© Milton Taylor

Winner 2013, The Blackened Billy, Tamworth, NSW.

I couldn’t quite accept it when they’d told me Stan was gone.
They said he’d tumbled off his earthly perch and travelled on.
Not Stan the legend, ghost who walks, the one who cannot die!
It had to be a rumour or a vicious, blatant lie.

For Stan was indestructible, a superhuman freak,
Our “go to” man, a celebrated icon, so to speak.
Your undercover broker when you wished to buy or sell
Who guaranteed discretion; “sealed-lips Stan” would never tell.

And ‘twas purely circumstantial, when Stan’s bargains, so they said,
Bore likenesses to items that had vanished from your shed,
And established, firm opinion, long accepted in the town,
Was once he picked up something he was loath to put it down.

But who were we to judge him or be first to cast a stone?
In the Legend’s line of business, deals could not be done alone.
It takes more than one to tango with a side step and a twist;
Despite his many critics, Ghost Who Walks would sure be missed.

So came the sad occasion when we bid our mate adieu.
The mourners overflowed the church the way they always do
When seeking final closure and to set a spirit free.
Just give the people what they want; they’ll all turn up to see.

The congregation focused as the service laboured by
On the silent guest of honour, and their eyes were mainly dry
Whilst recalling Old Mate’s history and his exploits and his worth.
Then, God’s agent waved Stan’s ticket for consignment to the earth.

With dignity and somberness they hoisted Stanley high
For his final blessed journey to that sweet old bye and bye.
When the bearers took position as the priestly rites concluded,
The coffin lid eased open and a shrivelled claw protruded.

With skills honed from experience and repertoires of tricks,
That fist sought out the altar cloth plus polished candlesticks,
And as swiftly as it snatched them, to the organ’s sad refrain
It popped them in its sacred box and shut the lid again.

We stood there, flabbergasted, in a state of near neurosis.
Was the incense loaded up with dope? Or was this mass hypnosis?
Had we all hallucinated? And could things get any worse?
These questions stayed to haunt us as we drove behind the hearse.

But further information at the cemetery revealed
The absence of the limo’s floral wreaths; were they concealed
Inside the hallowed casket, with the altar cloth and candles?
We’d never know, we thought, as webbing tapes slid through the handles.

The aura of uncertainty prevailing was intense
As grieving relatives and friends attempted making sense
Of a set of circumstances with all grasp of logic fled.
Did this thing really happen? Was the Master really dead?

We mourned the loss of Stanley and the clods absorbed our tears,
Then a reassuring feeling took control and eased our fears,
For we heard a muffled, scrabbling, scratching, rumbling sort of sound,
And knew that Stanley was not dead. He’d just gone underground.

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