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To Lend A Helping Hand

By Todd Maguire on September 13, 2011 in Other

Young Alberto had just been released from the boys’ home, his third stint in the children’s detention centre. He swore it was to be his last. He was a good lad but seemed to always be knocking around with the wrong crowd at the wrong time. All he really needed was a helping hand to get him back on the straight and narrow and make his parents proud.

Back home at Woolloomooloo it was Mother’s Day and Alberto didn’t have two pennies to rub together. He absolutely adored his mum so he racked his brain to come up with a thrifty solution for a gift. The Eastern Suburbs offered many opportunities for a young man, so with his strong street savvy and a few odd tools, Alberto ended up in Centennial Park. The Mediterranean blood running through his veins had him believing that his mum would love to cook up a plump duck for this special day. A grand idea.

He set out to rig a trap near the main pond. He precariously placed a wooden crate supported by a stick tied to a long piece of string. He then sprinkled some bread to entice a duck into the snare zone. In a matter of minutes he was wrestling a fine looking specimen and snookered it up his jumper.

Unbeknownst to Alberto, watching the hunt from the other side of the pond was a distressed park ranger.

“Get out of it you mongrel kid!” he hollered from on top of his white horse. He was all dressed in black and looked a formidable force.
Alberto thought he could escape as he had the body of water between him and the ranger as an advantage. He shot through, darting between the reeds of the wetlands with the ranger in tow. If he caught up, it was back to the boys’ home for young Alberto for good. In the no-win situation that ensued, he decided to let the duck go free and kept on running.

Alberto stumbled across a junior rugby league match in progress, and managed to mingle in the vocal sideline crowd. The ranger made a couple of passes but could not locate the rebellious boy. Alberto thought he was in the clear.

From the depths of the crowd a huge hand violently grabbed him by the scruff of the neck.

“I saw what you were up to over there, young man.”

The stranger’s paw spun him around and Alberto was confronted by a greying middle-aged man the size of a horse.

This old grey mare was the manager of the local youth football team, the Colts. He was also the local butcher from just up the road in Paddington. A couple of severed fingers as a testimony to his quarry had Alberto transfixed on the man’s presence.

“Luckily you let that poor duck go free or I would have had you on toast.”

The butcher rubbed his ample chins. This boy was the perfect second rower he had been searching for all season. Alberto was large for his fourteen years’ of age; it would only take ten of him to make a dozen.

“Now lad, if you don’t fancy me handing you over to that park ranger, you better roll up to training next Tuesday arvo at Trumper Park.”

Alberto was offering the butcher no cheek.

He had never strapped on a footy boot in his life but dutifully turned up for training the following Tuesday afternoon, right on time. He was thrown a pair of boots and a pigskin and given a good working over by the coach. He copped an even better one by a couple of team members after training, just to test his mettle. A footy player was born and it was a win-win situation.

The helping hand from the butcher opened plenty of new doors for Alberto. He finally fell on his feet, honing his rugby league skills to become a really good representative grade player. He even got a good job. In turn, the butcher’s rugby league club won a few grand finals.

And instead of a stolen duck for a cook up on that unforgettable Mother’s Day, Alberto’s mum received a heartfelt homemade card and a bunch of flowers nicked from a neighbor’s award-winning garden just up the road.

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