Podge “goodnight”, if I survive this evening’s beach drones. Problematic these resolutions.
Illustration © 2018 Zum Beamer/Charles Wood