First, I want to give a big THANK YOU to Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke for providing some of the most entertaining posts I've seen. I'm prodding him to put all these together in a Bill Bryson-esque publication.
Speaking of publications, Michael will have a poetry chapbook coming out soon from a US publisher in Texas. I'll post the link to the book when they are available.
Before we go to this one last post from "Aussie August" (that is now obviously Aussie September)--I wanted to announce the winners of our two prizes from the drawing.
A copy of Doris Betts' "Souls Raised from the Dead" goes to..... NEVYN!!!!! Nevyn, you can e-mail me at email@example.com and give me your snail mail addy and that book is in the mail to go halfway across the world.
Michael has offered another prize --some stuff from the ever-cool Writer's in Townsville (Australia). And that winner is .......JACK COLTON!!!!!!
Who is Jack Colton? (other than a character from Romancing the Stone) . He's someone whose Facebook / e-mail account was hacked and because of employer / privacy, etc. cannot use his "real" name. However, I will get him in touch with Michael, and they'll work it out.
(Seriously, Jack Colton is a real person. I promise.)
Now, the final, and perhaps my favorite, Aussie post....
The Female of the Species is More Deadly than the Male
Americans have guns. They have nukes, too, or at least their military does, but their venerable Constitution, penned by their venerable founding fathers, means that Americans have guns. And they shoot each other too often.
A scary place? Perhaps, if you’re in a swamp being hunted by a serial killer. But I pretty much guarantee that the swamp itself is not as scary as the beach promenade here in Townsville.
Last Wednesday, I was out walking with a friend, and she suddenly yelled.
“Watch out! There’s a snake!” I started, jumped backwards, in fear of my life. And for very good reason.
Forget the Indian king cobra, forget the American rattlesnake. Did you know that Australia, dear old Down Under, home of the koala and the kangaroo, is also home to the eleven most venomous species of snakes on the planet? And, may Our Good Lord strike me down and confiscate my jelly beans, I have been bitten by one of those snakes, and here I am to recount the tale.
I was a kid of about nine. My family lived in the country in the southern, colder state of Victoria, but, like one of those eerie, scary movies, that are made to make girls cling close and trembling to their dates, “there is no escape” from the omnipresent threat of the snakes.
Dad, mum, brother and sister and I were black berrying – blackberry picking – in what the Brits might call a wood. (By the way, the Brits, with their lone paltry adder, are rated by Aussies as nature effeminates. And as for the Irish, since Saint Patrick put the cleaners through the place, they’ve been pathetic spectators to this sort of stuff.)
I had a large, yellow plastic bucket, which was filling up with the sweet-tasting berries. My little hands were stained purple, from the juice. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, I felt a something bite my right ankle. And, as I quickly looked down, a snake slithered back into the dense, thorny undergrowth of the blackberry bushes.
“Snake! Snake! I’ve been bit! I’ve been bit!” I yelled.
Instantly, dad was by my side. “Show me.” I rolled down my sock, and yes, the evidence was indubitable. Two telltale puncture marks, just above my ankle bone.
“Right everyone, into the car. We’ve got to get Michael to hospital,” said dad, bundling us all up into our sardine tin white Cortina. Already, I was sweating, shaking, and having visions of Jesus telling me off in person for playing hooky from Sunday School.
Our little car was rattling down the road at the rate of knots. We got to the town limits, when we heard a siren.
Now it is at this point in the story that I must protect myself against a possible libel suit. The person I am about to refer to may still be, in fact he probably is, still alive, so I’ll call him, for safety’s sake, “Nathaniel Dungwit”.
Nathaniel, or “Big Nate” Dungwit was a local hero. With dark, moustachioed movie star good looks, it was a moot point whether his main claim to fame in our small town was his exploits each weekend on the field for our town’s mildly successful Australian football team, or that he was our local police constable.
Yes, we heard a siren. Nate Dungwit overtook us, and motioned for dad to pull over.
“Nate, I’m so glad to see you,” said dad, “my eldest son’s been bitten. Would you mind giving us a high speed escort to the hospital?”
Nate, seemingly oblivious, was pulling out something from his back pocket.
“We really must hurry, constable Dungwit,” added mum.
Nate began writing on his pad.
“I’m issuing you with a speeding infringement,” he finally said, as he put his biro back in its holster.
Dad’s face went the colour of a sink of water that had been used to wash a load of greasy dishes, and then left to go cold overnight.
“Look at the puncture marks, constable,” he said, through gritted teeth, pulling down my right sock.
“No matter,” said Dungwit, with the casual, confident authority of one who knows the feeling of power, and how to use it, “you were speeding. Go home. See how he is by tonight. And if I catch you speeding again, I’ll throw the book at you.”
From that day, to the Saturday afternoon he played his last game, there was one player on our local footy team that our family booed every time he got near the ball. More to the point, though, on that snakebite day I was basically at death’s door.
Well, not quite. I was mega-ill, though. We did go home, and I curled up on the sofa, covered by umpteen blankets, teeth chattering, sweat pouring off my fevered brow. No joke. May Our Good Lord dematerialise my confiscated jelly beans.
In the end, after about two days, my fever subsided, and I recovered. What saved me from prematurely having Moses and Elijah teach me at ethereal Sunday School was that I was bitten through thick socks, and the puncture marks weren’t deep, evidencing this. A close call, though...
And yes, here in Australia we have quite a number of species of venomous spider as well, the redback and the funnelweb being the most notorious.
What is even more notorious, though, to Aussies of my generation, is the truly execrable song “Redback on the Toilet Seat”, by country music singer Slim Newton, which came out in 1972 and did well on the pop singles charts.
Rumour has it that the lead singer of the 1980s glam, hair metal band Poison heard the song on the radio, late at night, when he was a kid, and it so frightened him he resolved to spend his life cultivating his coiffure and easing into glittery, spandex pants, so as not to be mistaken for redback spider bait.
And yes, the female redback of the species is more deadly than the male, but that’s another story...