which is the title carved onto the bottom book of the parcel of ballast on the zeppelin. So why not write the book? It rapidly became obvious that Willy Wombat tripping through the bush with his friends was not going to be much fun for me or anyone old enough to actually read. It has already been done anyway. So I thought why not a satire disguised as a children's book in the tradition of 'Alice in Wonderland' or 'The Wizard of Oz', maybe even with a touch of
'Animal Farm'. A good- sized one with lots of poetry and illustrations.
The wombat begins as an innocent, hounded out of town for his being an obstacle to prosperity when his burrow goes under a housing development. He joins the army, deserts and steals a balloon to escape the dangers and vicious rumour and innuendo that follows him wherever he goes. But it is to no avail, he becomes the scapegoat for all the world's troubles, and Katie the heroine his only defender. Whether he has actually perpetrated them is part of the mystery/secret. Or perhaps the dark secret is our own. In this fragment he has received a poison pen letter.
Later Katie received an anonymous letter as follows.
The Story of Hard-Hearted Harry
A Cautionary tale for Self-Serving, Psychopathic, and Otherwise Criminally Inclined Wombats
It was Hard-Hearted Harry, the scourge of Tocumwal
Hard-hearted Harry the hairy-nosed wombat
The hairy-nosed wombat who wanted it all.
Which is never enough for some people it seems
The kind you avoid like the plague on the street
And never get shut of in disconsolate dreams
The king of the rackets, the police in his pocket, kahuna of crime.
He was the biggest, baddest, most feared, capo of capos
To rule Shepparton and Morwong at least
And maybe also Gagebrook
In his time.
His loan-sharking business might grab your attention
His suit only knows
How he coldly foreclosed on the orphans’s estate
How neatly he snaffled the poor widow’s pension
And committed other outrages
Too numerous to mention.
His burrows were found at prestigious addresses
Marked with black X’s on all of the maps
With chauffeurs and butlers and chiropodists’ services
Underground caviar and gold-plated taps!
But alas for his lifestyle; a criminal faction
Had arrived from the States
To take over the action.
They were slinky and long and kinky and lean
The most malevolent gang of Hawaiian mongooses
A still- living wombat could ever have seen.
Implacable, merciless and undefeated
They telephoned Harry their itinerary
Who famously answered (expletive deleted!)
“We’re coming your way with a courtesy call –
We’re tired of your hare lip and catcalls and taunting
We’re going to give you much more than you’re wanting
You hairy –nosed wombat who wanted it all.”
They searched out and found him to harry and hound him
And slowly the murderous circle closed round him
Of unspeakable shirts and untuned ukuleles
While he pleaded and threatened
And thrashed in the melee
And for each bloodied battler who made his retreat
A half-dozen more would slink in off the street
He came up for the third time and with one final wail
Went down in a forest of their bottle-brush tails.
Some morsels of Harry were all that were found
That half-filled a matchbox
Collected by keeshonds that scoured the ground
Where the battle was fiercest.
The coroner queried the size of the sample
Sadly shaking his head
“Not enough for a knackwurst. I cannot conclude
Or imply that poor Harry is dead.
Perhaps he has bunked to more hospitable climes
Where mongeese and wombats partner in crime
And the plumbing runs champagne
And the sun always shines……”
And he flicked Harry’s crumbs on the blue satin sheets
Of a gold-plated coffin (tactfully ordered full size)
For the comfort of family and friends and associates
Who’d gathered to toast his demise.
It was shouldered by ferrets who marched to the graveyard
They two-stepped along to the toll of a bell
With well-weathered dowagers cheering his progress
And dozens of fancy- girls screaming like hell.
And it fell to Walt Woma the fearsome chief mongoose
To cast in the grave the first handful of dirt
Replete with dark glasses, a lei, and the usual
Palm tree motif on his execrable shirt.
So they buried him there where the couch grass grows tall
And as he lived so he lies
In luxury’s lap with his back to the wall
And his tears and his triumphs mean nothing at all.
But louts with low foreheads
Whisper the story
From Burragorang to Paraburdoo
How Harry the wombat got what he had coming
In sixes and sevens and more than that too
Teary-eyed, trembling they wring their long foreclaws:
If it happened to Harry it can happen to YOU!
The last line was very puzzling. Whoever had written the letter must have known it was they themselves. Perhaps, thought Katie, it was a threat; and she knew she must contact her friend.