Jim Mannell : I Write

Extracts From Dropping the Sausage

     After another half hour of aimless wandering, he stumbled into what he thought was a police station, but when he was summarily taken into custody he suspected it was actually some sort of army post, or outpost.  For ten minutes he was interrogated by several officers, none of whom gave a shit that he was able to ask them in fluent Bahasa  Is that the Ceiling?  and that he knew how to confidently instruct them to Open your exercise books.   After that they took him outside and he wondered whether he was about to be offered a cigarette and a blindfold.  Instead they spun him around three times and helpfully pointed him in four different directions, all of which led him nowhere all over again.  After stumbling through neighbourhoods so foul-smelling that even the rats had moved out, he finally blundered into the central market area, which smelled even worse, but at least he recognised it from when they’d passed through the city on the way to Sanur Beach from the airport three days earlier.  Never at any stage on the tour to town did he see a police station or motor registry and after his bimo trip and the enforced walking tour of downtown Denpasar, he no longer cared.  He just flagged down the first bimo he saw and said: “Sanur, terima kasih”.

      By the time he got back, he’d made the dubious decision to rent a motorbike first and worry about the legality and safety issues afterwards.  There was no shortage of Balinese entrepreneurs who were only too happy to put their machines in the hands of a stranger with Aussie dollars.  One used bike dealer who was more persuasive than the other seventeen won Twy’s custom even though the machine he was offered looked as if it had seen service at El Alamein.  It was possible that the derelict appearance of the bike clinched the deal for Twy; he may have subconsciously reasoned that if he smashed it up it could only improve its looks.  Even before the matter of payment, Twy was given one free riding lesson, conducted on a well-worn circular track in a nearby paddock.  It went surprisingly well....

      Now it was the next day and, disgruntled at the failure to appear of yesterday’s pedlar, he accepted a deal from a competitor who handed over a gleaming brand new motorbike for the same fee.  It was already idling as Twy wheeled it towards the main road.  Now his nerves were jangling because it seemed that dozens of pairs of eyes were on him.  This was the most dangerous moment.  Relax. Breathe deeply. In. Out.  How hard could it be to throw one leg over the seat and putt-put away?  This was no Harley Davidson.  It was just a pushbike with a bit of a motor.  He breathed out again and concentrated on wheeling the machine out onto the roadway.

     He didn’t see the fast-arriving bimo.  The cacophonous blast of its horn sent his heart straight into his mouth and he would’ve shitted his new trousers if he’d had any shit left after two consecutive nights spent in the toilet because of Bali Belly.  Without thinking, he yanked the bike off the roadway by pulling back on the handles.  Not unpredictably the motorbike went mad, accelerating directly into the path of the oncoming bimo.  Unaccountably Twy clung to the handlebars, even though he hadn’t even mounted the bike yet and the more he tried to pull it back off the road the faster it accelerated, dragging him along with it.  He missed the crowded bimo.  He missed the trunk of a gigantic tree that suddenly loomed in front of him.  He missed three basket-carrying Balinese women who ran screaming from his path.  It was only when the motorbike did a right hand turn and headed for Denpasar that it occurred to him to just let go of it and both he and the machine crashed to the ground.  A couple of concerned Balinese rushed over to lend assistance, but only to the bike.  The owner ruefully inspected the damaged tail-light and mirror.  Ashen-faced, Twy struggled to his feet, leaving bits of skin from his leg and forearm on the road.  His new batik shirt was torn and his watch was missing.  Another Australian tourist walking along the road towards him had almost caught it between the eyes when it came off Twy’s wrist.

      “Yours I believe, mate.”

      Amazingly the bike owner turned the machine back over to Twy without comment.  Still shaken and smarting from the experience, Twy left the engine turned off and walked the bike back to the hotel to meet Lauren as planned.  She looked at the state he was in and knowingly rolled her eyes.

     “Don’t ask,” he murmured and told her he was going back to the paddock to practise some more.

      “What? Riding or falling off?”

      Less than an hour later, displaying commendable pluck, Lauren climbed on behind him and they rode around the district and went on a day trip to Sangei and the Uluwatu temple.  They were both pleasantly surprised that Twy reached both destinations without stacking the bike or hitting anyone.  While visiting the temple, he found himself the focus of attention for a small group of monkeys because he happened to have a handful of crackers he’d saved from breakfast.  If he’d just thrown the snacks to the monkeys, everything would’ve been fine, but ever the dramatist, he suddenly showed them a gnarled hand.  The alarmed simians went ape, as it were, and immediately attacked, not Twy, but an innocent cluster of photo-snapping Japanese tourists, one of whom was bitten on the head by a particularly enraged female.  Twy quickly retreated from the skirmish....

 

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     Six months after the Warragamba Donkey Incident, displaying short term memory loss, he took his little family to the Hoxton Park Riding School for their first and also their last horse-riding lesson. It was another attempt on his part to prove that the family that plays together stays together. The rugged Aussie instructor, who seemed to have more of the bounty hunter than the equestrian in his makeup, had already selected two docile and sweet-looking models for Glenda and Kent and a giant red thing for Twy that he could barely see over the top of.

      “Jesus,” he muttered. “What’s his name?”

     “Red, mate.”

     Redmate?

     Twy wanted to get on first name terms with the giant, head-tossing, wild-eyed beast, because it was obviously still pissed off about not getting a role in Ben Hur.

     “Mate, he’s just right for a strapping bloke like you.”

      Now Twy started flashing back to immovable mares and inimical donkeys.

      “Easy, Redmate,” Twy cajoled, then muttered: “What kind of a name is Redmate?”

     Amazingly the beast allowed him to climb aboard without incident. And after a few brief instructions from the bounty hunter, the three of them began to canter around a little circular track inside a corral. Clint Eastwood stayed with Kent to reassure him but called out encouragement to his parents as well.

     “Good on ya, Ty mate. You’re a natural. Nice straight back! Just dig ya heels into him a bit.”

     The second he did, Redmate went ballistic. He galloped once around the track, came thundering up behind Glenda’s mount, swerved suddenly to the left and leapt over the railing. Scared shitless, Twy bailed out at the top of the jump. He seemed to take an eternity to come down. Earth, sky, earth. He landed on his elbows when the ground broke his fall. He was up, then down again, then up, dizzy, dusty, like the survivor of a cattle stampede. The horse now stood stock still a few yards away, eyeing him sardonically.

     “Jesus, Ty, mate….Don’t let ’im do that to ya!” bawled Clint.  “Show ’im who’s boss!   Git back up on ’im ’n’ take ’im fer a run!”

     “You take him for a run. I’ll watch,” Twy ruefully replied as he picked bits of gravel and tetanus microbes out of his grazes.

      “Nah… Come on, chief!  Git up there ’n’ get into stuck into ’im!” the horse man persisted.

      Against his better judgment, Twy did get stuck into him, which was just what Redmate was banking on. He was barely in the saddle when the feisty mount bolted at terrifying speed.

      “Jesus..... Jesus...... Jesus…... ” was all the frightened non-rider could croak out as the horse raced for a copse of trees, where Twy was convinced he was going to be crushed against a tree trunk or impaled on a limb. He squeezed his eyes shut as the trees arrived and then were gone in a whoosh of passing foliage. He prayed for mercy. He heard himself absurdly begging to please stop Red mate stop. But Red had got to where he enjoyed it and had no doubt played this game before. He burst out from the other side of the copse, wheeled around and careened back to the corral, where he reined himself in, snorted a couple of times, then almost arrogantly started to munch grass.

      "That’s the shot, Ty!” whooped the instructor.  “That’s showin’ the bastard!”

      “It’s Twy!” Twy squeaked angrily and then had to repeat his name in a more baritone voice and even then the grinning instructor didn’t seem to twig to what it was.

 

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