© Carolyn Eldridge-Alfonzetti

Winner, 2009 ‘New South Wales State Championship – Humorous Section’, Morisset NSW.

Now, Bob Brown was a ringer and a strapping one at that.

He stood six two with shearer’s stoop, and that without his hat.

But Bob held close a secret, one he feared would bring him shame:

he penned romantic novels under his late grandma’s name.

And while Bob was no Shakespeare (as I’m sure he would confess)

as ‘Annie Pike’, each year he sold two books to Cupid Press.

His heart-sick heroines and hunky heroes in demand,

each manuscript he penned would net him almost twenty grand.

Now, if you’ve ever worked beside those tough men trading blow

with blow of gnashing clippers, then of course, my friend, you know

that writing soppy stories wasn’t something ‘real’ blokes did,

so Bob had never let on that he earned an extra quid.

One Thursday, though, two journalists had driven into town

to prove the whisper turning book-world circles upside down —

that Annie Pike, the author, was Roo Creek-based and a man!

And so they started sleuthing ‘round, as only journos can.

They bribed the only newsagent to help the man to think

of any local bloke who bought a lot of printer ink.

They flirted with the postmistress, although she had crossed eyes,

and learned who bought pre-paid ‘post packs’ (the ones in A4 size).

By Saturday, that cunning pair had fair betrayed poor Bob

and left Roo Creek in haste to get the jump on their next job.

The grapevine-guarantee the whole town knew filled Bob with dread.

He braced himself for fallout due on Monday in the shed.

And, true to form, the shearers bombed poor Bob with cutting quips,

some greeting him with batting lids and ‘kissy kissy’ lips.

While one young lad, a whey-faced rascal known to him as Mike

drew hoots when bidding him to ‘Pass the tar brush, please, Miss Pike.”

Oh yes, those blokes felt smug — they’d always known that Bob was queer.

What kind of man went home most nights before at least one beer?

But they weren’t feeling quite so bright when suddenly old Bob

was seen by their own women-folk as Roo Creek’s new heart-throb.

Though rather a good-looking chap, he’d always got tongue-tied

when dating women through the years.  No matter how he tried,

Bob’s skill with words on paper and in life weren’t one accord —

nerves struck the poor sod speechless and potential girlfriends bored.

To pen such books though, Bob knew what they wanted, girls could tell.

And, by their calculations, he’d be worth a bit as well.

The perfect male he was — a strong, successful, strapping bloke

in touch with his own female side (and one who rarely spoke!)

And when they made comparisons, most women were afraid

their un-romantic other-halves just didn’t make the grade.

The single men grew furious and took rejection hard

when female friends began to vie for writer-Bob’s regard.

And in each homestead in Roo Creek, the husbands didn’t like

to share their beds, ménage-a-trois, with wife and a ‘Pike’.

Nocturnal nudges futile, all wives read till late, I’m told,

each lapping up Bob’s true romance, and putting sex on hold.

Quite soon the town reached crisis point; the men could take no more

and met en mass inside the pub.  Their ranting reached a roar

as head to head they argued what the best approach would be

to win their women back.  It seemed they never would agree.

But, after many hours, and slurring badly as he spoke,

one self-appointed spokesman rose, a grey-haired senior bloke.

He said: ‘I’ve ‘eard, to win, you’ve gotta beat foe at their game.

And so, men, I propose, to take on Bob, we do the same.

“It won’t be easy, but to break his strong romantic spell,

I say that we should jump right in and write some mush as well!”

The sozzled bods fell silent, bar the sniggers of a few.

“Now, come on lads,” the oldie urged. “What else can we chaps do?

“That ladies love blokes brave with words just cannot be ignored.

Remember too, they say the pen is stronger than the sword.

I recommend we call it quits and go home straight away

and try to pen a few short lines before the break of day.”

That’s just what those blokes did, although with some degree of doubt;

most finding it like pulling teeth to get the right words out.

But perseverance paid and by the dawn each did compose

a love verse, or the starting of a heart-felt piece of prose.

Young Dianne Timbs near fainted when her boofy hubby, Trev,

gave up his next day footy game; read ‘Ode to Di’ instead.

Although the rhymes were clangers and the metre wasn’t right,

Dianne was so impressed that he got lucky twice that night.

And all the other fellows found their effort struck a chord —

each grinning like hyenas from its rather nice reward.

Quite soon, they burnt the midnight oil each romance-writing shift,

all sleep deprived, yet satisfied.  (I think you catch my drift).

But soon it came to pass that every man, bar one or two

had realized that they enjoyed the writing process too.

No longer was a romance-writer ripe for ridicule,

the pastime, unofficially, decreed one that was ‘cool’.

Now authors have a kudos once reserved for gods of sport.

So, what of Bob Brown, you may ask?  I’m happy to report

he’s everybody’s hero; runs a thriving writing club

that meets each second Thursday in the back room of the pub.