Roadside Pizza

© Tom McIlveen

Winner, 2015 FAW Eastwood/Hills Boree Log Award, Sydney NSW.

Have you ever been so hungry you could eat a Shetland pony,
and regurgitate his saddle for dessert?
I was driving down the highway with an old familiar crony,
when the road had changed from bitumen to dirt.

He was whining, whinging, moaning, and then constantly complaining
that we should have stopped to eat an hour ago!
With my empty stomach growling and my patience slowly waning,
I could feel an ulcer forming down below.

We were ninety K’s from Forster, stuck behind an Eighteen Wheeler,
when I noticed what appeared to be a sign.
It had claimed to be the only stop this side of Bulladelah,
and invited us to…‘Come inside and dine!’

Feeling somewhat apprehensive, but unable to resist it,
I consented and decided to abide.
It was dingy, dark and gloomy and we’d very nearly missed it,
as we climbed the stairs to take a peek inside.

There were cups and saucers scattered on an old bedraggled table,
and a plate of something putrid on the floor.
I was thinking that the Shetland could have used it as his stable,
with a lick of paint and half a bale of straw.

From behind a faded curtain we could hear the piercing voices
of the owner and his rowdy next of kin.
We were studying the menu with its unfamiliar choices,
when he opened up the door to let us in.

He suggested that we try his Roadside Pizza with a serving
of potatoes baked in fresh goanna oil,
and because I’d found his kitchen sanitation most unnerving–
I’d insisted mine be wrapped in silver foil!

As I watched him roll the pizza dough, I felt my stomach churning
at the thought of where his grimy hands had been.
They were covered in abrasions, which undoubtedly were turning
into festered sores and fully blown gangrene.

There was cottonwool and bandaids on each lacerated finger
and another wrapped around his little toe.
I was praying that the scabs and cotton bandages would linger
long enough to keep from falling in the dough.

Trying not to sound facetious, I had asked about his patches
and was told he’d been assaulted by a roo.
He had woken up in hospital, with bruises, lumps and scratches,
and a doctor’s bill already overdue.

He’d been out collecting road-kill for his Labrador Retriever,
when he saw the kangaroo beside the road.
He had started to approach it with a butcher’s hook and cleaver,
when the roo had upped and started to explode.

It had woken from its slumber, throwing wicked kicks and punches,
which had landed with precise exactitude, 
and the last thing he’d remembered, was the sound of thumping crunches,
which had left him broken, bleeding and subdued.

As I scoffed the tasty pizza down, I couldn’t help but wonder,
what had happened to the rabid kangaroo.
Had it ended up as cutlets in some culinary blunder,
or as pizza in a Roadside barbeque?

When I took a peek inside his grimy Kelvinator chiller,
I could see the decomposing last remains
of a dozen road-kill victims, he’d collected for his griller,
which were dripping fat and clogging up his drains.

There were sulphur crested cockatoos in dingy cardboard boxes…
with a pink galah, a bilby and a rat.
In amongst the crows and bandicoots and battered flying foxes–
was a platypus, a possum and a bat.

My discerning duodenum had begun to groan and grumble
when I realised what ‘Roadside’ had implied.
I could feel my last resolve begin to shrivel up and crumble,
as my stomach started turning like a tide.

When I noticed bandaids missing from his mutilated finger,
my despair had turned to misery and woe.
They had seemingly disbanded and refused to stick and linger
long enough to keep from falling in the dough.

I began to puke and palpitate, disgorging what I’d swallowed,
in a tidal surge of pre-digested spew.
There were feathers, claws and gristle and some whiskers closely followed
by a bandaid soaked in ruminated goo.

As I stumbled to the toilets I could hear the frantic moaning
of my old familiar crony on the floor.
He was praying to the porcelain, that God would be condoning
him–for lingering behind the toilet door.

When you’re ninety K’s from Forster, stuck behind an Eighteen Wheeler,
and you notice what appears to be a sign;
don’t believe that it’s the only stop this side of Bulladelah…
and don’t ever stop to–‘Go inside and dine!’

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