THE GREAT A4 PAPER SWINDLE
(or whatever this is)
Published by Lindsay Johannsen at Shakespir
Copyright Lindsay Johannsen 2015
Shakespir Edition Licence Notes.
This story is presented to you free of cost. I insist on maintaining my copyright, however, though until such time as I amend this notice please feel free to disseminate, reproduce, copy or distribute it amongst your friends and/or enemies to your heart’s content, provided you do this for non-commercial purposes only and the story remains complete and in its original form. My preference, however, is for you to recommend to others that they download THE GREAT A4 PAPER SWINDLE
from Shakespir themselves, so enriching my life with a warm glow of satisfaction in lieu of any monetary reward.
National Library Of Australia Cataloguing-in-publication data:
Author: Johannsen, Lindsay Andrew
Title: THE GREAT A4 PAPER SWINDLE
Cover art and design bungled by the author.
Also published at Shakespir by one’s sylph: the novels “McCullock’s Gold” and “The Cassidy Chronicles”, plus a poem and some other short story rubbish, a couple of children’s stories and a couple of Christmas yarns.
To order the McCullock’s Gold paperback version or contact the author please visit
THE GREAT A4 PAPER SWINDLE
(…or whatever this is.)
Well it’s certainly been a while old mate, and I’m sorry about that, but what with one thing and another lately I’ve not had a chance even to bloody scratch meself, let alone write a letter. As a result I’ll try to bring you up to date with what’s been going on around the place and the way things have been turning out.
You’ll not remember, of course, but the last time we had a few beers together was at Frothy Williams fiftieth. You were down for the annual Bull Branding Championships, as I recall, and Frothy rang to say that the barbie was alight and the chops were on, that you and the others were already there making serious inroads into his special birthday bash home-brew and where the bloody hell was I?
The problem, I told him, was my Angel of Delight. Her Quilting Circle was having their annual get-together and there was no way I could get meself over there until she left. See at that particular moment she was still trying to decide which outfit to wear.
Course Frothy’s home brew is always a challenge but you were certainly off your game that night. I mean you hit saturation point really early in the piece – like after only half a dozen bottles or so (not that I was counting, of course, but falling off your milk crate and choking down unconscious by the brick barbie was a dead-set give-away that SOMEthing was amiss).
Anyhow, after joining Frothy and the some of the other survivors for the evening’s more serious business, I decided to head home. This was to ensure that on arriving back at our little love nest, “She Who Must Be Obeyed” would find me busy with my jobs, a situation brung about by the slight oversight of my forgetting to mention that I too might venture out somewhere during the course of the evening – as the mood might take me. And her chalk-marking the ute’s tyres was easy enough to get around; I just borrowed old mate Eric’s bicycle from next door. It’s an arrangement we’ve had for years to help with situations like this.
Anyhow, I was about half way along Clinker Street and making pretty fair headway homeward – given that I’d only come off two or three times – when I suddenly found meself struck blind. I knew it was nothing to do with Frothy’s home brew because he gave up boosting it with metho years ago.
Then I realised: it was one of those warm north-easters that waft in from the bay about this time of year. And – as per-bloody-usual – this one brung with it a fog so thick it was impossible to see ANYthing.
Course Eric’s old treadly doesn’t have a headlight or brakes or anything, but I know me way around here pretty well and can navigate by whatever of the streetlights are working – none of which were very effective, on account of their glow being swallowed up by the mist.
I kept going, of course, but after the fog hit, trying to make headway in the milky darkness was something of a battle, the problem being that it was full of all sorts of stuff – street signs and power poles mostly, trees and hedges and the like.
On reaching the Clinker Street storm water drain I more or less gave up and decided to walk the rest of the way home. See I thought I still had a block to go; that’s why I didn’t make the turn. Instead I rode straight across where Clinker turns left onto Drainage Road and into the guard rail alongside the drain. I also decided to abandon the remains of Eric’s bicycle and say it was stolen rather than try to explain.
The drain itself was dead dry, as it happened – a mixed blessing under the circumstances. See the Clinker Street drain is actually quite deep, and a metre or so of water there would have been helpful in breaking my fall.
To some extent, anyway.
Besides the abrasive ramifications, the drain being empty made trying to scale its concrete sides almost impossible – certainly until I realised that I’d somehow gotten myself into the tunnel where the drain issues from beneath the Clinker Street and Drainage Road corner there. No wonder it was so bloody dark, I remember thinking at the time.
Course I did eventually make it out, if somewhat the worse for wear. And then, rather than walk all the way back to where the footbridge goes over the railway tracks, I elected to continue a little farther along Drainage Road. See there’s a hole in the fence there that gives a handy shortcut through the marshalling yards and past the old steam loco sheds and abandoned meat works buildings.
We’d known about this shortcut since we were kids, of course. I mean even with the cops WATCHING us we could raid old Sergio Brassica’s fruit and veg stand over at the markets and be on the other side of town before they even woke up to the fact that we’d let their back tyres down.
We knew about the two-up school in the old loco sheds on payday afternoons, too, but not about the two-up game itself. See we just thought they were railway workers having a meeting – at least that’s what we were told by the lookouts as they “encouraged” us to get the hell out of it.
Anyhow, as I made my way across this industrial wasteland, I was confronted near one of the few yard lights still functioning by an extremely well dressed person of a type the media tends to describe as “a colourful local identity”, plus his minder and several other associates. These others, hulking heavy-set dark suited types, were lurking in the murky fog behind him, and were passing the time by idly cracking their knuckles in the palms of their opposing hands – and, no doubt, should the opportunity present itself, on other people’s faces.
Now up until then I’d thought Homo Neanderthalis had died out around the end of the last Ice Age, but it seems some mad anthropologist must have been recycling the buggers, proof positive standing right there in front of me – gorillas in the mist, you might say.
The alpha male’s principal associate then put a very large hand on my shoulder and reassured me that, being in his boss’s estimation the sort of bloke who’d take an opportunity when it presented itself, I would naturally be anxious to take up the offer his boss was making, which was to purchase some merchandise excess to his boss’s requirements.
And “anxious” was certainly the key word here, as something I haven’t mentioned so far was the fact that Frothy Williams’ birthday bash had, certainly for my part, been both enjoyable AND rewarding. Frothy ran a poker game from time to time, and before the party broke up I was fortunate enough to have won a considerable number of your folding monetary items.
Knowledge of this was something I’d every intention of keeping from my Flower of the Evening Altercation, too, as she can very quickly become overexcited about such things. I mean telling her would have done her blood pressure no good whatever.
Nor mine. Also, I was wary of aggravating the more aggressive of her compulsive-possessive personality tendencies in any way.
Course up until then I was in pretty good spirits, with the pain of my many abrasions negated by the warm glow of my good fortune. Now, though, as I tried to concentrate on the various interrelated elements of the fellow’s offer without falling over too often, this warm glow quickly evaporated.
At the same time (and despite a complete lack of details about the goods and the asking-price seeming inordinately excessive), the “vendor’s” associates took it upon themselves to relieve me of my winnings, during which process I decided it would probably be prudent to not raise any protest. Then, as the signal was given to effect a departure, I was advised that the goods would be delivered to my place of residence.
And in the event their spokesperson was as good as his word, though he might have mentioned that the “parcel” he’d referred to was in fact a container of the shipping variety. He might well have added, too, that the delivery would take place somewhere around 4.30 a.m. the following Saturday morning – the timing probably to do with overtime requirements or crane availability or something, I imagine.
In any case, I was somewhat perplexed when a strike of stevedores arrived at my nature strip at that hour, followed a short time later by a crane and a semi-trailer bearing a huge container of TNT (according to the sign adorning its side).
I grabbed a dressing gown and went outside to see what the hell was going on, of course, which was when their beetle-browed foreman came forward.
“Dis Number Fourteen Nofrew Road?” he enquired thickly from the gloom – and for some reason I couldn’t help thinking there was a vague familiarity about him. And when I confirmed the address he growled: “Well git out the way, then,” following which, despite my protests, his team craned the container onto my Pearl of Perfection’s rose garden.
Later, by dawn’s early light (and with no little trepidation), I cracked open the container’s door – and discovered that it was not in fact full of nitroglycerin. Nor gelignite, semtex, or even ammonium nitrate – which I could at least have used on the lawn. Instead it held (of all things), a great many cartons of A4 photocopy paper, with each carton bearing the prominent logo of the Amalgamated Forest-rape Corporation and its catch-cry, “PROUD TO BE AUSTRALIAN!”
In smaller lettering was the information that the paper had been made in the Heathen Peoples’ Republic of Taiwan, “ …from Dinki-Di Australian Woodchips!”
Then, early the following Monday, a gentleman from Thomas Nationwide Transport turned up (so explaining the “TNT” business) – also with a semi-trailer and crane. They wanted their container back, he said, and gave me just twenty minutes to clear it out. As a result I got stuck in and transferred the paper onto the lawn. Later I shifted the whole lot of it into my back shed.
Subsequent to this I received in the mail a bill for nigh-on about half the National Debt. In it TNT claimed that I owed them for certain handling and demurrage expenses, along with charges related to lading, wharfage, storage and bonding costs, interest and commission charges, customs and excise duties, crane hire, delivery fees, a Union superannuation levy, state taxes, rent on the container, and (oh yes), freight from the … UNITED KINGDOM?!! (I mean don’t ask me, I just live here.)
Of course the real question, Horrie, was what was I supposed to do with all this paper? And, naturally, the first thing that occurred to me was to sell it. In this way (I reasoned), I should at least be able to break even. In fact, with a little bit of luck, I might even turn a small profit. First off though, I’d have to speak to the Department of Customs and Excise to find out the form and so get everything right.
And the people there proved extremely helpful, while leaving me in no doubt how best not to proceed. Under no circumstances, they said, was I to sell any of this paper. The reason given was that the Department had banned the sale within Australia of any paper originating from this particular source.
It was a bog-standard trade restriction policy, they explained, wherein the Federal Government had established clear and unambiguous rules in respect of the sale of any product manufactured by any paper manufacturing company that procured feed-stocks from those organisations not adhering to strict United Nations environmental guidelines. This meant (they said), that the products from such manufacturers were prohibited from being offered for sale on the Australian market, so preventing them from competing unfairly with those manufacturers endeavouring to follow the aforementioned guidelines.
“And, should you actually sell this paper or any part thereof, we have both the regulatory and constitutional powers to confiscate the monetary proceeds of the sale in its entirety – along with the shed in which you have or had it stored, the vehicle used to transport it to any point of sale, the office house or building from which you conduct your business, plus any cash and valuables equipment furnishings goods chattels fixtures and fittings or toilet roll holders etc located within such an office house or building, the land on which the office house or building is situated, the front fence, the footpath, the street, and a substantial portion of the surrounding suburb.”
“Furthermore, in enforcing these strict environmental policy guidelines, we will naturally see to it that any application to procure an export licence will be refused for the same reasons, with the same penalties applying.
“And don’t go making any paper aeroplanes for the grandchildren, either,” they added. “That would come under the heading of unlicenced aircraft design and construction. And remember, the Department of Aviation is only a phone call away. Unless of course you have an appropriate licence,” they added. “Which is current.”
I’ve not let all this discourage me too much though, Horrie. So far I’ve added another three rooms onto the house and completely reclad the roof, all with my own special resin-based papier mache recipe.
More importantly, though (and the real reason for this here letter), is to let you know of my upcoming disappearance and to ignore any rumours suggesting that I’m most likely down the bottom of an abandoned mineshaft in an overgrown gully somewhere, up in the mountains. You see, what I’m doing at the moment is putting the finishing touches to the thirty metre ocean-going luxury cruising yacht I’ve been building.
It’s in a boat-shed down by the river, and the whole thing is being made of this special papier mache mix of mine. I had some tests done on it, too, and would you believe it, the stuff only turns out to be almost as good as carbon fibre.
This is all on the dead-set quiet, you understand, and you know absolutely nothing about it. I mean besides certain others I wouldn’t want my Angel of the Evening Altercation to get wind of the thing – or any of her Ladies Quilting Circle cronies for that matter – certainly not until all the seaworthiness certification stuff has been completed and me and Jolene have set sail for the Costa del Bravo, anyway.
Meantime, I hope the burns heal okay. I mean copping the business-end of a hot branding iron just there can’t be much fun.
Course I know bull branding is a highly competitive business and it’s easy to say this after the event, but in all likelihood you’d have been better off letting the matter drop while the young feller was checking his iron to see if the bugger was hot enough.
But look on the bright side, Horrie. Now you’ll be able to answer the “Any Distinguishing Marks, Moles or Tattoos” question on bail application forms and the like in a way that is truly memorable.
I’ll check on y’se when we get back – like to see if you’re still kicking.
So hoo roo for now, old mate.