Billy Tea

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

Looking for a billy to brew some tea.

Submitted: July 20, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 20, 2018



Joe was getting the run-around! He needed a new billy, but the stores didn’t stock billies these days, in fact, the young whippersnapper in one of the stores didn’t even know what a billy was! Joe longed for the old days.

‘Time was,’ he drawled, ‘when milk bottles weren’t even invented yet, an’ folk used to leave their billies out for the milkman. The milkman come along with his horse-n-cart and ’e ladled the milk into the billy.’

The pimply-faced whippersnapper just looked a Joe as if he’d sailed with Noah, and stood there open-mouthed. Joe had a mind to shove something into the cavity but the only suitable thing in his pocket was the acorn he’d picked up from someone’s garden, but he wanted to plant it beside his cabin to provide  a bit of shade.

Joe had all the patience that high country-men have, but it was obvious to him that none of the flash stores in town had a billy, they just sold pots and frying pans. You can hang a billy from a hook over the fire, but you can’t do it with a blimmin’ pot and its half-baked handle! Anyway, Joe saw a second-hand shop sign and thought it would be worth a look in there.

He jumped out of his skin when the door went ‘ding-dong’ to announce to the owner that someone was prowling around his shop! The owner looked up from his ledger book, blinked and looked again. Joe didn’t bother to dress up to come into town, he didn’t have anything flash to wear anyway! He wore a battered slouch hat, its colour long gone, replaced by sweat-stain and dust, the brim was turned down at the front to keep the sun out of his eyes. He wore a sleeves-rolled-up, red-checked woollen shirt, open at the neck, showing his black woollen bush singlet. His moleskin trousers were discoloured by possum fat and held up by a wide leather belt. Hanging from his belt was a canvas pouch that contained a rudimentary first aid kit and an emergency box of matches. He wore leather puttees up to his knees and his boots reeked of the mutton fat he used to waterproof them. A dozen flies followed him wherever he went.

‘Can I help?’ Asked the owner in a hushed voice, but Joe ignored him as he gazed at the assortment of things that nobody wanted. The owner had arranged everything in some sort of order, and Joe got the hang of it. He skipped past the furniture, the musty beds, the rusty garden tools and the mechanic’s tools until he came upon the kitchenware. All the pots had handles, and it looked like he’d drawn another blank, but as he turned to leave he spotted just the thing he was looking for tucked away behind a pressure cooker. He left the lid behind, because he had no use for it and sauntered up to the counter.

The shop owner eyed Joe, and tried to swat some of the flies.  

‘You going to cook your porridge in that?’ he asked, with a supercilious grin.

‘Another smart-arse.’ Joe thought but said aloud, ‘It’s a replacement for me tea billy, me old one’s buggered and don’t boil no more!’

‘I’ve got a right one here!’ thought the owner, but he asked, ‘How do you mean won’t boil?’

Joe looked around the shop, nobody was around so he sat on a wicker chair and relaxed.

‘If ye leave me flies alone, I’ll tell ye,’ he started, meaning to carry on whether or not the owner bothered his flies. ‘I was fossickin’ up Canary Steam. Mind ye business now, what I was fossickin’ for’s nothin’ to do with ye, ye hear? Anyways, this bloody great boar come upon me, y’see. Big bugger ’e was, half as big agin’ as that thar fridge over yonder!  ’e had one red eye an’ a broken tusk! The other was a good six inches long an’ stickin’ out! Mad as a snake he was! Snot outa his nostrils dripped down an’ killed the grass as ’e come at me, made it go brown just like that!’ He snapped his fingers to demonstrate. ‘Like that Agent Orange it was! ’e was chargin’ me, ’e was! “Shit!” I sez an’ I run, run for me blimmin life!’

With every sentence, the shop owner’s eyes widened, and when Joe pause for effect he asked.

‘How did you get away from the monster?’

‘Well, the big bugger was scared off wasn’t ’e!’ Joe said flatly, wiggling his bum in the chair for more comfort.

‘What scared him away then?’ asked the curious owner.

‘Well, here’s me runnin’ flat out with the boar right up me arse! An’ outa the corner of me eye, I spots this spaceship…’

‘A spaceship?’ The shop owner interjected, ‘What, a flying saucer?’ the supercilious smile was back.

‘Nah mate,’ replied Joe, ‘straight up, I don’t believe in ’em either! This was sausage-shaped, silver, shiny blimmin’ silver, with red and blue lights, like a cop car only along its sides. Anyways,’ Joe didn’t give the owner a chance to interrupt again, ‘anyways, the very second I spotted it, it took off like a blimmin’ rocket!’ He laughed at his pun. ‘An’ then I felt a blast of hot air that knocked me offa me feet, the boom made the bloody pig scarper for his life! Haven’t seen ’im since! An’ the, flash! Bright as twenny lightnin’ strikes I tell yer, twenny! Well, it made me teeth chatter, loosened me fillings too, I tell yer! An’ that’s why I come ’ere to look for a billy to brew me tea. Y’see, the flamin’ exhaust from the spaceship musta had outa-space nuclear-fission in it, an’ its damn well altered the metal molecules of me billy! ‘Cos since then, the bloody thing won’t boil water!’

Joe paid his money and left the shop owner with his mouth flopping open and shut. And Joe wore a supercilious grin.


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