Monday, 7 September 2015

THE BEGINNING A Bluey, Snowy and Mad Mick Molloy story.


THE BEGINNING



Bluey, Snowy and Mick were fishing down where the river took a sweeping bend around some rocky outcrops. It was Saturday afternoon in late summer, the sun was hot, the slight breeze was hot, the beer was getting too warm and they had caught absolutely nothing.

Bluey, who with much swearing, had finally put a new sinker and hook on his line after he had snagged a floating log, picked up his rod, stood up and prepared to cast his line out into a deep spot close to the opposite bank. He looked behind him and said to Snowy, who was sitting on a large boulder directly behind him, ‘Keep your head down Snow or you’ll get hit.’ He swung his rod over his head in a perfect cast and his line snaked out true and straight and he sat back down.

Snowy moved down to sit beside Bluey and said to him, ‘Blue do you remember the first time you said that to me?’

It was a completely different scene. It was cold, very cold; the freezing wind blew the snow showers almost horizontally. Lance corporal Mick Molloy blew on his freezing fingers and placed them back on the butt and the trigger of the Bren gun. Trying to remain as still as possible so as to not attract the attention of an enemy sniper, he blinked the snowflakes from his eyes and concentrated on the line of trees from where the last attack had come. Beside him, below the top of the pit, private Snowy Black was busy filling the empty magazines for the light machine gun with fresh rounds; his rifle propped beside him. He counted as he slid the bullets into position; just thirteen left. He knew that another sustained attack and they would very quickly be out of ammunition.

They had met just two days before when Mick’s original loader had been wounded and Snowy had been delegated to replace him. During this time they had not had time to properly get to know each other as they had been in constant action. Mick yelling, ‘Load’ and Snowy responding with a new magazine for the Bren had been nearly their only communication.

They had been sitting in this small pit that they had scraped out of the snow and rocky ground for nearly twenty four hours now and they were hungry and desperately tired. The first push by the North Koreans supported by hordes of Communist Chinese had dislodged their battalion from the valley that they had held close to the northern border. They had fallen back just five hundred metres to their rear positions close to battalion headquarters and dug in. Here they had repelled repeated attacks whilst on either side of them troops of other nationalities had retreated in total disarray.

It had been a surprise when the Communist Chinese had attacked as the rumour amongst the troops was that the North Koreans were defeated and they would soon be going home. Now the battalion was strung out along the ridge in whatever shelter they could find. They had suffered many casualties but had held their positions.

Mick and Snowy heard the slight noise behind them at exactly the same time. Mick tried to swing the Bren gun around and Snowy reached for his rifle. A muffled voice cried out, ‘Take it easy you blokes. It’s just us poor sods from the reserve area here to save your bacon. Now more over and let some real soldiers in.’

A silent figure slid forward and rolled into their pit. He pushed his scarf back grinned and said, ‘Bluey Jones at your service and I come bearing gifts.’ With that he pulled two full magazines of ammunition from one pocket and from the other three clips of rounds for Snowy’s 303 and two tins of bully beef.

Snowy stood up and went to take the ammunition but Bluey pulled him down just as a snipers bullet clipped the side of his helmet and sent it spinning into the pit. Bluey picked it up placed it back over Snowy’s blond head and said, ‘Keep your head down cobber or you will get hit.’

The fishing forgotten the three mates swapped memories of that time when they had first met. They never talked to other people about their experiences in Korea but on rare occasions like this they shared a few yarns and mostly happy memories. They had remained together through some of the worst fighting experienced by the Australian troops on the Korean Peninsula. Many times they had been tested to the limits of their courage and endurance. They became a single unit that instinctively knew how each other would react and many times this bond and trust had saved their lives. Their friendship became strong and enduring.

Mick stood up and stretched and said, ‘There’s a lot of fish in that bloody river but also too much water for the blighters to swim around in. Now, talking about liquid, a nice cold schooner of beer has my name on it at the pub. So, as the senior rank, due to my lance corporal stripe, get a bloody move on.’


Monday, 19 January 2015

JUST ANOTHER DAY


JUST ANOTHER DAY

John Ross ©

Clang. Clang. Clang.
It was so loud it was painful.
Ok. O bloody K. I’m awake.
I knew I had to get out of bed to turn it off. If I didn’t it would just get louder.
I was still feeling dopey after a long sleep.
What if I ignored it for long enough? Would it stop?
No way. I give in.
Up. Alarm off. Get dressed. Breakfast.
Transport at the door.
Down to work.
Usual reports.
Tick. Tick. No. Yes. Next shift can handle that.
Boring.
Lunch.
30 minutes of exercise.
Not in bad shape for an old guy.
Catch up on the goss on the private channel
Tick. Tick. Yes. Yes.
One day I should put a cross instead of a tick.
Coffee.
Aircon always too bloody cold.
Now for the highlight of the day.
Talk with the BOSS.
Yep. Never felt better.
I know he means the systems but it’s my little joke.
Log off
Last minute checks.
Tick. Yes.
All OK
Time to head back. Shift finished.
Dinner.
Boring movie.
Time for sleep
Settle down. Put on mask. Activate system.
The ship’s Biomass Operational Supervisory System wishes me a good sleep and will wake me in another 50 years.

 

Monday, 28 April 2014

THE TRUTH

THE TRUTH
John Ross ©

I am just about ready to give up on today and go to bed. I have a black eye, a sore shin, a suspected cracked rib and many other bruises and scrapes.
Yesterday at confession I admitted to the priest that I had told a few lies lately and as a penance he asked me to spend a whole day where I only told the truth; the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He said it would feel so good that I would continue to do it.
Well he was wrong it feels bloody awful.
First thing this morning when my boss asked me what I thought of our latest product line. I told him the truth. It was ill conceived, poorly engineered and marketed. Then he asked me if I thought his judgement was flawed. I told him that he would not recognise a good idea even if it bit him on the nose.
An hour later, unemployed, out on the street, I ran into the next door neighbour’s son on his way to school. He asked if I had enjoyed his innings at last Saturday’s under 12 cricket match. I gave him a truthful critique of his style and told him he should take up net ball with his sister. Continued on my way with a very sore shin.
Limped into a coffee shop only to be met by my mother-in-law who asked if I liked her new blue rinse? Boy has she got a strong right cross. I think my eye is not permanently damaged but it sure is sore.
Retreating from the streets into a quiet bar for a pick- me-up, the barman asks what I thought of the bloody referee’s decisions in the footy game on the weekend where his team lost by a large margin. Again I had to tell him the truth. They were a hopeless lot of sissies and deserved to lose. The ref was technically right in every decision. Straight scotch can sting when it hits you in the face; especially on your newly damaged right eye.
Escaped into the local park to sit alone on a bench; lost in thought. Suddenly find myself surrounded by a mother with a pram, her husband and three other women all ardently admiring the baby. Before I can escape, and believe me I tried, the father asks me if his daughter is not just the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. I should have known from his build that he was probably a professional boxer. I must get my ribs x-rayed as soon as possible.
Well I think you get the drift of how my day of telling the truth has gone so far.
In my pyjamas and trying to pretend to be asleep when my wife comes in dressed in her latest purchases. She asks that dreaded question. Yes you are right! ‘Does my bum look big in this?’
Weeelll I am going straight to hell when I die. The truth is not all that it is cracked up to be.
‘Yes darling those skin tight jeans look wonderful.’





Thursday, 3 April 2014

FABULOUS WEALTH

FABULOUS WEALTH
John Ross ©
‘Bwana. You want guide. I good guide. Very reliable. Very cheap. Please Bwana I have three wives and six children; all eat much; need money.’
Charles Goodbody was about to shrug off the man tugging at his sleeve but when he turned to face him he saw a reasonably well presented, tall man in his early thirties, dressed in clean khaki shorts and open necked shirt. He had been looking for a guide for a week and was tired of being accosted in the streets of this dusty outpost by would be guides who were unsuitable.
Charles had spent the last month in Africa putting together an expedition that was to travel into an unexplored section of the vast Sahara Desert. This expedition had been his burning ambition ever since as a very young child he had heard the stories about a lost Roman city deep in the Sahara Desert.  Its houses were said to be lined with gold and silver and its inhabitants dressed in fine linen adorned with precious stones. Raised in an aristocratic family that had fallen on hard times his dream was to find the city and restore the fortunes of his family. Graduating from university with honours in Ancient History his dream became closer to reality when he discovered a map in an old Roman scroll purporting to show the location of the city.
After a brief discussion Charles hired the guide whose name was Magnus. The expedition positions were now filled and the next morning they set out.
A week later they were well into the desert and Charles called a meeting because some of the porters were starting to complain about their pay and conditions. A promise, by Charles, of an extra bonus soon calmed everyone down.
However the next morning Charles awoke to find that during the night all except two of the porters had packed some supplies and water barrels onto three of the horses and absconded.  Magnus, the guide, assured Charles that they still had enough water and food to continue.
The going became increasingly hard. The temperature soared above 120 degrees during the day and below freezing at night. On the tenth day they came to high ridges of sand that stretched out into the distance. Climbing the ridges was exhausting work and a day’s travel was down to just a few miles.  On the fifteenth day one of the remaining horses lost its footing and rolled down a sand dune and broke its neck. Its pack consisted of four large water barrels that split and the water drained away into the hot sand.
Magnus was adamant that they must continue as they would run out of water if they tried to go back. Their only hope was to find the lost city. They struggled on with water severely rationed.
At dusk on the twentieth day, and with their water now completely gone, they crawled over a rocky crest that protruded from the endless sand and there before them was a large green valley dotted with clumps of palms and scattered settlements. In the distance a walled city glistened in the sunlight. Cattle grazed on the lush grass and large tracts of land supported many types of crops.
At the foot of the slope a group of men and women were waiting for them. As they neared some of them called out a greeting in Latin and a woman with a baby on her hip ran up to Magnus and hugged him.  A tall elderly white man walked forward and said, ‘Welcome Charles.’
Charles was dumbfounded. How did they know who he was and that he was coming?
The elderly man, whose name was Ignatius, insisted that Charles partake of water, food and a long bath before he would explain everything to him. Charles was escorted to one of the many low wooden houses in one of the settlements. It was richly adorned and contained beautifully carved furniture that was inlaid with silver. He bathed in a deep tub made from marble and was fed a sumptuous meal served on gold platters that were brought to the table by young women clothed in the finest silk. Refreshed and with his curiosity at bursting point Charles was eventually shown into another house which was even more ornately decorated and where Ignatius and Magnus were sitting side by side. Ignatius spoke for many minutes. Charles felt a wave of weariness creep over him and he slipped into a deep sleep.
He awoke with a start. He was lying in his bed, in the room, in the seedy hotel, in the town where he had set out from. It was all just a dream; but it had been so clear, so real.

As yet unseen, beside him, was a small silver box filled with large green emeralds. The lid was inscribed in Latin. ‘You dreamed of fabulous riches and dared to follow that dream. Use what you have been given wisely.’

Saturday, 22 March 2014

BUT IS IT LEGAL

BUT, IS IT LEGAL
John Ross ©
I am, and always have been, an ideas man. My older brother Bertie, well just let us say he is ‘practical’. By that I mean he always poured cold water on my ideas and ambitions.
At school I loved science. I was never happy with the pathetic little experiments that the science master demonstrated during class. I always wanted bigger and better. My very first experiment was with the black powder that I had hoarded from the big ‘bungers’ that dad had bought for cracker night. My big brother prophesied danger and doom and perhaps he was right to a certain extent. No one was maimed or even hurt, but it did shatter the side window in our garage, shred mums whites on the clothes line and earn me double helpings of spinach for a week.
Probably my next most memorable experiment was to try to make my push bike rocket powered. I got the idea from a book that described how to build a real rocket. Bertie said I would probably end up in jail, either because I had nicked the book from the local library, or because I would end up killing someone. Well this time everything went smoothly, except, I started too close to the front fence of the old codger who lived next door. It was a brush fence and the exhaust from my rocket set fire to it. It didn’t take long for the fire brigade to put it out. Two weeks of spinach.
There were many more memorable and some best forgotten escapades as we were growing up in suburban Sydney. I will mention just a few. An attempt to dig an underground bunker in the back yard. A mortar constructed of a piece of gas pipe, a penny bunger and a large steel bolt. Stink bombs made from rolled up negatives from my mum’s old box brownie camera. I think you get the drift.
Ever practical Bertie went on to become an accountant and me, well I never could abide working for someone else and became an inventor of sorts. You may have heard of some of my successes. The push bike safety belt. The all in one raincoat and umbrella. Shoes with retractable roller skates, (saves energy going downhill). Double ended cutlery (fork on one end and spoon on the other, sadly this was superseded by the spork), and my most famous one, the edible school lunch box. Unfortunately none of these life changing inventions brought me much in the way of wealth or recognition.
I was rather at a loose end just after my thirtieth birthday when my brother offered me a part time job doing data entry in his accounting firm. On day one he gave me a list of instructions. They included. Do not change the settings on the computer. Do not interfere with the coffee machine, the electric kettle, the document shredder or the photocopier or for that matter anything electrical, mechanical or organic. He forgot to mention the phone system so I changed the ring tone to play God Save the Queen. Unfortunately the first time it rang he had a delegation from an important client in his office. The Australian Republican movement.
After six months of penance in the mail room, stuffing outgoing accounts into envelopes I had a brilliant idea. Instead of Bertie’s accounting firm just processing his clients accounts and income tax returns why not advise them of ways to minimise their costs, especially their tax liabilities. I spent the next two months working on the tax minimisation schemes before presenting it to Bertie. He, as usual, was very sceptical. Over and over he interrupted my spiel by asking, ‘But, is it legal?’ I really had no idea and was not bothered with the unimportant details.

One year later I was back living and inventing in my parents’ garage and poor Bertie still had four years and six months to serve. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

THE WIND


THE  WIND                            ©JOHN ROSS

Darkness had long since settled over the city. The night was dark, humid and the sky was full of the threat of a summer storm. Now, however, the wind was so gentle that it made no noise as it ever so softly meandered through the back yard of the large house. The leaves on the tall gum tree near the back fence hardly moved, apart from those on the very tallest branches. Even here one would have had to watch very closely to detect any movement. Two large white towels on the clothesline hung perfectly still; in the darkness they appeared like two dim windows into another dimension. A large spider had strung its web between two pot plants on the back porch and now it carefully investigated a leaf that had fallen and become entangled in the web. The leaf was slowly swinging back and forth in the gentle breeze.  

Inside a man sat watching a football replay on the television, a half empty bottle of beer beside him. In the kitchen a women was washing dishes in the sink and listening to classical music on a radio. The man turned towards the kitchen and said, “You coming to watch the telly and don’t forget my coffee?” The women replied that she would be in as soon as she had finished.

Minutes passed and now the wind had become stronger. It made a rustling noise as it pushed its way through the yard. The leaves on the gum tree had started to dance to its tune and those at the very top were carried back and forth as the smaller branches moved under the influence of the breeze. The white towels on the line now swayed in unison like twins performing at some macabre ceremony. The spider had realised that the leaf was not its  hoped for evening meal but now crouched at the centre of its web believing that the breeze might bring it an unsuspecting insect. A small lady beetle flies dangerously close to his web.

The man, starting to get annoyed that the woman had not come out of the kitchen, yelled in her direction, “What on earth are you doing there woman and where is that bloody cup of coffee that you promised me ages ago.” He then settled back and opened another bottle of beer. The woman visibly jumped at the sound of his voice and in her haste dropped the bottle of coffee on the floor.

Even stronger now the wind made a loud whistling sound as it forced its way through and around the objects in the back yard. The gum tree had now become a living thing as its branches yielded to the force of the wind and the occasional leaf gave up its grip and swirled away into the darkness. The towels now gyrated wildly, giving up any semblance of unison as they strained against the pegs that held them attached to the line. The spider clung grimly to the centre of its web. He was now in danger of being blown away but still had the strength to try to move over to the lady beetle that had been blown into his web. He knew that this might be his only chance of a meal that night.

Finishing another bottle of beer the man was now constantly yelling at the woman to bring him his cup of coffee. When she did not reply he got up and went to the kitchen door and said, “I want my coffee now and if I have to ask again you will be bloody sorry.” Seeing the woman still trying to clean up the spilt coffee he kicked the dustpan out of her hands and when she cringed back dropped the empty beer bottle on the floor and said, “Clean that up. That’s all you ever do clean, bloody clean. Now get up and get me my coffee.”

Outside the wind was now a brutal force as it howled through the yard threatening to smash and dismantle anything in its path. The gum tree was now bent over by the winds power and its branches thrashed madly as leaves and even small branches were blasted away and sent crashing into the back fence. The towels unable to break free were being torn and shredded by the wind’s fury. The spider still concentrating on getting to the lady beetle in its web did not notice as the leaf in its web was torn away and sent spiralling into the darkness. It did not see the large piece of debris that smashed into its web and carried it away into oblivion.

The man, his anger now in full flow, was cursing at the woman and trying to drag her to her feet. When she resisted he slapped her hard across the face. At first she shrank back trying to protect herself but when he continued to hit her she picked up the empty beer bottle from the floor and hit him with it as hard as she could. The bottle smashed as it crashed into his skull.

Suddenly the wind died away to just a whisper. The gum tree quickly returned to normal; standing tall and majestic in the bright starlight that now washed over the yard. The two white towels, although tattered and torn, had survived all that the wind could throw at them and now shone like two welcoming beacons in the yard. The spider would never see the small lady beetle as it broke free of the last strands of the shattered web and flew away.

 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

BEACH FISHING AT DAWN


BEACH FISHING AT DAWN
REFRESHING THE MIND AND THE SOUL
John Ross ©
                

                The caravan is parked very close to the beach, and the sound of the waves as they pursue their relentless assault on the land ensured that I had a restful sleep. I am awake as the first faint light on the horizon starts its daily ritual of pushing back the darkness of the night.
                I dress quietly, as to not awaken my still sleeping wife. Breakfast can wait, as I am keen to get onto the beach. My fishing rod is already rigged and all I need to do is retrieve the bait from the refrigerator, pick up my creel and I am on my way.
                Outside the morning is already warm with the promise of a hot, sunny, summer’s day to come. The grass is soft and wet with dew beneath my bare feet as I climb the small tree covered bank on the edge of the beach. I pause at the top to take in the view. The curving sweep of the sand is just visible in the soft light and is outlined by the darkness of the tree clad hills on one side and the long lines of almost luminous white of the breaking waves on the other.
                It is low tide, and as I walk across the sand I marvel at the work of the small crabs that have once again cleared out their burrows, and rolled the small balls of sand out into a pattern around the entrance. The beach resembles a large yellow table laid with intricate lace doilies of every shape and size.
                I am quickly ready for my first cast and as I walk down to the water’s edge I glance behind me. There are no lights, no buildings visible, just lush vegetation reaching down to the edge of the sand: my footsteps, the only foreign marks on nature’s pristine canvas. For a few moments I am the first man, back in a time when the world was new and its beauty untouched.
                My line snakes out, far and true, out to the deep water beyond the breakers where the beautifully streamlined tailor and jewfish live and hunt.
                I stand just back from the water, but am totally connected to and immersed in it. The unceasing sound, the tangy salt smell, the ever changing shape of the waves, my finger on the line feeling the vibrations and pull and push of the swell. The anticipation, expectation of that first tug on the line that is just that little bit different from the normal feel of the water’s movement. Again my mind takes me back to a time when man had to fight nature and the elements to feed himself and survive.
                This is a time to be patient, alert, at one with the line, instinctive, ready to strike: too soon or hesitate and the opportunity is lost.
                A small arc of brilliant light appears on the horizon and a wide path of liquid gold leaps from it to end on the wet sand at my feet. Slowly the huge orb of the sun pushes itself up from its watery grave until its full fury is revealed. I will soon have to retreat to the cool shade of the caravan park.
                The beach starts to come alive. First a lone jogger runs towards me; head bowed, wired for sound, oblivious to the sounds and beauty of the morning. Next an older couple walk hand in hand down to the water’s edge, stand silently and gaze out towards the horizon; they see me watching and we exchange a smile; they are kindred spirits.
                I am thinking of packing up, as breakfast and a hot shower is calling, when I feel that tell tale pull on the line. I wait and count to three and then strike. The jewfish fights strongly, leaping and twisting, sometimes totally clear of the water, its body shiny, silver in the sunlight. It is a battle that lasts for many minutes and a small crowd gathers to watch. Finally the fish is clear of the water, struggling and flapping on the sand. One of the onlookers asks if I am going to have it for breakfast, and for a moment I relish the idea.
                It has been such a magical, renewing morning that has cleared my mind and refreshed my soul that it would be wrong for it to end like that. So with the fish safely returned to the ocean, even though the deep seated hunting instinct within me said that I had earned it, and it was mine, I trudge back up the beach.  I fight my way through the oncoming tide of determined beach goers with their umbrellas, buckets, spades, balls, surfboards, towels and music machines. They will leave footprints, build sandcastles, carve intertwined love hearts on the sand but the next high tide will wash it all away. Tomorrow, at dawn a new day, a new beginning.    
                It is cereal for breakfast and from my wife, ‘What! No fish, again?