Joanne E Galliher

5,880 words

The Potoroos’ Second Chance

By:  Joanne E. Galliher


            “Well, don’t know ‘bout you guys; but I’ve had enough of freezin’ my nuts off,” whinges Barry as he gobbles his fourth cricket. “I don’t get it. There’s always heaps of grasshoppers around this rotting tree.”

            He spots Matilda, who’s huddled behind some bushes. He stealthily scampers up to her, taking her by surprise. “Hey, Michelin Matilda, no wonder you started scavenging before sunup! How many grasshoppers have you eaten? Or should I say, how many have you hoarded?  I bet you’re holding out on us.”

            Poor Barry, no matter how much he eats, if he stood sideways, he’d be invisible.

            No wonder he protests, “I bet you’re hiding heaps of grasshoppers under…” Standing on his scrawny hind legs, Barry’s using all his might, trying to lift Matilda, from behind, figuring she’s hiding some grasshoppers under her. His face is like a tomato about to explode. “Crickey! I’ve got as much chance lifting you, Michelin Matilda, as lifting Ayer’s Rock!”

            In one big gulp, all but the antennae of her 6th grasshopper disappears from her lips. “Stop calling me that! You’re just jealous because I’m… Well… I’m ‘husky’… Uh… bulked with muscles; and you’re not.”

            Barry gets the other guy Potoroos chanting: “Michelin Matilda munching twice our food. Michelin Matilda hoarding all our food! Michelin Matilda impossible to mate with…”

            Matilda’s been bigger than other Potoroos. All her life she has learned not to take anyone’s shit. “Yes. I hafta eat grasshoppers. Yes, they’re twice as big as crickets. Yes, I need heaps of protein to maintain all my muscle. NO, I am NOT impossible to mate with. Just ask and of your mates. Mind you, none of them will admit that.”

            As she hops up to them, the ground beneath her steps nearly quakes. “I hafta keep my muscles big enough…” She stands nose-to-nose with Barry. “…To punch the shit outa you blokes, whenever you make fun of me!”  

            Then, from behind her mammoth girth, pops up Marilyn. Well, to the guy Potoroos, she’s a four-legged ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ Barry and the boys go shamefully bashful every time she’s near them.

            In her wet-breathy… Sexy, so Marilyn Monroe voice, she come-hither whispers, “You boys better not be picking on my friend. Mating season’s just around the corner.”

            She plants a kiss on Matilda’s jowls. With one of her so enchanting giggles, she adds, “Matty’s like the sister I never had. So, you…” Her sigh makes the boys go weak at the knees.  “So, you boys better treat her nice; or well…” She lets out another psaltery sigh. “Or I won’t pick any of you… to… Well, you know. I just can’t help myself… Can I, boys? I mean, every mating season… (giggles) I just feel like some rabbit; and well, (giggles) you know what rabbits are known for (giggles).”

            She slowly and seductively sash-shays up to them. She stabs her sex-filled gaze into each of guys, one at a time. They’re immediately and hypnotically, love-struck.  “Now, go on… Boys. Let Matilda and I eat in peace. We need our strength to do our… (giggles) bunny… (giggles)… potoroo… things with you boys.”

            Totally under her spell, the boys stagger-away. In no time, they’re at the ‘Potoroo Bloke’s Shed’—a burrow made of rocks, beside a creek… Their haven away from females.  One by one, they come out of their love stupor. With a long quivering (from the loins kinda) sigh… Barry says, “I wonder which of us Marilyn will mate with. I bet I’ll get the short straw—and I’ll hafta mate with Matilda, again.” The other boys mockingly laugh. One even says, “Well, maybe if you didn’t have such a ‘short stick,’ you wouldn’t get the short stick.”

            Barry tries to knock that guy down; but being so scrawny, well… that guy barely feels his nudge. He quickly changes the topic.  He’s up, jubilantly flaying his forefeet. “Yeah – I like how those sheila rabbits love sex!  And… Talk about damn lucky!  Least when a bloke rabbit ‘throws his leg-over,’ he certainly gets more than one offspring.  Least boy rabbits have somethin’ t’show for their virility!” 

            With greedy lust streaking his eyes, Barry paces around this trio of best mates. “Imagine that,” he says, blustering with lusty wonder. “If I was a rabbit, I could easily get a dozen bunnies after just ‘shootin’-me-load’ once!”

            One of the boys drops his head woefully. “Hell, Barry… No sense talkin’ about what boy and girl rabbits do. We ain’t rabbits! Go on home! Hangin’ around you gets depressing,” says one of them.  Feeling dejected, Barry woefully heads for home.  

            With his burrow, just inches away, Barry gets this urge to lay on some cushy Button Grass. He fills his mind with his self-concocted porn movie… Just him and dozens of sexy rabbits. ‘Yeah, that’s the real deal—Roll over Hefner! Check out this well-endowed Potoroo!’

            So lustfully enthralled, he takes no notice of Marilyn and Matilda, as they sit outside the burrow.             

            Like King Kong over a mouse, Matilda stands towering over Barry. “We heard that rubbish you spewed at that ‘Blokes’ Shed’ of yours. As far as procreating, it’s the quality not the quantity, that matters. We girl Potoroos produce some fine, furry babies.  Okay – so we only make one-at-a-time.  But…”

            She sharply pokes Barry’s snout with her forefoot. He winces with pain and his eyes immediately water.  With an even sharper poke, she boasts,“We come with ‘insurance.’  If somethin’ happens to the first baby – we have a ‘back-up’.” 

            Marilyn matches Matilda’s hands on hips, stubborn stance. And, in her wet-breathy voice, she says, “Gee, didn’t your father teach you anything? It’s called ‘diapause’ – (giggles) while the first embryo is growing, there’s a second embryo right behind it.”

            So, now, both Matilda and Marilyn tower over meek Barry. With a painful jab of her forefoot, between his saucer big eyes, Matilda accentuates each of her words. “So… since… we… Potoroos… give… you… blokes… a great Warranty… Stop your whinging!”

            Barry puts up his forefeet in surrender.  “Crickey! You sheilas even invade our Blokes’ Shed!” He meekly looks around. “Humph,” he whimpers, “There are two of you and only one of me. A bit unfair – don’t ya think? Everybody knows that any sheila can talk circles ‘round any of us blokes!” He nervously eyes the entrance to the burrow. “I mean – who ever said ‘three’s company’ is as dumb as a drongo!  It’s damn tough havin’ t’live with you two! You bet I’m gonna find a few blokes t’move in with, tomorrow!”

            Seeing the surprise on their faces splashes fearless courage on his face. “Enough with this debatin’. It’s cold enough t’freeze the tits off any sheila.”  He holds his head high, as he smugly hops towards their burrow.

            Matilda and Marilyn stand on their hind legs, like a pair of pub bouncers. Still having a drop of that courage, Barry blasts, “Now, what? You’re not gonna boot me out tonight!” Then, so meek, he’s barely heard, he pleads, “You’re not gonna boot me out tonight… Right? It’s just on dusk and look… There’s frost coverin’ everything.” “Come on,” he squeaks, pleadingly.

            Seeing that neither girl bats an eyelash, Barry’s instantly on his hind legs, with his head hung low… Pressing his forefeet, as if in prayer. “You can see every star… And ya know what that means – It’s gonna get close t’below zero t’night.  Come on…”

            Marilyn whispers to Matilda – “Ya know, for a change – he knows what he’s talking about.”

            As soon as they step aside… Well, Barry’s rollin’ around and about to do cartwheels. “That’s me girls!” And then, with a Don Juan smile and a wink, he adds, “Ah… Spoonin’ time, with my favorite girls!”  

            He hops into the burrow, as if he’s some burly Rugby Prop, about to play ‘the game of his life’—Indeed, ‘A Threesome’ and with Marilyn, no less.

            But in a blink of an eye, Marilyn darts around him. “Ta-Ta! I’m headin’ over to that really…Mmm… So comfy-cosy burrow, that caught my eye. Ooo. I bet who ever lives there has Truffles!”

            Barry’s eyes are round with shock and fear, as he feels Matilda’s two-tonne arm hook his scrawny neck. Fiendishly, she imitates Marilyn’s wet and breathy voice… And, giggling she whispers, “Looks like mating season’s early, eh, my Little Truffle.” In one swift move, she rolls a huge rock, blocking the burrow’s entrance.  Struck with fear, all Barry can do is give her a toothy smile. He gulps, “Well, why should this mating season be different from all the others… Yes, my Precious Potoroo, it tis you and me… (gulp) again.”

            At the crack of dawn, Marilyn’s just outside the burrow; grunting as she tries to roll the big rock away from the entrance. “Hey, come on! After all last night’s nooky, you must be as hungry as me! Let’s get some Truffles before everyone hoards all of them!”

            Naturally, Barry wants to impress Marilyn. So, with all his might, he tries to push aside the rock. Matilda rolls her eyes. “Here, let me do it. We’ll be here all day and even then, you won’t get it open.”

            Marilyn’s hoping up and down. “Ever since that bush fire, Truffles are as rare as hens’ teeth!”

            The girls huddle together and giggling and whispering… More than likely, sharing nooky stories. Barry’s still recovering from his effort to move the rock.

            Marilyn swings her hips side-to-side, as she hops up to him. Much to his shock, she strokes just behind his ear. Her words are warm with seduction.  “Ya know, Barry…” She says drawling out his name.  “Last count, there were only forty of us Potoroos here at ‘Kinjarling’ – ‘The Place of Rain’ – Well…”

            Up on her hind legs, she strokes behind his ear while gently nibbling his other ear. Her words ignite with seduction. “And there are maybe ten of us sheila Potoroos and thirty of you bloke Potoroos. So…We girls figure it’ll be the bloke that brings us the most Truffles who’ll win our… Well… ‘Love’… If you get my drift. And, well – those who don’t, can surely be in for one long dry spell.”

            Somehow, Barry half-resists her seduction. “Hold on there.  Don’t I get some ‘points’ for this fine home I built?  No other sheila Potoroos have such thick Eucalyptus walls a-a- and with pink and grey granite!”

            Matilda jabs her snout into his face. “We can’t eat granite! You’d better listen to Marilyn.”

            Barry just can’t think fast enough. “Fine! Come on then. I’ll get us some Truffles.”          

            It’s a shame that rocks don’t slam shut. For, in a blink of an eye, Barry’s standing all alone outside the burrow. “Hey, I thought you wanted some Truffles!” The girls giggle. And Matilda says, “After all last night’s nooky, we girls need to sleep in. What’s wrong… Aren’t you strong enough to carry back some Truffles for us?”

            From sunrise to sunset, Barry wearily wears a path from a grove of Eucalyptus Trees to the entrance of their hobble-home, carting as many truffles as he can find.

            He mumbles to himself on his sixth haul… Hopefully loud enough that the two girls might hear him. “I must’ve hopped a 100kms t’find those exposed Eucalyptus roots – where (sigh)… There were a measly six Truffles! Those damn drunken Roo- hunting SOBs who started last year’s bush fire! I’d be the first meat-eatin’ Potoroo and bite the hell out of ‘em!”

            Instantly, Matilda slides the rock aside. She and Marilyn mob Barry… Trampling him, they gobble-down at least half the Truffles in just minutes.

            “Aww… girls. You’re so sweet. Fancy savin’ me half…”  Just as he reaches for a Truffle, Matilda shoves him, nearly knocking him out unconscious. “You know the drill! We girls eat the fresh Truffles and you get the recycled Truffles… Which…” She belches and farts. “Which I reckon will be ready for you, in a couple of hours, judging by how my gut feels.”

            Dejectedly, Barry shuffles off, muttering. “I always get the shitty Truffles or should I say, ‘the shitted-out Truffles.’”

            One spring morning…

            For the 10th night in a row, poor Barry has slept jammed up against the rocky side of the burrow; and Matilda and Marilyn have slept spread-out, on top of some soft leaves and grass.

            As he rubs his sore back, he says, “Don’t get me wrong… Uh Marilyn. I do love having you sleep near me. I mean, what bloke wouldn’t. But, seeings how all we do is sleep, I can’t help but wonder why you left that other bloke… The one with the really nice burrow…”

            As Marilyn grooms her hind fur, she matter a factly says, “Oh, I just hang out with him during the night.” She giggles. “Well, I do more than ‘hang out with him.’ But, as far as being a provider? Well, all he gets me are crickets. And a girl, can’t live on crickets alone. I mean…” She hops up to Barry, who after watching her grooming, is love struck. “I mean, Sweet Barry, how’s a girl, like me, t’keep her fur so… Well, you know… So soft and subtle, if all she eats are crickets?”

            As usual, Matilda rules the roost. “OK. Snap outa your gawkin’ and droolin’ over Marilyn. You keep that up and I’ll boot your ass outa here! There’s foraging to do!”

            Still disheartened, Barry lags behind the girls. Their merriment only quadruples his melancholy. “Yes! Spring has sprung,” sing Marilyn and Matilda as they hug each other, dancing on their hind feet. Just a few minutes’ stroll into the forest…

            …All around them is a breathtaking sight – yellow Cowslip Orchids, yellow with tinges of purple Sturt’s Desert Peas, and as red as any Outback sunset are Orchids so ‘red’ with ‘cherry-like’ centre bulbs… And everywhere there are fields of Kangaroo Paw flowers.

            Then… “Look!  What a gold mine,” screams Barry. “There hasta be at least twenty Truffles canopied by that Lantana!”

            Of course, the trio trip over each other trying to get to the Truffles. Then… there’s a most frightening sound. One that they have never, in all their lives heard.  The metal slammed on metal rattles their heads.  At first, the three freezes, in shock. But, then they’re each fraught with fear and frantic. They desperately body slam the walls of the cage. Seeing how even so hulk-like, Matilda can’t even bend the wire, hopelessness consumes them.

             Next, they’re buffeted around, with that cage sliding around, in the back of a Land Rover.

            Suddenly, the Rover stops. The three Potoroos huddle into each other, with their heartbeats gyrating them from head-to-tail. 

            The driver talks to his passenger, “You’d best sit in the back.  Hold that cage or we’ll end up with broken Potoroos.  And that would piss-off S.G.P.”

            The three captives’ eyes dilate and balloon with fear.

            Barry squeezes his eyes shut. ‘I can’t show I’m scared, shitless! I gotta be brave!’

            Marilyn desperately squirms, tucking herself under him.  As much as, for years he has dreamt of him being in ‘this position’ with Marilyn… “Ouch, Marilyn!  Move your forefeet! They’re stabbing my ribs,” he says with a string of groans. 

            “No,” she screams.  “I’m so scared, Barry!”  She’s sobbing uncontrollably.

            Like a neon light, his mind types out: “Here’s your chance to be Marilyn’s hero!” He pokes his paw, groping under himself.  “Here.  Give me your paw.  I won’t let anything happen to you.”

            Up flings Marilyn’s trembling paw. “Y’ouch! That’s my eye,” yells Barry.

            His curt yell makes Marilyn’s sobbing triple. “I- I- I’m sorry Marilyn.” He rubs his sore eye with his other paw. With a nervous chuckle he says, “Not to worry. I’ve got a spare eye.”

            Then, the tailgate’s flung open, making an eerie grating sound.

            Barry whispers in panic. “Psst, Marilyn – scoot to the left!  Come on, Matilda! We gotta at least try to save our lives! We’ll hang onto the cage wire for dear life!”

            Curtly, Matilda says, “Shut up! I can’t think! I just know I’ve heard about that ‘SGP’; but darned if I can remember what it stands for!”

            Suddenly, a black face, glistening with sweat appears at the cage door.

            Now, it’s Matilda who’s senselessly panicked. “It’s a black giant! You bet we gotta hang onto this wire for dear life!”

            Who wouldn’t be scared witless? The man looks like a black jack-o-lantern, with blindingly white teeth – grinning ear-to-ear.  Then, he talks…

            “Don’t be afraid,” he says in a very soothing tone.  “I’m with SGP.  We looks-after you sorts… I mean t’say, you poor Gilbert Potoroos are vanishing.” Nothing but empathy and kindness shine in his onyx eyes. “Back in The Dream Time, I bet we were kin.  I mean t’say – we both have been made ‘critically endangered’ – eh, mates?  There aren’t many of us true Menang Noogar People around.  We too are pretty much extinct.”

            He smacks his lips. Matilda gasps. “Oh no! This black fella thinks we’re some fine delicacy!  Shit! He looks like he’s gonna eat us!”

His eyes sparkle like onyx and white granite. “You three must be thirsty too – eh? Here… Move back.  I’ll pour ya some water.”

            He then hollers to the driver.  “Eh! Hold-up a bit!  Let these rare beauties have a bit of water and…”

            “Ooo… Look what I have for you! A Truffle for each of you!  Bet you’re fed up just eatin’ bugs – eh? Me mate won’t start t’drive ‘til you have your tucker. Too bumpy…”

            Marilyn bravely pokes her head from under Barry; and all three stares at this man, with jaws dropped.

            He laughs ticklishly. “Oh, you’re so scared. I can’t blame ya. But ya see the SGP – well, the ‘Save the Gilbert’s Potoroo’ Foundation’ wants to give you a nicer life!”

     “Okay, Bazza – head out! They’ve had their tucker!”

            Barry’s face fills with a smug grin. “Hey! This bloke just might be okay!  One of ‘em’s named ‘Barry’ too!”

            The kind black man climbs into the back of the Rover and anchors the cage with his legs. “Don’t you worry. My name’s ‘Alkira’ and so I’m like ‘the sky’ – watching and protecting all living things.”

            After that frightening capture, the Potoroos are drained; and they snuggle into each other, falling into a deep sleep – all except for Matilda.

            She quietly cries.  “Gilbert’s Potoroos. When I was just a baby, I remember my father telling me a story about some man named ‘Gilbert,’ and how he was the first human being to find us. He figured out that we aren’t anything like the ‘long-nose’ or the ‘long foot’ Potoroos…”

            A smile dashes away her tears.  “I like that – ‘SGP--Save the Gilbert’s Potoroos’.” She lets out a long sigh infused with utter relief.  ‘Maybe we – Gilbert Potoroos - will get a second chance,’

            Completely exhausted, the three sleep for hours.

            Then, the heat from the mid-day sun wakes them. Matilda’s the first to stand on her haunches, sniffing.

            “Hmmm… What is that smell,” she whispers to Barry. “Not sure.  It kinda smells like a croc’s creek,” he says dubiously.

            “Well! I’m so happy you had a good long sleep, my friends,” says Alkira. He hops out of the truck and gently scoots the cage out.

            “Hope you three don’t get seasick. It’s a pretty calm day on the bay. Oh, are you gonna love your new home, Bald Island. My other friends – F.A.M.E. – uh… ‘Foundation for Australia’s most Endangered species’ raises money, so that you critters can have a second chance.”

            He leans in and whispers to the three. “How I wish us Menang Noogar People could be listed on the ‘critically endangered list’ and get help… Oh well.  But, many of us have survived that horrible Stolen Generation stuff.”

            As he carries them to the awaiting boat, Matilda breathes a sigh of relief. “I was a tad worried there.  Ya see…” She gulps. “I d-d-didn’t wanna tell you two, but I saw something really horrible last summer. I saw this man shoot a long-nose Potoroo and then…” She gulps again. “Th- Th- Then he used it as bait, to catch a croc. But this is way too deep for crocs. Whew.”

            Their boat ride’s uneventful; and, if there is such a thing as a ‘Potoroos’ Cruise Ship,’ these three have experienced one. Alkira really looks-after them. Every meal’s Truffles. You’d almost think that atop their daily changed beds of leaves and grass, he’d place a Truffle.

            Once at Bald Island… One fine spring day, the three sun-bake on the edge of the forest.

            Barry leaps to his feet and stretches. “Well, spring waits for no one – eh?  I think I’d best go on a ‘prowl’. Yes!  Time to uh… check out the locals… I mean… the local scenery. He looks at Matilda… And even Marilyn, as if to say, ‘You’re yesterday’s news.’

            “Yep, I bet there are a few frisky sheila Potoroos who’d line up t’mate with me.”    

            Marilyn jumps out in front of him. “Hey! Matilda and I aren’t exactly ‘chopped Sandgropers’! How come, ever since we came here, you treat us as if invisible?”

            Barry shakes his head bewilderedly. “Don’t know… I vaguely remember when I was hot-after-you. But…”  He slowly scans the lush forest before them. “But, it’s just that there are so many sheila Potoroos here. A guy can hardly make a choice!”

            She hangs her head dejectedly. “B-B but Barry, you’ve forgotten something. When I was just barely hopping, you promised my parents that you would well… you ‘know’…You promised them, just as those men caught ‘em and took ‘em away… that we’d have a family one day.”

            Barry jerks his head back quite appalled. “Gee, Marilyn – I only said that to give ‘em peace of mind. I- I It’s not that you’re not pretty… But, I uh… Honestly… I just got worn out havin’ to always chase you. You never gave me the time of day. Ya know, you can only push a bloke away so many times…”

            Poor Marilyn buries her tear drenched face into Matilda’s chest, who pats her head and ominously shakes her paw at Barry. “I swear, some of you blokes have hammers for hearts!  Why don’t you try to feel for someone, before you open your damn mouths – clobberin’ us girls’ hearts?”

            Barry stares at the two girls with utter cluelessness. Then, from out of nowhere, an idea pops into his head. He slowly hops up to them. “Gee, Marilyn.  From here on out, I promise I’ll shove both forefeet in my gob before I say somethin’ I’ll only regret…”

            Matilda angrily waves her paw. “Forget it! You’ve done your dash! Go on! Don’t you worry, I’ll prove to Marilyn that there are plenty of better blokes around here! Hff!”

            Barry slowly lumbers off; now and then, he looks over his shoulder with such puppy eyes.

            After being on walk-about three days, Barry happily hops up the girls. Matilda’s examining Marilyn’s ear. “Whatcha lookin’ at,” asks Barry, curiously.

            Very seriously, Marilyn says, “Hmm… I g-g-guess ‘it’s alright. I mean, I – I I can’t quite see ‘it’.  All’s I can do is feel ‘it’.  Here! You look, Barry – okay?”

            He dives his eyes into Marilyn’s left ear.  “Yeah? So what? It’s just a ‘chip’ that we all hafta have if we wanna stay here. So… uh… What’s the big deal?”

            “Don’t laugh at me,” Marilyn pouts. “It’s just that we’ve been here for weeks and well…”

            She shuffles shyly from one forefoot to the other. “And none of the guys have well, given me a second look.  Does this ‘chip’ make me look ugly?”

            Barry immediately jams both forefeet into his mouth, looking as if he’s holding his breath. Quite annoyed, Marilyn says, “Well!  Answer me!”

            He pulls his paws from his mouth and gives her a very cheeky smile. “I told ya I would make myself think before I said stuff! See… I am a bloke of my word!”

            Marilyn giggles and she twirls around as if dancing with her long tail; and girlishly pleads, “Soooo… Tell me!”

            Now, Barry’s shuffling his forefeet shyly with his head hung low.

            Guardedly, he slowly scampers up to her.

            Marilyn immediately stops her girlish dancing. She muffs her ears with her paws. “Oh no! You’re gonna tell me the truth – aren’t you?  Forget it!  I don’t wanna know!”

            Barry goes to grab her but stumbles; and he ends up tackling her – sprawled atop her.

            “What are you doing, you klutz,” yells Marilyn, as she manages to pull herself to standing – quite ruffled.

            Barry just can’t look her in the eyes. “B-B Before I fell on you, I wanted to uh… t-t- tell you that I’m … uh… fallin’ for you!”

            Then, as autumn transforms Bald Island, fading its array of colourful leaves and flowers…

            Alkira’s slowly walking around, holding out his scanning device.  A huge smile fills his face when his scanner identifies his three mates. “Well, you three….”

            His smile fills his whole face. “Oops… You three are now five!”

            Matilda and Marilyn nuzzle and giggle.

            “Wait! There are seven of you,” screams Alkira. “Hmm… let me scan…”

            “Well! I’ll be! There are two ‘oldies’ amongst ya! Numbers 23 and 34 – one’s a female and the other’s a male!”

            Immediately, Marilyn nuzzles the old pair, one at a time. “Oh!  Are you kidding? Nah! Th-Th They’re your parents, Matilda! I’d recognize their scent anywhere!”

            Alkira’s leaping about doing a crazy dance. Tears cascade down his cheeks and he can’t stop laughing. “Oh, how I wish I was a Potoroo! Maybe I too could find my parents,” screams Alkira.

            Barry, Marilyn and Matilda flit-about as if dancing with glee.

            Alkira’s eyes dart to Marilyn’s tummy… then, at Matilda’s. “You two are turnin’ into real blimps! Maybe I won’t give ya these truffles after all!”

            Alkira walks off with a bounce in his steps. Then, he twirls around in a flash. “Oh… WOW! You two girls are ‘up the duff’! Unreal!”

            He’s hooting and hollering, and dancing around like a crazy tribal man.

            “Nothin’ could make me leave you guys now! I’ll be right back. I’ll just get my swag and a few supplies. I ain’t gonna leave ya ‘til you give birth!”

            But, days pass and Alkira still has not returned.

            Barry, who’s now Marilyn’s hubby and Davo (Matilda’s father) are building a bigger home, a good three kilo meters from the small original home.

            “Darn good idea, Davo,” says Barry, as he thumps his chest ever so manly.  “Just look at all those root-exposed Eucalyptus trees. Perfect for truffles to grow by the bushel!

            “And, as a back-up,” boasts Nigela, Davo’s misses (and Matilda’s mum), “Lots of rotting wood too --- Perfect for heaps of termites, if Truffles are scant.”

            Matilda hollers, “Hey! You wouldn’t believe how many crickets and Sandgropers are multiplying over in that tall damp grass! Yep – we’ve struck gold!”

            With Marilyn and Matilda about to give birth any day, none of them venture very far from the new home.

            In the meantime, at the Bald Island SGP headquarters, Alkira’s flat on his back, writhing with pain. He tries to pull himself up to sitting, but a beautiful Aborigine woman quickly and gently presses him to lying back down. Feeling quite delirious, he thinks, ‘Wow! Am I in The Dream Time? No – I can’t be… I hurt too much. But look at this beautiful black angel!’

            Her black as coal eyes magnetize to his wide with wonder eyes. ‘Oh… Look at how her eyes have white diamonds sparkling! I must be dead… or dreaming!’

            “G’day. I’m ‘Barega’…

            Alkira winces with pain; but works-up a cheeky smile. “Oh yes, you definitely are ‘the wind’ – a breath of fresh and radiant air.”

            “Well,” she chuckles.  “You may be suffering from your concussion… You see, you were trying to put out a bush fire… And I guess you got smoke inhalation… Fell… cracked your head and suffered some burns to your left arm.”

            “What,” yells Alkira, in a panic.  “Wh- Where… Wh- Wh- When…?”

            Then, she drops her head sullenly. “You don’t remember – Do you? You came running into camp… Oh… three days ago.  So excited about the seven Gilbert’s Potoroos you found…”

            Alkira’s springs to his feet but falls back onto the bed.

Barega instantly says, “Hey! You can’t go anywhere! We’re not sure if you’re brain-damaged or not.”

            Alkira’s hysterical. “My Potoroo mates hafta make it! Them surviving and living happy lives, is like my own kins’ spirits in them – surviving and living again!”

            His tear drenched eyes plead. So, Barega looks to her left and then to her right – scoping out the situation. “Yes, you did say you felt that one of the female Potoroos reunited with her parents…”

            She shakes her head in total amazement. “It took me from 18 to when I turned 35, to find my mother. As soon as I turned eighteen, I left that dreadful ‘hole’ that Mission… that was my so-called ‘home’ since I was just five.”

            Then, she commands, “Get up!”

            Alkira’s woozy, but just a glance from Barega’s black almond eyes, boosts him with strength. “Take me to my tent! I gotta get my map,” he says with urgency.

            With the map spread out, Barega says, “Quick! Show me how far the fire is from here!” He points to the spot, where he last saw the seven Potoroos.

            In a panic, Barega says, “At our briefing… uh… an hour ago… The fire had reached here!” Alkira completely forgets about his pain. “Crickey! That’s just a skip ‘n a hop from their burrow! Uh… ‘bout 15 kilo meters away from it!”

Frantically, he says, “You gotta drive my Rover! My left hand and arm’s all blister-burnt!”

            Barega drives the Rover as good as any bull rider.

            Alkira quickly steals a glance at her. ‘Damn if I’m not smitten by this ‘black angel’ already!’

            “Whoa! Stop! My ‘Second Chance Potoroo mates’ live just up there!” He flies out of the Rover, making a mad dash to what was their home.  “Damn! They’re not here!”  Frantically, he looks in every direction.

            Then, finally a smile filled with some relief fills his face. “I think I knows my mates as well as I knows me own bum! I bet they’re that way! They have such a hankerin’ for Truffles. I used to gather ‘em over there! Hurry!”

            Just before he leaps back into the Rover, his eyes dart to the ground. “See that shit? Call me as ‘mad as a cut snake’ but I just know that’s one of ‘em’s shit!”

            He drops to all fours and sniffs the faeces.  “Yep – I smell Truffle in that shit! And…”  He breaks into hysterical laughter. “I just know those clever Potoroos know that from Truffle filled shit grows more Truffles. Damn! Bet, they’ve been planting for more Truffles!”

            “We can’t drive through there,” screams Barega. “Too many big boulders for the Rover!  We gotta hoof-it!”

            “Ooo…” moans Alkira. “Damn me arm’s caning me something fierce!”

            “Shut your gob – you whinger,” screams Barega. “Your days of pains aren’t nothin’ to what them Potoroo’s might be feelin’ bein’ burnt t’a crisp! Run!”

For a split second, Alkira thinks, ‘Humph. When sheilas are right, they’re damn-straight right! I can do this. Run like the wind!’

            Then, he stops dead in his next step, thinking, ‘It’s Fate! Me meeting Barega! Hell, my name’s Sky and hers is Wind! We belong together!’

            They drive as far as the Rover can manage. Then, they do the rest on foot. In no time, they’re panting like a pair of old Brumbies. “Whew, Barega, we surely are like a pair of middle-aged once upon a time, wild horses,” says breathless Alkira. Barega hunches behind him and with a prankish laughter, she shoves him forward. shoving him forward. “There’s no such thing as ‘an old First People.’ We’re Aborigines! We’re the world’s first people! No one and nothing can hold us down. No one and nothing can make us give up. We are ‘indigenous’ and our generations of strife have given us infinite strength.”

            Just then, Alkira throws himself forward, laughing in unleashed joy. He hollers, “There you are! You ‘Seven from Heaven’! We, the Sky and the Wind are here, to take you to safety!”

            “But, Alkira, we don’t have a cage,” says Barega. Of course, Alkira roars with a laughter. “A cage? Are you kidding? These are my mates… Stuff that! These are my kin – my spiritual family!”

             “Gives me yer top,” he screams.

            Barega jolt and her head jerks back, completely shocked.  “What? You want me to go top-less?”

            “Oh Crickey, woman! Just, for once do as a bloke tells ya!”

            He winces with pain as he quickly takes off his shirt. In no time he ties her top and his shirt together. Now, me ‘Second Chance Gilbert’s Potoroos,’ gets yourselves in this knapsack!”

            Well, as befitting of any paradise, time flies by so fast. It’s nearly their second spring.

            “Ah, can ya believe it, my sweet Marilyn,” says Barry, as content as any Potoroo found in acres of Truffles.  “Here we are in our second spring, at Bald Island…”

            He nuzzles his snout deep into her jowls. “Yes,” sighs Marilyn with her so typical wet breathy voice. She kisses his snout.  “But, I’m afraid, to tell you, my handsome Barry… Milly and Billy – our two toddlers… Well, they want more Truffles…”

            “Crickey.  No rest for we weary studs – eh, me Precious Love? Fine. Off I go…”

     “And take your best mate – uh … Matilda’s two youngins with you, named Alkira and Barega.”

            As Barry throws his arm around his best mate, old Nigel, he slowly shakes his head.   “Ain’t it fair dinkum, downright amazing, eh mate – how our ‘Misses ‘n Cheeses’ do that, uh ---?”

            Nigel rubs Barry’s shoulder sympathetically. “Yep. Love that ‘diapause’ stuff --- where we blokes get ‘Two for one leg-throw-over’.”

            The two stroll along, laughing. Just as they get to the river, they see Alkira and Barega lying, snuggled into each other, with their backs resting against a broad Eucalyptus trunk… fishing.

            “Oh Alkira, have a look at Marilyn and Barry’s Alkira and Barega,” says Barega bubbling with girlish giggles.

            At the same time, Barry and Nigel say, “have a look at Alkira and Barega’s twin toddlers named Barry and Marilyn.”



            As Barega snuggles her lips into Alkira’s neck, her words sigh with immeasurable contentment – “I might be crazy, but ya know what, I bet those b aby Potoroos are named after us.”

            Alkira chuckles and kisses her cheek with tender love. “Of course, they’ve named their babies after us.”

            At the same time, Barry wraps one of his forefeet around Marilyn’s neck.  Then, with a sigh full of contentment, he says, “Yep, we critically endangered species --- Aborigines and Gilbert’s Potoroos --- surely deserve this fine ‘second chance.’

            Marilyn whispers to Barry. “What? We’re what,” he yells. Well, she giggles as she gently pats her bulging tummy.

            Barega whispers to Alkira. “What? We’re what,” he yells. Well, she giggles as she gently pats her bulging tummy.

            “Well my sweet Barega, it looks like our count of Gilbert’s Potoroos will be closer to fifty, in a month or so.”

The End

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by Joanne E Galliher (Second Edition)... a quirky ecological short story fiction.  *It has been published in a literary magazine! Use Joanne's CONTAC T PAGE to let her know what you think of it.