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With a bullet whizzing millimetres above his head, conscript Archie Miller of 11 Platoon rolled to his right bringing his SLR into action against the shadowy figures emerging through the monsoonal downpour.
Slipping the M203 onto his dripping rifle with practiced hands, he offered a curse and a prayer. “Don’t you jamb on me, you cantankerous little bitch. ..... Thank God!” The projectile exploded in an orange fireball silhouetting pyjama clad figures spiralling in all directions.
“Anyone got any more grenades?” No response. He discarded the grenade launcher and fitted a fresh cartridge, his last, to his weapon, then selected single shot mode. Gotta make every shot count. Thirty slugs for thirty bloody Commos. After that it will have to be bayonet, teeth and nails.
The ear piercing drone of two UH-18s flying at tree top level drowned out the cacophony on the ground. A falling crate burst upon impact spilling precious ammunition almost within arm’s reach.
“Watch what you’re doing, you bloody bastards. You almost killed me. Let the VCs have that pleasure.”
The helicopters completing their assignment were beating a hasty retreat through a barrage of ground fire. Archie taking advantage of the lull at his level scooped up as much ammunition as he could and distributed it among the remaining members of his platoon.
“Honeymoon’s over! Here they come,” someone yelled as all hell seemed to break loose. Archie opened fire. A thud and a groan near him indicated someone had taken a hit. A shell exploded nearby deafening him as he emptied one cartridge after another into the human tidal surge threatening to overwhelm him. He discarded his jammed SLR and reached for the F1 lying unused. Mitch must have been hit. He had no time to check.
“This is for Mitch and the others,” Archie screamed as, rising onto one knee, he swung his weapon in sweeping arcs spitting death and destruction across a trajectory. Still they kept coming. Bullets came at him from many angles as he continued to mow down his opponents. His finger remained on the trigger but the gun went silent. Must be out of ammo. Gotta get more. Lethargy seemed to envelop him, he couldn’t fight anymore. Half a dozen shadowy figures with bayonets fitted to Type 56s pointing at his chest closed in. Gotta use the F1 as a club to defend. Where are my mates? Are any of them still alive? He couldn’t raise his arms, they had turned to lead.
“Goodbye, sweet Marie,” he groaned as sharp metal penetrated his body while swerving left and right to avoid the instruments of death. He slumped to the ground with a thud and his eyes opened. He was on the floor in his bedroom.
“Another bloody nightmare! Second one this week.” He rose, discarding his soaked bed clothes and stepped into the shower letting the cold water cool down his tortured but unharmed torso.
SRS - Stress Response Syndrome, that’s what the therapist told him he had. In grandfather’s World War One days they called it Shell Shock. By the time his father fought in World War Two, it became Combat Fatigue. They don’t really know what the bloody thing is. Still, remember what they told you to do. ..... Tell yourself it’s over. ..... It did not happen that way. ..... Remember what really happened. ..... They can’t hurt you now. ..... You are safe.
The three platoons forming D Company 6RAR were sent out to locate and destroy the enemy force which launched a mortar and artillery bombardment on our Nui Dat base the previous night. One hundred and eight men left camp not knowing what they were going to encounter. Our platoon, as the lead element, came in contact with a VC Squad at Long Tan and, after an intense fire-fight, forced them to withdraw. In pursuit of the enemy we came under significant small arms and rpg fire on our left flank isolating us from the other platoons. Pinned down we radioed for artillery support as the heavens opened up and heavy monsoonal rain bucketed down reducing visibility to about twenty metres.
Battalions of the VC 275th Regiment moved to encircle us and attacked in force. For twenty minutes we fought for our lives while 10 Platoon moved up on our left in support but were driven back. 12 Platoon pushed up on our right, not being able to reach us but they opened up a return path. One third of our platoon had become casualties by this time.
Resupplied with ammunition from helicopters we withdrew along the path opened up by 12 Platoon sustaining further casualties. We linked up with them and fought our way back to reform with 10 Platoon. D Company was still in big trouble. Our radio operators were screaming for any form of support.
The VCs had us totally surrounded and were charging in to overwhelm and destroy us. It seemed as if the inevitable was about to happen when A Company in M113s charged through the enemy flanks taking them completely by surprise. The fire power and mobility of the armoured vehicles broke the enemy’s impetus forcing them to withdraw in haste. We had survived. We beat a hasty retreat to base.
We counted our casualties – eighteen killed and twenty four wounded. Mitch wasn’t one of them and I hadn’t used his F1 – that was just a figment of my nightmare. I was deaf for a few days but otherwise physically uninjured. We later learned we had been attacked by about two thousand enemy soldiers with two hundred and forty-five of them killed, an estimated three hundred and fifty wounded. We even managed to take three of them as captives.
Archie turned off the shower and stepped onto a bath mat to towel down.
We did well, they told us. We were heroes. But at what price? The impact of the encounter fully registered on the following day. I was not physically hurt but my nerves were shot to pieces. I couldn’t continue in a combat role. I was evacuated back to Australia and discharged - left to cope with the aftermath on my own. The army didn’t want to know. We had served their purpose.
Why did this happen to me? Grandfather fought at Gallipoli and later on the Western Front in France. He talked a lot about the war and was very proud to have served his country. Did he manage to escape this malady unscathed? How did he do it with all the terrors of those dark days of the Great War? Father was one of the Rats of Tobruk and later fought the Japs in New Guinea. He didn’t talk much about his combat experiences, maybe experiencing some form of this wretched debilitating illness but somehow managing to suppress it. Why can’t I?
Slipping on a pair of boxer shorts, Archie glanced at the clock. Two fifteen. He wouldn’t sleep again before sunrise – past experience assured him of that. He sauntered into the kitchen taking a stubbie from the refrigerator. Removing the screw cap he drank greedily, emptying the bottle without drawing breath. Casting it aside he selected another two bottles and sat at the kitchen table. The effect of the evening binge had worn off. He rolled a marijuana joint from his smoking pouch and inhaled deeply savouring the mind numbing effects it would induce.
Those bastards drew my birthday date ball from a bucket and called me up for national service. Six months training and I was off to Vietnam to help the South Vietnamese army repel the Communists invaders. I was proud to go and do my duty like grandad and father. But after the war, people turned against us. They said we shouldn’t have been there, we shouldn’t have fought. They were proud of the veterans of the previous two generations but not of us. We were not welcome to march on Anzac Day. The bloody hypocrites! If we shouldn’t have gone, why did they send us?
Two dead marines sat on the table. Archie returned to the fridge for more.
Back home the nightmares began. Sudden loud unexpected noises induced flashbacks. Idiots and pacifists taunted us. Doctors and therapists didn’t know how to help. Anger, frustration, violence, anxiety and depression came to the fore. Handfuls of tablets daily did nothing except make us walking zombies. I couldn’t hold down a job and my moods spiralled out of control. Marie couldn’t take it anymore and left with the kids. I can’t say I blame her. Alcohol and cannabis, blotting out the pain and the memories, give me blessed relief at least for a while. Two botched suicide attempts. Where do I go from here? I wish Dad and Grandad were still around. They would understand. No one else seems to, apart from the mates who were over there but most of them are in the same boat.
Eight empty stubby bottles and four joint butts littered the kitchen table. His eyelids were getting heavy and his mind was starting to stall after swallowing two fistfuls of pain relievers. Placing his arms on the table Archie allowed his head to drop and rest upon the cool Laminex top.
Now is a good time to leave and sink into eternal peaceful oblivion. If there is a God, and we come face to face, I will have a few choice words to say to Him. Is that shadowy figure a VC? ..... Where’s my SLR? ..... No, it looks like dad. How are you, you old bugger? Have we got a lot to talk about. Where’s grandad?
 L1A1 Self Loading Rifle
 Viet Cong
 F1 Sub Machine Gun
 Grenade Launcher
 Iroquois Helicopters
 Chinese variant of the AK47 Assault Rifle
 Now called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment
 Rocket propelled grenade
 Armoured Personnel Carriers
The clink of keys on a ring chain informs me the time has come. The scrape of a key being inserted in a lock and turned reinforces that thought. The creak of an opening door guarantees it is happening. Billy Walker is to walk the green mile tonight.
I jump off my bunk, grab my banjo, move to the front of my cell ready to sing his favourite old negro gospel song. The footsteps draw closer and there he is, flanked by three burly prison guards. His freshly shaven head is bowed as he shuffles along dragging the manacles around his ankles. His hands are cuffed behind his back. He has aged considerably since last we talked, just four days ago in the exercise yard.
My fingers strum the strings. He recognises the tune, stops and raises his face towards me. Tears flood my eyes but my voice remains calm. The guards allow him to stay and listen.
Every time I feel the spirit
Moving in my heart, I will pray.
Upon the mountain my Lord spoke
Out of his mouth came fire and smoke
In the valley, on my knees
Ask my Lord, mercy please.
River Jordon is chilly and cold
Chills the body but not the soul
All round me looks so fine
Ask my Lord if all was mine.
Ain’t but one trail runs this track
It runs to heaven and runs right back
Saint Peter’s waiting at the gate
Says, “Come on sinner, don’t be late.”
Every time I feel the spirit
Moving in my heart, I will pray.
“Thank you , brother. My mama used to sing that song for me when I was small. It’s the sweetest sound I ever heard. Hope she’ll be standing beside Saint Peter when he says those words to me.”
“Go in peace, brother,” I respond, wiping the tears from my eyes. “If Saint Peter’s not there to greet you, wait for me and together we’ll climb over, find our Lord and beg his infinite mercy.”
“I will, but don’t hurry. I can wait.” He gives me a smile, raises his head and takes a step forward. Two more steps, he stops and turns around.
“I didn’t kill that woman. Believe me, brother, it was not me.”
The guards push him forward and he resumes his shuffle. My mind races and I strum my instrument for an appropriate farewell. To my great joy, many inmates on death row raise their voices in unison with mine.
Nora, Nora let me come in
The door’s all fastened and the window’s pinned.
Keep your hand on that plough
Hold on! Hold on!
Nora said, “You lost your track
Can’t plough straight and keep a looking back.”
If you want to get to heaven, let me tell you how
Just keep your hand on that Gospel plough.
If that plough stays in your hand
It’ll land you straight into the promised land.
Before long it is my turn to confront the green mile. A barber shaves my head and left leg. A preacher prays with me for God’s blessing and forgiveness. A physician examines me and offers a sedative, I shake my head. My attorney assists with reviewing my last will and testament. He urges me to appeal my sentence but I decline.
“I’ve taken a life, now I must give my own. That’s only fair.”
“You can have anything you like, hang the expense , oops, sorry shouldn’t have put it that way – a roast with lashing of baked potatoes and vegetables, a great big juicy steak with fries and salad, a seafood dish of lobster, shrimp and oysters,” the orderly, taking my last meal order, advises.
“I’ll have a fish-burger, crumbed, and a couple of bread rolls with a glass of diluted red wine.”
He arches an eyebrow, gives me a strange look, shrugs his shoulders and leaves.
He must think I’m crazy but I’m not.
Eating my burger I close my eyes and I am among the multitude on the slopes of Karne Hittim near Capernaum in the Holy Land. I listen as Jesus teaches us how to pray.
“Our Father who are in heaven
Hallowed be thy name ...”
His disciples miraculously distribute never ending supplies of loaves and fishes, I have mine and I praise the Lord.
Then I take my bread and glass of wine and I am with Him at the table with his apostles celebrating Passover in Jerusalem. He looks at me with a touch of apprehension in his voice.
“For both of us, this will be our last supper.”
I break my bread and sip my wine and pass it round the table, following his example.
“I did wrong when I pulled that drunken congressman out of his car after he ran over and killed my wife and daughter. I slit his throat and watched him die.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the Old Testament prescribed. But I should have remembered the fifth commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill and scripture’s Vengeance is Mine Said the Lord.
I went to the nearest police station and confessed my crime.”
They have arrived. They place manacles around my ankles and cuff my arms from behind. I walk down the green mile with my head held high. I open my mouth and sing.
Hurry on, my weary soul
And I heard from heaven today
Hurry on, my weary soul
And I heard from heaven today
As I trudge along, voices join me in my song. The prison guards around me hum in tune.
My sin is forgiven and my soul set free
And I heard from heaven today
My sin is forgiven and my soul set free
And I heard from heaven today
The trumpet sounds in the other bright land
My name is called and I must go
The bell is ringing in the other bright land
My name is called and I must go
I’m in the chamber, Gruesome Gertie awaits me. The fetters are removed and the roller blind on the window is raised. Blasphemies, curses and clenched fists from the viewing room assault my senses. I recognise many of them as family and friends of the congressman. As I am strapped into the chair, I close my eyes and Jesus comes to me. His face, bloodied from the thorns in his crown, battered and bruised from repeated blows, turns towards the witness room.
“Forgive them, they know not what they do.”
The saline sponge is placed on my head, a copper cone strapped over it. A metal clamp is fixed to my shaven leg and the warden stands before me.
“Any last words you wish to say,” he asks with a quiver in his voice.
“I did wrong in taking a life. I am truly sorry for the hurt I have caused to his loved ones. I will now pay the price for my moment of madness. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me, I thank you.”
“Never! Burn in hell, you black bastard,” the congressman’s brother yells. The roar of anger continues from the viewing room.
“Enough! You are here to bear witness to this procedure, not to pass judgment on this man. That has already been done. Be quiet or I will have you removed,” the warden rebukes them.
“Are you ready?” he asks with a tear welling in his eye.
“Yes.” I close my eyes and the figure of Jesus nailed to the tree materialises before me. His own suffering is about to end. He struggles to raise his head to look at me.
“This day, you will be with me in paradise,” his pale split lips manage to transmit.
“Activate the switch,” the warden instructs.
My heart floods with joy as electric current races through my body. I burst into song.
Hurry on, my weary soul
And I h-h-h ...
The songs in this story are from the web site: negrospirituals.com
Every Time I Feel The Spirit
I Heard From Heaven Today
The Green Mile is the name given the green paint concrete floor leading from Death Row block to the execution chamber in the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Gruesome Gertie is the nickname for the electric chair in that establishment.
Police Chief and officers
A small scrawny middle aged man, dressed in smelly sheepskins and with waist length hair platted into seven braids stops, looking up at a faded peeling sign. He squints, his eyesight not being what it used to be. He removes the wall torch from its holder and holds it up closer to the sign. Satisfied, he puts it back and slings an old sack across his left shoulder.
SHIMSHON: Yep! This is it.
He pushes open the door to be greeted by an ugly old hunchback tart dressed in gaudy patched-up multi-coloured silks.
ABIGAYIL: Good evening, sir. I’m Abigayil, the madam of this establishment. Welcome to The Seventh Veil. Your face seems familiar, have you been here before?
SHIMSHON: I have and I want Deliylah.
ABIGAYIL: (She gives his shabby appearance the once over.) Deliylah’s very expensive. Can you afford her? Perhaps someone else may be more suitable for you.
SHIMSHON: Deliylah is the only woman for me. Don’t worry about the fee. You Philistines don’t like paying your debts and that’s been good for me. I’m making a fortune, debt collecting.
ABIGAYIL: I’ll check if she’s available. What name shall I give?
SHIMSHON: Shimshon. She better be alone. I’ll smash in the skull of anyone laying a finger on my woman.
He pulls a jawbone of an ass from the sack and waves it above his head. Abigayil takes two steps backwards in fright. Recovering, she fans her face to disperse the odour emanating from the fossil.
ABIGAYIL: Phew! No need for that, sir. Put it away. I’ll let Deliylah know you’re here and enquiring of her.
SHIMSHON: Too right! Get moving! Haven’t got all night; got more heads to shatter and debts to collect at first light.
Abigayil exits the room. Shimshon waits, admiring the wall painting of Deliylah draped provocatively naked across a couch with hands strategically positioned.
SHIMSHON: Yaakov excelled himself when he painted this. Such a shame I had to gouge out his eyes when he finished.
Abigayil enters Deliylah room. Deliylah, sprawled out on a sofa, is picking up a lokum and putting it into her mouth. She sighs with pleasure. Her mood changes with the intrusion.
DELIYLAH: Don’t you ever knock? What do you want?
ABIGAYIL: Don’t come the high and mighty with me, girlie. You’re getting uglier and flabbier by the day. Don’t let yourself go. Less sweets and more exercise, I say. Clients are hard enough to come by these days.
DELIYLAH: The pot calling the kettle black! (She laughs and picks up another lokum.) What do you want, apart from a good clip around the ear?
ABIGAYIL: Client wants to sample your honey pot. He looks like he hasn’t got two shekels to rub together but claims he’s loaded. Get him drunk and we’ll fleece him.
DELIYLAH: (Yawns) Who is he? Have I seen him before?
ABIGAYIL: With all your carry on, I forgot his name. Small skinny fellow with a great big mop of hair and carries a stinking bone in a canvas bag.
DELIYLAH: That can only be Shimshon, the Israelite.
ABIGAYIL: Yeah! That’s who he said he was.
DELIYLAH: So he’s come back. He’s been creating a lot of trouble around the region. I hear he’s been putting the heavies on a lot of influential people and they don’t like it. Got a price on his head and I’m going to collect it. If I play my cards right, I’ll be able to retire from this flea hole and find some sheik to adore me for the rest of my days. Now listen carefully, this is the plan ... Are you listening?
ABIGAYIL: I’m not deaf! Say what you’ve got to say. I’ll consider it. I don’t want this joint destroyed while your little police boys try to apprehend him. So small and scrawny but so strong. They say he killed a lion with his bare hands, ripping its jaws apart.
DELIYLAH: He’s strong alright but putty in my hands. Get a dozen burly Philistines from the tavern down the road and wait outside my door. When I call out, ‘The Philistines are coming,’ do not come in. Wait until I say, ‘Got you now, my big little man.’ Got that?
ABIGAYIL: What’s in it for me?
DELIYLAH: I’ll find you a blind sheik who’ll shower you with gifts and desire you every single moment of every day.
ABIGAYIL: Really? Would you do that for your mother? You are a good child, I deserve it.
The door flings open and Shimshon enters while Abigayil makes a hasty retreat.
SHIMSHON: What are you two jabbering about? Deliylah, my love, my precious pearl, my heart’s desire, your hero has returned to take you away from this. Come with me! I’ve made my fortune. We can marry, buy a little cottage on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and raise a family of sturdy Israelite lads to look after us in our golden years.
DELIYLAH: Whoa there, big boy! You just took my breath away. Come lay down beside me and let’s take it one step at a time. A glass of Phoenician red?
SHIMSHON: I don’t drink.
DELIYLAH: You don’t wash very often. (Spoken softly to one side.) Oh! Come on! Just one little drink for your pretty Deli. It’ll make us both happy and randy. I’ll want to rip off your ratty smelly sheepskins and make mad passionate love to you.
SHIMSHON: Well, in that case, let’s have a drink, or two or three.
DELIYLAH: Drink up, my little sheep pellet. Have another. Scoff it down. A big man who kills lions with his bare hands can handle a teeny weenie drink. (She fills his glass several times while she only takes small sips from her own.) It’s getting quite warm in here. I’m removing my top.
SHIMSON: They’re beautiful. (He admires her breasts.) But I’m getting a bit drowsy. That brew’s nice but strong.
DELIYLAH: Rest your head against my bosom. That’s it. Nice and cuddly. Now tell me how you killed the lion and all those burly Philistines?
Shimshon cuddles in beside her and makes himself comfortable.
SHIMSHON: Nothing to it. Ripped the lion apart and cracked a few heads with my jawbone. I can hear your little heart going boopeddy boop.
DELIYLAH: You are so strong and fearless, my marshmallow hero. What’s your secret? How’s it you are so strong? Another glass of red?
SHIMSHON: Yeah, this is all right. My head’s starting to spin a bit and my eyes are getting heavy. Let me stroke your breasts while I close my eyes for a sec.
DELIYLAH: That’s lovely, now tell me.
Deliylah hears a shuffle outside the room as Abigayil assembles the Philistines.
SHIMSHON: Tell you what?
DELIYLAH: What’s the secret of your strength; my little heartthrob’s getting a bit drowsy. If you really loved me, you’d tell me.
SHIMSHON: Just for you, my little pretty dove. Tie my hands with brand new bow strings and I’ll be as helpless as a lamb.
DELIYLAH: Did you hear that? (She says softly through the window to Abigayil while Shimshon is busy caressing a nipple.)
ABIGAYIL: Heard you. On my way.
Abigayil enters with new bow strings and ties them around Shimshon’s hands as he drifts off into peaceful slumber. Abigayil pats Deliylah on the head, winks at her and exits the room.
DELIYLAH: Shimshon, wake up. (Raises her voice.) The Philistines are coming!
ABIGAYIL: No, no, wait. Too late!
The tavern drinkers rush into the room. Shimshon jumps to his feet, bursts the bowstrings, reaches for his jawbone and lays them out.
DELIYLAH: You tricked me, you naughty boy. You can’t love me if you tell me porkies. There goes our little cottage and our little Yaakovs. I’m putting my top back on.
Abigayil drags the bodies from the room.
DELIYLAH: Get some more, only brighter ones this time. (Speaks softly to Abigayil.)
SHIMSHON: I was just teasing to see what you’d do. You wanted to see a bit of biff and you got your heart’s desire. Now let’s get back to where we were.
DELIYLAH: I didn’t know they were here. They must have followed you in. Have another drink.
SHIMSHON: I shouldn’t. My head’s really starting to spin.
DELIYLAH: It’s not the drink. You’re intoxicated with love for me.
SHIMSHON: You’re right. Come into my arms, baby. Let me show you what real love is.
DELIYLAH: Only if you tell me the truth. What’s that secret of yours? I want to know so you can be my captive.
SHIMSHON: You’re into bondage? I like that. Okay, let’s give it a go. If I’m bound with unused hemp ropes, I’ll be as powerless as a new born babe.
DELIYLAH: I’ll get some rope. You lay back and dream of us with our little brood of snotty nosed urchins in our little beachside cottage.
Deliylah exits the rooms to get the ropes and comes back with Abigayil and more Philistine tavern drinkers. She enters while they wait outside.
DELIYLAH: Here we are. Sit up so I can tie these ropes around you. There we go, nice and tight around your arms and chest. Are they secure enough for you?
SHIMSHON: Oh! baby. What a turn on. Going to have your way with me, you little vixen? I’m so excited. You’re so much more than I ever imagined.
DELIYLAH: Imagine this, you trussed up turnip. (She raises her voice.) The Philistines are coming!
Abigayil has blocked the entrance to the room with her body but the tavern drinkers trample over her in their haste to seize the Israelite.
SHIMSHON: More of the blighters. They’re coming out of the woodwork.
Shimshon takes a deep breath, expands his chest, the ropes break apart and fall to the ground. He seizes his jawbone and lays them onto the floor.
DELIYLAH: That’s not fair! You’re still not telling me the truth. You’ve even killed my mother, you heartless beast.
Deliylah moves to one side and whispers, ‘Won’t have to worry about looking after the old hag anymore, thank goodness.’
SHIMSHON: She’s your mother? You don’t look anything like her.
Shimshon moves to one side and whispers, ‘Is she going to look like that in another twenty odd years? Maybe I should just have my way with her and leave empty handed.’
SHIMSHON: Let’s continue with our bondage game. I like that.
DELIYLAH: Can’t. The ropes are broken and I don’t have more. You don’t love me. You just want me as your plaything. To you, I’m just a whore.
Shimshon is annoyed with not being able to continue the game. He senses an opportunity to make an exit on his terms.
SHIMSHON: Whore! That’s exactly what you are. I wanted to take you away from all this and give you a better life but obviously you don’t want it. Time to say ‘Goodbye - was nice to see you.’
DELIYLAH: If that’s the way you want it, that’s fine by me. That’ll be one hundred and fifty shekels, cash. No IOUs or cheques.
SHIMSHON: Here you go. Good old Philistine shekels ... twenty, forty, sixty, eighty, one hundred, and twenty, and forty and sixty. Keep the change.
DELIYLAH: Thank you, mister big spender. No hard feelings? One for the road?
Deliylah turns her back on him to pour a drink and slips a powder into it.
SHIMSHON: No hard feelings. Your health!
Shimshon raises the glass and drains it in one gulp. He turns to walk out the door, takes one step, collapses onto his knees and rolls onto the ground.
DELIYLAH: Got you this time, you shyster. Now you’re going to tell me your secret.
Shimshon struggles to rise and escape but is unable to do so.
Deliylah goes to her dresser and selects a feather from a hat. She returns, removes Shimshon’s sandals and proceeds to tickle the soles of his feet.
SHIMSHON: Ha, ha, ha. Stop that! I’m sorry if I offended you. Please stop. Ha, ha, ha... I’ll give you a bigger tip, just stop doing that.
DELIYLAH: Not until you tell me.
SHIMSHON: Spit and promise on your grandmother’s grave you’ll stop if I tell.
DELIYLAH: Only if it’s the truth.
SHIMSHON: Okay, stop it now. I can’t take anymore.
Deliylah stops tickling him. He tries to rise but is unable to do so. He sighs.
SHIMSHON: My strength is in the length of my hair. It has remained uncut from the day of my birth.
DELIYLAH: Is this another one of your silly jokes? I’ll tickle you to death if it is.
Deliylah applies the feather to the soles of his feet. Shimshon wriggles to avoid the instrument of torture.
SHIMSHON: I told you the truth. Now stop it and let me go.
DELIYLAH: We shall see. (She stops tickling him and says softly to one side.) My lamb is about to be shorn and then it’s off to the slaughter house for him.
Deliylah laughs as she leaves the room for a pair of shears. She re-enters and cuts off the seven braids.
ABIGIYAL: Oooh! Oooh! Run over by a herd of wild camels. My aching bones! What’s happened here?
Abigayil rises slowly, gingerly stepping over the bodies, and looks at the prostrate Israelite.
ABIGAYIL: He looks better with his hair cut - should have gone to a barber years ago. Looked like a sissy but not anymore.
DELIYLAH: Stop yapping! Go and get the police chief. Tell him we’ve captured public enemy number one ... and tell him to bring the reward money.
Abigayil leaves while Deliylah keep a close eye on her captive ready to administer another spike if he shows any signs to rising. Shimshon struggles to rise but is unable to do so. Abigayil returns with the police chief and his officers.
Shimshon attempts to rise and fight them but is quickly overpowered and chained.
ABIGIYAL: I’m claiming my reward for the capture of Shimshon, the Israelite terrorist.
POLICE CHIEF: Yes, you’re entitled to the reward. However ...
The police chief walks around the room and the entrance counting the number of deceased bodies.
POLICE CHIEF: The families of this lot will need compensation to offset the funeral costs and the grief for their loved ones. I would hazard a guess the reward for the capture of the terrorist may just offset those expenses. (He shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head.) Sorry, but that’s the way it is.
DELIYLAH: There always has to be a catch in it, with you lot. Tell you what. Now you’re all here, I’ll do you all a group discount, say twenty percent off my standard fee. What do you say to that? A girl’s got to make a living one way or another.
Deliylah winks at the police chief and wiggles her bottom for the benefit of his officers. She points a finger at the police chief.
DELIYLAH: You’re first. Come and get it, big boy. The rest of you guys bugger off outside and line up.
ABIGIYAL: You heard what the lady said. Get outside and line up. Your chief is a premature ejaculator, if ever there was one, and you lot are not far behind so thankfully we won’t be up all night. Get those shekel bags open and jiggle out some money onto the table.
SHIMSHON: Get me out of here! I don’t want to watch this carry on. Someone, please, get me out of here.
Lucien stirred. He rolled over in his cosy bed of thistle- and duck-down. He stretched his arms and legs, and flexed his wings; his limbs were cramped after the long, peaceful sleep. He yawned widely, his little pointed teeth showing whitely in the dim light.
Get a move on, you silly flippertigibbet. Look at you, flaunting your slim, supple body – and at this time of the morning. I see you, glancing in the shop window and flicking your hair. Pull that skirt down a bit while you’re at it. And remember, one day you’ll see your mother reflected there – that’ll scare you.
‘I’m going as fast as I can, you dickwit!’
‘Oh freakin’ ‘ell; they’re gaining on us. I can almost smell them!’
We raced down the hill helter-skelter. The wind felt wonderful in our faces, our eyes were tearing up. We so loved the buzz, the rush, the zoom; it was the freedom and the power. We’d left our helmets behind so that our mums wouldn’t realise we’d snuck out again to indulge our passion for speed and adrenalin; the skateboards were kept in the garages and we knew neither of them would check there.
“Next,” came the call from the interview room as the previous applicant, with a look that could kill, emerged and made his way towards the exit.
“Bad luck, mate?” Curly McPhee asked without any real feeling in his question as he rose to attend the interview appointment that had been foisted upon him by those stupid mongrels from Centrelink.