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Aural Delights Nov 2008

The A Bertram Chandler Story UFO is now available as an audio podcast from Starship Sofa Aural Delights No 48






















Cross Section

Kangaroos Don't Smoke
www.bertramchandler.com/kangaroo.aspx


Long, long ago, when the emus flew
And koala bears had tails,
Before that bloke called Captain Cook
Had landed in New South Wales,
Before that hound, the dingo, found
Trees south of Capricorn,
Before the rabbits sexual habits
Made graziers forlorn;
Long, long before steam, sail or oar
Surged under The Bridge’s span,
There passed a race who left no trace
-- The true, Marsupial Man.

They tended their herds of platypi,
Waxed fat on their termite farms,
They lived a life that was free from strife,
Knew nothing of war’s alarms;
But they would not speak to their cousins meek,
They snubbed the kangaroos,
And a wallaby they just passed by
With an elevated nose.

They worshipped a God whose Name was Bod
Who lived on the Bodgie Bridge
Where his temple stood -- it was made of wood;
And the Goddess known as Widge
Was worshipped too, in Woolloomooloo
With rites obscene and lush,
And the things that were done -- though all in fun --
Would make. even Mike Hammer blush.

So life went on, with dance and song
And feasts beneath the moon
Of termites’ legs and platypus eggs
Scooped up with a gumleaf spoon,
And Cascade Beer shipped from Hobart Pier
And plonk, and metho, too --
But the wallaby they let go dry
And they starved the kangaroo.

With torches bright in the. starry night
The Bodgies lined The Bridge
While in Wooloomooloo the Widgie crew
Sang hymns in praise of Widge;
But one was there. who did not care
For feasting and drunken play.
“It’s time,” he said, “before I’m dead”
“That I found the U.S.A!”

He stored his ship for a lengthy trip
With provisions wet and dry,
With bags of silk full of platypus milk
And slabs of spider pie,
With platypus eggs and termites’ legs
And eucalyptus oil;
As he caulked the hull his days were full
With unremitting toil.

He trained his team in a nearby stream
For staying power and speed;
And the one who took the lead
Was old and tough and dirty and rough
And could weather a stormy sea
And could steer by the sun, And weighed a ton,
And was nearly ninety-three.

He picked his crew from men he knew,
From men of ill repute
Who laughed at Widge and spat off The Bridge,
Prepared, without dispute,
To forsake, the charms of the termite farms
And the browsing platypi;
Who wouldn’t say no to a kangaroo
And who loved the wallaby.

At last came the day when they sailed away,
Out, out, beyond the Heads,
And the Platypi, as they passed by,
Stirred, groaning, in their beds,
And a sudden chill, foreboding ill,
Swept over the Randwick crowd,
And the racing bears breathed fervent prayers
And the emus screamed aloud,
And the Great God Bod shook where He stood
And tremors cracked The Bridge,
And in Woolloomooloo was great to-do
As they sacrificed to Widge,
And on every hand the fertile land
Shivered on Winter’s brink --
Said one small bear, to his cobbers there,
“It’s koala than you think!”

But the ship drove on, with laugh and song,
On, on, to the open sea;
In the golden light, in the noontime bright
The turtles roared their glee;
Twelve knots or more, as twenty-four
Stout flippers flailed the foam,
Soon left the beach far out of reach
As they fared forth from home.

There was Captain Pate, and Cho, the Mate
And Chen, the Turtle King,
And Bo’s’n Puff, and Chief Cook Ruff,
And the Cabin Boy was Pring;.
And they sang as the towrope stretched and rang
All through that first, fine day --
“Oh, we’re the boys to make a noise
And to find the. U.S.A.!”

It was East they ran, and South they ran,
Right down to the Barrier Ice,
And turtles four Chen dragged ashore
To scrape them clean of lice,
And turtles two went down with ‘flu
And had to cease from toil
And were put to rest, till they convalesced
On the harsh, Antarctic soil.

Of their dreadful plight through that long, cold night
I do not care to speak --
But the penguins know, and in voices low
And in accents far from meek
Still warn their wives, if they love their lives
To shun a tasty dish
Of termites legs and platypus eggs
And stick to honest fish.

At last came the sun, and time to run
Back North to round the Horn,
And the turtles brave, met each mounting wave
And put the whales to scorn;
“More speed.” cried Pate, “We’re running late!”
“More speed it is!” said Chen,
And his whip fell Crack on each scaly back
And the towrope rang again.

It. was East they ran, and North they ran,
Right into the rising sun,
But turtles twain fell sick again
And were towed -- they weighed a ton ---
And turtles three got housemaid’s knee
In their middle flipper joint;
Chen used his goad in a savage mood
And bloodied up the point.

And the spider pie was old and dry
And the platypus milk was sour,
While the platypus eggs walked round on legs
To see what they might devour;
But the ship drove on ‘neath a tropic sun
And Ruff prepared a duff
Of flying fish wings and jellyfish stings
Sour milk, and armpit fluff.

They saw no land on the starboard hand,
They saw no land to port,
Just sky and sea to infinity
As the Bodgie priesthood taught;
But North they ran, and never a man.
Thought to bemoan his plight.

They made no speed through the thick Gulf weed
Though the turtles laboured hard,
But Chen, with his whip, still drove the ship
On, yard by painful yard;
“We are lost!” cried Pate, “I know too late
That the Will of Bod prevails!”
Then there floated by a slice of pie.
And a copy of Weird Tales.

Pring grasped the fact, was first to act
And he turned the turtles West,
Said he, “We will run for the setting Sun
And the Islands of the Blest!”
“E’en so,” said Chen, “In the world of men
None live who can say us nay,
We’ve defied the curses and dared Bod’s worst
And found the U.S.A!”

It was after dark when they beached their bark
On the wild Virginian shore,
And they heard the whine of the porcupine
And the bullfrog’s fretful roar;
They saw the light of the watchfires bright
And they heard the tom-tom’s beat
And the war whoops loud of the Redskin crowd
And the tramp of marching feet.

Down to the coast with all his hoot
Marched Big Chief Mud-In-The-Eye,
In his manhood’s flower, he was drunk with power,
And his braves were drunk with rye.
He cried to his squaw, “Go down to the shore
Before the torchlight fails,
Find out who they are, if they come in war,
Those funny men with tails!”

They had signed on Pring because he could sing
And because of his E.S.P.
He Could read the cup, won at two Up
And practised telepathy.
Before the squaw had reached the shore
He had read the Indian’s mind.
He said to Cho, “We had better go –
Or we leave our scalps behind!”

“Too late, too late!” cried Captain Pate,
“We will meet our fate like men,
We will stand and fight through the bloody night
Till morning comes again,
Trade blow for blow, to let them know
How well can a Digger die..”
“Get that big galoot! Load bows and shoot!”
Bawled Big Chief Mud-In-The-Eye.

The bowstrings rang and the arrows sang
But the volley whistled wide.
Some fell to earth some fell in the surf,
Some bounced off the turtles’ hide;
And then, in spite of the arrows’ flight
The well flung boomerangs sped.
One missed its mark, came back in an arc
And bashed in the Bo’s’n’ s head.

Tuff’s blood flowed fast as he breathed his last;
In salute he raised his arm.
“Goodbye to my herds of platypi
And my happy termite farm!
Adieu, adieu,to the. kangaroo,
Farewell to the wallaby!”
He said no more. On that savage shore
He was the first to die.

“Oh, Bo’s’n Tuf, we have done enough,”
Cried Pate. “I will sue for peace;
Lay your weapons by, Chief Mud-In-The-Eye,
And bid this slaughter cease.
We come from a grand and austral land
Where the happy emus fly;
We are cousins, too, to the kangaroo,
And we love the wallaby.”

But Big Chief Mud laughed where he stood,
And he whooped his best war whoop:
“Your scalps’ll look fine on this belt of mine –
Besides, I like turtle soup.
I will use your tails as harvest flails,
With your skin I’ll sole my shoes.
I’ll make your lugs into drinking mugs
From which to sup my booze!”

He whooped again, then frowned with pain
And began, to cough and cough.
“Take heart,” said Pate, “He’ s in such a state.
That he’ll cough his head right off!”
But it was Cho who knew what to do,
Who played according to Hoyrle.
He ran to the ship and packed his grip
With eucalyptus oil.

As Big Chief Mud coughed where he stood
Cho rubbed the redskin’s chest,
The spasms ceased, Mud’s features creased
And he clasped Cho to his breast.
“O man from the sea, pay heed to me,
You have saved your life, and mine.
O man from the south, I will fill your mouth
With honey and rhubarb wine!”

He called his braves and he called his slaves
And he cried, “Pay heed to me!
These brothers of mine tonight shall dine
And wine right royally!
Throw ants in each vat of rattlesnake fat!
Put snails in the rhubarb wine!
These brothers to me from over the sea
Shall learn how the Redskins dine!”

So they stuffed their guts with monkeynuts
And they washed them down with Coke.
Chief Mud-In-The-Eye breathed a grateful sigh,
Said, “What about a smoke?”
His pipe was lit, and he puffed at it
While his squaw played on her lyre,
Said Captain Pate to his bold Chief Mate,
“Great. Sod! The man’s afire!”

“Here, chance your luck and try a suck,”
Said the Chief to Captain Pate.
“You try it first, I. fear the worst,”
Said the Captain to his Mate.
“Oh well,” said Cho, “I don’t mind if I do.”
And he pulled both long and deep...
“It. makes me sad, and it makes me glad,
And it makes me want to sleep...
...Would you think me a boor if I borrowed your squaw,
O Big Chief Mud-In-The-Eye?
Would it blight your life if I stole your wife?
Would you sicken, and pine, and die?”

When the Big Chief saw Cho leer at his squaw.
He said, “It is time you went.
You have wined and dined in royal kind
And now you profane my tent.
Go and play your tricks on your turtles six,
Save them for the kangaroo,
Or give them a try with the wallaby --
But get the hell out, and go!”

I shall deal with my Mate.,” said Captain Pate,
“He. makes my blood to boil.
But, before we leave, what do we receive.
For our eucalyptus oil?”
“It gave me relief,” admitted the Chief,
And so was the bargain made.
“Oho.,” said Cho, “Here’s a fine to-do
-- Now, what have we got for trade?”

“Some tobacco seed is what we need,”
Said Ruff. “And a bale of leaf.
You can throw in a vat of rattlesnake fat
And your necklace of eagles’ teeth…”
Chen tried to unload his turtle goad
For a jar of candied mice;
And it broke Pate’s heart... when Pring swapped the chart
For a gallon of strawberry ice.

The gallant craft sagged fore and aft
With the weight of goods abounding --
Jamaica Rum, and bubble gum,
And back numbers of Astounding
A baseball bat, and rattlesnake fat,
And a necklace of eagles’s teeth,
And werewolves’ tails, and seven bales
Of the best Virginia leaf.

At the break of day they sailed away
And bore to the South and East.,
“At noon,” said Cho, We’ll heave her to
And sit down and have a feast.”
And so it was done: ‘neath the midday sun
They sat down to gorge and joke;
Then, with bellies tight, they felt just right
And rolled themselves a smoke.

But for cases rare, the Doctors swear,
Drugs work according to plan.
Have they seen the effect of nicotine
On the true, Marsupial. Man?
For Pate, I must state, tried to make his Mate.
And his Mate to make him back.
“By Bod!” swore Huff,
“The bloody stuff is an aphrodisiac!”
So they smoked no more till they reached the shore
Of Afric.’s southern coast,
Where they smoked a lot, taught the Hottentot
The duties of a host.
The lion is his pride ran off to hide
Whenever they passed by.
“They can’t go too soon,” moaned the Cape Baboon,
“They’re worse than the tse-tse fly!”

It was East they ran, and South they ran,
Right down to the Barrier Ice,
And penguin brides left their husbands sides
For a taste of the candied mice.
It was East they ran, and North they ran,
Back to Australia’s shore,
And the Turtles sang and the towrope rang
As they sighted the Bridge once more.

With spears in hand, a warlike band,
The Bodgies lined the Bridge.
“'Tis the Sons of the Beast!” roared the Bodgie Priest,
“Oho,” said Oho, “Here’s a fine to-do
-- I think they mean us harm.”
He rolled a smoke, then again he spoke,
“At least this’ll keep us warm!”

Without ado the gallant crew
Were dragged from off their ship
To where there stood the. Priest of Bod
With a hand on either hip.
“I see that you burn, but you do not turn
To ashes, as you should...”
“It’s only proof, Right Reverend Oaf
That our heads aren’t made of wood!”

But explain to me this mystery
This smoke without a fire..,”
The fumes that you see bring ecstasy
And fan the heart’s desire.
But we’ve rattlesnake fat and a baseball bat,
And a jar of candied mice,
And rhubarb wine, and a porcupine,
And a gallon of strawberry ice.”

“Do you think you can buy my clemency
With all this muck, and trash?
Go and. sell it to the kangaroo --
Perhaps he’ll pay you cash!’
“But we’ve werewolves’ tails and seven bales
Of what the Free chumcall tabac.—
You inhale the smoke, and it works on a bloke
As an aphrodisiac.”

The Priest’s eyes gleamed and his broad face beamed
As he thought of something tasty.
He said, “Perhaps you’ll forgive my lapse,
“I was just a little hasty.
You encase the leaf in a paper sheath?
You light, and you draw, and blow?
Oh, think of it! I have relit
The fires of youth a new!

“But much as I hate, dear Captain Pate,
To carp, to criticise,
We all of us need to carry this weed --
But these bales are an awkward size.”
“You don’t need a tin to keep it in,
Every good biologist vouches
That Widge, indeed, has forseen our need –
For marsupial bints have:pouches!”

And so, that night, by the moonlight bright
There was feasting, and joy indeed,
There were termites’ legs and platypus eggs,
And the good Virgnia weed,
And Cascade Beer, shipped from Hobart Pier,
And plonk, and metho too —-
But never a pie for the wellaby,
Nor booze for the kangaroo.

……………………………………..

Throughout the land, on every hand
Full pouches were in sight,
And not with smokes for the Bodgie blokes –
But the outcome of that night.
The High Priest cursed his very worst
And pined for the fragrant weed;
“Send for C’aptain Pate -- if it’s not too late –
Advice is what I need!”

Pate pondered deep, almost went to sleep,
Then his eyes lit up like rockets.
“Don’t you suppose we could make us clothes?
And in those clothes have, pockets?”
The High Priest scowled, and the, High Priest, growled,
“I shall have to run you in,
For you should know, Bod tells us so,
That clothing is a sin!”

He cried, “Thou hast trod on the Corns of Bod,
Thou hast spat in the nest of Widge!
For heresy I sentence thee
to ten years in the fridge!”
And so poor Pate went to his fate
To pine ‘mid. the ice and snow,
And he cried as he sighed for his penguin bride
In the happy long ago.

The High Priest cried, “Bod blast my hide!
There must be a way to cope!
But how can we stop fertility?”
Then his eyes lit up with hope.
“If we wore a skin would it be a sin?
A sort of cellophane...
Should we have, trod on the Corns of Bod?
Would Widge account us vain?”

He called for Cho, said, “You’ll have to go
And put to sea once more;
I would have sent Pate, but it’s much too late,
He’d take too long to thaw –
For never a bloke can have his smoke
While the gravid Widgies blubber;
Go forth, my son, find the Amazon,
And bring us back some rubber!”

…………………………………

All over the land, from every hand
The long, dark night swept in.
Gale, fire and flood razed the Bridge of Bod
And the city made of tin --
But each lesser breed still sowed its seed
And survived misfortune’s stroke,
For the wallaby has a birthrate high
And kangaroos don’t smoke.

L’ENVOI: Prince, if you fail to believe, my tale
Go straight to the nearest Zoo
And feast your eye on the wallaby
And consider the kangaroo.


Originally Published in Cross Section 1954