riving for the first time to Grumps farm, little Amber was excited. She had been hearing how wonderful God’s country is way up here in north Queensland.
“You know dear, I’ve a feeling it might be time for a cup of tea, and better make it the big pot, you know what the family’s like,” said Grumps.
“What makes you think the family will be here soon?”
“The cockatoos have taken off down by the main road.”
“That could be anybody,” replied Mrs Grumps.
“They headed west.”
“Well why didn’t you say so. I’ll get the teapot on while you get the bikkies out.”
The car parked at the front of the house. Racing out of the car, little Amber’s eyes lit up when she saw her Grumps opening the front door. She skipped up the steps of the old Queenslander to give him a big hug.
“Whoa. There little willy-willy. Now go in and give Grand Ma a hug.” Amber tore
into the house.
“G’day Mike, Gale, tea should be about ready,” said Grumps. After hugs all round, they headed out to the back veranda. They made themselves comfortable and Amber climbed up onto Grumps’ knee and asked, “Grumps where’s God?”
“Why do you ask?”
“You keep telling everyone it’s God’s country. So shouldn’t he be here?”
Everyone burst out laughing.
“Now dear try to explain your way out of this one,” said Mrs Grumps, taking a good sip of tea.
“You will get to see him soon, you just have to be patient,” replied Grumps.
Amber sipped on her warm milk, looking out over the back paddock. She saw two rows of trees, and at the end of the grove was a small house with a water tank on top of a knoll.
“Grumps can I play in the cubby house over there?” asked Amber. They all started laughing.
“That is not a cubby house. That is my toilet,” said Grumps. Amber looked at Grumps with a puzzled expression.
“You see your Grand Ma won’t let me do number twos in the house. So I have to use that one.”
“Why not?” asked Amber.
“Because. The first time I did, the cat came in then ran out and headed for the hills, and we haven’t seen her since, even your Grand Ma had to stay at a friend’s place for a couple of days.”
“Wow. Mum, maybe we could get one for dad in the backyard.” Everyone was nearly on the floor with laughter.
“How about I take you for a walk up there,” said Grumps.
They walked up along the grove of tall gum trees, while Rocket scampered up ahead and checked for snakes.
“Grumps why have you put those little signs in front of the trees?” asked Amber.
“Well, you see Amber they are the times I didn’t make it. So what I did was bury my number two’s and plant a tree on that spot. So I wouldn’t put my foot in it.”
“What does this sign say?” asked Amber.
“October 5 1965. Best home-made chilli chutney. However bowels were not
At the thunderbox, Amber smelt the strong scent of flowers growing around it. She opened the thunderbox door to find a large wooden box with a lid on top.
“Grumps how do you flush it?” she asked.
“You don’t. It all goes down a deep hole, and if I were you I wouldn’t open that lid,” warned Grumps.
“So how deep is it now?” asked Amber.
“That Amber I think will always remain a mystery.” They retreated outside into the fresh air.
“Sure does pong in there Grumps.”
“Here, Come wash your hands at the water tank otherwise your Grand Ma will find out.”
“But Grand Ma can’t see us from here,” said Amber.
“Trust me, she has eyes everywhere,” replied Grumps. As they walked back to the house a flock of cockatoos flew past.
“Looks like we have visitors,” said Grumps.
“How do you know Grumps?”
“The cockatoos always fly over the house when strangers arrive,” answered Grumps. Sure enough as they arrived back at the house, a car pulled up.
Rocket began barking around the car.
“So what can we do for you?” asked Grumps.
“Hi Pops. I need to use your toilet. I got a touch of food poisoning from the last
“My toilet is way over there. Just be careful, it’s a thirty yard drop, so it will be a long climb out. And whatever you do, don’t light up in there. There is nearly forty years of methane build up in that place, it will go up like a Roman candle,” warned Grumps. The young man grabbed his smokes and shoved them up his t-shirt sleeve as he began the long walk.
“Thanks for the warning Pops.”
Amber looked at the young woman.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Sue.” She said then turned to Grumps and added, “Thanks for letting Jason use your toilet.”
“Why does that man have drawings and all that metal on his face?” asked Amber.
“They are called tattoos, and all that metal is piercings,” replied Sue.
“Can those pictures wash off?”
“No they stay on.”
“Come Sue. Let’s join the rest of my family on the back veranda,” said Grumps.
They all watched as Jason lit up before he walked in the thunderbox.
“Take a seat, this is going to be a one-off event,” said Grumps.
“Grumps didn’t you tell him not to smoke in there?” asked Amber.
“Don’t worry Amber. The thunderbox God will remind him very shortly, just watch and be patient,” said Grumps.
Then they all heard a faint rumble. The door flung open, and Jason screamed in terror his pants around his ankles and toilet paper trailing behind. The thunderbox shot straight up like a rocket. They all watched as a jet of blue fire shot skywards thirty yards high. Then Jason started running, pants down, as a trail of toilet paper, which was stuck to his bottom, caught fire. Everyone burst out with laughter. Even Rocket thought it was funny. Amber had never seen a dog laugh before.
“I’ll get some old clothes. Just make sure you don’t miss a spot when you hose him down,” said Mrs Grumps to Sue.
As the couple drove off, Sue was still in fits of laughter.
“You know she will never let this go,” said Grumps to the family.
“Mike can you get the Ute, and Amber can you come to the shed?” asked Grumps.
As Grumps opened the old shed, Amber saw another thunderbox.
“You see Amber, when your first thunderbox is so far away, it always pays to plan ahead.”
* * * * *
Stephen Ryan writes short stories and poetry. A humorist, he draws on his rich and varied life experience – including a stint in Papua New Guinea during his time in the Australian Army. Often he writes about the Australian outback, basing his writing on the memorably offbeat larger than life characters that inhabit that remote part of the planet. Stephen has lived in Townsville, Australia for the past thirteen years.
His publications at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.