Bert's Day in Court

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

Four country folk met up in town and it didn't end well.

Bert’s Day in Court

Back in the day, shops in town stayed open on Friday nights to give rural folk and those who worked an eight hour day, an opportunity do their shopping. The streets were generally crowded with people walking up and down, which was an opportunity to meet up with folk they hadn’t seen for a while and to have a chat. This night Henry and Bert met up outside the hardware store, and although they worked together on the Forestry, their wives were elsewhere looking in shops that were of no interest to them, so they stopped to chat. Farmers, Lloyd and Alan were also waiting on their wives, and had tired of walking up and down the street, so they stopped to talk to the Forestry lads.

‘Did you knock off work early so you could make it into town before closing?’ Asked Lloyd cheekily. The farmers in the village used to think the Forestry workers had it easy because they started work at 7:45 and finished a 4:30, which they cockies thought was more like office hours. It didn’t matter that they lunched with a hot meal for over an hour, ‘because they had to listen to The Rural News’.  Usually the Forestry boys just sucked up the criticism because they knew what they knew… and who attend school working bees.

‘Well looky here,’ Bert gave Lloyd a finger-poke in the chest, ‘the bloody landed gentry’s gracing us with their presence.’

‘’evenin’.’ Henry doffed his hat and smiled, because both he and Bert owned farms, they too could talk cocky-jargon just as well as the farmers… if they wanted to.

A group of young women came chatting by, swishing their skirts as they passed, so the four quickly stepped aside to give them room and Alan stumbled against the hardware store’s display wheelbarrow that was sitting on the side of the pavement.

‘Sixty bucks!’ Exclaimed Lloyd, who could be a bit mouthy, ‘Bloody flimsy barrow that! For sixty bucks!’

‘I dunno,’ drawled Bert, who could be contrary when he wanted to be, ‘seems pretty sturdy to me.’

‘Uh-oh.’ Henry thought.

‘Those flimsy bloody handles’d bend with a decent load in it!’ Lloyd argued.

‘Here,’ Bert said holding the handles, ‘Alan, hop in and we’ll test it!’

Alan didn’t want to look like a mug, so he hopped in. It held him just fine.

‘That’s no bloody test!’ Lloyd quipped, ‘Give it a try… take him to the Post Office and back!’

The Post Office stood at the other end of the main street, a good mile away, and without thinking Bert took off! Alan had no choice in the matter. Henry charged after them thinking he’d better clear the way on the busy street! As he overtook Bert and his barrow-passenger, he asked Bert if he was sure he could make it back.

‘I’m sure!’ Bert puffed back.

Lloyd trailed behind, trying to take bets.

Henry thought the pace was fairly quick and worried that Bert might run out of wind, but he knew the old bugger had a determined streak. The worry for Henry was that he might bump into someone with the barrow and that’d bring real trouble. But they made it to the Post Office safely, and by now the whole town was taking an interest.

‘Can you make it back?’ Alan asked, very embarrassed about the whole event, and making a half-hearted attempt to extract himself.

‘Don’t worry about me,’ replied Bert, ‘just hang on!’ And they were off again.  

By now the buzz was up and down the street and everyone wanted to take in the spectacle, but not prim Lois, the church secretary. She toddled along in front of the barrow, and Bert couldn’t dodge her. The barrow hit her on the back of her knees and she tumbled backwards on top of Alan! Legs up in the air and dress in disarray, exposing regions and frills that had never seen the light of day in public! Some of the bystanders gasped and others laughed. Bert put the wheelbarrow down.

‘Y’ better untangle y’self, ma’am,’ he said with a grin. ‘an’ y’d better get off, or it might bugger the barrow, an’ we don’t want that!’ He spat on his hands, rubbed them together and took another grip of the handles. Once her feet had hit the pavement, he was off again.

Big Norm, the policeman had arrived on his pushbike and was waiting for them at the hardware store - he wasn’t smiling.

‘Funny.’ He growled, ‘But I’ve a job to do.’

‘Throw the book at ’im!’ Encouraged Gideon the storekeeper, wringing his fingers. ‘Go on, throw the book at him!’

So Bert had to appear at the magistrate’s court, answering the charge of ‘the theft of a wheelbarrow’. Gideon had engaged Ivan Main, the town’s top-ranking lawyer to make sure Bert paid for his indiscretions, and Mains put Gideon into the witness box to tell his side of the story.

Bert didn’t bother with a lawyer but was allowed to question Gideon.

‘Y’ reckon I stole y’ wheelbarrow, eh?’

‘I do.’ Agreed Gideon.

‘Where’s the barrow now then?’ Bert asked.

‘In… in my shop.’ Gideon answered.

‘Well, Mr Magistrate, don’t y’ think it was damn silly to drag me into town to answer to this?’ Bert asked coyly.

The magistrate scratched his head under his wig.

‘Tell me, Gideon,’ Bert asked the storekeeper, ‘Is the wheelbarrow broken?’

‘The price ticket is missing!’ Gideon was adamant.

‘Well, there y’ are, Mr. Magistrate, no harm done, don’t y’ reckon?’ Bert held is arms out in a show of innocence.

‘There’s the matter of the illegal betting.’ Big Norm, the policeman piped up.

‘Nothin’ to do with me, that!’ Bert said evenly, ‘Never saw the man takin’ the bets in me life before.’

The magistrate lifted the gravel, but didn’t drop it.

‘We can’t tolerate larrikinism in this town.’ He said sternly, ‘But we can’t prove theft if nothing’s been taken.’ He put a hand up to silence Gideon. ‘A price tag could be lost on a windy day.’

‘I’ll waste the court’s time no longer.’ The magistrate said banging his gravel. ‘I’m told that the town’s shops had higher than usual takings that night… strike that from the record… case dismissed.’ He banged the gravel again.

Henry had been at court that day to support his mate Bert, and as they climbed down the steps of the courthouse, Henry noticed Big Norm’s pushbike leaning beside the side door of the courthouse.

‘I suppose with age, you’ve forgotten,’ Henry thumbed towards the bike, ‘how to ride one of those.’

With a gleam in his eye, Bert mounted the bike.

‘See y’ at th’ Post Office!’ He called over his shoulder.

 

 


Submitted: February 10, 2021

© Copyright 2021 moa rider. All rights reserved.

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