THE STREET I live in was always a ‘dog’ street, rather than a ‘cat’ street. It’s a cul-de-sac, but most of the families own at least one dog. There are small dogs, large dogs, good and bad dogs; but generally, they all got on and it’s just Happy Bloody Valley Familyville Close, Suburbia, NSW.
However, Laddies and Lassies, there were a time, away back yon, when the dogs all feared a common enemy: Errol the Duck at Number Ten.
Technically, Errol was a drake, but was universally known as a very large duck and a damned cranky one at that. He tolerated humans but hated anything else and would bravely charge down any dog, which would invariably yelp, turn tail and run after the first nip on the schnozz.
Our house boasted two bitches: the girlfriend’ cattle dog/bully cross; and Poik, the wonder dog, a rough collie I had mysteriously inherited once Poik’s Ozbike Magazine office-guarding duties had been terminated. Both our dogs were brave, but would studiously avoid that damned duck for fear of another nipped snout.
After every attack, Errol would victoriously waddle back to his territory, which stretched from about Number Two to Number Twenty.
Lucky for me (not!) one of Errol’s favourite lookout posts was on top of my letterbox. Pulling up most afternoons, the rumble of a Harley, Norton, Triumph or Buell didn’t faze the mongrel duck, and seeing how the gloves I used to wear could double for falconry gauntlets, it was relatively easy to shoo him off the crap-covered letterbox lid to check for bills and real estate flyers.
One morning, the Missus was riding her 1970 Triumph Trophy to work, a pleasant 12 minute jaunt for her. I was long gone on my bike to clock on at the legal sweatshop known as Ozbike Magazine where underpaid, over-exploited workers would churn out the best biker magazine in the world. The Missus had roared out of our street, turned right, left, then right again onto the main drag of the Northern Beaches known as Pittwater Road. About 500 meters along the main drag, and almost a km from home, she saw Errol the Duck angrily cavorting in the gutter of Lane One, which was still well and truly a Clearway.
Now, the missus is an animal lover and couldn’t bear the thought of a squashed duck on a Thursday, so she set to herding it back home to safety.
She had no luck in the duck shooing department on foot, so decided to use her shiny, black, ex-cop Trophy to round Errol up and move him along. This was not completely unsuccessful, but definitely took a lot of U-turning, horn blowing and throttle blipping to get the recalcitrant bastard of a duck to obey. Had she been spotted by the cops, she’d probably have clocked up a Brazillian Demerit Points for the crazy riding which involve multiple median strip jumping and numerous ‘drive contrary to direction of traffic flow’ offences. She reckoned a rodeo rider on a Quarter Horse couldn’t have rounded Errol up better, and the seemingly considerate commuters probably thought it best to steer clear of Crazy Bikie Chick and Cranky Duck.
She soon had her quarry turned left off the main drag, right, then left back into our safe little street and forced the duck all the way back to Number Ten. She was just about to unclick the side gate when Errol came rushing out from the back yard, quacking like a bastard and in full attack mode.
You wouldn’t bloody credit it — it wasn’t Errol playing in the traffic—this was a completely different duck, but a dead ringer for Errol. No wonder it didn’t really want to go up our street.
“Sorry, Fella, whoever you are,” the missus said. “You’re free to go wherever you please,” was added as she rode off late for work.
I was even present at poor old Errol’s demise, just up the road outside Number 20.
I’d just arrived home, was about to park the motorbike, when I noticed a number of people standing around in the middle of our street. I knew something was terribly wrong as I could see the limp body of a large, white duck lying on the bitumen, a sad looking wing was outstretched and seemed to be fluttering around in the light breeze that usually accompanies dramatic scenes. The small crowd of onlookers included dear old Mrs Old Mate from up the end of the cul-de-sac, complete with her Scotty dog in tow, and two very hot Swedish backpackers from the share house across the road.
I felt it was imperative to become part of the group of onlookers, especially as the Swedish girls were wearing their short shorts and halter-neck tops. And no bras, but that’s not important right now.
What was important was that Mrs Old Mate was ropeable, railing loudly against the ‘heartless oaf’ who could skittle an animal and just leave it to die on the road. I’d never seen the dear old thing this fired up before, all our previous encounters involved nought more than a smile and a big wave.
But she went on, describing it as an ‘horrendous hit and run’ and maybe the police should be notified. Then she wondered aloud what should be done with the body, laying there on the road, all succulent-like.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said hesitantly. “I could bury Errol in my backyard, but maybe his owners want to bury him in their backyard…”
“Maybe they might want to have a roast duck dinner instead of a duck funeral?” I mentioned, helpfully.
Well! Talk about the wrong thing to say! Mrs Old Mate deliberately gasped and the two Swedish hotties regarded me like I was the turd in the punchbowl at a rich girl’s party.
Now, I’m nothing if not quick on the uptake with the snappy one-liners to extricate myself from previous wrong’n statements, but I will tell you this: A statement like “Maybe we could sell the carcass to the Chinese Restaurant?” is not a face saver and I was just digging myself deeper.
Chapter Seven in ‘The Book Of My Life’ covers projected improbable but not impossible scenarios for me, and the part which involved me feasting on a Swedish neighbor sandwich had just been edited out completely.
Luckily, Mrs Old Mate threw me a life raft when she went back to being disgusted with the uncaring, low-life duck-murderer.
And then the backpackers spoke. “It was a big man, going bald and wearing a business suit,” offered one of the Swedish stunners.
“Ja, und he voss drivink a big, grey Range Rover, about ten minutes before you walked back into the street with your dog,” added the other one.
That very clear description managed to perfectly pinpoint Mr Old Mate as the duck killer and the cold, humiliating slime of realization began drizzling over Mrs Old Mate’s face.
I looked straight at Mrs Old Mate and let out a huge but quickly stifled guffaw, which I just knew I’d have trouble containing further.
There was nothing more to see there, folks, and my mirth wasn’t helping, so without so much a toodle-oo, I turned and quickly walked away, a wheezing, Muttley the Dog-like hee-hee-hee-hee was making my shoulders hunch up and down as I quick-stepped it back to my house.
I never found out what happened to Errol’s mortal remains, or whether Helga and Britt ever fingered Mr Old Mate as the culprit, but right here, right now, sitting at my computer at 2:17 am on a Sunday morning with the rest of the family asleep, I’m wheezing like Muttley while remembering the look of brutal realization that washed over Mrs Old Mate’s dear-old-lady-type face.
And the way, she gave herself up like a bewdy with the sudden cessation of her rant and the very bad poker face.