August 10th 2019


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Boris Johnson and the EU: Crash through or just crash

EDITORIAL When will Morrison stamp his authority on his mandate?

CANBERRA OBSERVED A quick peek into the security shadows

ENVIRONMENT When apex predators hit the turbines, think of the clean energy

HUMAN RIGHTS Unalienable rights can be recognised, not made up

SECURITY Australian Signals Directorate comes out of the shadows

RURAL AFFAIRS Distress, economic and societal, pervades Australia

GENDER POLITICS I was America's first non-binary person: It was all a sham

FICTION Mick and the Little Man

HUMOUR Japan G20: Donny meets Jenny

MUSIC Dire tonics: Departure from harmony has proved a flop

CINEMA The Lion King: Remake takes a deeper look

BOOK REVIEW Public enemy No. 1 and his twin, No. 2

BOOK REVIEW In the market with the Angelic Doctor

POETRY

ZEG'S PLACE

NSW ABORTION BILL Clear and present danger to women's health

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FICTION
Mick and the Little Man


by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, August 10, 2019

The short academic day was over. Mick O’Rorke and the rest of the Department had drifted down to the riverside pub where many students and staff foregathered on summer evenings.

The other members of the Department were there, however, in an effort to display their proletarian credentials. They sat in a fairly tight circle, not exactly excluding Mick, the only non-party-line voter, and notoriously so, among them, but not exactly welcoming him either. Certainly they were not going to be seen drinking with students.

A smallish, nondescript man ambled up to them. He, and his attempts to join in their conversation, were ignored. “Piss off!” muttered the acting Head of Department, by no means trying to lower his voice. After a time he walked away to the “window” – the hatch where beer was collected for the garden. He made a forlorn and lonely figure. After a moment Mick rose and followed him.

“I’ll have a drink with you, Mate,” he said.

They moved to an unoccupied table on the lawn. The little man gazed up at a Vee of cormorants flying into the sunset, and the Chinese kite-flyers on the wide esplanade about the blue river. Children rolled on the grass nearby.

“Cheers!”

“Cheers!” He had an English accent.

“On your own, Mate?” Mick asked.

“Yes, I just arrived last night.” After a minute he said: “The beer’s cold.” He pointed to the river: “Black swans! I’ve never seen them before!” He pointed to a small pod of dolphins breaking the surface, and then, looking around: “A lot of people here don’t seem to have jobs. Are they teachers or something?” He gestured towards the other faculty members who were projecting an aura of distaste. “Do you know them?”

“Yes.”

“What’s your line of work, then?”

Mick was reluctant to tell him. He knew from experience that revealing his job was often an invitation to get ear-bashed by crank theorists and autodidacts.

“I’m a teacher,” he said guardedly.

The little man nodded. “Where do you teach?”

“At the university.”

“Oh yes, and what do you teach?”

“I’m a senior lecturer in Political Science – comparative government,” Mick admitted, bracing himself to hear the little man’s opinions on the government of the day, culled from who knew what smouldering rubbish heap of misinformation.

“Do you like it?”

“It’s important.”

“Those young people I saw you with earlier … Are they your students?”

“Yes.”

“You care about them? … About teaching?”

Mick nodded.

“And that lot?” The little man gestured to the rest of the Department, sitting in their ring. “They’re not very friendly, are they?”

Mick had long ago privately categorised them to himself as something unprintable, but felt that revealing his true feelings to the little man would not have much point. And he felt a vague need to defend his town, and even his university, to a new arrival.

“I think we’re all a bit on edge,” he explained.

“Oh, why is that?”

“We’re getting a new Head of Department. A Professor from the London School of Economics. He’s apparently going to make some new appointments.”

“That’s important.”

Mick, relieved the little man had said no more, and he was evidently not going to get that ear-bashing on his subject from an ignoramus, opened up a little more.

“Yes, among other things, there’s a vacant Associate Professorship …

“No one’s met him yet. We’re meeting him tomorrow.”

“I know,” said the little man.




























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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm