Hodie Blue Fitzhugh and the Gum Drops

© James J. Doyle, Jr



“Everything here can kill you. Deader than a doorknob.”

“What’s this?”

“A stick. Harmless. But don’t touch it. It may be a snake. In disguise. Every snake in the bush is poisonous and can kill you.

“Except the sticks.”


“Unless they’re snakes.”



* * *


“Why do you light fires at night? You burn the grass, bushes, trees. Why do you do that?

“It’s the aboriginal way. The way I was taught. All aboriginal children start fires at night. Besides, it keeps the underbrush down. Makes it easier to walk. We like to walk.”



“And, it’s good for the environment. So, you’re green.”

“No, we’re aboriginal. We don’t divide us from the environment. The environment doesn’t tell us how to behave, and we don’t tell the environment how to behave. That’s a mistake you people make.”

“Who are ‘you people’?”

“Grocery people. Your kind.”

“What are ‘grocery people’?”

“You really do need a walkabout. ‘Grocery people’ buy food they don’t need, processed in ways they don’t agree with, packaged so they forget the first two.”

“That’s good.”

“It’s not, if you’re referring to the food. But, I will assume your ambiguous response was intended to compliment my locution.”

“It was. Well said.”

“Thank you. I went to college. The studies helped my memory. Memory is important to aboriginals. It takes 30 to 40 years to memorize our knowledge. We don’t have books. You can’t eat a book.

“What do you eat?”

“What we find. Here, eat this worm.”

“The white one you just pulled out of the dead tree and squeezed the brown stuff out of?”


“Okay, I guess. I assume it’s been tried and approved. Here goes.”


* * *


“Are you dead yet?”

“No. Chewing.”

“What’s it taste like?”

“Interesting. Like salty calamari.”

“Interesting. I’ve had calamari, when I lived in the city, but I’ve never eaten one of those white worms you’re chewing. Stop, you don’t have to spit it out. It was an aboriginal joke.”

“Das mot unny.”

“Here, eat this. It will take the taste away.”

“You just shook that tree. They fell out. Small and reddish. Some type of apple?”

“Outback apples. You can walk a long way on these. It’s okay. I eat them all the time. Tart, but good.”

“They are good. I feel better.”

“You look better.”


* * *


“Will we sleep out here?”

“We could, but we’d be dead by morning.”

“The ground?”

“No, the bedbugs.”

“Aboriginal joke?”

“You’re catching on. We don’t have the gear. And we need to get back so you can talk with MaMa BamBam.”


* * *


“Grandson Hodie Blue Fitzhugh says you two do a walkabout, and you ate one of them white worms. Ho, Ho, Ho. That makes me laugh between the smokes of my pipe and smackin’ these sand flies. There, take that, you nuisancy relative.”

“MaMa BamBam believes, like all aboriginals, that animals, even bugs, are people come back to life.”


“There you go, little grannie, squashed as a tic and onto another life with ya’. Don’t you be comin’ back to bother MaMa. They don’t call me BamBam for nuttin.’”

“Ma’am. . . .”

“You can call me MaMa BamBam, grocery boy.”

Yes, Ma’am . . . MaMa . . . BamBam. MaMa, why do you stay? I mean the flies and the crocodiles. . . .”

“The ‘salties.’ Them salties ate another child today. They be hungry relatives. Ask Hodie. He got the teeth scars to prove it.”

“MaMa’s right. Water can kill you. Land can kill you. Pretty much everything can kill you.”

“Then, Ma’am . . . MaMa, why do your people stay here . . . in the bush, I mean? Why don’t you move to the city?”

“Hodie Fitzhugh, you answer the man.”

“Food’s bad in the city, and there’s no place to walk with all the buildings. I tried and came back. Most aboriginals come back. This is where we belong.”

“You hear the answer, city man. Bad food and borin’ in that place. And now today, you see another part of our secret. Why we stay here. This place can kill you.”

“With respect, MaMa BamBam, I don’t think that’s much of a ‘secret.’”

“I won’t blow smoke in your ear. Not all of this place will kill you, if you knows what you’re doin’. We does. Hodie do. You saw. But, in them cities, the people don’t know this. They see our place and what it can do, and they leave us be. Which is good, because your place can kill us. Deader than a doorknob.”

“That’s it, MaMa? This place can kill you, and the city can kill you too. You’ve adapted to the environment here, but you may not be able to adapt there and stay who you are?”

“And, the one other thing, Twinkie child, that you see and don’t see. The rest of the secret. Think. . . . We got no thing they wants. None of the black gooey stuff or raidy-active elly-mints. We got nuttin’ they gotta wanna have.”

“Okay, if I understand what you’re saying, MaMa BamBam, you don’t want to leave, because you’re used to this place, even though it can kill you, and no one’s making you leave, because you’ve got nothing they can use, and they think this place will kill them like you think their place will kill you, so you’re all where you should be, and nobody needs to move anywhere or adapt anyhow . . . yet.”

“Hodie Blue, I think this canned-goods man is smarter than he eats. Let’s celebrate.”

“Right. I’ll get the didgeridoos and call the gang.”


“Don’t you be worrying now, cart-pushin’ fella’. That be ‘Hodie Blue Fitzhugh and the Gum Drops.’ They be the best didgeridoo band in all the Northern Territory. Pull up a seat there on the ground. It won’t hurt you. We got plenty of pipe smoke to keep away the grannies — or I smacks ‘em. And, we got piles of gumdrops, from that city of yours, to keep your mouth moving and the music gets your feets up and dancin’ to the fires. A little party won’t kill you, will it? Wait and see. You may feel different good in the morning.”






“Wake up, my sleepy-head husband. You slept right through the alarm.”


“Time to get up and get to town. You don’t want to miss the morning commute. That paper of yours is calling, Mr. Reporter. I’ll have breakfast ready when you come downstairs.”


* * *


“I see that yawn. You stayed up too late reading that article in the National Geographic about Australia. Told you to turn the light off. . . . Take a seat.”


“No prob. I fell right asleep. Hungry?”

“Sure. I do feel hungry . . . and stiff. Like I’ve been dancing or something?”

“In your dreams. Should I dish up?”

“What ya’ got?”

“Your favorites. Synthetic organic turkey bacon. Whites-only substitute egg beaters. And, the breakfast beverage of choice, lite prune surprise with sorbitol sweetener.”

“No thanks. You don’t by chance have any white worms? I’ll squeeze them myself. And a few gum drops would hit the spot.

“Are you crazy? That stuff will kill you.”