Clappers and a Bloke Called Joe

One bright spring day in the outback metropolis of Ockerroo the population of two hundred and fifty human souls jumped by the count of one. Not a problem in most cities, but here in Ockerroo one extra human meant palpitations for the CES feller, two hundred and fifty miles away back in Burke.

Word had filtered from the petrol bowser that some odd looking bloke had bummed a ride heading to the fly-stricken, grog-swilling town that was so isolated it no longer appeared upon the maps … unless of course you happened to purchase one in Outer Mongolia, an almost equally remote part of the globe where everything was most decidedly out of date, including the milk should you ever be so stupid as to prefer that to beer.

According to the Commonwealth Employment and Welfare Benefits Act 1965, a person seeking welfare assistance must first present their frame at the Commonwealth Employment office, otherwise known to one and all as the CES.

Once having filled out the required two hundred and five forms, listing in printed biro your entire life history from the time of birth, you then queued in the fond hope of making it to the counter before the staff of the Burke office (one lone public servant) pissed off for lunch.

Under the Act, citizens were never allowed to refuse offered employment should they have the necessary skills and available public transportation to travel within ten miles from their place of residence. This clause in the Act was an absolute blessing for any ardent applicant for dole money.

Move to Ockerroo, mate, where there was Mulligan’s pub … plus, to keep the CES dole flowing, a non-existent public transport system and no offers of gainful employment to muck up your dole application.

Some serious consumers of amber beverage stayed sober enough to rename it Heaven in the desert.

Upon this particular morning the two local crime fighters, guarding the Ockerroo police station against theft, were admiring the dehydrated weeds that passed for flowering plants in the cop shop’s dedicated botanical garden to celebrate ‘Environment Day’.

‘Could do with a drop of water, don’t yer reckon, constable? Found a bloke in the desert a couple of years back that looked more alive than them plants and he was three weeks dead.’

‘Yeah, you are spot on there, sarge, but the memo we received from Sydney complained about the high cost of deliveries and stressed an urgent need to conserve water.’

‘Bloody oath it did, and if you had not accidentally shot a hole in the station’s water tank, we would not be receiving such stupid memos from the commissioner, would we constable?’

‘I aimed for a deadly taipan, sarge.’

‘That was not just a taipan, you clot, that was my pet Oscar. I loved that snake. Put him outside for a spot of exercise, then you had to come along. Lucky for you, constable, you are a rotten shot or you would be packing yer bags and heading for the badlands of Wilcannia.’

‘How come you never put in for detective’s division, sarge? Then you wouldn’t have to live in a place like Ockerroo, and I wouldn’t have to accidentally miss and shoot the station’s water tank?’

‘Because, son, there are two types of criminologically-minded sleuths. There is them wearing suits and think they are bloody geniuses, while we all know it is someone else in forensics doing all the brainy work; and then there is ordinary policemen just like me who were born with a copper’s nose for crime. Fair dinkum, constable, I’m telling you I can sniff out a crim at five hundred yards on a windy day, with a couple of inches margin of error.’

‘Fair dinkum, sarge?’

‘I said fair dinkum, didn’t I? You see, constable, you might not have been born to be a first class crook-sniffer, but it should develop with time and experience. When you acquire that specialised skill, citizens will know that they can sleep safe at night in isolated places like Ockerroo.’

‘Ah so, excuse please. Could you much help be for me?’

The voice apparently belonged to the only human in sight, a rather dignified, tall, asiatic type of individual who, seeing as he was wearing a suit, certainly did not own up to being a member of the local population. How and why he was decorating the only main street in town demanded some form of explanation.

‘Before I answer that,’ says Clappers ‘would you mind telling me where you sprung from?’

‘Ah so, forgive please, I forget my manners. My name is Joe Mitsubishi. I come by car from Burke, now I look for lady.’

‘You came two hundred and fifty miles from Burke, just to have your wicked way with a sheila?’ asked the constable, who was in two minds to point him in the direction of Mulligan’s pub where sometimes lurked certain ladies known to offer beneficial massage to select clients.

‘Ah so, this velly special lady tell me in Japan she live in Ochelloo. I want velly much say hello good time again.’

‘Did this very special lady happen to have a name?’ asked sergeant Clappers Clarke.

Ah so, yes of course. Beautiful lady also have beautiful name. She called Miss Nette, also called Jean. Ah sir, we have much good time, Miss Jean Nette. Sheeehehe velly lovely lady, she teach me excellent English … yes? Also take number one photograph of Japan and New Guinea.’

‘Never heard of her. You ever hear of a Miss Jean Nette, constable? Young single feller like you is bound to know all the available sheilas in town, eh?’

‘Not me, sarge. Who knows, maybe she went back to New Guinea.’

‘Oh very sorry, Mr Mitsubishi, looks like you have come all this way for nothing. You might have to wait a spell until you can hitch a ride back to Burke. Reckon you will find an empty room at Mulligan’s pub.’

‘Ah so, no ploblem, please tell me your name please.’

‘My name it is sergeant Clarke but most folks around here call me Clappers.’

‘Okay, I do that too, sergeant Clappers. Please, what name please is constable.’

‘Hey, most people call me Tom. Officially I am constable Thomas Bent.’

‘Ah so. First time this person ever meet bent copper.’

‘Do I arrest him now, sarge, or wait until you are not looking?’

‘You, constable Bent, are in charge of the shop, while Mr. Mitsubishi and I enjoy a chat and a quiet beer down at Mulligan’s.’

It is written that there is nothing like a beaut cold beer and a chat between mates. A certain chemistry seeped into the bonhomie of these two gents born into different cultures, one uttering Aussie lingo as she is spoke, the other strangled English like it was never meant to be heard.
After being lubricated with a couple of beers, Joe, as he was now called, confessed to a background, the richness of which impressed the eardrums of an avid listener.

Sergeant Clappers called Mulligan himself over to meet his new-found mate and the trio did sit to drink, nodding in approval at the amazing revelation of what was due to happen in the one-dunny town of Ockerroo. Soon it was apparent that the delightful Miss Jean Nette was but an appetizer, an hors d’oeuvre before the main course was offered to the good citizens.

‘But seriously, Joe,’ said Clappers, ‘why would your uncle Tazio send you out to Ockerroo to build a new Mitsubsihi vehicle plant? There is nothing out here but us, bare dirt, and five million emus.’

‘You forgot about the forty-four billion flies,’ says Mulligan, who tended to exaggerate at the best of times.

‘Ah so, no wollies. Miss Jean Nette, sheehehe tell me land here velly cheap, good and flat except for stupid hill on edge of town. No ploblem. Mitsibishi know all about bombs, many left from last war, we soon blow hill to oriental heaven.’

‘Bloody hell,’ says Mulligan, ‘a vehicle plant eh? Struth, that’ll sure be something new for Ockerroo. Cripes, the flaming road stops running to nowhere on the edge of town.’

‘Ah so, you have lunning load? Ah, we have never see lunning load in Japan, velly intellisting, must tell uncle Taizo about this new Aussie invention.’

As the beer flowed, so the description of this vast vehicle manufacturing plant grew in the manifestation of local minds. The legs that invaded the pub soon divided into two distinct camps.
On one side the dole bludgers’ shocking realisation that a monster vehicle manufacturing plant meant jobs and, for them, a dole-free future in which they actually worked for a living.
Not good … definitely not good at all.

The other half had responded to numerous phone calls from Clappers and Mulligan to their mates, suggesting they trot their frames in the general direction and bring their cheque books with them, because uncle Joe was promising real gilt-edged investment money here. You have heard the tale of the quick and the dead, so get bum into gear mate and rocket down to the pub.

Amazing, it was only 2pm and it seemed already someone had declared a public holiday.

So the chattering and nattering went on well past legal closing time, but ‘What the hell!’ yelled Mulligan, ‘the coppers aren’t about to raid the joint, are they Clappers?’

‘Not bloody likely,’ cheered the mob.

It was while the good sergeant was away collecting another round of drinks to go on Joe Mitsubishi’s ever-growing grog bill that some of the smart money in town held a two minute meeting. ‘Jeez, if word ever got out that Ockerroo was about to become Mitsubishi City the joint would be flooded with bloody reporters, big city bankers, the works.’ So, while the coppers were not looking, the phone lines back to civilization had to be cut. No-one was to be allowed in or out of Ockerroo until they got it sorted with uncle Joe and made their ironclad investment.

There was a highly respectable lady in town who, in spite of the nature of her husband’s work, never worried when he managed to stagger home late. Clappers was a bloke who knew how to take care of himself, but some say she was not too fashed when Sal saw what Clappers had dragged home for breakfast, plus a promise of free use of the guest room.

‘He can’t stay at the pub, Sal. The rooms at Mulligan’s are a living menagerie of giant fleas and man-eating bedbugs. Besides, his uncle is Taizo Mitsubishi. When you look at Joe … you are looking into the eyes of our comfortable future.

Well, it turns out Sal did look into uncle Joe’s eyeballs, but she wasn’t too excited by what she saw hidden within the hooded lids. Joe, from Sal’s point of view, looked decidedly shoofty. For starters Sal was a trifle curious when she spotted Joe’s beautiful blue eyes and narry a sight of anything slanted, wondering why Clappers never spotted this minor detail. But then he wouldn’t when he was looking constantly at Joe through the wrong end of a beer glass and his copper’s brain was absent thinking how fast he could drive in a 12 cylinder Mitsubishi.

The first sign that something screwy was going on in Ockerroo was when the phones stopped ringing and when constable Bent asked his sergeant what were two utes and blokes with shotguns doing blocking the top of Charlie’s Hill?

‘Only one way to find out,’ says Clappers. ‘Go up there and bloody ask ’em’. So he did.

‘One bloke reckoned he fancied a spot of fresh emu meat for his lunch, the other feller claims he was just enjoying the view. No word in the police manual says either is illegal and they were not actually blocking the road because there was no traffic to block, so I told them, sarge, that you said it would be more polite if they moved down to the other side so you could not see ’em. Did I do right, sarge?’

By mid-morning Clappers knew for sure something that he was not privy to was about to disturb the peace and tranquility of Ockerroo. He and constable Bent were about to take a scenic drive into the flat lands past the edge of town.

’The problem in this town when it comes to police investigations, constable, is that the countryside is dead flat, so in a situation like this, do you know how to catch unique crims? Unique up on ’em.

‘Yer supposed to laugh, constable. Gawd I swear you are destined for a future in Wilcannia.’

They spotted the group about two miles on the other side of town where one of the leading lights was showing to Mitsubishi Joe, as they now called him, the city’s famous borewater, pure as melted snow provided you enjoyed the chemical taste and a smell like a ringer’s armpit. ‘There is an ocean of the stuff down there,’ says the leading light. ‘More than enough to run two Mitsubishi car plants, if that’s what yer needing.’

‘Well, gentlemens, that was only missing thing. Land flat cheap, yes, but Mitsubishi need water for car plant. We go back hotel, sign investment paper, then Joe go Canbella talk to govelnment about vehilcle plant. Time we have another dlink, yes?’

It was on the way back to the pub that Clappers spotted Sal yelling out through a bull-horn for a quiet whisper in his earhole. She needed to tell him about them non-slanting blue eyes.’

‘Fair crack of the whip,’ says Clappers. ‘I can’t go arresting the bloke because you don’t like the colour of his eyes.’

‘They are not slanted,’ counters Sal, who knew she would always win an argument anyway.’

‘I read someplace them asians often have operations to round off their eyes. Maybe he’s had one of them,’ says Clappers, but not with mountains of certainity in the gargle of adenoids.

Next came the folding of Sal’s arms, always a bad sign for Clappers when he thinks he has won the point. Time to quickly back off and go have another heart-to-heart with Mr Mitsubishi Joe … But he can’t go charging in just because his missus said it was a great idea. This called for tact and diplomacy — both of which were in terrible short supply in Ockerroo.

Still, making all the right noises to his ever-loving missus, Clappers collected his constable and they did a quick trot down to the pub.

The gentlemen with the chequebooks were all gathered around Mitsubishi Joe, happy to sign investment papers before parting with genuine money. Oh, it was such a merry gathering and the happiest of all was Mulligan who was the leading hand in this investment business.

Clappers and constable Bent decided there could be time for a wee drink before congratulating the boys on their investments, so they quietly sat down in another corner to observe the celebrations at their leisure.

‘You going to buy some shares, sarge?’

‘Lesson number one when you get married, constable. Never do anything stupid when yer missus crosses her arms.’

While the young copper was chewing over the importance of this matrimonial advice, one of the characters from the dole-bludging side of life crossed the floor to leave a whisper.

’What’s going on at the other end, sergeant Clappers?’

’Weren’t you in the pub last night?’ asked the copper.

‘Nah, ever since Mulligan won’t allow us tick, I have to wait for me dole cheque to come good.’

‘Well, you missed a bloody good party, mate. The feller you see in the middle of that lot is a Japanese car manufacturer. He wants to come to Ockerroo and build thousands of bloody motor cars.’

‘You sure you know what yer looking at sergeant Clappers? Hey, is it worth a week’s supply of beer if I told you that feller answers to the name of Joe Siggatoka? Japanese car manufacturer be buggered, he comes from bloody Thursday Island, mate. Hell, we did a spot of time together in Long Bay.’

‘Go get three more beers, will yer constable? Our new-found mate and confidant has a terrible thirst coming on. Two weeks of free beers, was it not, my friend? Hey, you wouldn’t like to go home, have a shower, then come back up to the station for a feed. My missus would very much like to meet you.’

There is a saying that if you live long enough in the dry land where the crows fly backwards to keep the bull dust out of their eyes, your brain plays strange tricks with your eyeballs … all the women look drop dead beautiful, and you are a dead cert to believe any stranger that wanders into town. Nobody knows why it happens, but the funny part is it only afflicts males. Women seem to be immune from this weird mental illness known as going troppo out west. The good news is it wears off once you spend three months back in civilization. Cripes, fair dinkum mate, once yer back to normal a bloke with a good copper’s nose can smell a crim at five hundred yards … give or take a few inches if there’s a stiff wind blowing.

Clappers and a Bloke Called Joe

iAN Derrick

Tweed Heads, Australia

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Artist's Description

Back again in Ockerroo where it seems sergeant Clappers Clarke, suffering a mild case of outback troppo disease, is going investment mental over the arrival of a bloke called Joe Mitsubishi…Big things are about to happen in the one dunny town of Ockerroo and it has nothing to do with emus.

Artwork Comments

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