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.

Part 3: Alberto Drops In To Save The World.

A foray into the heart of nipaluna doesn’t go quite as planned.

Part 4: Alberto Drops In To Save The World.

An ‘animal of no particular species was responsible’, says the patrolman. But the secret’s out.


Part 5

It was no darker or lighter in Alberto’s nook than it had been half an hour before, but it was certainly quieter.

Byron Brookes appeared to be dozing in his chair.

Appeared to be. While half a bottle of whiskey was wearily attempting to pull down the shutters, lust for his latest mistress was stubbornly trying to prop them open. He closed his eyes and thought of those sweet afternoons when he’d been late back to afternoon sittings after the lunch recess. Boyishly late, he told himself.

Alberto crept out, placing his paws as stealthily as he could on the pavestones.

Then he froze.

Brookes had stirred and picked up his phone. They say don’t text while drunk he mused to himself, so I’m just going to drunk video. An’ thassalright.

Alberto looked up and realised that as Brookes was holding the phone right up to his face, he was hidden in the blind spot behind the phone.

What’s now or never, for someone who escaped from the never and is trapped in the now? he thought.

He coiled himself and then launched his entire body at the bowl on the table. A direct hit!

The bowl spun up and out and hit Brookes in the eye. He dropped the phone which landed with a heavy flump on the pavestones. Alberto’s teeth only dealt a glancing blow to the defrosting hock. His momentum took him over the table and he ripped a gash in Brookes’ shirt as he landed against a potplant. The slab of meat rolled off the table and dropped like a round rock on the glass screen of the phone.

Alberto wrapped his jaws around the hock and looked up to see Brookes keeling over backwards into a half-wine barrel, still awaiting some autumn flowers. He spied a gap in the hedge and darted through.

He was in the driveway of the next unit. He sheltered momentarily under an upturned kayak gathering dust. There was something Brookes had been singing about. A road. A road whose name was familiar from when they’d been out walking.

What was it?

Mmm.

Main Road? Yeah, that was it. If Brookes was singing about it, it probably wasn’t far away. And it close to where Zach lived.

Home.

He almost slapped himself on the head. Rice milk kingdom now seems like home. And if I can find my way to Main Road, I’m on the way there.

* * * * *

Lady Jane was making her way around slowly around the park when she noticed the shadowy figure approaching. As good as her eyes were at night, she gave them a rub and looked again.

It like what her mother had told her her great-grandmother had told her was a loarinna.

She knew from the stories that these animals were not that dangerous to adult pademelons. Besides … this one looked lonely, scrawny, and frankly a bit of a knob.

Lady Jane bent down and sniffed the ground and its delicious scents.

“Ah, excuse me luv,” the voice said. “I presume you’re from around here?”

“One is from around here,” said Lady Jane. “And a most pleasant abode it is.”

“Good for you, miss,” said Alberto, a little out of puff after having bolted through the streets for the second time tonight.

The moon shrugged off a pesky cloud and threw a cast-net of bluish light across the park. Lady Jane sized up Alberto and licked his paw gently.

“Lady Jane Macquarie. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Alberto. Same, maam.”

“Fine sir, pardon my forwardness but you look a little unwell.”

Alberto squint-winced and she looked closely into his eyes.

“Would you like to join me and partake of this wonderful tender grass just over here? A little exotic for some tender digestions, one readily admits, however fragrant notes present as an agreeable herb balanced in its youth, containing great acidity and flavour harmony that brings together banal millet undertones with a unheard-of crack-cocaine punch; one may hope that as it develops, this public lawn varietal should take on buttered toast notes but still retain freshness and citrus fruits.”

Alberto flopped on the grass as if that was the sum of his response.

“Nar, got me a take-away,” he grunted as he dumped the stolen meat on the grass.

“Quite,” said Lady Jane with a sigh that started at the end of her tail and eventually emerged with a delicate shudder from her furry snout. “Another fucking carnivore.”

* * * * *

Gerry rolled over lumpily in bed as her phone buzzed itself silly with notifications of comments on the article.

She pressed a few buttons and arrived at the screen where she was able to turn notifications off.

Take that, sucker.

She rolled back to her good side. Gerry, real name Geraldine, only had one good leg. The other was ‘living tissue’ but was unable to move it, courtesy of bullet that hit her high in the right thigh in the jungles of east Burma. Or was it Cambodia? Or Timor? Another bullet in another grubby little post-colonial had hit her in the head and left her with a permanent slur that often made people think she was drunk. Whereas the truth was that she never touched a drop, feeling that she needed all of her brain on the job to carve out a niche of journalism with her two disabilities.

It’s not as if bullets – humble name for a lethal piece of two-bob metal – and invisible enemies were very user-friendly. Just whistle one past my nose and take take off this giant zit on the end I ain’t got the moxie to glurt meself, thanks. No, never like that. One just under the hip and then lying for days steamy, convulsive dreams of spiders as big as plates, other worlds constructed entirely of orange things, leaves waving and still, walls of bamboo that spoke unknown languages, and then a jerrybuilt – ha, built for Gerry – stretcher to ferry her for other days of froth and yell and living hell to arrive at a UN-controlled border post where her bearers laid her gently down and disappeared back into their shadow lives with barely a whisper of the fitful breeze that prowled the Mekong.

And there were worse days and better days, and days where she knew not what planet she deserved to be on, days of white coats and drugs and blood and unknown faces praying, and other days when she felt nothing but a thin though long thread of history tugging her back home to Bridgewater. Local? Mum reckons I was conceived on the bridge causeway on a Sarurday night date, she liked to tell people.

Eventually she was too shot up and too tired of watching already weak countries tear themselves to pieces and she made her way back home.

A garden was her healing. A penchant for walking along the banks of the Derwent was her reconnection to where she had come from. A strange, ephemeral cloud of fog that bore her name was a fuzzy inspiration to leave an ongoing legacy for her city, people, island.

Welcome home, Bridgewater Gerry.

* * * * *

“Main Road is this way, though not so easy to find,” said Lady Jane, pointing with a tilt of her head.

Alberto looked. All he saw was a creek. He ambled over and took a slow drink.

“I’ll show you then. It is rather a shame to be leaving such a good feeding ground. Heaven knows, those uncouth wallabies will probably pee all over it.”

She hopped through the shallow water until she came to a grey paling fence. Alberto followed her. It looked like a dead-end until she ducked her head and hopped through a low-hanging blackberry cane. And disappeared.

Alberto followed her move again and found himself a low tunnel that ran along the fence. She paused and looked over her shoulder to make sure that he was still there.

“Swings and roundabouts,” she said. “Blackberries are a little uncomfortable until we get them tamed, but then they offer quite good protection to the tunnel space. And, at the right time of year, a quite palatable little snack falls off the canes. This year’s vintage, however, mixed care-free rasberry and dare I say redcurrant elements with a crude horseradish bouquet, reminding one of rare Moroccan chermoula essences that -”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” barked Alberto. “Are we there yet?”

* * * * *

The sun thought about getting up, or spending another half-hour under the covers. Reluctantly…

The first rays were just creeping over the far hills when Alberto nosed his way around to the back of Zach’s house. The door was ever so slightly ajar. He nosed the sliding door open, moved inside and closed it again. As he turned around again he noticed a large piece of paper lying on the floor.

WELL I HOPE YOU GOT BACK. SORRY I COULDN’T GO OUT AND LOOK BECAUSE OF THE CURFEW. LEFT A BOWL OF ORGANIC COCONUT FLAKE AND ROLLED SPELT PORRIDGE ON THE KITCHEN FLOOR FOR YOU. MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME. – Z

Alberto suddenly realised that along the way he must have left behind the slab of frozen meat, but he was too tired to chastise himself.

He made his way into the kitchen and slurped the porridge, every last morsel.

Zach was still in bed, about nine-tenths asleep. Something appeared under the covers next to him and started breathing a warm zephyr of spelt and coconut over his face.

He smiled involuntarily. It’s nice when breakfast does housecalls.

* * * * *

Jackie Nitaki knew, just knew, that her husband was going to be a mess. She made herself a coffee to sip while she went over how much she should care. Bitterness in both mouth and heart was roughly the result.

Byron Brookes was splayed across the couch, covered by the thin blanket that usually covered the back of it. A melted ice-pack lay next to his cheek.

Jackie went out to the patio to see if the plants needed watering. Not gonna clean up his mess another time she thought to herself through gritted teeth as she looked at a chair on the ground and various-sized shards of broken glass.

She saw the empty bowl and wondered why he hadn’t put anything out for Elmo. He’d be awake and yowling for food any moment now. As it was, the mutt was still in hiding and seriously considering witness protection.

Just then she spotted a phone on the ground. Cracked screen up.

So Byron wasn’t the only one who got smashed last night she giggled.

She flicked it on absent-mindedly. Well that was what she told herself. Surely it wasn’t to check if there were any messages to and from the latest bimbo in Byron’s life. Not to steel herself to the latest affront to a former Miss Tasmania, who had made a stellar career in business to prove to everyone that she was more than just a sash with a smile, a woman whose figure in recent years had earned her the unkind nickname of Jackie NiceSnacky as if that was anyone’s business thank you very much.

Instead of texts, the camera was on the main screen. The latest image was a video recording. Probably Byron declaring his undying love for someone. Valid for two months only; terms and conditions apply.

She pressed the button and saw Byron about to speak. A whirl of garden and noise. Something heavy landing on the screen, and then a Picasso sketch of crazy lines became a permanent overlay. Briefly, the eaves. Some animal sticking its face into the camera.

That’s not Elmo, she thought.

But that looks like…of course it can’t be…it looks like…what the hell is this…a…Tasmanian tiger?


The secret’s out, and Alberto is on the run! Join Alberto and Zach’s coronavirus adventure in Part 6 of Alberto Drops In To Save The World next weekend.