wreck of the pleasure barge
happened quite suddenly last Tuesday afternoon. I began to feel like
somebody had switched the aircon off; which was strange, because I didn't
have aircon. I felt heavy and exhausted with an awful headache, pains
in my hind legs and aching paws. Every joint in my tail throbbed.
went downstairs to the café and sat outside in the lane with
a cold mineral water, but it did no good.
back up to the ceiling, flop into bed, and I'll call the vet. You probably
picked up something nasty in Indonesia", Joadja said.
Gupta arrived an hour later and climbed into the ceiling.
asked a lot of questions, told me to roll over, stuck two fingers up
my bum and fished around. Humiliating.
Possum, your prostate is nearly twice its proper size."
normal for Trichosurous vulpecula", I grunted into the pillow.
"Happens every year. It'll be twice as big again by April -- which
is the peak of the main breeding season".
trouble with most overseas-trained vets is that they know all about
the Virginia opossum but bugger all about brushtails.
it's some new nastie, the only thing I can think of is Possum Creek
Fever -- it's the marsupial equivalent of Ross River Virus. Bed rest;
you must have bed rest and lots of fluids".
took a blood sample, gave me a pack of Panadol and left, promising to
phone me with the results.
I spent the week in bed, crunching Panadol, glugging down apple juice,
soaking up the media and drifting off into weird and dangerous dreams.
was a week of brooding changes. The blue light of the TV flickered over
the lovingly horded junk that cluttered the roof space -- the old stuff
I could never bring myself to throw away.
politicians I'd forgotten about years ago died and came back to life
as scratchy black and white images with funny voices. My God, was that
Don Dunstan, who made the safari suit trendy, and poor old Neville Bonner,
who penetrated to the Heart of The Beast -- the first Aboriginal elected
to Federal Parliament?
was a dignified figure of a man, and a fine clear speaker, but his tragedy
was that he was elected to the Senate about twenty years too late. The
era when you got elected from a Responsible Party to advance the interests
and yes, the Respectability, of Your People, was long dead when Neville
went to Canberra. The new generation of black activists were in no mood
for paddling slowly up the right channels to Respectability and Equality.
They were bomb-throwers, who didn't give a damn about respectable politics
and wanted their rights immediately. Neville battled on until '83 when
the Liberal Party gave him the shove because a black senator had become,
well, a liability.
Don Dunstan became Premier, South Australia was a sleepy backwater,
if you had heard of it at all it was because they tested atom bombs
there and the police beat gay academics to death. Don tried to turn
the place into a Scandinavian social-democratic paradise, a floating
pleasure-barge ... but not much survives of that now.
I was on a big rubber lifeboat ... floating wreckage and burning patches
of oil on the water ... The lifeboat was packed and there were many
in the water hanging onto the gunwale ropes ...
hands let go of the boat and sunk into the blue depths, letting the
boat drift away on a light breeze ... the sun flickered through a weird
black mist ... we could see the hedge funds, circling, circling, sensing
the blood and urine and fear in the water ...
saw Jim McClelland a long way from the boat ... Jordan's King Hussein
let go and slipped away, then the Brazilian economy, and Gough Whitlam's
reputation, and Richard Butler's fucking career ... Saddam Hussein just
grinned ... old King Fahd, was dying too, he said ... there was no sense
having him weigh down the raft ... might as well prise his fingers loose
Yeltsin was lying at my feet in a sloshing pool of salt water and blood
... he was on a vodka epidural, drifting in and out of consciousness
... screeching that we were all traitors ... gibbering into his mobile
phone, sacking everybody ...
showed no sign of dying, at least not in the normal sense. All his organs
will rot but he will hold onto power to the end, then he'll project
his soul into the future, like Stalin and Ivan the Terrible. It is a
in Whispers from the mean streets
-- Best of 1999