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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Where's Wal?

‘Had to put them both in the back of the milk truck,’ Nicole said to Donny as she opened the doors to her refrigerated van. It was parked in the drive-through at the Funeral Directors where Jack and Donny lived behind their family business.

When the sun beamed into the van’s interior, Jack blinked. The last thing he remembered was the sharp bend before the river crossing on the back road from Tumut. ‘Seems I’ve had a bit of a misadventure,’ he said, fingering the gash on his forehead.



‘More than that,’ Nicole said. She helped him upright and steadied him as he alighted from the back of the van. ‘You were out cold when I found you.’




Jack nodded. He was surprised to be alive. ‘Thought I was inside a coffin,’ he replied, and laughed a single, barking note into the morning air.

‘There’s more,’ Nicole said, as she reached into the van and hauled out a body. ‘Found Wal fifty metres down the road from the car.’

Wal had been Jack’s closest friend. They had gone everywhere together – to the newsagent to buy the daily paper, to the Council meetings where Jack took the minutes, to the pub for a drink on Friday after work, and to the Tumut River to fish for brown trout. That’s where they’d been this morning. Only now, Wal, who didn’t wear a seatbelt, had flown through the windscreen. And here he was, dead.

Jack stood leaning on the side of the van, still befuddled. Then he sobbed.

Donny, however, had a grin bigger than a sheepdog with a paddock full of wethers.

***


The videos on YouTube made it look simple. Donny had started off experimenting with roadkill – a fox, a feral cat, eventually a kangaroo. He had the knack. After six months, when his ornaments no longer fitted in the house, and threatened to overflow into the funeral parlour’s viewing room, he set up a taxidermy website and began selling his handiwork to discerning buyers.

He was approached about a business venture by the local veterinarian. It seemed that quite a few people couldn’t part with their pets and were willing to remunerate Donny to provide the solace they were looking for in their time of grief. They were willing to pay extra for a display plinth. And for a decorative bow.

***

Donny pulled off Wal’s skin. It was like removing a rubber glove.  He scraped the sinews away. He washed the skin in soapy water and shaped it around the mould he had made of Wal’s body. Once he replaced the eyes, he was satisfied with the lifelike result. It was as if Wal watched him as he moved about the room.

***

‘Woof! Woof!’  Wal’s mechanical bark sounded as the sensor for the Funeral Parlour door was triggered.

Jack laughed and patted Wal on the head.  Like his namesake out on the highway near Gundagai, Wal sat on a box, was loyal and never left his post. 

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