Buggerum Intrigue Cov

a novel by Paul Sterling
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Our Mate Perry

Seeing how Perry Cracker set up the Barretts, I think that the next story must be about him, the village’s greatest patriot. Sadly, our Perry disappeared about four months after the arrival of Ted and Stephanie.

Ours is a little village and we don’t have traffic lights and pedestrian crossings except in front of the school. No pop star has had her wedding here and the Prime Minister has never come to our primary school to kiss children and ask if we watch Play School. You should not assume, because of all that, that there are no important people in our village.
The most illustrious person to have lived here has to be Perry Cracker. Yes, I knew you would be surprised when you read the name, because Perry was much loved and respected and most people thought he lived in Toorak, Noosa Heads or Double Bay. But although he had a couple of yachts, a private jet, a ride-on lawnmower, a plasma TV, a footie club, two mistresses and a dozen horses, his heart was in his home and his home was in the little village of Buggerum.

When he was still a young man (he did not weigh more than thirteen stone in those days), he already owned our local radio station 3BB. It was a good station. You could listen to fine, pure country music mixed up with little sweet memories like the Shadows or Petula Clark.

Nearly all the local businesses used to have promotions on the radio, because, as Perry explained, if you did not support the local radio station you were not a good member of the community. The good shops had We Support 3BB stickers on the window, and we always shopped with them. The other shops, like old Max Dunning’s hardware, were not so popular. It was funny that every time a window got broken, a drunk knocked some shelves over or a dog peed in the doorway, it always happened in a shop that did not have the 3BB sticker.

Perry was a bit of a boxer in his younger days, and would organise a match now and again against a champion from a local town or village. Those who could not go to watch the match in Cracker Hall could listen on the radio. After a while the other boxers gave up. Perry would always win and often the other guy would get badly hurt if the referee, Perry’s cousin Bert, didn’t stop the match quickly enough. After each victory, Perry’s supporters would join in the great cry of victory: “Buggerum, Buggerum!”

There was a bloke down in Taylor’s Bend called Frank who saw himself as a bit of a manager and he was running a young Italian boxer they called Mighty Mario. Perry beat Mario on points one night and Frank started talking about how the match had been fixed, seeing as how the two other judges were Perry’s brother-in-law and Arthur Barrington, the manager of Perry’s sawmill. There were even a few people in the village who thought Frank might be right, but then there was the bushfire nearly Taylor’s Bend in ’98 and Frank’s house went up in smoke and he moved back to Melbourne.

Perry wanted to keep on having a sports program on 3BB so he decided to create a Country Women’s Cricket League. Matches were held on the Cracker Oval beside the pub, every Sunday afternoon, and were broadcast by 3BB. In CWC there were only eight women in each team and each team played one batting innings limited to twenty overs. After the first innings, there was a half hour break for tea and scones and 3BB’s roving reporter would wander among the cackling players picking up gossip, above all if it was gossip from the other village. The two umpires were Perry’s aunt Ethel who knew nothing about cricket and Trevor Watson’s wife, Sylvia who, according to Trevor, knew everything about everything.

The fact that our team won every match was of no concern. All the ladies had a little fun, they swapped recipes for prune muffins or wholemeal scones, and they picked up lots and lots of juicy tittle-tattle and some succulent rumours of matrimonial misbehaviour.

Nobody forgets the night when Angela Carter ran her Ford Telstar off the road at Milligan’s Corner and rolled down into the gully. Perry drove past ten minutes later and heard the screams. He scrambled down the slope, saw the car was beginning to burn and tore the buckled door open with his bare hands. When the ambulance guys arrived they saw Perry appear through the flames, climbing up the slope with Angela over his shoulder. Angela swears that she will never forget that broad shoulder and the big warm hand holding her bum.

Perry was the village patriot. He saved Angela, gave money to Harry Clark’s widow so she could send the two boys to Geelong Grammar, and bought out local businesses when the owners wanted to close down. There were people who reckoned that some of those traders decided to sell when Perry’s sons came over to rough them up, but I never believed those stories.

His greatest stroke of genius was when he set up the local footy club. It was the first sports team from our village to never win a match, but Perry hated footy. So while the team came last on the ladder and got sent to Noosa to celebrate their defeat, Perry was busy building the club house with bar, bistro, indoor bowls, billiards and rows and rows of poker machines.

All this was odd, because the government had recently decided that there were too many poker machines in Victoria. But Perry organised a couple of yum cha parties down in China Town in Melbourne and made himself a sponsor of a couple of important charities chaired by a politician’s wife, and before we knew what had happened three truckloads of poker machines rolled into the village.

People came from all around to visit the club, play bowls and have a little flutter. I say “little” because nobody gambled like Perry. It was said that one night he lost over $30,000 and left with a big grin on his face. Mind you, he wasn’t the only bloke grinning because the club had created fourteen new jobs in the village. Things were going so well that Perry started talking about creating a lovely estate called the Golden Plains where he would build eighteen lovely town houses. He thought they would all be snapped up by wealthy retirees from Melbourne and soon the Saab, the Lexus, the Audi and the Mercedes would become common sights in our village. He never realised his dream, and the promotional board is still there in front of the weed-infested wonderland and the dried up lake. Maybe Ted Garrett will build those houses one day.

Things were almost going too quickly for our Perry. Apart from the sawmill, the radio station and the footy club in Buggerum, he owned a supermarket and two service stations in Horsham and a real estate agency in Warnambool. He even boasted of owning four brothels in Melbourne. He told the footy team that if they ever won a match he would send them down as special guests, but they went on losing. Maybe because they were all married and frightened of their wives.

When Perry died a few months ago, at the age of fifty-seven, the village was shaken. Not because a man weighing eighteen stone raises a lot of dust when he hits the ground, but because many of us either loved or respected him.

His funeral was a massive affair. Half the government was there as was most of Melbourne’s underworld, and it was strange to see the Minister for Police walking side by side with Angelo Moricanni and Stefano Griscelli. Nobody was shot during the memorial service, which was a blessing.

Perry’s grave is in the middle of the cemetery on the top of the hill. There is a tall obelisk instead of a gravestone, with a message wishing him Godspeed, followed by the names of all those who wanted to be seen as sharing that message. There were finally 842 names under the heading ”His Friends”, and it is rumoured that the council might have to put a red flashing light on top as it could be a hazard for planes from Adelaide preparing to land in Melbourne.

I thought it was rather funny to talk of putting a flashing red light on the tombstone of a man who owned four brothels in Melbourne, but I did not share the joke with my mates in the pub. A lot of people around here still love Perry.


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