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Beagle Covid-19 Lockdown writing competition: John Longhurst


It had to be Johnny Bodalla. Always Johnny Bodalla. Trouble and Johnny were joined at the hip. He was either at the centre of it, responsible for it but in all cases blamed for it. Johnny took to his year 9 ‘studies’ at Batemans Bay High School like a seasoned veteran or as his favourite simile went like a Batehaven seagull after a loose chip. Placing cling wrap over the toilets was funny but it was Johnny’s attempt to sell the local high school to an overseas real estate developer linked to a ...... well..... very prominent United States of America politician that had landed him in his current predicament. And here he was, with a crowbar in hand, doing penance for the local shire council just outside of Durras. His job was to dig out charred stumps from the bushfires that had ravaged the area in a summer from hell. The consensus amongst teachers, peers and indeed students was it would be impossible for him to stuff up. The mayor himself had even marked the stumps to be dug out and his work was to be checked hourly. Johnny laboured away, resisting all forms of reflection. It was his inability to deliver on a casino licence that had brought his real estate deal undone was the sum total of his thoughts. He rammed the crowbar into the earth and it wedged in some underground rock. With all his weight and strength he pulled the crowbar towards himself and an almighty crack split the calm silence of the bush, bringing on a cacophony of screeching parrots that echoed across Lake Durras, startling paddle boarders and canoeists alike. Johnny looked up at the blackened tree trunks now shrouded in a new slow burning revenge fire of green ferns bursting with life and recovery from the devastation of previous months. He leaned again on the crowbar and this time the whole ground around him shifted ever so slightly. A crack in the forest floor emerged as far as he could see either side of him extending all the way over the hills in the distance. He threw all his weight on to the crowbar and this time there was a very noticeable shift in the land. A metre wide gap sliced the forest floor. As was his habit, Johnny spun around to see who was watching. Stunned, he dropped the crowbar into the now chasm and stepped back. The land beneath him was now crunching eastwards. Seawater was rushing to fill the gap. Sirens pierced the air and helicopters hovered above. He flicked his phone to the ABC Radio and emergency warnings were once again setting the rhythm of this once idyllic area. The whole Eurobodalla Shire had become unstuck from mainland Australia. It was floating out to sea. Geophysicists, scientists and engineers were immediately able to identify the cause of the crisis and descended on poor Johnny Bodalla within the hour. Johnny had severed the land link attaching the shire to the mainland at its weakest point and set off a chain reaction from Durras in the north to Wallaga Lake in the South and west to include the inland national parks within the shire. The whole shire was now afloat. It was an absolute disaster that dwarfed the turmoil of the summer passed. Desperate measures were soon in place to re attach to the mainland. The entire fishing fleet of the coast were joined by the surf boats of the the various lifesaving clubs, all with ropes attached tying to guide the shire back to the mainland. Surfers even jammed their boards against the headlands and paddled furiously to help out. The shire just continued to edge out to sea. Fortunately, it manoeuvred in such a way that Snapper Island slid up the Clyde River but Tollgate Islands loomed as a potential disaster. The coastal towns evacuated to the inland. One hundred metres from Tollgate Islands, the Shire shuddered to a halt. The suddenness made the sedate Casey’s Beach rear up like a lion and then relax as the waves dissipated. The whole shire then swivelled leaving Durras facing west towards the mainland. Tollgate Islands now safely 100 metres due east. Johnny Bodalla was the loneliest of figures, ashen faced, shamed and remorseful on the now western tip of the new island. He thought about swimming to the mainland. It was pretty obvious he could not talk his way out of this trouble. However, the first dawn of the new island brought a calmness to the community. The soft oranges and deep reds birthing a welcoming sun softened brows. People returned to their homes. Sea views now greeted some of the inland outposts of the shire. The coast line of the shire had tripled in length. People began to muse about the new reality. Any threats from future bushfires could be easily handled. Snapper Island could become a pristine National Park accessible from the banks of the Clyde River. The unstable weather generated by the proximity to the Great Dividing Range would no longer be an issue. Indeed, Tollgate Islands could be a mini Manhattan. People began to embrace the new reality. But it was the developments on the mainland and indeed world wide that clinched the fate of Johnny Bodalla. A deadly virus COVID 19 had swept down from the Northern Hemisphere and was dismantling life on mainland Australia. Isolation and social distancing became the order from the Prime Minister. The Shire was perfectly positioned. It was now bushfire proof and virus free. Johnny Bodalla was beckoned back from the sea off Durras. He was feted. He was honoured. The shire was renamed HEROBODALLA after him. On the beach off Durras facing west, a massive bronze statue similar in size to the Statue of Liberty was built of Johnny. It captures Johnny grinning, school shirt untucked, arm outstretched and middle finger pointing skyward back at the mainland.


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