Part 1: Alberto Drops In To Save The World.
Alberto existed somewhere, and now he’s back in lutruwita. Apart from the quantum jump having made him terribly hungry, he just might have to save humankind.
Part 2: Alberto Drops In To Save The World.
As if being an extinct species wasn’t enough, Alberto has to come to terms with the modern world. And being a pretend dog.
“How many politician are there in Tasmania?” asked Alberto asked the next day as he picked idly at a bowl of coconut yoghurt and goji berries.
“I think there’s…hang on…I’ll have to take that question on notice,” answered Zach. Soon he was poring over websites on his phone and adding up.
“Well there are twenty-five in the House of Assembly. Then another fifteen in the Legislative Council. Including the local geezer, Robert ‘Bob’ Anderson-Dean, who’s been there so long that no-one is quite sure whether he’s alive or dead.”
“Know how he feels,” sighed Alberto.
“Righto, then there are the federal politicians with five in the House of Representative and twelve Senators. For what it’s worth the parliament isn’t sitting so they’re probably all at home, or pretending to be.”
“Hmmm,” grunted Alberto.
“And there are the councillors. Lots of them but really only the councils around Hobart come into play because we can’t tra-
“Wait, we’re in nipaluna?!” cried Alberto. “It looks so different now.”
“Uh, yes. So, where was I…let me see…Kingston, Hobart, Glenorchy, Brighton, Clarence. Sorell’s already too far to get to, and besides, Sorell.”
“That must be about another fifty. So in total, just over a hundred.”
“Need to think about it,” said Alberto after a while. “I’ll be in my office.”
Zach went to get his work file. As he passed through the kitchen he noticed Alberto was still sitting there.
“I thought you were going to…oh, right. You want to go out. Maybe we could put a flap in the back door or something for you.”
“Sometimes I wish I had opposable thumbs,” he said grumpily.
“Why’s that?” asked Zach, faintly remembering this routine did not end well for him last time.
“So I could grab a big-arse texta and write on my forehead I AM NOT A FUCKING CAT EITHER.”
* * * * *
Zach bashed his books while Alberto nosed around the yard. Occasionally the accountant looked out the window and watched Alberto; he felt relieved that none of the neighbouring houses had a good line of sight into the garden. Getting behind on the pruning has its advantages, he thought. And the fence backed onto a hip micro-brewery that only used their rear courtyard for storing empty kegs.
Alberto looked like he was building himself a bower out of autumn leaves and garden stakes.
All in all it wasn’t a bad space for a restless thylacine shuttling between worlds.
Zach looked down at his work again, and a thought started to form. There was a client of the company he worked for. A woman with her own business, but her husband was a politician. Once he’d been asked to drop something off for her because they didn’t live far away and it was on his way home. Which politician? All the faces and names seemed a blur of bland, unathletic white men.
Suddenly there was a commotion outside, a brief yelp and then the sound of flesh being torn apart. Zach ran to the door, just in time to see the skull of the neighbour’s three-month-old puppy spinning across the pavers and blapping with a rattle into the fence palings.
“What are you doing?!” he yelled.
Alberto chewed into the soft flesh, dripping fresh blood onto the lichen-covered flags.
“Holy shit this is good!” he exclaimed as he looked up. “Some days you prefer crunchy, but some days it just has to be smooth,” he said apologetically.
* * * * *
Alberto was let in after being hosed-down, both verbally and physically. Nevertheless he had a spring in his step and looked ready to save the world. He plonked himself in front of the TV and watched the afternoon news. Zach meanwhile had a lot of doubt about whether a puppy head in the compost would break down or just attract rats, but there was nowhere else for it. For now.
“There’s one of these state politicians who lives not far away,” he said to Alberto, trying very hard not to talk about you-know-what. “We could probably get there in about fifteen minutes, assuming you don’t stop along the way to shred labradoodles into…pieceadoodles.” And failing to talk avoid mentioning you-know-what.
“Right for a coupla days I reckon,” said Alberto as he lifted his chin from the burgundy stain on the couch and licked his chops. “Unless you wanna throw in a ginger kitten and make it a happy meal?”
“It’s not Byron Brookes is it?” he asked.
Zach was stunned. Yep, that was the one. Lara Brookes. High-flying CEO wife of former party leader Byron Brookes.
“Bingo!” he shouted. “Hey, how did you guess?”
“Easy,” replied Alberto. “He’s the only one of all that mob I’ve ever heard of. Was on the news a few hours ago.”
“Are you sure?!” Zach asked. “What did he look like?”
“Like a glazed ham. In a suit. Cheeky but vacant. Smart but wayward. Talks a lot and full of shit.”
Zach remembered the man who had come out to empty the letterbox as he was about to ride away after dropping off the big envelope. A giant dope parcelled up in a large dressing gown and a man-o’-the-people-grin. “That’s him! He’s our man.”
* * * * *
Why was Byron Brookes in the news? Once the great white hope of his party, his careeer had taken many turns. The usual pattern was a strong upward trend banked on his trademark knockabout charisma, followed by a thud to earth after a scandal: travel expenses, an affair with one of the departmental heads, a drunken rage at a wombat filmed by a Cradle Mountain tourist, and finally, when he was a minister, a failure to disclose a business he part-owned that did very nicely thank you out of government contracts he awarded. He’d been lucky, frankly, not to end up in worse trouble over that but that but corruption investigations in Tasmania had a habit of spinning their wheels in a Midlands bog. And those who tried to dig out the truth were the saps who ended up covered in mud. Fancy that.
“Holy heck!” yelled Zach as he looked at his local favourite news site, The nipaluna Newsmonger. “He’s resigned.” He read to Alberto from the article:
Forever seemingly in the frame as a party leader yet never quite achieving his potential, former Minister Byron Brookes announced today that he was resigning from the Tasmanian parliament immediately. He did not state what he has planned for life after politics, leading to speculation that party elders had had a whiff of another scandal and wanted him out of the way. “Byron was, throughout his career, a politician with his heart in the right place,” said party leader Rosandra Gutfeld.
“Yeah, and his dick in the wrong one,” snorted Alberto.
Zach read on, through the tributes and boot-the-bloke-on-the-way outs. Apparently he was renowned for being a heavy drinker. Yes, hard to live down chucking a slurred spaz at a wombat trying to get on with the serious business of chewing grass.
“I imagine he’ll be having a drop or two tonight then,” he though out aloud.
“Can you find out where?” asked Alberto.
Zach didn’t know much about politicians, or pubs for that matter. But he expected someone at the Newsmonger would. He fired off an email asking if they knew where Brookes’ favourite pub was.
By the time he’d gone to bathroom and back the reply was. “The Cray And Beanie” it said simply.
It was 8.17pm. Brookes had called time on his political career, but he was unlikely to call time early on a bender to celebrate same. Zach looked at the The Cray And Beanie web site, which said that it closed at midnight. Okay then, he thought, they’ll be having last drinks and probably tumble out a bit after that. It was about fifteen minutes away by bike, so…
“We ride at midnight!” he yelled to Alberto.
* * * * *
“I see my palanquin is ready,” he said as Zach wheeled the bike out of the garage.
Zach hesitated. If you’ve never lifted up a marsupial carnivore, well, let’s just say that it’s not as obvious as it looks.
“Um, don’t want to accidentally snag your pouch or something,” he said faintly.
“Aarrgh, that’s the fuckin’ sheilas ya blue-wren brain. Just get on with it.”
Zach put one arm around Alberto’s lightly-haired neck, and another under his back legs, and lifted him up into the oval-shaped black plastic box. It was empty apart from an octopus strap Zach occasionally used to tied down the lid when he was carrying something that wouldn’t quite fit inside.
Zach closed the lid and the latch snapped with a click.
“How long until the air runs out and you start to feel guilty about suffocating the last thylacine?” came a muffled voice from inside the box.
“You’ll be fine,” said Zach loudly. “It’s not far, promise.”
He turned the electric motor on and kicked off, rattling up the avenue.
* * * * *
As they arrived at The Cray And Beanie, the old pub was completely deserted. There wasn’t even an outside light on, hitty-missy collecting bugs of the night.
A punchy voice from inside the black box was singing:
it’s a long way
it’s a long way
“Oh deary dreary Doris!” cried Zach. “I forgot about the lockdown! Of course it’s closed. Everything’s closed. Wangdangit!”
“LEMME OUT!” yelled Alberto.
“Sorry, can’t. We gotta high-tail it home and figure out a new plan.”
He spun the bike around and sped off up the street. Zach was silently cursing himself while Alberto was doing so audibly, so there was at least a synchronicity as the little electric motor whizzed the bike along.
Wee-wah! There was half a blast of a siren as blue and red lights reflected in Zach’s glasses.
A hand extending from the patrol car window motioned to Zach to pull over to the side of the road.
“What’rr ye dooing oot and aboot?” came a voice.
“Are you Scottish?” asked Zach.
“Aye and I’ll ask the questions. So tell me laddie, what’rr ye dooing oot and aboot? Have ye no hearrd o’ the lockdoon?”
“Ah. Sorry. Yes. Forgot. Was taking my dogimal for a walk.”
“A walk? That’s a bike yer on laddie.”
“Yes. Indeed. Well. Yes. We’re just out then. For fresh air, you know.”
“WELL I’M NOT FUCKING GETTING ANY!” came an angry voice from inside the box.
“What’ve ye got inside yon box laddie?” asked the police officer. “I think we’d better take a loook.”
Zach gulped. “It’s just a…a…”
“ILLEGALLY TRAFFICKED ANIMAL DYING OF SUFFOCATION!”
“Goo on laddie, le’s hae ‘er open. Noo.”
Zach fumbled the key from the electric bike ignition and used another key on the ring to open the latch on the box.
The police officer stepped out of the car, while her partner shuffled over to get a better look from the front seat of the car.
She lifted the lid and peered in with her torch angled down at the base.
A cloud passed from the moon and entire street was bathed in the cool hue of lunar blue.
Albero leapt out, sank his fangs into the patrolwoman’s neck, drew a long gulp of still Hobart air and sprinted across the street.
His stripes lit up the streetscape like a flash of history dropping in for dinner. The angular frame. The stiff tail. The non-dog gait.
“What in fook’s name wae that?!” she cried as she clutched her neck, blood spurting across Zach’s glasses, before doing an involuntary quick pirouette and then collapsing on the ground.
It was quite graceful, though Zach distractedly, like an equation neatly solved. He also thought of what Alberto had said about doing a waarklena under pressure. Not that easy.
“Unit 217 calling for backup,” came a stern Australian voice from inside the patrol car. “Require ambulance for an injured officer, and transport for a covidiot.”
“Arranging now,” arrived the calm response. There was a bit of radio static, falling loosely out of the car and washing across the blood drops. Zach had a handkerchief out and was applying pressure to the wound on the side of the policewoman’s neck. “Any further information on injuries sustained?”
“Animal bite to the neck region,” said the patrolman. He paused, then gripped the microphone a little more tightly. Didn’t think I’d ever be saying this he muttered to himself. “Possible thylacine attack. Over.”
Oh my god, a thylacine’s been sighted for the first time in decades! Join Alberto and Zach’s coronavirus adventure in Part 4 of Alberto Drops In To Save The World next weekend.