"Australia 1999" story # 8


Lismore, New South Wales
March 23, 1999

At the end of last week, I picked up my things, thanked Kim for her hospitality, and moved onto Kristi's floor. Our biggest dispute centered around the Denny's memorabilia I wanted to display (a dessert menu and a stuffed Santa-head I'd deftly won from the crane game). But, I replicated a Denny's Ooey Gooey Oreo Sundae for housewarming, and by night's end, we'd fondly nicknamed eachother "Roomie" and were telling our best secrets, including my plans for Elkie and the Roommate Swap.
     I learned how much of an optimist I was living with, when I told Kristi about nearly dying at Deadman's Beach. She responded, "You're lucky." I was what!? I guess it's one of those glass half-empty/half-full debates. To Kristi, I'd NEEEARLY died - to me, I'd nearly DIIIED. Call me pessimistic, but, at age 19, I'd prefer the "death" word to not come anywhere near me for sixty years. - that'd be lucky.

Back home, at my school in America, we were having class one day, when the teacher asked us what our favorite pet would be. We went around the room, with students answering, "dog" and "cat" and "dog" and "parrot" and "cat." Then, it came my turn.
     "Koala," I said, seriously.
     Everyone laughed. Ohhh, man, was I insulted. I pumped my fist and vowed, then and there, that I was going to get my pet koala and show ALL of them! ... Ha, ha!
     My first attempt at getting a pet koala was this Tuesday. A koala had wandered onto the Southern Cross University campus and made its home in a tall tree. Henry, as he'd been named by Canadian Matt and Dutch Sam, was fat, lazy, gluttonous, and surly-looking. He was perched atop the fifty-foot, sparsely branched euchalyptus tree. I put on my backpack, for something to stuff Henry in once I reached the top and our gnarly wrestling match had ended. I lifted myself seven feet up to the tree's first limb, prepared to catch my pet koala.
     And then I fell from the tree. Right in the mud. Euchalyptus bark has the traction of a greased cookie sheet. If I was gonna climb this tree, I was going to have to get serious. A small crowd of people gathered along the path and watched as I took off my shirt and shoes and hoisted myself to the tree's first branch.
     Alright, I thought, 1/7th the way there.
     And then I fell again. This time, I sunk in the mud up to my knee, filthenizing my jeans. The koala had gotten the best of me, and he still didn't even know I existed. All muddy, I decided to leave the pet-catching until I could devise a winning strategy.
     I asked some Aussies if they had any winning strategies for koala-catching. They only laughed and told me, if I ever reached the koala, he would tear me up. I'm sure; the tree's so slippery he would have to have half-foot claws for hanging on/ripping off people's faces. I wondered if my pet koala would've been a welcomed "Roomie" in Kristi's room. Wouldn't she be surprised to come home one night, step over me on the floor, and push aside the stuffed animals on her bed - only to have one of the stuffed animals, the one with six-inch razor blades for hands, jump on her grouchily and rip apart her clothes in search of euchalyptus leaves?
     I told Kristi of my pet ideas (I didn't phrase it like the above sentence), and she didn't seem to care.
     However, the koala hunts did come to an end. I was deep in thought, working on a plan incorporating catapults, a fire-net, and an outfit made completely of euchalyptus leaves, when my school's animal-rights activists, led by Jess, banged on my door. They didn't go all-out, but they should've held picket signs and chanted catchy things that rhymed when you contorted the words, like, "This is Australia, Don't Catch Koalas!" and "When You Climb Euchalyptus, You're as Dumb as a Platypus!" and "More Fringe Benefits for Henry!"
     I finally yielded when Jess (would-be roommate # 3) said, "If you keep trying to catch that koala, I won't let you stay in my room." I reasoned that even three blissful weeks of comfort with Henry on Kristi's floor weren't going to be worth the next three weeks, when Henry and I would have to make our homes at the top of his tree.
     Though I was sad, koala-less, and still being ridiculed by students at my American university, at least I had a roof over my head. And a floor beneath my back. You can't beat comfort.

- "Roomie"

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