Guy Fawkes

A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

The sawmill and its double row of unpainted houses nestled at the head of the valley near the bushedge about three miles away from the main Forestry Village. Scrubland and old cutover came right down to the very back doors of the houses.

Centrally situated on the short street of houses a shed was built out of corrugated iron and sawmill “Face Cuts.” This was the “Club” and though it ‘was crudely built, furnished mainly by wooden forms for seating, with beer crates for tables and lit by a kerosene pressure lamp it did a roaring trade, in booze every evening after knockoff.

Every November the 5th some nuisance kid would set the surrounding scrub alight with a skyrocket or some such, so the forestry blokes would have to come up from the main village to save the mill and houses.

Well, November the 5th 1967 was no exception and the forestry blokes all in short temper, spent four hours cutting down burning dead trees, hosing burning cutover, bulldozing around the rundown mill and shantytown which “wasn’t worth saving anyhow.”

They finished the job at 10pm, and dirty, wet, red eyed and tired they were heading home in their trucks through the street they had just saved, when directly outside the “Club” they were confronted by Frank the logging contractor, the Club President.

“You forestry bastards have just saved the whole bloody town from burning! The least the club can do is give you a free shout!” Stumpy, who was leading the forestry crew, knew big broad balding Frank with his very short fuse well, realised this to be more of a command than an invitation so told his men they may as well stop by for a short while.

Well it turned out to be quite a night, the forestry blokes forgot their tiredness and dirt and aches, Frank of the short fuse, and his club members were wonderful hosts, the beer didn’t run out until 2am.

Stumpy, finally home, fell into his darkened kitchen, with loud profanity when he tripped over the door mat half an hour later. This wakened up the household which had been sleeping lightly, in worry, thinking him to be away, risking life and limb fighting fires!

He did not improve his popularity by leaning on both walls of the hallway leaving great streaks of charcoal markings off his dirty clothes as he went to run his bath. He fell into his hot bath and promptly went to sleep for an hour until the water cooling to ice cold finally woke him. He forgot to wash his ash blackened face!

He eventually fell into bed almost at dawn unintentionally wiping his filthy face clean on the crisp white pillowslip. It didn’t stay crisp and white for long. The following morning Stumpy’s breakfast could hardly be called a success. His wife, in fact nobody, was talking to him.

He was hung over so the bacon and eggs banged down on the table in front of him turned his stomach, the charcoal etchings on the hall wallpaper were clearly visible in the morning light as were the dirt smudges on the pillow, the shining porcelain of the bath had a greasy ring of grime at high water level and to cap everything he could feel a cold coming on as a result of his chill bath.

His family for some unknown reason had suffered a very disturbed night so were all short tempered, seemed to blame him for some reason, gave him the cold shoulder, were certainly not sympathetic to his predicament, his presence nor his poor health.

Stumpy went to work feeling totally miserable unloved and sorry for himself, vowing in the future to weather the wrath of Frank of the short fuse, rather than that of his family and pondering on the wisdom of continuing the traditions of November the 5th.

Guy Fawkes certainly has a lot to answer for!