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BRAND NEW AUSTRALIAN MYTHS AND LEGENDS
CHAPTER 4 - The Royal Chickens of Sitmar

After a long ride on the fleet-footed Elfa you arrive at Chapter 4. You inspect it closely and are pleased to see it is at the beach in the middle of summer. You slide from the saddle, give your steed a T-bone and stride out onto the sand with your magic pointed stick.

Macho lobster men strut before you in Speedos, so tough they don't like to sweat. Bloated beach-ball businessmen roll round-faced in the waves. Echoes of amplified love songs compete noisily beneath the canopy of eye-poking umbrellas. Nature lovers struggle in their sunglasses and coconut sweat to defeat nature.

A traffic jam of finned fibreglass lurks beyond the breakers. Lethargic peroxide princes, tied by their ankles to waxed steeds, wait for the right dragon to come. When it does, they attack and ride its foamy glistening green back, charging the shallow-water paddlers until the dragon tires, bucks and falls on them with a dying roar of frothy fire and spray.

Browning bodies rotate on the blistering sand like gently sizzling rotisserie chickens with strap marks. Old-age babies in bonnets struggle with man-sized plastic spades in their chubby fists building towering castles in their minds. Rubber-finned sharks with neoprene skins and snorkels cruise the shallows inspecting the bikini-clad victims, devouring them with their eyes. Long, sleek dozing youths with Polaroid eyes dream of camshafts, carburettors and Saturday night. Suffocating cars with white-hot backside-biting upholstery are lined up like nannies supervising their children at play.

All of this is normal. Earnest men with binoculars are scanning the sea. Their T-shirts proclaim them "CHICKEN WATCHERS". This is not normal. You approach them.

`Ah, g'day,' you say in the time-honoured custom.

`G'day,' they all respond together.

`Watcha doin'?' you drawl so your education and sophistication don't make them feel ashamed to be inferior.

`What's it look like, boofhead?' they all say, still fixating on the ocean.

`Umm - you're watching for chickens?' you guess.

`This boofhead's a bloody genius,' they all say with a little too much sarcasm for your liking.

`Do you see many chickens out at sea?'

They lower their binoculars and eye you suspiciously in case you're being flippant and deserve a remedial thumping about the head.

`Are you from around here?' they ask warily.

`No.'

`Oh.' It sounds like they're relieved to know it's ignorance rather than villainy that's making you interrupt their work with stupid questions. Then again, they also sound disappointed because they can't give you a good thumping.

`I guess you'd have to be a stranger to wear armour on a beach,' they add.

`It's air conditioned,' you explain.

`Oh,' they reply.

`These chickens you're watching for - do they attack swimmers or something? You see, I'm a bit of a freelance monster removal expert. I've got a magic pointed stick. See?'

`Touch a chicken and you die,' they threaten with friendly smiles.

`They're good chickens then, are they?'

`They're the Royal Chickens of Sitmar,' you're told.

`Sitmar?'

`You are a boofhead. Let's thump the boofhead.'

`No, could you explain it all to me please? It'll be a lot quicker than if the author has to bring in another character to tell everyone the background information. This has to be a short book, remember.'

`Are we in a book?' they ask looking eagerly around as if there's a hidden author focused on them.

`Of course you are. Didn't you read your contract?'

`No. The author created us as illiterate Chicken Watchers. We can't read.'

`He's trying to cheat you of your share in the profits,' you say.

The author hears this and realises you are getting too big for your stainless steel boots. Before you know it, there's a dirty big crab in your armour with his nipper in a potentially painful place.

`I was just joking!' you shout.

`Who's the boofhead yelling at?' the chickenwatchers ask as you shriek and dance across the sand.

`All right! All right! I'll stick to the script!' you scream as the crab's pincers close. The crab disappears, just in time. It only goes to show that the crab's mightier than the pointed stick.

`Phew,' you sigh.

`Who was that?'

`The author.'

`Do you reckon he'd give us some pointed sticks too?'

`I doubt it - not where you'd want them anyway.'

`Nasty, is he?'

`Terrible.'

To prove it, a seagull divebombs you at that moment.

`See?'

`You want to know about Sitmar?'

`Yes.'

The three pull up deckchairs and blondes and sit down before they speak.

`Sitmar is the mighty God of the sea. Every Sunday, the Holy Day of Blistering, we worship him by lying on the shore until we burn. His Royal Chickens appear every so often with messages from his Holiness. We're the Royal Chicken Watchers.'

`How often do they appear?' you ask as Elfa puts up a beach umbrella over your head, squirts sun cream on his nose and begins to sniff the rear end of a passing poodle.

`Oh, every 2000 years or so.'

`That's a shame. I would've like to have seen them.'

`No problems there. They're due for their bimillennial visit in ten minutes.'

`That's a stroke of luck,' you say.

The soothing ocean is soon seething in a roaring white plume of foam. A hundred yards from shore a head the size of a house bursts from the depths. It has a bright red comb, white feathers and a gigantic yellow beak. As it wades from the surf you see it's a chicken the height of a twelve storey building (in supermarket talk, it's a size 34507 chicken with giblets). It clucks a couple of times and scratches up a few sunbaking bodies with its claws. In a minute another fabulous fowl strides from the water and joins its feathered fellow. They shake their massive wings free of water and the resulting gale blows people along the sand.

`Right on time,' the chickenwatchers say as they walk to the birds with you fearfully behind them. The chickens watch attentively as you approach. Your head barely reaches the top of their claws.

`Are they hens or cocks?' you ask with a filthy mind.

`Hens,' they reply.

`They're the biggest hens I've ever seen,' you say, but the effect has already been ruined.

`You've got a fowl mind,' they say. The sunbakers roar with laughter and the chickenwatchers bow appreciatively.

HISTORICAL NOTE: The most famous use of the foul/fowl pun was by Spike Milligan in the Goon Show, circa 1956. The author is indebted to Spike, but refuses to pay any copyright fees. Sue me, Spike.

NOTE TO HATERS OF PUNS: Puns, said to be the lowest form of wit, will be common in this chapter. Pun haters should take appropriate precautions.

 The chickenwatchers kneel and call out.

`Oh, Royal Chickens of Sitmar, what is thy word?'

The chickens emit another booming cluck and speak (in a voice that you notice is very sophisticated for chooks).

`G'day. Good turnout for the Sunday service we see. Good. Good. Oh, dear: there's someone using sunscreen.' The ferocious fowl clucks its tongue in disappointment as it approaches the heretic, bends over and eats him whole. `Hmmm. Funny taste. Humans haven't tasted the same since they started living in Housing Commission blocks. The old free range rural humans were far tastier,' it says.

`We've got a problem we want you to help us with,' the other bloody big bantam says to the chickenwatchers who are desperately rubbing the zinc cream off their noses. Your ears prick up. `It's the rubber ducks again,' the chicken says.

The chickenwatchers gasp.

You laugh.

They thump you.

You gasp too.

`Who's this boofhead?' the lead chicken asks.

`Dunno. Got a magic pointed stick though,' the chickenwatchers say with sulky envy.

`A magic pointed stick, eh? You wouldn't be the reader, would you?' the Royal chicken asks.

`That's me,' you reply with a modest smile. `I destroyed The Thing in Chapter 2.'

You hand out autographed pictures of yourself to the chickens.

`We know. We read it. That was only a bloated koala though. These are rubber ducks. But you do have an MPS... It may be possible...'

`I CAN DO IT!' you bravely cry.

`Well. We can but try. Come with us,' the Prince's pullets proclaim as they paddle into the salty depths.

`ELFA!' you call. Your amphibious war dog gets out of bed, kisses the exhausted poodle, butts out his cigarette and bounds up to you wearing a swimming cap and waterwings.

`Onwards to victory!' With that cry you fly into the water on Elfa's back and follow the freestyling chickens. When they dive, Elfa follows.

If this wasn't fiction you'd be drowned in a minute but you're safely protected by poetic licence. You sink hundreds of metres, Elfa dogpaddling and breaststroking furiously to keep the massive plummeting poultry in sight.

You're only stopped once by a Fiction Policeman.

`Pull over to the side of ocean please, driver.'

`Yes Sir.'

`Are you the owner of this motor dog, driver?'

`Yes, your Majesty.'

`I notice his rear left paw is bald. Get that fixed, driver.'

`Yes, your Holiness.'

`Is this the new model dog?'

`Yes, your Grace.'

`How many miles do you get to the bone?'

`Yes, my Lord.'

`May I see your Poetic Licence, driver?'

`Yes, your Excellency.' You hand it over. `Good, that seems to be in order. There are heavy penalties for drowning without a licence.'

`Yes, Reverend.'

`Very well. On your way, driver.'

`Yes, Countess.'

Elfa paddles on, and at a safe distance you shout, `Bloody pig!' You, being a fearless individual, have no fear of authority except when a representative of the authority is present. Before long you're on the sea bottom, a kilometre (1000 inches) underwater. The chickens take you into a huge crystal palace and leave you and the soggy Labrador in front of a large throne.

`So you're the reader,' a voice says. The figure on the throne has the distinct odour of a dead fish. It's a white pointer shark. You recoil in horror, not because you've got any religious, moral or dietary objections to sharks, but because the chapter's been moving too slowly and needs some drama. A dramatic orchestral chord emphasizes the shock you show. To your left is a seven-piece portable orchestra providing the background music for the scene. As the music mellows, you realise the moment of tension has passed and you take the martini that Elfa passes you. Until then you hadn't noticed the cocktail bar behind his saddle, or the fact that he was wearing a four-legged Pierre Cardin tuxedo.

`I'm the reader,' you confirm to the toothy monarch in the sable gown.

`You've heard about the rubber ducks?'

`Yes,' you say in sad seriousness.

`Terrible. Terrible,' the finned regent mutters.

`Yes.'

`Can you help us? Can you fight the rubber ducks and deliver us from evil?'

`For ever and ever.'

`Ah, men!'

You are about to say "Amen" but you realise the cartilaginous king was talking to some people who'd just entered the throne room.

`Put it there.' He points a pectoral fin and the men put down a yellow object that bears a remarkable likeness to a common-or-bathtub rubber duck. `Notice anything about it?' the rapacious regent asks.

`Not particularly,' you say.

`It's eight feet high, you boofhead - and that's just a scale model. The real thing's one hundred times bigger. It has Exocet missile launchers under its wings and a battery of twelve inch cannon in its beak. It fires torpedoes from somewhere under the waterline. We dread to think where the torpedo tube is. This is what you'll be facing. There are three of them. Can you handle it?'

The eight burly barracuda guards block your backwards rush for the door and drag you back to the throne. Elfa hands you a telephone and you discuss the deal with your insurance agent, the Amalgamated Knights, Heroes and Affiliated Do-Gooders Union, and your mother who is mainly concerned that you are wearing clean underwear. She asks if you'd mind her renting your room out if you die. After further negotiations with the king about worker's compensation, redundancy pay, holiday loading and fringe benefits, you agree to take the job.

`Good!' the man-eating monarch smiles with a dazzling display of fluoride-fortified fangs. `You can let the boofhead go now, men.'

Thankfully, you are untied and your head is removed from the alligator's mouth. There's something about the shark's negotiation style that makes him hard to refuse.

His grin becomes grim when a flathead flops in.

`Your Highness, the duck detector has picked up three megaducks at ten kilometres and closing fast.'

`Duck stations!' the king roars. `Get to it, Sir Reader. It's up to you to defend the empire. And may the horse be with you.'

`It's a Labrador,' you explain, looking at Elfa who's busily calculating his tax return.

`Whatever.'

You leap into the air. Elfa files his dependent spouse rebate forms and manoeuvres under you as you come down again. Barely minutes later at periscope depth you spy an awesome sight. Three armour-plated nuclear powered yellow juggernauts are steaming towards you. Underwater, massive webbed feet are churning at high speed.

`Dive, dive, dive,' you order. Elfa blows his tanks and submerges, his bulkhead creaking slightly as the water pressure increases.

`All ahead full! Ready torpedo tube one. Range 2000, bearing 205,' you shout into the communication tube.

Elfa shakes his head.

`Oh no, an unarmed Labrador!' you cry in anguish.

The portable orchestra strikes another dramatic chord from a raft on the surface. Your sonar reveals the ducks are steaming towards you on a collision course.

`What will I do? We're sitting ducks! We're doomed!' you cry.


Author's Note: At this stage, the television freaks out there will be expecting an advertisement to interrupt the action just as the hero faces imminent death. Let me make it quite clear that I disapprove of this practice. It creates a generation of vegetables who expect every disaster in their lives to be interrupted by a thirty second loud jingle for a battery-powered toy that kills everything in sight and comes in thirteen exciting flavours at prices that will not be beaten. Free delivery. Bankcard welcome. It also contributes to the plague of smiling plastic American families whose dramas are always thirty minutes long with a feel-good ending that makes all normal people think they're hopelessly inadequate because no-one applauds when they enter a room. It's my firm conviction that television is the main contributor to obesity, tooth decay, myocardial infarction, arteriosclerosis, teenage pregnancies, neo-Naziism, the Vietnam war, the death of Harold Holt, the Chernobyl nuclear accident, earthquakes, venereal disease, lukewarm coffee, the breakup of the Beatles, poor table manners and increasing salinity in irrigated farming districts. But then again, TV does have a role to play. Without it we never would've learnt that dandruff is something we should be ashamed of and that drinking flavoured milk make you sexually irresistible. Without TV we never would have seen all the documentaries lamenting the problems described above. But, as I said, this book won't resort to cheap tactics like tossing self-serving propaganda into the climax of a gripping story. Neither will this book imitate television's terrible habit of not only interrupting the story, but returning to it too late, often after you've missed a match-winning catch, goal or put on the eighteenth hole, or after the hero of a story has made his escape.



The massive duck lists to one side with black smoke and tongues of flame belching from its crippled interior. A tremendous explosion rips it from bill to tail and it rapidly sinks with only a few rubber feathers floating on the oil slicks to show where it had been.

`Thank heaven I got out of that!' you gasp in relief. `We were nearly dead meat.'

The remaining dreadnought ducks begin circling you, flinging egg-shaped depth charges.

`They're SHELLING us,' you tell Elfa who doesn't like puns much. You know your magnificent ruse won't work a second time. Those ducks aren't stupid.

`Prepare to surface,' you shout into Elfa's ear. `Take her up.' In a cloud of bubbles the Labrador bobs to the surface with a cutlass between his teeth and an eyepatch on his ear. `Let's take 'er, me hearties!' you scream as you leap onto the nearest duck's gangway. With a mighty clashing of stainless steel you carve your way through the scurvy landlubbers and peg-legged corsairs until you reach the foredeck.

`There's a boofhead on the foreduck,' a swarthy rascal yells. There's a lot of swinging on ropes, swashing of buckles, buckling of swashes, curdling of blood and battening of hatches as you battle the attackers. The duck's down is drenched in gore and miscellaneous limbs are bobbing in the crimson sea. Luckily none of them are yours: losing limbs in two chapters running would play havoc with your hospital and medical insurance. After an hour's parrying, thrusting, slashing, disemboweling, beheading and other assorted atrocities you decide to leave the women and children alone and get stuck into the men who've been waiting for the best part of a page for you to get around to them. You hand your cutlass to a cut lass. Elfa hands you a mango. Jolly Rogers and Happy Harolds surround you on the foreduck. As each advances, armed to the dentures, you hold up your fruit.

`Man go!' you order, and he goes. (Author's Note: I sincerely regret that poor joke. Even for a pun, it's pathetic.) With your headband on, your survival knife in one hand and bow in the other you grunt into action like the demented offspring of Rambo. `Long live the U.S.of A.' you scream, which shows just how drunken with battle fury you've become. You leap from the foreduck onto the beak, preparing to maim, rape, pillage and destroy anything that moves when you see - Sitmar.

You are a reader with exceptional skills of observation. You know the person before you is the god Sitmar. By careful observation of the man's knuckles you can see the wear and tear caused by a lifetime of people kissing his hand. There is a faint mark on his forehead where his heavenly crown sits upon his brow. It's only after this brilliant deduction that you notice that flashing neon sign above his head that says, "HI, I'M SITMAR". Sitmar is surrounded by fierce hamsters holding submachineguns. They growl as you grovel before the deity.

`I thay. Were you the thilly boofhead who thank my ducky?'

Sitmar is wearing lipstick, red trousers, a white frilly shirt and a leather police hat. There seems to be weakness of his wrist muscles too.

`Yes, I'm sorry.'

`I'll thend you the BILL for ruining my duck.'

The hamsters roar with laughter.

`Tell me, thweety. Why did you attack the Holy Rubber Duckth of Thitmar?'

`The Royal Chickens asked for my help,' you say with some heavy-duty grovelling and boot licking.

`Were they cockth or henth?' Sitmar asks.

`Hens,' you reply.

`Aha! I only use cockth! Thothe chickenth were forgerieth. Which villain thent you to dethtroy my duckth?'

`It was a shark,' you say with the taste of shoe polish in your mouth.

`Ah! The thcoundrel Eski! He prethumeth to attack Thitmar doeth he? After all I did to - I mean - for him!'

A hamster delicately touches a silk handkerchief to Sitmar's weeping eye.

`You mean, those beach chickens weren't yours?' you ask.

`Yeth.'

`So that shark's not really Sitmar?'

`No.'

`Who is he then?' you ask.

`Let me tell you a thtory,' Sitmar begins.

For the sake of clarity, Sitmar's lisp will not be included in the following narrative. When reading it, please insert lisps where necessary.

`Once there was a cow - a Friesian - by the name of Deanne. She was a well-bred cow, a product of the best artificial insemination. She was a cow with high hopes. She saw her sisters grazing in fields all day, farting and getting milked. She said to herself, "There must be more to life than this." So one day she ran away and did a secretarial course in Melbourne. She studied shorthand, typing and filing. She came in handy during tea breaks too, when they ran out of milk. After a year's hard work she looked for a job and managed to find an employer who wasn't prejudiced against bovine assistants. As you know, cows have terrible trouble with their elimination of solid waste products. They're designed for paddocks where they just have to lift their tails and relax. In offices, however, cows are walking timebombs. Poor Deanne could type a hundred words a minute and take two hundred words a minute in shorthand - or shorthoof - but her bowels were her downfall. By the end of her first week, the office was a mess - up to their ankles, I tell you. All over the walls, in the filing cabinets, even in the boss' briefcase. Well, of course it couldn't go on. Regretfully they had to let her go. She wandered the streets of Collingwood for a week, unemployed, and was finally forced by hunger and nasty people with empty milk bottles to return to her sisters in her original paddock, where she is today.'

`That's very sad,' you say with a tear in your eye.

`And smelly,' Sitmar adds.

`What does it mean?'

`Nothing. I just like telling stories.'

`Do you realise how long this chapter is getting? We haven't even got near the ending yet,' you impudently remind the sea god.

`That author hasn't worked out how it's going to end yet, sweety. That's why,' Sitmar says as one of his hamsters attacks your ankle.

Author's note: It seems that these characters are under the misapprehension that I am making things up as I go along. I wish to deny and refute any such allegations. While I'm here, anyone who has suggestions about how I can finish this chapter can send them to the Alfred Hospital. Quickly. The sound of an organ catches your attention. To your left you see an iceberg floating by. On it stand a flock of penguins in formal dress. As you wonder how the author is going to get you out of this sticky situation, you hear one penguin say, `Do you, Sam Penguin, take Cynthia to be your lawful wedded wife for as long as you both shall live?'

`I do! I do!' Sam croons, gazing longingly into his beloved's eyes.

`And do you, Cynthia Penguin, take Sam to love, honour, cherish and obey in sickness and in health, for better or worse, whether he beats you or starves you until the day you die?' the Vicar Penguin asks.

`Oh, I do!' Cynthia sighs with a modest blush on her cheeks.

`Then by the power invested in me by the Church of Episcopalian Penguins, I pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.'

Sam's trembling flipper lifts the lace veil and his quivering beak gently touches Cynthia's. The crowd of guests cheers and tosses plankton and prawns as Sam and Cynthia scurry to the edge of the iceberg. Cynthia pauses, turns and throws the bouquet of squid to the excited maiden penguins. With a final wave of their flippers, the bride and groom slide on their stomachs into the sea and disappear into the depths. The iceberg floats away.

`Anyway, you little cutie. Are you going to do something about my duckth or will I have to do thomething vile, obscenely violent and thoroughly enjoyable to you?' Sitmar said, licking his lips.

Deceived, duped, defrauded! Poor reader, deluded by fraudulent fowls! Your battle fury rises again. Your honour is at stake, there is a hamster biting your knees, and the air conditioning in your armour has broken down: things are terrible and this is only chapter four! What would a true hero of mythology do? Did Perseus have these problems? Did Ulysses or Hercules? You decide there's only one thing to do. You must attack Eski the Shark and redeem yourself.

`How do I get down from this duck?' you cry. `You don't get down from a duck. You get down from an elephant,' the hamsters, pirates and Sitmar say together in gales of merriment.

`I deserved that,' you figure. You mount Elfa in the nicest possible way and plummet from the monstrous duck's bill into the choppy waves. Before you submerge, you notice that you got a score of 25.7 with a degree of difficulty of 2.5. Down, down, down you dive to the deepest depths, stopping only to make a long distance phone call on the way. You're soon at the gates of Eski's palace, but in the way stands Evinrude, the mightiest sardine warrior in all the seas.

EDUCATIONAL NOTE: The sardine, Sardinops caeruleus, is actually a dead and canned young common pilchard. For Evinrude to be alive and uncanned is therefore impossible.

`Get out of the way,' you threaten. `I have a magic pointed stick.'

Evinrude laughs contemptuously.

`I have dandruff,' you try.

He sneers at the threat. Evinrude is bald. Most sardines are. You hear a welcome noise behind you. Deanne the cow has arrived and is removing her wetsuit and snorkel.

`I'm warning you,' you shout, `This cow is loaded.'

Evinrude disappears with a shriek. With an automatic cow by your side, no-one stands in your way. You swagger into the throne room, punching parrot fish, stabbing salmon, and treating trout terribly. Soon you stand before the quaking Eski.

`No-one fools with me,' you snarl.

`But - but - I'll make it up to you. I'll... ' Eski stutters. Suddenly he grabs a skunk from his holster. Too late. Deanne looks at you with a satisfied look on her face as you look pityingly at Eski. It was a nasty way to go. Everyone is silent as you leave. They stare with fearful respect as you push open the swinging doors and walk out into the dusty street. The Fiction Sheriff is standing in front of you, his six-guns on his hips.

`This town don't need your kind,' he drawls.

Your trigger finger twitches. `Well, sheriff,' you say in a slow, reluctant voice. `Someone's got to clean up this ocean.'

`You call that cleaning up? You should see the mess in there.'

You spit at his feet. `He deserved it.'

`There ain't nothing I can do, he drew first. But I want you outa town on the noon tide,' the sheriff says. He turns and stalks away with the rattling of spurs towards his sea-horse. You slowly get on Elfa, pull your black hat down over your eyes and ride off towards the Rubber Duck armada with Deanne doing the cowpaddle behind you. You find Sitmar brushing his scoutmaster's hat on the flagduck.

`It's done,' you whisper in a hard-bitten, disillusioned hero's voice.

`Oh, goody. It'th time he had hith botty thlapped. How did you do it? Thword? Club? Pithtol?'

`Friesian.'

`Ah, hello Deanne, thweety. Is the manure buthineth thtill going well? Thit down, take the weight off your hooveth.'

Deanne pulls up a hamster and sits down. You sit in Elfa's lap and Elfa sits in yours.

`Let me tell you a story,' Sitmar begins as a sailor wearing sequin shorts sits in his lap. `Eski and I went to God Training College together. I got honours in walking on water and creating fish, but poor Eski had enormous trouble just making dolphin waterproof: they always leaked and sank. After graduation I was appointed Colonel-God in charge of Oceans and Eski was lucky to be appointed Assistant demigod in charge of Crabs and Oysters: not much of a job but better than unemployment. He went to the Divine Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to try to get control of a sea or two but he ended up losing Crabs and Oysters and was given Drains and Puddles. Boy, was he angry! Ever since then, about 230,000 million years, he's been trying to ruin me. That's why he fabricated those phantom fowls to fool you into destroying my ducks.'

`What are these ducks, exactly?' you ask as Elfa crosses your legs for you.

`They're Juggernaut Dreadnought Megaducks. They're used to move continents around. You've heard about continental drift, haven't you? Shakespeare wrote a play about it. Of course once the editors got to it, it ended up as Hamlet.'

`Do you mean continents migrate like ducks?' Deanne asks between martinis.

`Of course, but they're much slower It takes them a million years to move an inch so they never end up getting to the tropics in time for winter. They barely get moving before winter's finished and they have to turn around again. It's very frustrating being a continent. That's why the ducks help out. They drag the continents up to Queensland in July and let them sunbake for a while.'

`It that why Brisbane is over to our left, just next to Hobart?' you enquire. Sitmar nods.

`It's a big problem with the tourist industry. No-one wants to go on holidays if the continent automatically takes them there as soon as it gets chilly. It plays havoc with my shipping line. The only business I get is from shiploads of penguins who don't want to go north.'

`Then why don't you stop using your ducks to tow the continents around?' you suggest.

`I never thought of that,' he admits.

`Just think. We could have snow, skiing, a football season, a thriving cough and cold pharmaceutical industry and you could make millions shipping people to warm places.'

`You're not such a boofhead after all. Here, have a sainthood,' Sitmar says as he hands you a glowing halo.

`Ta. Come, Elfa. We must go!' you cry. With that, you and your canine companion leap onto the water and walk to shore. Sainthoods let you do that sort of thing. Elfa can do it because he is part Saint Bernard, which also explains the martini shaker hanging from his neck. He is pleased because now that there is a winter he can rescue people lost in the snow.

Now that you have discovered how it came about that we have four seasons instead of one, you can settle down on the beach to relax. You have done well, Sir Saint Reader, but even as you bask in self-admiration you realise that the sand on the beach is under a foot of snow and Elfa is barking madly and strapping skis onto his feet. You leap onto his back, put on your snow goggles and charge off to the rescue of someone lost in the snow in Chapter 5.






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Pinch it and I'll get Elfa to bite your primary sexual organs.