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south -the thong tree. story 11


‘ That’s not a tree! ‘ was what the boy had first said when his grandfather had showed him the thong tree.

Was once.

‘ It’s a telegraph pole! ‘

Yeah, well now it isn’t.

Toby had looked up at Tom’s collection of thongs, all nailed to the pole and all of the colours. Dozens of them. Australian, Asian, South American, Papuan, Polynesian, African. Twenty-five years collected. Rubber, canvas, plastic, rope. As decayed and rotting a major collection of discarded and unpaired footwear as would be found in any caravan park in the state.

Some years previously a couple of American bushwalkers had trekked up the road to the house and after a cup of tea had taken some photographs of the enstapled pole. They had appeared very impressed.

The boy had not.

‘ That’s pretty silly granddad. ‘

{I realise that my boy but you don’t have to shout out about it.}

‘ Wait until you find one, ‘ had replied Tom, only a little mollified. ‘ You’ll be wanting me to nail it up there with all the others I’m sure. ‘

The boy scoffed for what may have been the first time in his young life.

‘ No I won’t, me and Alf don’t do silly things, ‘ and with that he and the dog had departed for the higher enlightenment of the anthills.


‘ Higher granddad, up above all your old ones. ‘

Tom’s ladder wasn’t long and even when he stood on the topmost rung the boy wasn’t satisfied.

‘ Right up the top! ‘

High enough here thank you – and with two wildly inaccurate clouts he half-buried a nail into the splintered hardwood and impaled the latest thong upon it. Then, resisting a weak impulse to inventory the collection, the old man carefully descended the ladder and in the doing considered again his folly of commencing the accumulation at the bottom rather than the top.

His grandson, a little inconsiderately, did not await the grounding.

‘ Come on Alf, ‘ cried Toby as he loped away towards the beach at the front of the house, ‘ let’s find some more. ‘

His grandfather silently wished them an unfruitful hunt as he left on shaky calves for the sanctity of his couch on the verandah, a broadcast of Beethoven’s 14th Sonata and page 143 of Rogue Male.

And the profitability of pouring his five p.m. rum an hour earlier. The boy was growing an inch a week.

the story so far

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