Conversation With a Marsupial
by Perry McDaid
“You’re not a bear, at all, are you?” It was a rhetorical question from Barry as he perched on his Segway: you didn’t get to be a Park Guide unless you knew your stuff; not even past the boardroom interview. Currumbin Sanctuary was closed for the day and he was just amusing himself in between chores.
The koala slowly reached for a fresh sprig without taking its eyes off him. They were hard little button eyes, devoid of emotion. It stuffed the eucalyptus in its mouth and made a production of chewing it.
“There you go, noshing down, clinging to your tree like a booze-hound to the bar of his local.” Barry laughed, both at the image the ad hoc comparison brought to his mind’s eye, and the absurd scenario which developed from it. He shared this with the female.
“Can’t even use your pouch to take a stubby home, it opening upside down and all.” He chuckled some more.
The koala farted mid-chew and adjusted its grip on the sprig.
Shouldn’t you be doing something…somewhere else?
Barry started, colour draining, and glanced over his shoulder. His hands hovered over the controls, ready to respond to the expected supervisor. There was no-one there.
Oh bugger, he checked.
Barry faced the koala again. It was a little further up the tree. He wasn’t sure how he got the impression, but it looked perturbed.
What? You look as if you just found a boa in your shorts. Not that I’ve ever seen one, safe here in the old sancto, but I imagine it would cause that sort of reaction.
You hear stories.
Barry’s hand slipped and the Segway bucked and veered. He landed in a heap, but quickly recovered to bounce to his feet, scanning for witnesses and nursing a sprained ankle.
He hobbled to the Segway and wrestled it out of the bush, refusing to look in the direction of the flatulent creature.
‘Course I spoke, you goose. No point me being nifty about it now… Hey, that looks swollen.
Barry dragged a damp handkerchief from the pocket of his cargo shorts and dabbed the sweat from his weathered brow. “I need to hydrate. I’m hallucinating.”
He reached into the thermos bag mounted on the front of the vehicle and drank greedily from his flask. Only when finished did he risk a glance at the marsupial.
It was hugging bark higher up the eucalyptus than before…still chewing that sprig but wonderfully silent. Barry got back on the Segway and leaned over the handlebars, slouching into a relieved sigh. His ankle throbbed.
Think you were chucking a wobbly there, did you? If you’ve any ambitions of being a fair dinkum Ranger, you need to pull your head in.
Barry gave in. “You’re talking.”
The koala began another laborious chewing session. Got it.
“Can all koalas talk?”
Only those that bother to learn the lingo. Less since you Whiteys arrived. Weird sets of vocabularies and declinations you lot have. Could you not all just speak the same language?
“Never realized you were that intelligent,” Barry admitted, sensing potential for getting to know the park better through this unusual potential mentor.
Oi, you’ve knocked enough without remarks like that. I’ll have you know we have our own hierarchy and society and so forth.
Barry choked back a dismissive laugh. “Sorry about all that.”
Fair enough. It blinked sagely. I suppose you want the inside story here.
“How is it you can talk without moving your lips and while eating? Are you telepathic?”
That? The koala scoffed. Nah, bro … learned the lingo from ‘Watch Parliament’ on the telly. So naturally, I talk through—
Barry didn’t listen to the rest. He gunned the Segway. It was definitely time for a sickie and a fridge-full of tinnys.
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Irish writer, Perry McDaid, lives in Derry under the brooding brows of Donegal hills which he occasionally hikes in search of druidic inspiration. His diverse creative writing appears internationally in the like of Bookends; Aurora Wolf Literary Magazine; Quantum, Runtzine; Amsterdam Quarterly; 13 o’clock Press; Bewildering Stories; Bunbury and others.