[SETTING: a fish and chip shop in Manangatang. You can hear the constant spluttering of ancient grease and the screaming of chips as they go to their deaths. A representative of Potato Liberation is marching along the counter with a sign saying "Potatoes are people too". A representative of Tuber Lovers is marching behind him with a sign saying "No they're not". In a corner of the shop, sitting on greasy chairs at a greasy table are four noble figures. One seems to be carrying a Magic Pointed Stick, another is a distinguished-looking dog reading the Labrador Times. Beside them are a polar-bear type person looking under the table for elephants and the seedy AUTHOR who has a pen behind one ear and a typewriter behind the other. Across the greasy floor slides the GREEK SHOP OWNER carrying a four plates.]
OWNER - Two fried Emperor Penguins, a dollar chips, ten kilo seal blubber and grilled Labrador Munchies.
YOU - Ta. Four coffees too, thanks Plato. By the way, how's the book going?
PLATO - Slowly. I took your advice and gave up on the glamorous lives of sex and violence amongst wealthy polar bears in an Athenian Fish and Chip Shop. I decided to try some philosophy instead.
YOU - Yeah? What's it about?
PLATO - Well, I create a utopia to launch a satirical purge of Athenian folly and then turn it around to expound a metaphysics of ethics. It's a bit of a laugh.
YOU - What are you calling it?
PLATO - The Secret Diaries of Socrates.
[Plato returns to the counter and counts the pickled onions in the bottle as the coffee brews.]
YOU - I suppose so. We're up to Chapter 6 already. Ah! Here's the coffee. Do you take sugar Elfa?
ELFA - Woof.
YOU - What's happening next?
PAULA - Really? How flattering.
YOU - It's not going to be another arctic chapter is it? I'm still defrosting my wobbly bits from Chapter 5.
ELFA - Bark.
PLATO [shouts]- Aristotle! Four travelling java, one semi-billy with otter, hold the greens. And how's that homework coming, you slack Athenian?
YOU - Where are we going?
The Fish and Chip shop dissolves around you. When things are solid again, you find yourself in your bedroom. On your bed is a polar bear. Curling up on the floor to have a snooze is a Labrador wearing a cute little saddle. I take a typewriter from behind my ear and begin to type.
You look over my shoulder and read: 'Your mother enters the room. She looks rather surprised to see a polar bear, a Labrador and a strange person with you. '
'"Who are these characters?" she asks' (you read).
'"They're from the book I'm reading. It's called Brand New Australian Myths and Legends." '
'"Just make sure that bear doesn't get seal blubber on the sheets," she says. Your mother closes the door behind her as she leaves. '
`That's a powerful typewriter you have there,' you say.
You sip the coffee we brought from Plato's shop. On the styrofoam cups is printed:
PLATO'S PLACE - THE SHOP THAT'S FULL OF GREECE.
`Well, Paula. What's your story?' you ask as you sit beside Elfa and stroke his head. Elfa woofs sleepily. I begin to type quickly and Paula, reclining on your bed with his paws behind his furry head, begins to speak.
`I was born at a very early age in a burrow in the snow at the North Pole. I was white, just like mum and male, just like dad. That's the way we polar bears do things. I weighed about half a kilogram then (now I'm about a tonne which explains why your bed just collapsed. Sorry about that.) It was fun as a cub. I used to go out with mum and frighten Eskimos or have a roll around in the snow. When I was big enough to keep up with her, mum took me hunting. Occasionally we'd strike it lucky and get a BBC naturalist or a camera man or even an Animal Liberationist but most of the time we went after seals. That was great fun - not for the seals though, but a bear's got to live.
Things started going wrong just after I turned two. I was a young, fun-loving type of bear, hanging around the glaciers watching the spunky she-bears strut their fur. We'd play Blind Bear's Buff and Leap Bear and Eat the Eskimo. At night we'd watch the ice break up and sing rude bear songs.
It was a great life until The Arctic Federated Sealions and Walrus Union pressured the government to outlaw the importation and consumption of seals by polar bears. No-one could believe it! Gone were the blubber parties where young cubs would have a great time with a few kilos of seal. Sure, some bears would go too far but most of us were just social carnivores.
Soon it was common to see dazed bears stumbling over the ice, looking desperately into ice holes for sealmeat. The black market began to thrive. Speakeasy Seal Barbeque Bars opened and criminal bears began illegally importing sea lions. Bootleggers sold seal pups to schoolbears. Crime flourished. Gangland bear packs on the icefloes fought tooth and claw to control the seal market. Honest gentlebears and ladybears became criminals just for wanting an After Dinner Seal!
One day, six months after prohibition began, my mother was out shopping for salmon when she was caught in a bearland battle between two of the most infamous criminal gangs run by Al Bear and Scarbear. She never came home and I cried so much my facial fur froze.'
You notice thick tears roll down the fur on Paula's face and soak into the pillow.
`I wandered alone over the ice for months, surviving on fish entrails and slowfooted eskimos until the Great Salmon Famine. With no seals or salmon anywhere, families began to starve. Hobobears roamed the wasteland in search of food. I'd wasted away to less than half a tonne. I had no blubber on my bones and I felt the cold terribly. In desperation I jumped aboard an iceberg heading south. I travelled for weeks, avoiding the Iceberg Police Bears, until I floated near a strange land. Nearly dead by this time, I flopped into the water and barely managed to paddle ashore where I collapsed on the beach.'
You look up when Paula pauses. He takes several rapacious bites of seal blubber and absentmindedly strokes his rotund belly as his dreamy voice begins again.
`I was found there by a sweet and loving brutal Viking warrior maiden named Rosepetal the Savage Malicious Bloodthirsty Cruel Cold-blooded Pitiless Ferocious Barbarous Naughty Bitch. She was as staggeringly beautiful as she was violent. Her hair - as blonde as a lady polar bear's - cascaded over her muscular shoulders. She could crack coconuts between her long, silky-skinned legs. When she was swimming, her bosom was a danger to shipping: you could serve a whole roast camel on her breastplate. She could bend six-inch nails between her long, slender fingers. Her face - her face! - was of such divine creation that it defies description. Her sea-blue eyes, her glacier-white skin, her succulent, soft, blood-red lips... Oooooh!'
The room quakes as the drooling Paula writhes and squirms in nostalgic ecstacy. His excited paws flail in the air, his black nose becomes sweaty and his lips are drawn back in a razor-toothed lusty grin. Even Elfa's paws and ears are twitching in his Viking-ravaged sleep.
`Paddington Bear never carried on like this in his books,' you mumble disapprovingly as you find yourself searching your room for the telephone directory. `Neither did Pooh,' you add as you reach for the telephone and dial directory assistance. `Hello, can you put me through to The Viking Naughty Playmate Society please?' you ask. When the flat-chested spinster telephone operator says `No' you are slightly disappointed and beat your head against the wall.
`Ah, Valhalla!' Paula sighs as he calms down and plucks his claws from your mattress. It has been slashed to shreds and stuffing is scattered all around the room. Feathers from your lacerated Doona fill the air, settling slowly like snow on the memory-crazed steaming bear. `It was Valhalla - Viking heaven for an emaciated bear! She saw me drenched and dying on the beach, slung me over her shoulder and carried me to her home where she fed me fat with seal, salmon and mead. I accompanied Rosepetal on several of her business trips. Together, we disemboweled, impaled, decapitated, maimed, looted, defiled, laid waste, crippled, mutilated, disfigured, burnt, pillaged, tortured, horrified, destroyed and obliterated civilizations from Scandinavia to North America. You'd think they would've been upset over being ravaged so ferociously but many of them invited Rosepetal back to ravage them again as soon as she was free. If you've ever been ravaged by Rosepetal you'd know why. Every day she'd receive hundreds of requests from men wanting to be raped and pillaged. Several kings sent fleets of ships to carry her to their lands so she could invade them.
She'd pillage, of course, but never raped. She was a lady, after all. I loved her, of course. Everyone did. Some thought it strange that she kept herself to me, being a polar bear. The truth is that I was the only one who could survive a night of her passion: mere men could not survive an energetic hug and kiss from her. Anyway - as she said - with me, she had her own convenient bear skin rug.'
Paula sighs and you groan. `Before too long - having ravaged every known country in the world several times by invitation - she got bored. One day in England I was reading her the bookings for the next month.
"South America would like to be raped and pillaged in May. France wants to be conquered in June. Germany would like to be over-run again in July. They've sent a deposit and an offer of free accommodation at the Hun Hilton..."
"The Germans? We just did them in January. Isn't there anyone we haven't done yet?" she complained.
"Well, there's a new place called Terra Australis Incognita. From all accounts the weather's nice. There's a new group there - the aborigines - who recently arrived across the land bridge from Java. Apparently they don't want to be invaded!' I said.
"Sounds just the thing! A challenge at last!" she cried, crushing her goblet in her hand. "We can stop off at Sumatra and do a quick incursion on the way," she said, inspecting the map. "Prepare the longboat, Paula! I'll just tell Dad where I'm going and then we'll be off."
Within fifteen minutes she was pulling strongly at the oars of our longboat. We sailed past England, turned left at Gibraltar, sped across the Mediterranean and stopped at Port Said for sandwiches. She carried the longboat overland through the cheering crowds of Cairo to the Red Sea and we rowed to the Gulf of Aden, past the Maldive Islands and directly to Sumatra where we enjoyed a lively battle before sailing to Broome and tying up the boat on the beach.' While Paula pauses to finish his coffee and take another few bites of seal blubber, you notice that the Author is asleep and that it is Elfa whose paws are tapping busily at the typewriter.
`"Hail to thee, Viking queen," called a dog from the beach. I saw a Labrador - a splendid beast - lying on the sand beneath a beach umbrella. Actually he only said "Woof" but I knew what he meant,' Paula continues. `He held up two martinis and we approached him warily, suspecting a trap. He was such a magnificent creature! So handsome! So intelligent! So witty! The most beautiful canine in Christendom. The paragon of animals...'
The Author wakes up and seizes the typewriter from Elfa.
`Bad Elfa,' he admonishes. Elfa yips and wags his tail apologetically . The Author begins typing again and the story continues.
`Rosepetal leapt from the longboat with her familiar bloodcurdling scream, "Kill, kill, kill!" only to find a fat, lazy Labrador and a yawning tourist resort operator with a big belly watching her from the balcony of a dilapidated hotel.
"Can I help you, Miss?" he drawled in an odd accent.
"I've come to ravage and pillage and destroy," she replied reasonably.
"Oh," replied the man in the shorts and singlet. "Japanese, are you?"
"I'm a Viking," she screamed ferociously. "I am called Rosepetal the Savage Malicious Bloodthirsty Cruel Cold-blooded Pitiless Ferocious Barbarous Naughty Bitch and I've come to disembowel anyone who stands in my way!"
"Fair dinkum?" the man replied, taking a mouthful of beer.
"What does that mean?" she snarled, slicing her sword through the air perilously close to the man's tender beer-bloated throat.
"It means I've been waiting here for three hundred bloody years for Captain Cook to arrive and bloody discover the place and this bloody sheila turns up. Struth! How can a bloke bloody run a hotel if this keeps up? Those bloody aborigines don't want to book in. Rather bloody camp on the beach and bloody catch fish and kangaroos for their barbeque. The savages can't bloody appreciate fish fingers, video games and air conditioning. Don't bloody know why I set up here," the man said.
"Do you mean there are no riches to be plundered?" Rosepetal demanded.
"Stuff all," the man said. "These native fellas haven't even worked out income tax and negative gearing yet."
"Heaps: in the ground."
"They've got that. Nice stuff. Problem is, you've got to take the whole bloody cave with you."
"Shells and stuff."
"Oh," Rosepetal said.
"Yeah," the man agreed.
"Come Paula!" Rosepetal shouted. "The perfect place for a holiday!"
Elfa joined us and we spent three months touring the country without a single massacre or disembowelment! It was getting rather dull by then. Rosepetal started sneaking out at night and attacking the poor crocodiles. In the morning we'd find the tracks on the riverbanks where she'd dragged them out of the water with her teeth, bitten their legs off and then eaten them. She tried to deny that she was bored but - well - I found the half-chewed croc legs under her pillow and every morning she was painted with crocodile blood. She kept saying that the mosquitoes were bad during the night! I could see it was time for some action.
We went out searching for a worthy victim one day: someone who'd put up a decent fight. We found this bloke bashing his noggin against a gum tree, claiming some Thing had disgwaced him. Nice looking chap, he was, but a bit weird. Well, that's where everything started to go wrong between Rosepetal and me. She took a fancy to this tree molester (he said his name was Wodger). Of course I was upset. I found this charming heavyweight koala growling in a tree and we became good mates. We'd spend many happy hours terrorizing the local population and lying about in trees ripping flesh from carcases. Rosepetal got to hear about it and she got stroppy. I'll never understand Viking warrior maidens. She bursts into tears and claims I've rejected her and hurt her feelings!
One morning she's gone! Packed up her longboat and cleared off! So there I was with Elfa, stuck in a strange, foreign land. The fling between the koala and I didn't last long. We were never in love: it was a purely carnivorous relationship. One day I packed up and went walkabouts until I reached a nice arctic place where you found me - rather inconvenienced! Elfa stayed with the Wodger character. How did you run into Elfa, by the way?'
`Umm - well, I met Wodger not long ago,' you confess, noticing that you are back in the fish and chip shop again and Elfa is carrying over a tray with more coffee.
`Really? How was he? Still goring gum trees?' Paula smiles.
`Well, yes. He doesn't any more though,' you admit as you take a nervous mouthful of coffee and a bite of penguin.
`I - umm - sort of disposed of The Thing in Chapter 2,' you mumble.
`You what?' Paula gasps.
`I'm sorry. I didn't know,' you blush.
`Oh well,' Paula sighs, tearing a kilo of seal blubber with his gleaming white razor teeth. `I suppose it had to come. She asked for it really by attacking that castle and eating the spotty prince with the pimple cream.'
`I got him out,' you say. `Anyway, the koala's not dead. Just - deflated.'
`Probably better that way. It's hard living a contradiction: being so cute, cuddly and bloodthirsty. I expect she's happier now,' Paula says with a sad sigh.
`What was her real name?' you ask, touching Paula's white paw.
`Marigold Buttercup. A vicious bitch, she was. She could turn a cow inside out and drop kick a sheep the length of a footy field. She was a psychopath but she had a sense of humour. You should see a herd of inside-out cows standing around trying to graze. Talk about laugh!' Paula smiles.
You look at Elfa who has just finished his Grilled Labrador Munchies. He has a far away look in his eyes. Paula is thoughtfully chewing on the last pawful of blubber. You sigh and pick at the meat remaining on the penguin bones on your plate.
Suddenly the cafe door bursts open. A pregnant lady penguin is standing in the doorway. Her mascara is smeared down her face and she reeks of cooking sherry. More to the point, she is pointing a shotgun at your stomach.
`You bastard!' she screams.
`Hello. Do I know you, miss?' you ask pleasantly.
`Remember this?' she howls, throwing a beanie at your feet. It is frozen and stained with blood and feathers. It has "SAM" knitted at the front. `You're the bastard who ate my husband!'
`He was very tasty,' you say to console her.
`I'm going to blow your stinking head off!' she screeches, trembling with penguin frenzy.
`I'm sorry,' you offer.
`Sorry? Sorry? You eat my beloved Sam, leaving me with two fatherless children and you can just say you're sorry?' she sobs.
`All right,' you sigh. `I'm very sorry.'
She quietens down and stares at you.
`Very sorry?' she whispers.
`Yes,' you repeat.
`Oh,' she mumbles, lowering the barrel of the shotgun.
`Goodbye!' you call brightly as she turns and shuffles out with her chick behind her.
You smile and shrug modestly: true heroes know how to handle hysterical pregnant penguins who are threatening them with shotguns.
`How much do we owe you, Plato?' you call to the old man scribbling ideas about oligarchy on the label of the bottle of pickled onions.
`Nuttin, mate. Ovine dropped in before and said He'd pay. It's His treat,' Plato replies.
`I forgot about the favour you have to do for him,' Paula says.
`Yeah,' you say as you get up. `It's in the next chapter so we'd better get ready. Are you right, Elfa?'
Elfa barks happily, cleans his fangs, slips the bit into his mouth and straps his saddle back on. Meanwhile, you race to the toilet because you haven't been for five chapters.
You leap on his back and ride past the waddling, sobbing mother penguin across the runway to the grass where your wickerwork chair and Hawker Hurricane are awaiting you.
`I hope there's some action in the next chapter,' you think.
Brand New Australian Myths and Legends is copyright (C)
1998 nylon.net. All rights reserved. Pinch it and I'll
get Elfa to bite your primary sexual organs.