If only . . .

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‘What do you mean I can’t buy mince-meat today, what sort of a damn shop is this? Call yourself a butcher, you must be joking. You just lost me as a customer.’

If it was possible to slam those hanging multicolored plastic strips, that would have happened as the irate person stormed out of the shop. 

The rest of us, all two of us just looked at the meager available meat for sale. Chicken livers. Hmmm.

The usual full trays and offerings were a fragment of what was, what we usually expect.

These are not usual times it would seem. 

Heck we had been through the worst drought and bushfires in Australian history, then came the rains that never stopped till the gutters and creeks and rivers flooded us. Now this new thing, the Canary Virus or whatever it is they call it. 

‘Comes from eating bats,’ they say. 

I don’t know anyone who eats bats. 

I don’t know anyone who even has the Canary Virus.

But I do know many who have no toilet paper, no tissues and now apparently, no mince-meat. Not today anyway.

The big fella who is our butcher was glum and crest fallen.

‘Why are they blaming me, it’s been like this for two days. None of us can get any meat,’ he said wiping his hands on his black and white stripped apron. Don’t know why it was clean as a whistle as were his hands. The bansaw was silent, the chopping blocks spotless and unused.

‘I should just damn well close up, get my boat and go fishing,’ he sighed.

His wife just put her head down like she might have heard this before. 

It was easy to see and gauge his frustration and I am not married to him. Probably a good thing. 

‘No one can get any beef, if Woolies and Coles can’t get anything what chance do, we have. We are all ringing each other, all in the same boat.’

I stood silent, let him rage. It’s wise to do that when a bloke is six feet tall and carries a big sharp knife and is upset.

‘Can I help you mate?’ he now said. 

It was my turn to be served.

‘Any bacon?’ I asked quietly.

‘A bit’

‘Then a kilo?’ 

‘No worries’ he said.

‘Maye some chicken breast, just a kilo too.’ That was a gamble as my wife won’t eat chicken much, she calls it Dirty Bird.  

‘Will that be all?’ 

“Some cheese and a loaf of bread thank you mate.’

‘That it.’ He was still upset.

‘If anyone can keep their head when all about them others are losing theirs and blaming it on you, then they are a man’

‘Aye, what was that?’

‘It’s a poem called If, written by a bloke called Rudyard Kipling, it was voted the best poem of the 19th Century.’ 

‘Say it again’ he said scratching his head.

I did. I am sure Kipling would forgive me making it shorter.

‘I might get that,’ he said, ‘is it on the internet?’ 

“Yes, just type in “If” 

‘Thanks,’ he said.  

Dan Meehan

Port Kembla NSW

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