Monday, July 26, 2010
Making a Soft Purse out of a 'Roo's Rear
Jack was the very first friend I made in Australia. He honored me deeply by giving me a wonderful and touching review of my first published novel, Grumble Bluff. I emailed him a ‘thank you’, we chatted back and forth for a bit, and before I knew it, I had a best friend who lived 10,000 miles away. Sometimes, we click with a person in a way that can’t be explained. Sometimes, it seems as if we’ve always known a person.
I’ve always known Jack.
Not only was he my first friend in Oz, but he was the catalyst for all the other mates I’ve made Down Under. I won’t go into the convoluted strings of events that led me to each of my Aussie friends, or the amazing coincidences which brought us together. But even though Jack has never met my wonderful friend Larry (and they only live an hour or two apart), I never would have found my Quasi Aussie if it wasn’t for my pal Jack. That, in and of itself, is enough to make me grateful for all time.
I was sad on the drive home today. I’d just spent two hours with my ninety-four year old grandmother, who is getting very, very tired. The moon is also full, and those of you who know me well, know I’m a woman whose moods are affected by the lunar cycles. Add to the mix the fact that I only slept for two hours this morning, and you’ll understand, perhaps, why I was feeling a bit melancholy.
My son Eli has been waiting for a package to arrive, so I thought while I was going through town, I would take a quick detour to the Post Office to see if it had arrived. To my delight, there was a parcel for me, instead.
I knew what it was—in part, anyway. I placed it in the passenger’s seat and grinned all the way home. Jack knows me well. Too well, it sometimes seems. And the box contained a gift that he knew would make me smile.
Once home, I didn’t even take care of the groceries before I was tearing into the package. There, to my delight and amusement, was a ‘roo scrote pouch’. That’s right! I am now the owner of a genuine Kangaroo bag!
Oh, don’t go all sour on me! It’s a wonderful gift to get from Australia. Hey, if nothing else, it shows great thrift, and my pal Jack is nothing if not tight. He is, like me, a cheap son of a gun. The man carries a shoe horn in his pocket just so he can get into his wallet. Naturally, he would be in favor of using every last bit of an animal, leaving nothing to go to waste. (Forgive me for being curious, but I’ve a yearning to know how the contents were used…)
Yep… I have a soft and seamless pouch which once contained the family jewels of a marsupial from Oz. That is—in my opinion—just too cool for words! But since I’m a writer, I’ll make every effort to express them, anyway.
There was a surprise in the parcel. Not only was Jack my first friend from the southern hemisphere, but one of my very first GAG postings was about Australia’s cane toads. Contained in my box was the tanned hide of a Bufo Marinus, a creature which was introduced to Australia to kill the crop-damaging cane beetle, but which rapidly became one of the leading non-native, invasive and destructive pests on the continent.
How exciting! The little bugger looked just like the photos I’d seen! And he smelled very toady, too! I opened the letter that accompanied my gifts, and absorbed the words scrawled in Jack’s distinctive (and fairly wretched) handwriting.
“What!?” I looked up at Josie, who was hovering over my shoulder as she and Eli watched me behave like a tot on Christmas morning. “Jack sent the cane toad for YOU!”
She pulled back in mild revulsion.
“Yes, you. Dang it!”
Relief flooded her expression and she patted my shoulder.
“It’s okay, Mama. You can keep it.”
“No… no! It’s gift for you. And that’s nice! Jack says every teenager should have a cane toad purse.”
She fidgeted. She could see the potential for an active social life going down the tubes.
“Tell you what. How about… we share it?”
“Deal!” I grinned and snatched the cane toad and the kangaroo scrotum off the table before she changed her mind. The first ‘turn’ was mine. Josie can have the next twenty years. By then she, too, will think it’s ‘cool’ to own the processed hide of a lethal amphibian.
To some of you, the value of these gifts might not be apparent. But the Aussie friends I’ve made have become a vital and valued part of my life. Any little bit of their homeland that is shared with me makes me feel closer to them, and that’s important, for there aren’t many places on this earth that are much further away than that vast continent.
I shall treasure my scrotum, and ‘our’ Bufo Marinus, as ugly as the bugger is to look at. And I will keep them safe, so that they last a long, long time. The trick will be to keep them out of reach of Stevie, Eli’s tom cat, who took an immediate liking to the ‘roo pouch, particularly. He really, really wanted to gnaw on that kangaroo skin. Idiot cat. He simply doesn’t know how to treat fine leather.
Thanks, Jack. For the gifts and the grins.
Top photo of a kookaburra copyright by Jack Ramsay