Thursday, August 10, 2006

Chooka an’ Me

Category: Issue 3, Short Story Winners


It really was all Chooka’s fault.

Chooka is me best mate, a small built man, skinny but strong. He could be anywhere between 60 to 90 years old, it’s hard to tell, he never seems to get any older, his hair is still black yet I reckon he’s gotta be at least 70. He might have been a minister in his younger days ‘cause he’s always sproutin’ the Bible. He believes it too.

I’m a bit younger than that, but I’m a lot bigger than Chooka, taller, broader, bigger all ‘round yet, when Chooka asks you to do something I find myself doing it, regardless of if I agree with it or not.

Like the day that this particular trouble began. Chooka wanted a feed of fish but he wanted it in a hurry so he says to me, “Robbo, I think we should blow us up a feed of fish.”

I says, “When you say, ‘blow up’, what exactly do you mean? And count me out.”

“Now, now,” Chooka said soothingly, “All I want is a feed of fish, in a hurry. You have a stick of dynamite, I have an appetite.”

“Forget it.” I was determined that I wasn’t goin’ to get in any trouble this time. “I’m goin’ home.”

“Good.” Chooka said, “While you’re there grab that stick of dynamite and meet me at the bend in the river.”

“Definitely no.” I answered.

Half an hour later there I was at the bend of the river watchin’ Chooka prepare the dynamite.

The river was a long winding affair, wide with a strong current. At this particular point the river wound around to the right so all we could see was the water and the opposite bank. The view upstream was blanketed by bush, which was pretty thick here. In fact, if you didn’t know where the track was, you would never find our spot.

What we didn’t know at the time was that Paddy (Bloomin’) McGuire, the local police representative, had decided that today would also be a good day to go fishin’ and was seated in his dingy drift fishin’ along the river. For those of you who are too ignorant to know what drift fishin’ is, it is when you sit in your boat, throw out your line and let the boat drift with the tide.

Now Paddy (Bloomin’) McGuire was a big man of Irish descent;. He was tall and, in his younger days, was obviously a well set up young bloke. Now the muscle had slipped and become a paunch but he still tough and he hated Chooka with a passion. He had sworn that he would lock him up one day, and throw away the key. Chooka always outsmarted him you see and big Irish Policemen do not like to be outsmarted, especially by a man who looks like an anemic chook.

So, there we were. In an effort to change Chooka’s mind I decided to appeal to his love of the Bible.

“Tell me Chooka,” I asked, “doesn’t the Bible say that you shouldn’t steal?”

“Yes it does.” He answered.

“Then do you think you should be doin’ this?” I enquired.

“Fish belong to everyone so I ain’t stealin.” He replied firmly.

He had me there. It’s not illegal to take fish from the river. I tried again.

“Tell me,” I said, “Doesn’t the Bible say that you should obey the laws of the land?”
I had picked up some knowledge from listin’ to Chooka sprout the Bible all the time.

“I must admit that it does.” He replied.

“Well,” I said, “it is illegal to throw dynamite into the river for the purpose of killing fish.” I was sure of this point ‘cause I had been convicted of it once and copped a fine.

Chooka looked at me long and hard.

“Well,” he said, “it is not my intention to throw this stick of dynamite into the river for the purpose of killin’ fish. It is not.”

“It’s not?” I questioned.

“Of course not,” he explained, “That would be against the law. It is my intention to throw this stick of dynamite into the river to prove a scientific point. Namely that the water will put the wick out before it hits the bottom. If I am wrong and it does blow up under water and kills some fish, that would not be my fault now, would it?”

“I suppose not.” This sounded like some sort of twisted logic but still I could feel myself waverin’.

“If, by any chance it did kill some fish,” he continued, “it surely would be a sin to leave the poor things floatin’ there to rot, that would contaminate the river, and, if they are only be hurt it would be a sin to make them suffer, wouldn’t it? We would have to check every one of them out and save as many as we could. If, however, they were already dead we might as well eat them. Does that make sense?”

“Not really.” The force of his argument weighed me down. He could go on like that for hours and I didn’t want to get him started. “If you’re gonna do it, do it so I can get home.”

So Chooka lit the fuse and threw the dynamite into the river. At the same moment a dingy drifted around the bend.

I started to rush forward to warn whoever but it was but it was too late.

The rest keeps comin’ back in flashes, you know, like a series of still photos flashin’ across your vision although, at the same time it seemed to happen in slow motion.

I remember the dynamite describin’ a long arc and landin’ with a “plop” in the water, right in front of the dingy containin’ the formidable figure of Paddy (Bloomin’) McGuire.

I remember seein’ the dingy describe a long arc and landin’ with a splash. I remember the form of Paddy (Bloomin’) McGuire describin’ a long arc and landin’ close to his boat.

“Blimey.” Chooka whispered. ” Blimey.” He repeated, “Ain’t that a beautiful sight?”

He grabbed me by the arm, “We had better get out of here before he spots us.”

Stealthily we started to make our way back down the track. The good thing was that there was no way that we could have been seen from the river.

We were only a short distance down the track when we heard the roar of Paddy (Bloomin’) McGuire. He was swearin’ fit to shame the devil. Finally he shouted, “Chooka, I’ll get you for this.”

“Bloomin’ marvelous, ain’t it?” Asked Chooka with genuine hurt in his voice, ” Blame me why don’t you? Just listen to him blamin’ me.”

“But you did do it.”  I reasoned.

“I know that,” he answered, “You know that, and The Boss (his name for God) knows that, but there is no possible way that Paddy (Bloomin’) McGuire could know that.”

He was still mutterin’ when we got back to his hut. A real bushie structure nestled amidst a small clump of trees on the creek bank.

Chooka made a billy of tea and seemed to be studyin’ it as we silently drank the strong brew. He was completely lost in thought. I was hopin’ that he was thinkin’ about his sins and, in particular, blowin’ up the local policeman, even if it was only Paddy (Bloomin’) McGuire.

“Robbo, ” He finally said, that’s me, I’m Robbo, “Robbo,” he said, “I think it’s time that we took that fishin’ trip we have been talkin’ about, go home and pack your gear an’ we will leave in about an hour.”
*      *      *
As we were rolling down the road some time later Chooka spoke.

“You know, of course, where we went wrong don’t you?”

“What do you mean ‘we’?” I asked. “I’m just an innocent bystander.”

“Where we went wrong, ” Chooka went on ignoring the interruption, “Is that we tried to fool The Boss.”

“You see, when we said that we were conductin’ a scientific experiment, we might have been able to fool ourselves, but The Boss knew all along that we intended to blow up the fish, you just can’t fool The Boss.  Isn’t amazin’ how many times we convince ourselves that we have a good and righteous reason for sinnin’? We tell ourselves all sorts of things..”

He’s away. An’ I am stuck in the car with him and can’t run away.

“ Things like, ‘everyone is doin’ it.’ Or, ‘it’s not against the law.’ Even ‘The Devil made me do it.’ but, in the final analysis, we are all responsible for our own sin because only we can decide to sin. We can be influenced by outside influences, but, in the end, we are the ones who decide to sin. We say.”Lord, I know what I am doin’ is wrong, but..” an’ as soon as we say ‘but’ the boss stops listen’ because we are not askin’ for forgiveness, we are askin’ for permission an’ the boss never gives us permission to sin. We are goin’ to have to pray for forgiveness when we stop you know.”

He was finally quiet. He was sittin’ lookin’ thoughtful. He sat that way for a couple of miles finally he said,  ” You know, there is only one thing I don’t understand.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“How could The Boss use Paddy (Bloomin’) McGuire to serve His purpose? I guess He can use anyone or anything, even the people and things of the world to serve His purpose, but, you’d think even The Boss would draw the line somewhere, I mean to say, Paddy (Bloomin’) McGuire….”

I just kept drivin’.