The supervisors

A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

It was the usual sort of Christmas break up day in the bush. Two loads of logs delivered to the mill, then the machines parked up and washed down all before 1Oam; before the men got too drunk.

Then the gangs congregating in the shade of the open-fronted compound rope store, sitting or leaning on the huge wooden drums of wire rope, waiting for the bangi to be opened, waiting for the Christmas payout to be completed, drinking from the necks of bottles taken from the stacked beer crates.

In the office Stumpy was hot, busy, worried and harassed. Christmas pay, the biggest payout of the year, was, as usual, a shambles. Pay deductions had to come out of the envelopes for lost or unaccounted for equipment, then the men paid, before they got too full to sign their names,and then to get the pay packets home before they were spent, or lost, or gambled, or stolen, otherwise there would be some hungry kids in the village on Christmas Day.

One of the rules on breakup day – No salesmen were allowed into the compound. Every year or so some would have a try, to get an easy killing from befuddled men with big pay packets, to sell cheap jewellery, or insurance, or half price watches, or whatever.

Two logging supervisors – one Maori, one European – were- rounding up the stragglers and sending them up to the office for payout. They were both big chested men, over six feet tall, dirty sweat-stained faces, rough bush clothes, high boots, they saw the insurance salesman arrive in his flashy car.

They new the rules, they marched up to the office, to the boss, in silence, side by side, three feet apart. They found Stumpy, hot and busy and short of temper.

“Boss, there’s a shitehawk in the compound.”

“Well, you know the rule, get rid of him.”

“How do we do that, Boss?!”

“I don’t know, use your imagination.”

“O.K., Boss.”

The two supervisors marched out, through the beating hot sun, back to the rope store, side by side, three feet apart, heavy boots slapping the tarmac, silent, sinister.

They found the salesman had stationed himself at the stack of beer crates, so had a captive audience in a half circle around him, about twenty bushmen in all. The bushmen also knew the rule, so waited with some interest to see the outcome.

The two supervisors joined the group at the rope store, ignoring the dapper little salesman. As the crowd forced them closer together the supervisors clasped hands turned toward each other, blue eyes and brown eyes locked. Ignoring the audience they began whispering. A dirty, broken nailed hand moved up and began to stroke a hairy navel protruding from a hole in a black bush singlet, to be coyly smacked away by an equally dirty hand.

The bushmen watched with surprised delight. The salesman lost his audience, and the thread of sales pitch so drifted into open-mouthed silence as he watched the lovers. Suddenly one of the lovers sighted the salesman, broke away and went to him. The salesman found a huge dirty calloused paw gently stroking the nape of his neck, while unprintable suggestions were being whispered into his reddening ear. He attempted to sidle away, but found his escape blocked by the other lover who had moved in on that side, furtively undoing the salesman’s shirt buttons, rubbing his chest, whispering into that reddening ear.

The salesman made a bolt for the safety of his car, followed closely by the two lovers, pleading for his return, promising unheard of delights, begging for his phone number, pawing.

The salesman powered out of the compound away from the cheering, jeering bushmen. The two supervisors marched back to the office, side by side, three feet apart, and found Stumpy.

“We got rid of that shitehawk, Boss.” A pause. “Forever.”

“Good, good. How did you do it?”

“As you said, Boss, we used our imagination,”

They turned, and marched back to the compound, big men, side by side, three feet apart, silent, sinister, but with a twinkle in the eye.