“Channel” No. 5
© Shelley Hansen
Winner, 2019 Tenterfield Oracles of the Bush Written Bush Poetry Award (Humorous Category), Tenterfield NSW.
Old Billy from the Channel Country hadn’t been to town.
He’d lived his life on Cooper Creek, where land is wide and brown.
In days before the Internet, he didn’t have a clue
about the City, so he said, “I know what I will do –
A bloke should take an ’oliday – an’ I won’t wind up broke
by bunkin’ in with Cousin Lil, in Sydney town’s Big Smoke,
an’ she can educate me, show me ’ow to go about –
an’ I’ll come ’ome a wiser man, of that I ’ave no doubt!”
So Billy packed his toothbrush and put on his Sunday shirt,
and drove way past the junction where the bitumen meets dirt.
His old ute barely rattled on a road so smooth and straight –
the single lane turned into two – then four – then six – then eight!
He pulled up on the Harbour Bridge to see the City sights –
which caused a major traffic jam – got people into fights!
The other drivers tooted as he claimed his right of way.
They seemed a friendly bunch – they waved their fists to say G’day!
He finally arrived and said, “It’s great to see you, Lil!”
“Oh no,” she said, “it’s Lillian, and I shall call you Will,
for Billy’s far too bushified! Now, come and have some tea.
Tomorrow I will show you all the things you ought to see.
I’ll take you into Myer – it’s the end of season sales.
You’ll learn much more in there than I can teach you with my tales.
You’ll feel the crushing of the crowd, the buzz of City beat,
you’ll see the best of merchandise, and walk with the elite!”
The doors no sooner opened at the Inner City Store
than Lil dashed off to try a dress … and then try fifteen more!
So Billy, left to wander, looked about for things to buy
until he passed a counter with a sale that caught his eye.
Small bottles filled with liquid were arranged in tidy rows.
A starchy blue-haired lady fussed about as people chose
their personal selections, which were boxed and wrapped with care.
Said Bill, “I’ll ’ave a gander – go an’ see what’s over there.”
He saw one labelled Channel No. 5 (or so he thought –
he wasn’t good at spelling). So he figured that they’d brought
the water that he drank back home (the colour was the same).
But why was it for sale? He couldn’t understand their game.
He didn’t think they’d notice if he had a little whiff,
and so he pulled the stopper out and took a mighty sniff!
It nearly bowled him over, and he uttered, “Strike me flat!
No Channel Country creekbed ever ’ad a pong like that!”
The blue-haired counter lady bore upon him with a frown
and said, “Will you be purchasing? If not, please put that down!”
But Bill said, “Look ’ere, lady – it is just as well for you
I noticed this deception. This ’ere water’s not true blue!”
“I beg your pardon?” Loftily her nose went in the air.
“Our eau-de-toilette is the finest fragrance one can wear!
What’s more, it’s been discounted. You may buy this bottle here
for just four hundred dollars. It’s our lowest price this year.”
“Four ’undred dollars!!” Billy croaked. “That’s daylight robbery!
I wouldn’t ’ave that bottle if you gave it out for free!
That water is contaminated – an’ I’m fairly sure
the dingoes ’ave been urinatin’ where they dug that bore!”
The blue-haired lady fainted clean away upon the ground.
They had to call the ambulance – they couldn’t bring her round.
Then Lil emerged from Ladieswear to check out all the fuss
and shouted, “Quick! Let’s run before they set the cops on us!”
“Whatever did you say to her to put her in a spin?”
she asked as they escaped from the commotion and the din.
“Strike! I dunno,” Old Billy said, “I simply pointed out
that water they were sellin’ wasn’t fit to break a drought!”
“You great galah! That’s perfume and it comes straight out of France!
Most girls would love to buy it if they only had the chance.
You’re in the City now, and things aren’t always what they seem.”
“Too right,” said Bill, “feels like I’m livin’ in some crazy dream!”
“The only use for what you’re callin’ perfume, seems to me
is shooin’ flies an’ skeetas off – but that’s best done for free!
I’d teach these folks a thing or two if I could ’ave my say –
back ’ome we light a cow dung fire to keep the flies away!
It’s no good Lil – this City life fair gives a bloke the pip!
I’ve seen enough! I’m packin’ up to make the ’omeward trip.
I’ve learnt some lessons, but the one that’s better than the rest –
is findin’ out that Cooper Creek’s the place I love the best!!”
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