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BRAND NEW AUSTRALIAN MYTHS AND LEGENDS

Chapter 3 - The Revenge of the Bears

As the weak red dawn sun gropes its first rays over the land, you awake to the sound of wombats throwing up after a hard night on the turps. You are not feeling too well either. The litres of nectar, ambrosia and cheap plonk that spilled down thirsty throats last night have left more than one ravaged brain this morning. You look up blearily to see a red-eyed, staggering possum slip and fall headfirst from a branch above you. In many places that morning, befuddled animals are waking up beside a strange member of a different sex: some are even different species. You see a platypus and a wallaby stagger out of the bush and squint into the sun.

`I didn't mean it,' the wallaby says.

`You don't love me,' the platypus wails.

`I do, I do. We're just not - compatible.'

`You didn't think so last night. You said you loved me.'

`I do respect you, dear.'

`Respect?' the duck-billed lady snorts contemptuously. `You'll forget all about me by this afternoon. I was just one-night platypus pleasure, wasn't I? You'll be back with your fat wallaby wife tonight and tomorrow you'll be bragging to all your marsupial mates about how you scored with a juicy little monotreme,' she sobs.

`Darling. I'd never do that,' he insists.

`Then marry me,' she demands. The wallaby squirms.

`What would our friends say?' he gulps.

`A platypus isn't good enough for you to be seen with in public?' she accuses.

`Mixed marriages...' he says as he strokes her tail.

`Get your horrid paws away from me!' she screeches in tears. `Don't touch me!'

`Darling!' he cries as she scurries away. `Precious!'

You swallow sadly. The broken-hearted platypus and the wretched wallaby you see will forever poison relations between the species and for the rest of eternity lady platypuses will shun wallaby wooers.

Your attention is caught by the sound of frantic barking and you look across the clearing to see Elfa struggling in his silk pyjamas and a net. That's funny. You didn't think Labradors were kinky. There's something else funny too. You seem to remember that you were in a tent when you fell asleep. You are not in one now.

`I hope it hasn't been stolen by three bears,' you think for some reason.

It is then you realise the third strange thing for the morning. For some reason you can't move your arms and legs. They seem to be held fast. Your sleep and alcohol ravaged mind clears a little and you notice a short, furry gentleman in a wide-brimmed, stained hat and a duffel coat. The one crushing your wrists is tall and black with a big black shiny nose, a straw hat and a tartan waistcoat. Standing in front of you is a violent-looking short, fat, brown figure aiming an automatic pistol between your eyes. You reach desperately and unsuccessfully for your Magic Pointed Stick.

`Hold tight, Humphrey. Don't let those legs go, Paddington,' the fuzzy ringleader growls.

`Yes sir, Pooh,' Paddington chuckles. Humphrey nods his big head.

`You're the Reader, aren't you, scum?' Pooh sneers.

You laugh loudly. `Let me get this right: I'm being harassed by Pooh, Paddington and Humphrey B. Bear?'

Poor Reader! You do not yet realise the full danger of the predicament you are in! You can never take the world of myths and legends lightly!

Elfa realises, however, and as he struggles to break from the net he barks to warn you to curb your tongue. It is too late, however. Pooh smirks, runs up to you and delivers a skull-cracking kick to your head. You groan and Humphrey slaps you heartily around the face to revive you. You stare blankly as his bottom jaw bounces open and shut. Pooh's teddy-bear finger draws back the hammer of the magnum revolver that is still pointing at your nose.

`What's going on?' you demand fearfully.

`Should I give the scum a very hard stare indeed?' Paddington suggests keenly. Pooh nods and grins. Paddington stares at you and his eyes narrow terrifyingly as his very hard stare drills into you. You scream in torment.

`That's enough Paddington. Don't kill the scum yet,' Pooh says. Paddington's very hard stare fades and you collapse, exhausted and drained.

`You'd better talk, scum, or I'll use the honey pot,' Pooh growls, his razor claws glinting in the early morning sun.

`Yeah, the honey pot!' Paddington grins, drooling slightly. Humphrey is nodding and quivering with anticipation.

`What do you want?' you stammer in terror.

`You're the mongrel who ruined The Thing ?' Pooh spits.

`It was a monster - a terror - a mockery of nature!' you cry.

`It was a bear,' Pooh shouts.

`It was a marsupial,' you correct.

`It looked like a bear then,' Pooh replies.

`She was my mate,' Paddington rumbles fiercely. He is so worked up that his hat falls off and several marmalade sandwiches fall out.

`It had to be done,' you shout defensively and Humphrey B. Bear slaps you viciously with his big furry paw. Elfa growls savagely and bares his teeth but he is still hopelessly entangled in the net.

`What'll we do with this scum, boss?' Paddington asks excitedly. Humphrey jumps up and his big flat feet thump the ground next to your ears. Paddington holds a cream bun threateningly close to your nostrils.

`Hang on,' says the bear of very little brain thoughtfully, scratching the stitching in his head with the muzzle of the pistol.

`Can't we slice the scum's belly open and feed the entrails to sewer rats?' Paddington pleads as Humphrey starts stripping you of your armour. `Can't we bite off the scum's wobbly bits?' he drools with quivering whiskers.

Your mind is reeling. `What would your sweet Aunt Lucy in the Home for Retired Bears in Darkest Peru think of the way you're behaving?' you shout.

`Stupid old bag. Why d'you think I stowed away on that ship? Nag nag nag! The rotten cow never stopped. "Children's characters must be cute and cuddly". Cute and cuddly? Ha! I'm a bear and we are carnivores. We dig our fangs in and devour human flesh as our victims scream in terror. We disembowel animals and gorge on their intestines. Bears are not meant to be poofy playthings that eat marmalade sandwiches and cream buns,' the vicious duffel-coated monster hisses.

`No! No! It can't be true!' you shout. `Humphrey! Dear Humphrey B. Bear! I loved you! You can't be like this! Please! Clap your paws, do a dance, mime the story of Humpty Dumpty!' Humphrey sneers and kicks you in the stomach.

`You idiot!' the smirking Pooh retorts. `That's just the roles we play so people won't suspect us!'

`Come on, boss. Let's slit the scum's throat and drink the warm, fresh blood,' Paddington suggests.

`No, hold on Paddy. This scum may be useful,' he says.

`How?'

`What do all legendary evil characters want?' he hints.

`Money?' Paddington guesses.

`Cream buns?' Humphrey mimes. Paddington glares at him and Humphrey blushes with shame.

`Sex?' Paddington asks and you gasp in shock. You cannot imagine the famous Paddington Bear curled up in a compromising position with a hussy she-bear in a cheap motel. The only stains he should get on his sheets are ink and marmalade as he works out another well-meaning adventure where everything goes wrong but works out well in the end.

`Power!' Pooh shouts. `We want world domination! We want to crush goodness and niceness under our paws and subject our victims to terrible cruelty and hardship.'

`Oh yeah,' says the forgetful Paddington as he practises a growl and a slash with his claws.

`And this scum is going to help us,' Pooh adds.

`I shan't!' you cry as a true hero should. Pooh bares his fangs and leans towards you.

`You shall or I'll rip every square centimetre of flesh from your body, bite off your wobbly bits, gouge out your eyeballs, break every bone in your body, rip out your fingernails, drive skewers into your ears, cut the top off your skull and cut out chunk after chunk of your brain,' he grins.

What a predicament, sweet reader! Unless you can outwit these loathsome chubby bear fiends, the world could soon be crushed under the iron paw of totalitarian Teddybear tyranny.

`What shall I do, Author?' you cry in bewilderment.

I should remind you that Section 119, paragraph 2 of the HEROES' RULES AND REGULATIONS says that, "No hero or heroine, even if their wobbly bits are threatened with dire punishments, shall cause or allow evil bears or stuffed creatures of any description to crush the world under the iron paw of totalitarian Teddybear tyranny."

`I know that,' you say. `But what will I do?'

Beats me. You're supposed to be the hero around here.

`You couldn't rewrite the chapter a little so my Magic Pointed Stick is within reach?' you ask.

Come on, you coward. Are you a hero or not?

`I'm only a beginner,' you sob.

Oh, all right. I'll put in an irrelevant interlude so you can think of what to do. All right?

`Thanks.'


IRRELEVANT INTERLUDE

 At the base of a nearby tree there are two Emperor Penguins.  One is embracing the other in his flippers and is gazing deeply into her beady eyes.

`Darling Cynthia,' he croons.  `Come to me, my beloved.  I adore you.  I worship you.  You are the moon, the stars.'

`Oh Sam, I do love you so but...' she cries but Sam moves his beak forward tentatively, tenderly.  His flipper caresses her shapely blubber.  Her heart pounds and she feels electric thrills as his firm flipper fondles her feathers.  All of her dreams have come true but she cannot, must not, surrender to this dark, mysterious, brooding penguin who makes her burn with a passion she could never have dreamt possible.

`Oh, Cynthia.  My life has been so empty without you.  Marry me!  Consent to be mine and I shall forever be the happiest penguin on earth!' he urges.

`Oh, Sam!  Sam!  I mustn't!  I shouldn't!'

`You must!  You should!'

`Kiss me, you mad fool!' he pleads.  She averts her beak.

`You know I am promised to another!' she whimpers.

`I shall fight him!' Sam declares, waving his flipper as if he is holding a rapier.  `I must make you mine!  I love your downy feathers, your succulent beak, your thrilling kisses, your deep red eyes, your firm ripe breasts.'

`I'm a penguin.  I don't have breasts,' she reminds him.

`Your flippers.  I meant your firm, ripe flippers.  Come with me.  Let us run away together and I shall shower thee in salmon, tuna and squid!'

`Oh Sam!  Do not tempt me further!' she swoons. `But my passion cannot be quenched unless you become mine.  I shall do something drastic:  I shall throw myself into a crevasse and perish in the crush of ice mountains!' he shouts.

`Darling - I cannot!'

`My true beloved!  You must!' he cries.  Realising the futility of the number of exclamation marks he has been using, he grasps her by the waist, his throbbing penguinhood inflamed by her beauty.  He crushes his beak to hers and after feebly attempting to repel his burning kisses, she yields and cradles submissively in his powerful embrace.  Their beaks open, their tongues snake around each other and their flippers roam their fiery feathered flesh.

`Will you be mine forever?' he gasps.

`Oh, darling - yes!  YES!'


Author's note: you will remember that the preceding scene was totally irrelevant to the problem you are facing at the paws of the bad bears. It was included to give penguin lovers a thrill and to give you time to think of a way to escape. You had better be ready because here I come.

You have no doubt that the dastardly bears will carry out their obscene threats. Humphrey is already miming your disembowelment with an imaginary razor blade while Paddington strums on a guitar and sings an evisceration [gut-ripping] song to the tune of `Pop Goes the Weasel'. The words are rather disconcerting to someone who's not even a blood donor.

 
Clutch the blade and draw it across
The stomach of the bleeder.
The guts flop out, there's blood everywhere.
Slit goes the Reader!
Blood coagulates on the ground,
The cat miaows so we feed her
With kidneys, spleen and internal parts.
Slit goes the Reader!

`Shall we sing it again, boys and girls?' Paddington asks an imaginary camera. `Maybe you'd like to dance with Humphrey!'

Paddington repeats the song enthusiastically and Humphrey jumps up to dance on the grass with Pooh. In their blood-frenzied song and dance mania, they have given you your chance to escape! In a second you are on your shaky legs and diving to rescue Elfa from the net. By the time the boogying bandit bears finish their bloodthirsty ballad, you are back in the saddle with your Magic Pointed Stick held aloft. Your fury burns like a volcano. The bears retreat from your magnificence: your head glows, you seem to grow into a ferocious giant astride a snorting and rearing battlehound.

`Come back and lie down!' Pooh says craftily.

`You won't trick me that easily,' you reply even more craftily.

`Curses! That scum saw through my plan!' mutters Pooh.

`You shall not conquer this land,' your voice booms like thunder.

`So, you won't help our evil plan but you shan't stop us either! We shall destroy the government and you will be powerless to do anything about it!' Pooh cackles confidently.

`What is your fiendish scheme?' you ask.

`Ha ha ha! Do you think you can trick me into revealing our plan to sneak our way into Parliament house at lunch time today by acting cute and cuddly with such a clever question?' he sneers.

`Curses!' you complain. `Now I'll never know their plan.'

Elfa whistles to you and whispers into your ear.

`Aha! So you plan to sneak into Parliament house at lunch time today by acting cute and cuddly, do you?' you cry triumphantly.

`How did the scum find out?' curses the startled Pooh bear.

`I shall save the world!' you boom valiantly. With a woof, Elfa rears and gallops like the wind into the bush towards the parliament.

­

`Can I help you?' the large-breasted secretary asks.

The fact that the secretary is described as "large-breasted" is not, as some of you in the women's collective may be thinking, sexist. The job of an author is to draw attention to the most significant aspects of his or her characters and in the secretary's case was the quantity of mammary material hovering above the desk. The fact that the secretary was the Under 15 table tennis champion at school does not really qualify as the most significant aspect. Some hardened feminists would claim that, in that case, I should not have made any descriptive reference at all. This would also have been wrong because the secretary with the bountiful bosom is a man. So there!

`Have you finished?' you ask.

  Yes.

`Right then. I am here,' you tell the heavily endowed secretary, `to save the world from imminent devastation at the paws of a trio of terrible flesh-ripping bears.'

`Are these domestic or foreign bears?' she asks.

An apology. The secretary is, in fact, female and the preceding remark about the huge, rounded, succulent extent of her femininity was sexist and totally uncalled for. I am sorry and will endeavour to make no further references to her ample cleavage. I mistook her for a man of the masculine gender because of the long, muscular strength of her graceful thighs. Oops, I seem to have done it again. The real reason I was mistaken was because her name is Peta which sounds like Peter. I apologise for any embarrassment or inconvenience caused by this thoughtless reference to her intimate regions. It will not happen again.

`Are you finished NOW?' you ask impatiently.

`Who are you talking to?' the secretary asks.

Did you notice I did not refer to her prominent breasts just then?

`The author of this book,' you reply.

`Did he refer to my intimate regions?' she scowls.

`He mentioned your prominent breasts, yes,' you tell her.

`The sexist pig.'

`I quite agree.'

So do I.

'Now, about these barbaric bears...' you remind her.

'Oh, yes. Are they foreign or domestic?'

`Two are foreign, one is domestic.'

`Right. Then you don't want the Domestic Barbaric Bear Ministry. Neither do you want the Foreign Barbaric Bear Ministry. You'll want the Ministry for Foreign and Domestic Barbaric Bears. It's just down the corridor and to your left. It's just past the Ministry for Sexist Remarks about Secretaries' Breasts,' says the woman whose intimate regions (that I shall not name) are enclosed in a delightful pink and white silk dress that is charmingly complemented by a black leather belt and grey stockings.

`Thank you,' you say, because that is still the polite thing to do.

You ride Elfa majestically down the corridor and enter the office. You are greeted by a person.

I am not saying anything further on the matter. Since everyone seems to have got so upset by my little mistake earlier, I shall not even mention that the person who is talking to you is stark naked and well worth describing.

`Is this the bear ministry?' you ask as your eyes nearly pop out of your head as the person stands and shakes your hand. That's not all that is shaking, but I refuse to say more.

`No, this is the Bare ministry,' the person with the shaking bits replies. `B.A.R.E. not B.E.A.R. That's next door.'

`Thank you very much,' you say as leave the office backwards, dragging Elfa (who is frantically taking photographs) by the collar.

`Ah, this is the place,' you say when you reach the next door. You knock and enter.

`Hello. May I help you?' the non-breasted male behind the desk asks.

I was going to even the score by describing the gentleman's intimate regions but he is sitting down. This is another blatant case of double standards as demonstrated in lewd magazines that depicts every portion of a naked woman but coyly obscures the naked man's vital regions behind an unnaturally positioned leg or a staple. It is obvious that the editors of such rags are males who are willing to subjugate women in humiliating public exposure while guarding their own sex's modesty. I abhor this practice and intend to describe the gentleman in precise and unreserved detail (as soon as he stands up).

`Yes,' you reply to the question he asked so long ago. `The parliament is in danger of ursine insurgence [bear attack] and I, the Reader, am here to protect you and this great country from dictatorship and tyranny!' You salute and play the national anthem on a steam organ behind Elfa's saddle. Unfortunately when the man stands to salute the flag Elfa is waving, he holds his leg in an unnatural position thereby obscuring the region I was to describe. The anthem finishes and he sits again.

`Curses!' you curse.

`Curses!' the distant large-breasted secretary shouts.

I'm sorry. My cat leapt onto the keyboard just as I was about to type the word "secretary" and - believe it or not - as he struggled to free his paws from the keys, he pressed the letters to spell "large-breasted". I am terribly sorry about that. I have given my cat a strong reprimand and fed him to the dog for his carelessness. You must admit, though, that it was incredibly coincidental that his thrashing about on the keys produced the words that I promised never to use again. They say that if an infinite number of monkeys typed at random for an infinite time, they would eventually produce the script of Shakespeare's Hamlet through sheer accident so I suppose it's reasonable to expect that a clumsy cat could manage two little words.

`Where were we up to?' you ask the man.

`You mentioned something about ursine insurgence,' he reminds you.

`That's right. You're going to be attacked at lunch time,' you say, striking a dramatic pose.

`Don't be stupid,' the gentleman says, striking your dramatic head with a stapler.

`It's true!' you shout. `If you don't believe such an event is possible, why is there a Foreign and Domestic Barbaric Bear Ministry?' you argue with a victorious grin and Elfa nods approvingly.

`For the same reason we have an Interdepartmental Sheep Naming Legislation Committee, a Unilateral Toad Classification Committee, the Ministry for Trout, Yams and Pencil Sharpeners and the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Recreation.

`What reason?' you demand.

`There's no reason!' he concludes smugly. `As long as they table an annual report in parliament, nobody cares what they do.'

`Doesn't anyone read the reports?' you ask.

`Of course not. They're filed for thirty years and then destroyed.'

`Why?'

He looks at you as if you are an idiot. `To give the Ministry for Filing and Destroying Annual Reports something to do, of course. The minister has to do something to earn his immense salary.'

`But why can't the minister do something useful?' you ask.

`Such as?'

`Such as helping poor people.'

`Oh, no. A number of people don't agree with governments giving charity to poor people because it erodes their dignity and independence.'

`Who don't agree with it?'

`The rich people,' he says with a tolerant sigh.

`What does your minister do then?'

`He deals with issues related to Foreign and Domestic Barbaric Bears, of course,' the man says with a self-satisfied smile.

`How many issues has the department actually dealt with so far?'

`It's impossible to give an accurate estimate without extensive consultation with the relevant departmental standing committees,' he says.

`Guess.'

`Oh, I'd say about a hundred,' he says, scratching his chin.

`Really?' you reply in astonishment.

`No, but that's what I'd guess.'

`How many then, really?'

`None.'

`What about The Thing in Chapter 2? Shouldn't you have dealt with that? I had to save the day myself!' you complain.

`Well, of course that was a marsupial, not a bear. We only deal with true barbaric bears, any of the plantigrade, carnivorous or omnivorous mammals of the family Ursidae who are behaving in an ignorant, uncouth, cruel or uncivilised manner,' he replies easily.

`Plantigrade?'

`Walking on the whole sole of the foot, from the Latin planta (sole) and gradus (walking),' he smiles.

`In that case, you have an issue to deal with!' you announce.

`Oh dear,' he mutters as he reaches for the Ministerial Handbook of Excuses.

`I'm sorry. We're busy. Try next door,' he reads from page one.

`It's your duty.'

`The minister is overseas on a fact-finding holiday and we cannot act without authorisation,' he quotes from page two.

`This is an emergency,' you retort.

`We are fully aware of the situation and will address the issue as soon as the Interdepartmental committee tables its research findings,' he cites from page three.

`There's no time for that.'


Two hours later...

`The international situation precludes premature and precipitous reaction,' he mumbles from page 706.

`Stuff the international situation,' you scream as you beat his head against the desk and Elfa chews his ankle. `Either you do something,' you snarl, brandishing the stapler he threw at you, `or I'll staple you in a place only seen until now in lewd magazines.'

He gulps and picks up a pen. `Perhaps this issue is urgent enough for premature and precipitous reaction,' he concedes. `Give me the details and I'll send them straight to the Interdepartmental Committee...'

`No committee,' you hiss, clicking the stapler's jaws closer to his unstapled regions.

`No committee! Of course not. Silly idea!' he blurts. `Now, who is doing what, where and when?'

`At lunch time, Pooh, Paddington and Humphrey B. Bear are planning to pretend to be cute and cuddly to enter parliament and destroy the government so they can take over the country,' you gush.

`I see. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, these bears are true bears of the plantigrade, carnivorous or...'

`Yes! Yes!' you interrupt. He consults the Bear Register and smiles.

`This Pooh Bear, alias Winnie the Pooh, alias the Bear Of Very Little Brain is registered as an animated teddy bear belonging to a certain Christopher Robin. Is that correct?'

`Yes,' you say impatiently.

`Hmmm. Not a true bear then. The Humphrey B. Bear is a fabric costume with a person inside. True?'

`Yes,' you admit with a gulp.

`Hmmm. Not a true bear. This Paddington Bear is recorded as a "cute, harmless, fictional, marmalade-loving bear resident in the Browns' house in London, England". Right?'

`Yes,' you mumble with a sinking feeling.

`Hmmm. Not a barbaric bear. It seems that these bear gentlemen do not fall within the parameters for action by this ministry,' he gloats.

`Paddington's evil! He wanted to disembowel me!' you shout.

`Only in a cute, harmless, fictional, non-barbaric way,' he smiles.

`What?' you screech.

`I'm sorry. It's not our responsibility. You must excuse me. I've got a lot of work I don't have to do and I must start not doing it as soon as possible,' he says.

`You - you - you -' you stammer as Elfa drags you from the office by the collar. Red-faced and panting, you stand outside the Ministry for Homosexual Sardines with Elfa who is a heterosexual Labrador.

`You're right, Elfa. We'll have to deal with this ourselves.'

Elfa woofs keenly and you leap onto his back and gallop past the Ministry for Labrador Saddle Tax, the Ministry for Warming Teapots and the top-heavy typist

Dammit! Sorry!

to the front steps of parliament house just as the three brutal bears arrive.

`Get out of the way, Reader,' Pooh snarls.

`I cannot let you pass,' you roar passionately.

I used the term "passionately" in the sense of "emotionally".
You do not feel any sexual attraction to the evil bear at all.

`Don't waste your pity on them. Save some for yourself,' Paddington sneers as he draws his claws across the fur on his rotund stomach.

`No! You don't understand: it's you I'm trying to save! Don't go in there!'

Pooh roars with ursine humour and pushes you aside. `We'll deal with you later, after we destroy civilisation as we know it,' he chortles, leading the bears through the doors of parliament house.

`No! Don't!' you cry in vain. Soon you hear the fateful words of the well-rounded secretary

Stupid cat! Bad cat!

`May I help you?'

You wait on the steps for an hour. A couple of times you hear echoing tortured screams of `I don't want to discuss it with an Interdepartmental Committee. I just want to take over the country.'

After five hours, three dazed, furry beings stagger from the doors.

`I hope Mrs Bird won't be upset that I got marmalade on the sheets. She'll be ever so cross,' Paddington mumbles. `Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin,' Pooh Bear gurgles. Humphrey B. Bear is clapping his paws and performing a happy dance to imaginary music.

`Those poor bears,' you whisper. `Their brains have been completely destroyed.'

`I must visit Eeyore who's lost a tail. I must, I must, I must,' Pooh rambles as he wanders away.

`It must be time for elevenses. I'll get my cream buns and go to Mr Gruber's for cocoa,' says Paddington as he hurries blindly into the bush. Meanwhile, Humphrey is flapping his arms, pretending to be a butterfly. He flaps across the grass and disappears into the forest.

`It's so sad,' you tell Elfa who is also showing a slight tendency to impersonate a butterfly. `Let's get out of here, boy. Let's leave this place to those who have no brains to be mashed.'

You wearily climb into the saddle and guide Elfa past the flower beds that he insists on pollinating. You need a break, so you slowly head towards Chapter 4 and hope that it is relaxing.


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