The Death of Mr Bombastic, Borroloola, Australia

A four-wheel drive with double trailer approaches the petrol station. There is a swarm of shirtless children sprinting after it, yelling, Mr Bombastic! Their slender legs take long strides, bare feet unflinching on the stones baking in the midday sun. The vehicle weaves through the termite mounds and skids into the gravel outside the town store. A mangy dog sits by the petrol pump, furiously nibbling at his leg. The trailer holds a crocodile, its tail spiraled around so it won’t hang off the back. His empty eyes are opened wide. His jaws are bound shut. He smells of the salt drying on his back.

Now look ‘ere you mob, the ranger announces, Mr Bombastic is dead. I don’t want no more of this nicking dogs from other mobs’ camps to feed ‘im. You get yourselves a pet ‘roo or something that don’t wanna kill ya. I don’t wanna fish ya scrawny bodies outta the river.

One of the toddlers, snot running in two straight lines from his nose to his top lip, lifts his arms up to the trailer. He is naked beneath a torn, faded tee-shirt that sits like a dress over his potbelly. He begins to whimper as he reaches in to touch Mr Bombastic. He draws in a big breath to let out a wail, but his sister slaps his back hard. The child is stunned, and before he can draw another breath, the girl lifts him up onto her hip and wraps her arm around his waist. She cups her other hand around the boy’s ear, It ain’t Bombastic, look ‘ere, this ‘un just got three feet. Bombastic got four, ‘member?

About the author

Gabrielle Clover is a traveller by day and a writer by night. She has lived in the Mexican mountains, the Australian outback, and is…

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Issue 10 · September 2010

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