Bluey ‘Cod’ McCallister has a shock of red hair and can talk under wet concrete. He has long legs that stick out the bottom of a pair of Stubbies pulled up so high it would be no surprise if one day his family jewels popped out to say g’day. And it wouldn’t be an issue, because the old codger can get away with murder, and he’d tell you the story of how he did in fact do exactly that, got away with murder that is, and he’d suck you in so good that you would’ve have forgotten about those two hairy nuggets hanging out with more front than Myers. He has the gift of the gab, and that is why his great granddaughter, Janey McCallister, called upon him – she needed a hand in a time of need.
“Two schooners of Resch’s love and whatever the old fella’s having,” ordered one keen-as-mustard punter.
Janey looked over to see the crowd hovering around Bluey like blow flies. The pub’s corner table had become his office and no one could say that a McCallister ever shied away from an honest day’s work. Bluey was on fire. Janey smiled and wondered how long it would be before she was paid a visit by the new café owner. This recent blow-in was putting a dint in Janey’s takings by offering fancy-pants high teas at eighty-five bucks a pop! Of all things.
“No wuckers, Janey,” said Bluey when asked if he could do a bit of chin wagging down at the local rubbidy.
“Just keep it clean eh, Poppy?”
“Cross the old ticker, Bob’s your uncle. I’ll keep it as clean as a whistle … or you can give me an early mark.”
This could go one way or the other, thought Janey. But the ex-well-to-do-politician, Bronwyn B, was certainly proving to be a draw card. High teas seemed to be all the rage these days. Hasn’t she got something better to do? Obviously not.
Today Bluey had the crowd hanging on every word as he told the story of how he caught the biggest Murray Cod on record in the Southern Hemisphere.
“Do they have Murray Cod in the Northern Hemisphere?” asked one foolish listener.
“No, Einstein,” cracked Bluey quick as a flash. “That’s why the record’s for the Southern Hemisphere. Crikey, you’re as thick as two short planks.”
The crowd laughed and the would-be heckler pulled his head in. Which was a relief for the others. They’d been hearing this bloke’s smart Alec cynicism all the way on the bus from the big smoke. The city day trippers only wanted to have some fun, and hearing a few tales from a fair dinkum bushie in a country pub was just the ticket.
“I used three whole wombat for bait and when I hooked onto her, she took me barefoot water skiing from Albury to Renmark and back again … with a detour up the Darling to Walgett. It took me three weeks to land her, and, with a knife as blunt as old Harry, four weeks to butcher the bugger – ‘xcuse me French. She was big as Ularoo, and twice as cranky.”
More cashed up punters went for drinks at the bar. Janey pointed to a menu board and informed them, “Bistro’s open in ten minutes for lunch.”
Bluey went on: “It was worth it though, the cod meat was packed in ice, which was towed back from Antarctica after the Prime Minister wired Douglas Mawson. I went to school with Dougie, he was bit of a mummy’s boy, likely a horse’s hoof if you ask me. And think about it, he was pretty cluey I reckon, going to such a cold, dark place for months on end with just men for company. Put two and two together folks? But anyway, he was an old China of mine, so he didn’t hesitate to bring back an iceberg so we could pack all that nutritious fish and send it off to Biafra. See, ever since me Mum used to get us to scoff down everything on our plate because of those poor starving kids in Africa, I vowed one day I would do something about it. So I did. That cod fed a nation for six months! And tell me if you’ve ever heard of Biafra lately … nah, I didn’t think so. But don’t get all in a flap ’bout not eating all your peas today after you order lunch from Janey over at the bar. No one’s going do their nana. Janey’ll just feed any leftovers to the chooks out the back.”
Bluey was in fine form. “Anyways, the fish fillets saved Africa, then we shipped the bones up to Sydney, because I heard that Utzen, that long streak of Danish misery, who officially I claim to not know from a bar of soap, was having some engineering problems with the sails on his fancy razz-a-matazz opera house design. I figured that the length, strength and curve of me Murray Cod’s rib bones would do the job in a jiffy … and … save a lot of fart-arsing around for those head-in-the-cloud architect types who were running around Bennelong Point in a tizz. Turns out I was bang on. So when you look at the old girl now, you can tell your tin-lids that the whole she-bang is held up by the ribs of the largest Murray Cod ever caught.” Another bunch dashed over to the bar for their favourite tipple and one for Bluey. It’s wonder the old boy doesn’t get pissed rotten, thought Janey.
“Now, the last issue with such a big fish is what to do with all the bloody scales. The pile of them was so bleeding high that the Bureau of Meteorology sent me a letter claiming I was changing the weather patterns across the whole eastern sea-board! For the life of me, I couldn’t think what I could do with these six foot wide, two foot high, slightly curved, tough as nails, transparent fish scales. Use your scone, Mum would say. Then it dawned on me, ‘Der,’ I said to me self. ‘They’re windscreens, plain as the nose on me face!’ Toyota snapped them up like hot cakes. They used them for the first Corona they ever built here in Australia. Dead set, not a word of a lie. Don’t you remember that slight fishy smell you’d get in the old Coronas? Especially when you were getting toey as a Roman sandal with your best sheila at the drive-in? You know the smell. Yeah, you do, don’t ya? Well, sorry about that, it’s all my fault.” The crowd laughed a mix of disgust and sweet nostalgia.
Bluey pushed on: “But the best thing by far that happened when I caught that fish was finding a small foal inside its stomach. See, I was getting out all the fish gut I could ’cause Rod Laver wanted me to come up with a superior tennis racket string for his next crack at Wimbledon. He needed an edge cause he didn’t want to give up beer to be the best. Can’t blame a man for that. So, lo and behold, as I was stripping out that fish’s comic cuts, I come across what I would soon name Archer. And if ya know your history, that little beauty went on to win the Melbourne Cup. I loved that horse. And what most people don’t know is that the prize for the Cup back in those days was the largest pumpkin grown in the state of Victoria. Well, did we all get sick of pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie that decade? Yep! Ridgie-didge, it took us ten years to eat half of that monster. The other half we couldn’t bear the sight of, so we took it down to Tullamarine and flipped it over and carved her out a bit to make the air-plane hangar for the new international airport being built down there.”
The story was in full swing when the sound of a helicopter came from out of nowhere. A gust of wind and dust blew in through the front doors. Bluey looked over to Janey at the bar and winked. The time had come. The old battle axe Bronny B had had enough and was dropping in to see the reason why her thriving high tea retirement venture had suddenly fallen arse over tit.
The hair and the attitude walked into the main bar. With rat cunning instinct she spotted the mob of now slightly pissed tourists in the corner, and she zeroed in on the man with the mouth and the shock of red hair and the long legs that his mates call lucky legs – lucky they don’t snap off and stab you up the bum legs. The crowd parted, some whispering to each other, “Isn’t that … what’s her name?”
The ex-speaker of the house, the madam of the high tea, the one dropped like a sack of potatoes by her old-school-blue-tie-born-to-rule chums, the uppity bitch herself, stood square in front of Bluey and demanded, “Just who do you think you are?”
“Just your honest Joe Blow, spinning a tall tale or true for the sake of laugh and to help out a mate. Howz about you, pet? What’s your John Dorey?”
“Pet! How dare you refer to me in that derogatory manner, young man. I will have this filthy establishment closed down if it’s the last thing I do.” Bronny was getting all hot and bothered, that was obvious.
“Young man? You’re too kind Bron. You obviously don’t remember me, do ya? I wet nursed you when your mother needed to go play bridge with all her royally connected fake friends. I never got to thank you for that. See, at the time I was a guinea pig for the CSIRO trial on soya protein. And were my boobs bursting, or what? Remember the CSIRO, Bronny?”
The once honourable, well, never really honourable, member for Mackellar, turned on her expensive heel and in a flash of pearl and hounds-tooth disappeared out the doors even quicker than she arrived. The chopper rotors revved up and she was gone.
“She’ll no doubt have to deal with a shit-load of cucumber sangas,” said Bluey.
Janey called out from the bar, “Bistro’s open!”
“What would you recommend, Bluey?” asked one day tripper who had already Facebooked Janey’s pub as a destination not to be missed.
“It’s all top grub, and the mixed grill will put more than just hairs on your chest, even with no soy in it. But I recommend the Pack a Jumper Cause It Can Get Nippy.”
The crowd was fascinated, wanting to know more.
“Yeah, it’s a bush tucker version of the Surf ‘n Turf. It’s got a wallaby steak, fresh as. I know ’cause I knocked over a couple of the blighters yesterday with a boomerang given to me by Albert Namajira. And on top are some juicy yabbies that I caught in my beard as I slept in Black Wattle Creek last night. Can’t beat sleeping in an icy cold creek, let me tell you!”
From behind the bar, Janey smiled at her great granddad. She just hoped she had enough yabbies.