Mr and Mrs Dirty of Number Four, Sativa Drive, Nimbin were proud to say they were perfectly out-of-it most of the time, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in working or anything like that because they just couldn’t get it together most of the time.
Mr Dirty was the part-owner of a head-shop called Bongs ‘R’ Us which obviously was a shop that sold bongs. He was a big, dopey lump of a man with a long pony-tail but hardly any hair on top although he did have a big, bushy beard.
Mrs Dirty was thin, wasted and nervous-looking and had nearly twice the amount of pink and bottle-blond hair gelled and sticking up on the top of her head. It came in very useful as she spent her time as a cockatoo looking out for the local police and narcs.
The Dirtys had a small ratbag son called Filthy and in their opinion there was no finer lad in the whole of the North Coast Rainbow Region.
The Dirtys had everything they wanted – a D.V.D., a tinnie on a trailer with an outboard and a hot ute with fat tyres. But they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn’t think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potheads.
Mrs Pothead was Mrs Dirty’s sister, but they hadn’t met for several years; in fact, Mrs Dirty pretended she didn’t have a sister, because her sister and her dropkick husband were as un-Dirtyish as it was possible to be. They didn’t drink or smoke or play the pokies or anything like that. The Dirtys shuddered to think what the neighbours would say if the Potheads arrived in the street.
The Dirtys knew that the Potheads had a small son, but they had never even seen him. Despite his surname he was rumoured to be as straight as his Mum and Dad. They didn’t want Filthy mixing with a freak like that.
When Mr and Mrs Dirty (common law arrangement) woke up on the dull, grey Tuesday our story starts, there was nothing about the cloudy sky outside to suggest that strange and mysterious things would soon be happening all over the country. Mr Dirty hummed as he picked some buds in his backyard and Mrs Dirty crapped on about nothing in particular as she’d just had her morning bong.
None of them noticed a large Tawny Frogmouth flutter past the window – the one with the broken glass and the Red Indian Dreamcatcher spinning in the breeze.At half past ten, Mr Dirty picked up his Nepalese shoulder bag of bong samples, avoided kissing Mrs Dirty as she had really bad bong-water breath and tried to shuck Filthy under the chin. But the boy told him to “Fuck off Dad” as he was playing Deathwish 2000 on the computer and had pulled a few cones with his Mother as well, so was a bit ratfaced.
“That’s my boy”, chortled Mr Dirty as he left the shack. He got in his purple lowered ute with the fat tyres and the BIG sound system and backed over next door’s pussy before roaring off down the road to do some biz.
It was on the corner of the street that he noticed the first sign of something freakish – a cat in sunglasses reading a book. For a second Mr Dirty didn’t realise what he had seen – then he jerked his boof-head around to look again. There was a cat standing on the corner of Sativa Drive, but there wasn’t a book in sight. What could he have been thinking of? Nobody read books anymore. Not around here. Unless it was “Hot Utes” or “The Idiots Guide to the Kombi” or “The Growers Handbook”. They were alright, if a bit heavy-going.
Mr Dirty blinked and stared at the cat. The cat stared back. “What are yous staring at, man?” the cat said.
“Nothing, man” Mr Dirty replied.
As Mr Dirty drove around the corner and up the road he watched the cat in the mirror. He was now reading the sign that said Sativa Drive, no, looking at the sign; cat’s couldn’t read books or signs. Mr Dirty gave himself a little shake and put the cat out of his mind. As he drove towards town he thought of nothing except a large order of bongs he was hoping to score that day.
But on the edge of town, bongs were driven out of his mind by something else. As he sat in his ute he couldn’t help noticing that there seemed to be a lot of strangely-dressed people about. Clean, tidy people in suits and ties. Maybe they were Mormons or Jehovahs Witnesses. Mr Dirty couldn’t bear people who dressed in suits and ties. Straights wore suits. And who wore a tie anymore? Certainly no-one around here. Unless they were going to a funeral. And even then.
He supposed this was some new stupid fashion. He drummed his fingers on the sports steering-wheel and his eyes fell on a huddle of these straights wearing suits quite close by. They were whispering excitedly together. Mr Dirty was freaked out to see that a couple of them weren’t young at all; why, that man had to be older than he was, and wearing a grey, pinstripe suit! The nerve of him! In Nimbin! But then it struck Mr Dirty that this was probably some silly stunt – these people were obviously collecting for something – yes, that would be it. A few minutes later Mr Dirty arrived at the head-shop where he occasionally worked and his mind went back to bongs.
Mr Dirty always pulled a few cones when he got to the shop and today was no different. So he didn’t see the Frogmouths swooping past in broad daylight, though people in the street did; they pointed and gazed open-mouthed as Tawny Frogmouth after Tawny Frogmouth sped overhead. Most of them had never seen a Tawny Frogmouth even at nighttime. Mr Dirty, however, had a perfectly normal, Frogmouth-free morning – or what was left of it. He mumbled incoherently at five different people who came in to the shop. He made several phone calls, which was a major effort. And he used the word man several hundred times which was about par-for-the-course for Mr Dirty. He was in a very good stoned state until lunch-time, when he thought he’d stretch his legs and walk across the road to buy himself an Organic Banana Soymilk Smoothie – his favourite, from the health food store opposite.
He’d forgotten all about the people in suits until he passed a group of them next to the bakers. He eyed them warily as he passed. He didn’t know why, but they made him uneasy. This lot were whispering excitedly too and he couldn’t see a single collection can or Watchtower amongst them.
It was on his way back past them with his smoothie that he caught a few words of what they were saying.
“The Potheads, that’s right, that’s what I heard – “
“ – yes, their son, Harry – “
Mr Dirty stopped dead. Fear flooded him. He looked back at the whisperers as if he wanted to say something to them but thought better of it.
He looked back across the road, necked the smoothie, seized his telephone and had almost finished dialling his home number when he changed his mind. He put the phone down and stroked his beard, thinking...no, he was being stupid. Pothead wasn’t such an unusual name. He was sure there were lots of people called Harry. There was no point in worrying Mrs Dirty, she always got upset at any mention of her straight sister. He didn’t blame her – if he’d had a sister like that...but all the same, those people in suits...
He found it hard to concentrate on bongs that afternoon, and when he left the shop at five o’clock, he was still so worried that he walked straight into someone just outside the door. “Sorry”, he grunted, as the tiny old man stumbled and almost fell. It was a few seconds before Mr Dirty realised that the man was wearing a violet-coloured suit. He didn’t seem at all upset at being almost knocked A over T. On the contrary, his face split into a wide smile and he said in a squeaky voice that made passing ferals stare: “Don’t be sorry, my dear old mucka, for nothing could upset me today. Rejoice, for You-Know-Who has gone at last! Even Muddle-Headed Wombats like yourself should be celebrating, this happy, happy day!”. And the old codger punched Mr Dirty in his fat guts and walked off.
Mr Dirty stood doubled over trying to get his breath back. He had just been sucker-punched by a complete stranger and it friggin’ hurt. He also thought he had been called a Muddle-Headed Wombat, whatever that was. He was rattled. He hurried to his beaut ute and tear-arsed off home, hoping it was just the Acid kicking in again or at the very least someone had put some mushies in his smoothie, ‘cause he didn’t know what the fuck was going on. And what was that about You-Know-Who had gone? Had the hard-arsed Police Sergeant been transferred?
As he pulled into the driveway of Number Four, the first thing he saw – and it didn’t improve his mood – was the cat he’d seen that morning. He was now sitting on his garden wall. He was sure it was the same one; he had the same sunnies and everything.
“Piss off!” said Mr Dirty loudly.
The cat didn’t move. He just gave him the hard stare. Was this normal cat behaviour Mr Dirty wondered. Weren’t they supposed to be all peace and love and save the gay whales? Dirty went into his shack. He was still determined not to mention anything to the Missus.
Mrs Dirty had had a pretty cool day, as far as days go. She told him over Chinese Takeaway and bottles of V.B. all about the doings at the park that day. The cops had mounted a raid and several of the dealers had been nicked and hauled off to the Cop Shop.
Mr Dirty tried to appear interested but his mind was on other things. He went into the living room in time to catch the last report on the evening news:
“And finely, bird-watchers everywhere have reported that the nations Tawny Frogmouths have been behaving very unusually today. Although Tawnys normally hunt at night and are hardly ever seen in daylight, there have been hundreds of sightings of these birds flying in every direction since sunrise. Experts are unable to explain why the Tawnys have suddenly changed their sleeping pattern.”
The news reader made a stupid grin and commented:
“Most peculiar. And now, over to Tim Bailey with the weather. Going to be any more Tawnys not flying by night, Tim?”
“Well Mate”, said Bailey, “I don’t know about that, but it’s not only the Tawnys that have been going Troppo today. Viewers as far apart as Cooma, Gundagai and Kiama have been phoning in to tell me that instead of the rain I promised yesterday, like the goose that I am, they’ve had a plethora...a veritable plethora, of rainbows popping up everywhere! All over the shop – rainbows. Best get your picks and shovels out folks – the Gold Rush has started.
Mr Dirty sat frozen in his favourite television chair. Rainbows popping up all over the place? Tawnys flying by daylight? Mysterious wankers in suits all over Nimbin? And a whisper, a whisper about the Potheads…
Mrs Dirty came into the living-room with two mugs of Billy Tea. It was no good. He was no good at secrets. He was going to have to say something to her. He cleared his throat nervously.
“Er – Crystal (being the name she picked after the re-birthing session), love – you haven’t heard from your sister lately, have you?”
As he had expected, Mrs Dirty looked like she’d just stepped in a dog turd or found a rat’s tail in her Soyaburger or something. After all, this came totally out of left field – they normally pretended she didn’t have a sister.
“No” she said warily, “Why?”.
“Oh nuthin...just something I saw on the News.” Dirty mumbled. “Somethin’ about Tawny Frogmouths...rampant rainbows...and there’s suddenly a lot of straights in town today.”
“So fuckin’ what?” snapped Mrs Dirty.
“Well, I just thought...um...maybe it was somethin’ to do with...you know...her lot.”
Mrs Dirty gargled her tea while she mulled that one over. Mr Dirty wondered whether he dared tell her he’d heard the name Pothead. He decided against it. He didn’t have the guts. She might hit him. And he didn’t want to wear her gargled tea, either. Instead, he said, all casual like;
“Their son – he’d be about Filthy’s age now, wouldn’t he?”
“I suppose so” Mrs Dirty replied tersely.
“What’s his name again? Heroin, isn’t it?”
“Close, Dirty, very close. His name’s Harry.”
“Oh yeah", said Mr Dirty, “I knew it was something cool.”
He didn’t say another word on the subject while they pulled a couple of pre-bed cones before going upstairs to the “love-nest”.
While Mrs Dirty was in the bathroom picking her nose (and eating it) Mr Dirty crept to the bedroom window and peered down into the front garden (well it used to be a garden but now it was a mass of privet, wild tobacco plants and Orchy bottles).
The bloody cat was still there. It was staring down Sativa Drive as though waiting for something.
Was he imagining things? Could all this bullshit have anything to do with the Potheads? If it did...if it got out down at the Freemasons Arms that they were related to straights – well, he didn’t want to know about it. His reputation would be ruined.
The Dirtys got into the water-bed. Dirty wouldn’t have minded some funny business but Mrs Dirty fell asleep straight away and started snoring. Mr Dirty lay awake, going over things in his mind. His last comforting thought before he fell asleep was that even if the Potheads were involved, there was no reason for them to come near him and Mrs Dirty. The Potheads knew very well what he and Crystal thought about straights. He couldn’t see how he and Crystal could get mixed up in anything that might be going on. He yawned, stretched, farted and reached for Mrs Dirtys fat arse. It couldn’t affect them.
How very wrong he was...
Mr Dirty might have been drifting off into the Land of Nod but the cat on the wall outside was wide awake. It was sitting as still as a statue, its eyes fixed unblinkingly on the far corner of Sativa Drive. It didn't so much as quiver when a Kombi door slammed in the next street, nor when two Tawny Frogmouths swooped overhead. In fact, it was nearly midnight before the cat moved at all.
A man appeared on the corner the cat had been watching; appeared so suddenly and silently you'd have thought he'd just popped out of the ground. The cats tail twitched and his eyes narrowed. Nothing like this dude had ever been seen in Sativa Drive. Not even when the cow-cockies ran the town. He was tall, thin and bloody old, judging by the silver of his mullet-styled hair. He was wearing an expensive-looking charcoal-grey three piece suit and leather brogues (as opposed to your nylon or PVC brogues, if you know what I mean). His small green eyes were the calculating kind you see on kitchen salesmen or solicitors. They were framed by tortoise-shell bifocals that made him look smarter than he really was, although he was smart enough, don't you worry about that. His nose was aquiline or patrician - depending on who's writing this story. This man meant business. His name was MUD. No it wasn't. Couldn't help myself. His name was GOD. There I go again. O.K. third time lucky. His name was...was...Albert Notsodumb. Pronounced "Al-bare". He was no fool but he didn't seem to realise that he'd just arrived in a street where everything from his name to his fancy leather brogues was unwelcome. He was busy going through his pockets looking for something. But he did seem to realise he was being watched, because he looked up suddenly at the cat, which was still staring at him from the other end of the street. For some reason, the sight of the cat seemed to amuse him. He chuckled and muttered a sardonic "I should have bloody known."
He sat down on the wall next to the cat. He didn't look at it directly, but after a moment spoke to it from the corner of his mouth.
"Fancy seeing you here, Hunter."
He turned to smile at the moggy, but it had finally pissed off. Instead he found himself smiling at a tarty-looking sheila wearing black leatherette mini-skirt, fishnet stockings, high heels and a provocative low-cut top showing ample cleavage. She was also wearing sunglasses exactly the same as the cat had been wearing. She was chewing gum and smoking a tailor-made fag.
"How did you know it was me?" she asked.
"My dear Hunter, I've never seen a cat sit so stiffly."
"You'd be fuckin' stiff if you'd been sitting on a friggin' brick wall all day" said Hunter the Cat slash tarty-looking thing.
"All day? When you could have turned a few tricks? Come, come, Hunter. You're slipping. I must have passed a dozen blokes just on my way up here. You could have had a party."
Hunter hissed angrily, threw her fag in the street and ground it out with a high-heel.
"Oh yeah, everyone's partying all right. You'd think they'd be a bit more discreet. Even the Muddle-Headed Wombats have noticed something's goin' on. It was even on the News. That idiot Tim Bailey mentioned it." she said.
"Now, now, you can't blame people for partying, Hunter. We've had precious little to celebrate for eleven years."
"I know that, ya dickhead!" "But that's no reason to lose the plot. People are being downright careless, out on the streets in broad daylight - sticking out like sore-bloody-thumbs. No-one wears suits around here Dude - or hadn't you noticed!"
"You can't blame them", said Notsodumb. "It's been a long eleven years."
"Yeah, well...what if on the very day You-Know-Who seems to have pissed off at last, the Muddle-Headed Wombats found out about us all - you thought of that, Dickbreath?"
Notsodumb ignored the insult.
"Would you like a "Fishermans Friend?"
"A Fishermans Friend" (with or without the accent) - rather good throat lozenges the Wombats suck for bong-breath."
"No I don't want a fuckin' Fishermans Fucking Friend - or any friend for that matter...not unless he pays...I've got all the fuckin' friends I need."
"My dear Pussy, surely a girl like you is not afraid to call him by his real name? All this "You-Know-Who" business - for eleven years I've been trying to get people to call him by his real name: Little Johnny Howard.
"It all gets confusing if we keep saying "You-Know-Who". I have never seen any reason to be frightened of saying Howard's name."
"I know you haven't" said Pussy, half-exasperated, half admiring. "But you're different. Everyone knows you're the only one You-Know- , oh alright, "Johnny Howard" - was frightened of.
"You flatter me babe", said Notsodumb calmly. "Howard had powers I will never have."
"Only because you're too...well...pigheaded to use them."
"Well, yeah...that and the thought of being prosecuted under the Australian Slander Laws."
Pussy looked at him with disgust. "You heard the rumours flying around? You know what everyone's saying. About why he pissed off? About what finally brought him undone?"
Notsodumb played dumb with a poker face.
"What they're saying", she went on, "is that last night Howard turned up in Nimbin looking to score. After that he went to find the Potheads. The rumour is that they're dead."
Notsodumb bowed his head. Pussy caught on. "Donald and Diane - I can't believe it - I didn't want to believe it - Oh Notsodumb!"
Notsodumb reached out and put an arm around her shoulders. "I know...I know", he said with a heavy heart.
Pussy went on. "That's not all. They're saying he tried to knock off the Pothead's son, Harry, too. But he couldn't. He couldn't kill that little boy. No one knows why, or how, but they're saying that he couldn't kill Harry Pothead...Howard's power somehow broke...something to do with Iraq...and that's why he's history."
Notsodumb nodded dumbly.
....to be continued