Thursday, September 19, 2019

Food, No Food

Too bad, says Spike. Maybe mum and dad'll bring me back something.

Yes, too bad, says Terence. Want to play cannot but be?

How do you play it? asks Spike.

Terence begins to explain cannot but be to Spike.


This might be a good time to visit some other scenarios.


Scenario One: Mum and dad, in the bar on Deck 9.

Mum: Better go down and see how Spike's going.

Dad: She'll be asleep.

Mum: She hasn't had dinner.

Dad: Let's take her some chips.


Scenario Two: Down below, in the cages.

Shih Tsu: I'm so hungry!

Jinjing: What would you eat?

Shih Tsu: Anything!

Wombat: Not anything, I bet.

Shih Tsu: I long for fish titbits, in a shiny square tin.


Scenario Three: Gaius's bedroom, in Adelaide.

Gaius dreams: Arthur has gone to a bar and not come back yet. It is morning. Time to go to the airport. Gaius is woken by P. krameri. Squawk! He looks at his digital clock radio. It's not morning.
He gets up anyway. Arthur has not come back yet.


Scenario Four: Arthur is in a bar, catching up with Sweezus.

Arthur: I don't have to go.

Sweezus: No, you go. I've got heaps of work on.

Arthur: We're flying. Not going on the ferry with Margaret and Katherine.

Sweezus: Cool. Gaius would've gone mental.

Arthur: Have another?

Sweezus: Yeah, okay.


Scenario Five: Mouldy has made it over the Sea Bridge to Zhuhai. He asks a stranger.

Mouldy: How far to Beijing from here?

Stranger: Two thousand two hundred and sixty point nine kilometres.

Mouldy: Is there a train?

Stranger: Yes. To Beijing West. Once daily.

Mouldy: Can I take a bike on?

Stranger: Of course.

Mouldy: Then I'm catching the train.


Back to Spike and Terence.

Spike is eating hot chips.

Terence is wiping cake from the cheese knife, with his finger.

They have abandoned cannot but be.

Not everyone understands how to play it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Fish Motto

Spike and Terence go back up the stairs.

That was a bad idea, says Spike.

Your bad idea, says Terence.

Yours, says Spike.

How was I to know? says Terence. I wanted to catch ten live ones. But you were in a hurry.

At least the wombat got something, says Spike.

Yes, says Terence. The wombat was grateful. He blessed me.

I must have missed that, says Spike.

They are now back at the row of recliners.

No grown ups are there.

But soon Katherine and Margaret appear.

Katherine is carrying a plate with two slices of cake.

There's nowhere to put it down safely, says Katherine.

Try the arm rest, says Margaret.

What if we knock it? says Katherine.

It won't be there for long, says Margaret. Surely you're going to eat it. I'm eating mine.

I shouldn't have had that creamy mushroom and spinach pasta, says Katherine. I should have had the seafood medley, like you.

Always order the fish, says Margaret. That's my motto.

Eat your cake now, if you want to, says Katherine. I'll save mine for a late night nibble.

Which one is mine? asks Margaret. Aren't we sharing?

Cut them in half, says Katherine.

What with? says Margaret.

My cheese knife, says Katherine. Terence has it.

Does Terence still have the cheese knife?

He does. He is sitting with Spike, three seats up, showing her the cheese knife.

Spike is admiring the stainless steel blade and the ergonomic mango wood handle.

I wish I knew you had this, says Spike. We could have let your parrot out. Why didn't you tell me?

Terence! calls Katherine. Bring the cheese knife. I need it to cut up some cake.

Terence pretends he hasn't heard her.

You're getting cake, says Spike. Don't you want it?

It won't be for me, says Terence. I have delicate innards.

You look like you're made of cement, says Spike. Do you even have innards?

How would I know? says Terence.

I like cake, says Spike. You could say you want some.

Okay, says Terence.

He takes the cheese knife over to Katherine, who examines it carefully for traces of Jinjing.

No visible traces.

She cuts the two slices in half.

Sticky lumps of Chocolate Mudcake and Passionfruit Cheesecake adhere to the knife.

I want some, says Terence.

You don't, says Katherine.

For my friend, says Terence.

But Katherine won't offer cake to a child whose parents are absent.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Dead One Sorry

The name of the daughter is Spike.

Her mother and father have gone off to the bar on Deck 9.

Margaret and Katherine have gone to the Tasmanian Market Kitchen, on Deck 7.

Terence and Spike have remained behind, looking for bed bugs.

There's one! says Spike.

Catch it! says Terence.

It's dead, says Spike. I don't need to catch it.

Jinjing doesn't want a dead one, says Terence.

But it's heaps fresh, says Spike. Your grandma only just killed it.

She's not my GRANDMA! says Terence.

So the other one's your grandma, says Spike.

No they're just ladies, says Terence. One's David's mother and one's Gaius's girlfriend, but he doesn't love her because she's too bossy.

Who's Gaius? asks Spike.

He's my boss, says Terence. He's flying to Tasmania because he doesn't want to sleep with the ladies.

That makes sense, says Spike. And why's he going to Tasmania?

To looks for antelopes, says Terence. Tiny birds with spots on.

Those aren't antelopes, says Spike.

They're a type of parrot, says Terence.

I thought you already had a parrot, says Spike. What are we catching bed bugs for?

There are two parrots, says Terence. One is Jinjing and one is P. krameri. P. krameri's with Gaius.

You split them up? says Spike.

They don't like each other, says Terence.

Mum and dad might be back soon , says Spike. If we're going to sneak below decks to feed Jinjing we ought to get going.

But we've only got one dead bed bug, says Terence.

Too bad, says Spike.

She wraps the dead bed bug up in a tissue and shoves it into her pocket.

They sneak off, towards the stairs.


Jinjing is telling his story to his new friends, Shih Tsu and The Wombat.

I was a toy. I had a button. If a human pressed the button I listened to what she was saying and repeated it back. Sometimes I would trick her and say, Wippety-Whoo-Whaa! and she would think I was disobeying.

That's amazing! says Shih Tsu. I too am a toy.

I don't believe it, says Jinjing. You are so realistic.

A toy BREED, says Shih Tsu. I am bred to be hardy, perky, sweet-natured and tiny. My hair grows so long that sometimes prickles catch in it. Then someone must brush me.

And do they? asks The Wombat.

Of course, says Shih Tsu. And it's not always prickles.

You live an interesting life, says The Wombat.

Tell us your story, says Jinjing.

I'm on my way home to Tasmania, says The Wombat.

But before that, says Shih Tsu.

I was in Melbourne, says The Wombat.

Someone's coming, says Jinjing. Perhaps we'll get dinner.

I hope so, says Shih Tsu. Otherwise it could be a long night.

Da-daah! says Terence. We've got you some food!

Good! says Jinjing. You do know I have delicate innards?

Is that your parrot? says Spike.

It is now, says Terence. But it's changed from when I first got it. When I first got it, all it could do was say the last part of what I said. Now it can say I have delicate innards.

What have you brought? asks Shih Tsu.

A bed bug, says Terence. It's a dead one, sorry.

This is disappointing.

Monday, September 16, 2019

A Square One!

A family has ensconced themselves in the recliners that Katherine has booked.

Excuse me, says Katherine. These are our recliners.

You can't book recliners, says the father.

Yes, you can, says Katherine. She waves her seat numbers in front of the eyes of the father.

The family stays put. What ferals.

Oh, look! says Margaret. Are those bed bugs?

The family jumps up, and starts looking for unoccupied recliners.

They find three, right next to the ones they've vacated.

Lucky we brought our bug spray, says Margaret, spraying her recliner.

Don't spray mine, says Terence.

The family looks suspicious.

Was it a plot to get rid of them?

The daughter stands up and walks over to Terence.

Why? says the daughter. Aren't there any?

Better be, says Terence. I'm going to catch some and feed them to my parrot.

What parrot? asks the daughter? I don't see a parrot.

Downstairs. You can come with me, says Terence. But first I have to catch at least ten bed bugs.

I hope you're not thinking of sneaking below decks to feed your parrot, says Margaret.

No, says  Terence. I'm not even thinking.

I'll help you, says the daughter.


Below decks, Jinjing is making polite conversation.

Jinjing: This will be my first time in Tasmania.

Shih Tsu: Ditto.

Wombat: I'm a local. Oo! Excuse me!

Jinjing: Nothing wrong with being a local.

Wombat: No. I meant excuse the bad smell.

Jinjing: Certainly. Argh!

Wombat: The scats spend so long in my gut. By the time they pop out, they're very dry and smelly.

Shih Tsu: Oh! My goodness! It's a square one!

Jinhjing; I think you mean cubic.

Shih Tsu: Yes I mean cubic. But how do you DO them?

Wombat: Could be worse. At least they don't have sharp corners.

Jinjing: And I guess they don't roll away.

Wombat: True, they stay where you put them.

Shih Tsu: How useful is that though?

Wombat: It's quite useful for marking out territory.

Jinjing: If you don't mind me asking.... but no, I shouldn't.

Shih Tsu: Let me ask. I'm not shy. Do you have a square anus?

Wombat: Actually no, the scat forms into a cubic shape much earlier. A puzzle for which science has recently come up with an answer.

Jinjing: What is it?

Wombat: It's a half baked sort of answer. It seems our intestines have two grooves in the stretchier parts. But I can't visualise how that works.

Shih Tsu: Yes, four grooves might explain it.

Jinjing: No, even that is not feasible...

Here the conversation ceases. An official has come in to replenish the water.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Goodbye To Your People

Time to board the Spirit of Tasmania.

Cars move up the ramp slowly.

Stop! says an official. Any animals in this vehicle?

No, says Katherine.

The official peers in.

What's that then?

My parrot, says Terence. He's sleeping.

Toy parrot don't sleep, says the official. Give it here.

It's obviously a toy parrot, says Margaret. I can vouch for its inanimate nature.

She sewed up its bottom, says Terence.

All the more reason for me to examine it, says the official.

He is handed Jinjing.

It looks like a toy parrot, but is it?

He squeezes Jinjing. Nothing happens.

Or so it would seem.

The squeeze triggers memories in the comatose parrot.

Chen, his little owner. She was so clever. She swapped him for Mouldy. What was so good about Mouldy? Mouldy claimed to have learned acceptance. That would not impress Chen. Mouldy claimed to love danger. He was last seen riding a red bicycle through Hong Kong airport, being sprayed blue. How did Mouldy function? Did he have a button? NO HE DIDN'T!

Jinjing opens his parrot eyes. OU!

What's that? says the official.

A diphthong! says Jjinjing.

I knew it, says the official. This bird goes into a cage for the rest of the voyage. Say goodbye to your people.

Wah! says Terence. He won't like it.

Don't worry about me, says Jinjing. I can handle it.

Well said, Jinjing, says Katherine. Oh! Will he need water?

They get water every half hour, says the official. No on board deaths have occurred since we implemented that procedure.

Comforting to hear, says Margaret. May we proceed now?

Proceed, says the official.

Katherine inches forward, parks her car carefully.

It is only now that they see the row of metal cages, down one side of the car park.

Jinjing has been placed in a cage between a Shih Tsu and a wombat.

At least he'll have someone to talk to.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Moderately Happy

Did you make these holes? asks Katherine.

I only wanted to SEE it, says Terence.

My button, thinks Jinjing. How will I speak?

I'm sure we can mend it, says Katherine.

Margaret returns to the car.

Toilets are over there, Katherine, says Margaret.

Katherine gets out and starts walking. Then she turns back.

There's been a small incident, says Katherine.

Don't tell me, says Margaret. With the cheese knife?

Never mind what with, says Katherine. Have you brought a sewing kit? Jinjing needs a few stitches.

I have, says Margaret. You go. We'll be driving on board soon.

Katherine goes. Margaret gets out her sewing kit.

Terence is watching.

It has black and white threads, scissors and two needles.

Jinjing doesn't like needles, says Terence.

You mean you don't, says Margaret.

She upends Jinjing.

I see the problem, says Margaret. His button's askew. I'll just ...oops! It's broken!

You killed him! cries Terence.

Jinjing does not feel this is true. He is still sentient. He can smell the ocean.

That's too bad, says Margaret. It's too late to do much about it. I'll sew up the holes.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch-ee!

She sews up the two holes and snips the thread with the scissors.

There we are, says Margaret. Good as new, except that he can't repeat what you say now. That may not be a bad thing.

Wah! says Terence. He knew all the alphabet. What if someone asks me?

Learn it yourself, says Margaret. How do you like my sewing job?

Terence looks at the sewing job. It's neat but...


You used white! says Terence. He's got two white spots near his bottom!

Hush, says Margaret. I had the choice of black or white. I thought white less obtrusive.

But he's green, says Terence.

He looks happy enough, says Margaret

Jinjing has slipped into a toy parrot coma, brought on by multiple trauma.

We may suppose he looks moderately happy.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Live In The Moment

Half past five. Katherine pulls up at Station Pier, Waterfront Place, Port Melbourne.

Two hours till departure.

They join a long queue.

You two have been quiet in the back there, says Katherine.

Jinjing is crying, says Terence.

Oh dear, says Katherine. What's the trouble?

He wishes he was with Gaius and Arthur, says Terence.

Sniffff! says Jinjing.

But Gaius needs the other parrot, says Katherine. What is it called?

P. krameri, says Margaret. A rose ringed parakeet.

Yes, him, says Katherine. And it's just as well really. Live birds and animals such as dogs have to travel in cages. Jinjing is a toy, so he doesn't.

Jinjing wants to go in a cage, says Terence.

Sniffff, says Jinjing.

You can't visit your pet in its cage on the voyage, says Margaret. They have strict rules about it.

There, says Terence. Stop crying. You wouldn't have liked it.

Sniffff! Jinjing stops crying. He would dearly like to say something.

If he could, this is what it would be:

What sort of fool would give Terence a cheese knife!!!!

He's stopped crying, says Terence. 

Good, says Katherine. Live in the moment.

Good advice, says Margaret. I'm just going to slip out to the toilet.

I'll go when you come back, says Katherine.

Margaret gets out of the car, and goes to look for a toilet.

It's been an educational road trip, says Katherine. Jinjing learned the whole alphabet and some diphthongs. And you...

I won a prize, says Terence.

Oh yes, my cheese knife. Where is it? asks Katherine.

In my shorts, says Terence.

Get it out, says Katherine. That's no place for a cheese knife. It has those two upturned prongs on the end.

Terence pulls out the cheese knife. 

Give it to me, dear, says Katherine.

But it's mine, says Terence.

It needs its protective sleeve on, says Katherine. 

She feels about in her handbag.

Here it is. Hand it over.

Will I get it back? asks Terence. 

Yes, says Katherine. You'll be in charge of it until I go on my cheese tour.

Terence hands it over.

The prong ends are covered in strands of velour.

The strands are green. The colour of Jinjing in the vicinity of his button.

Perhaps this is the reason why Jinjing has not been talking.

Katherine reaches back and picks up Jinjing.

Sure enough. Two holes either side of his button.

And the button askew.