Youre going to hate me so you might as well get it out of your system. Thats right, just rip out this page, slap it on the dart board and wreak your revenge. And why should you treat me and my work with such disdain? Simple Ive just been sticking my snout in your rates money. Yum yum. And how did I manage that? Well, a little mate of mine on a certain local council (whom I shall refer to as Chucky the Spraypainter), invited me to that councils annual Christmas party. I couldnt refuse such a wonderful chance to slip on my old safari suit, don my Dunstan hot pink shorts and my red Che Guevara beret, and tuck into some delectable free chow and a couple of stiff drinks at the publics expense.
Of course I did struggle with my conscience for a few microseconds before I enthusiastically agreed. Life is like sport you have to take your chances when they come.
Strangely, as I recall, the actual event was nothing like Id expected. I got there early to avail myself of the bar, but to my surprise the whole council were sitting down in a lecture hall while this strange guy in a white lab coat was holding court like some kind of arch wizard. In front of The Alchemist there was a long white plastic table. Laid out on the sterile table top was an amazing array of pipes, filters, Bunsen burners and pyrex beakers. At one end of the table The Alchemist poured a rank, cow-soiled fluid into the pipe.
The murky fluid travelled slowly through the apparatus, stopping occasionally in a storage vessel as The Alchemist added a pinch of this powder and cup of that detergent, and the fluid moved on along the piping, growing clearer and clearer as it went. We all sat spellbound as he wove his magic. Finally, at the end of this solemn ritual, an amazing tan-coloured juice trickled out a thin funnel and into a large beaker. Slowly the final sediment settled, leaving a milky, almost transparent, water... yes, water! The Alchemist proudly lifted the glass and in haloed tones proclaimed it The Source the new water supply for Lismore. It was passed around and we each sniffed it in turn. It smelt, but not obnoxiously so. Then the Alchemist braced himself and took a sip, spat and smiled.
Its only fair, he said. If were going to ask the populous to drink this stuff then we should do so as well. Then, like a kind of sacrament, he passed the beaker around once again. They all took a sip, spat and managed a tight, strained smile, except for Chucky the Spraypainter. Chucky was not so keen.
Why cant we just make sure every house has a tank? Chucky enquired. There was the odd cough and people looked around nervously. The Alchemist broke the uneasy silence.
There are a host of reasons why that wont work. In any case tank water isnt safe. Go on, have a sip its fine and salable.
No way, Chucky said. Here, would you drink it? Chucky asked, thrusting it into my hand. I looked up at the hypnotic eyes of The Alchemist and took a slug and swallowed. Their was a collective gasp. Spit it out! Chucky cried, but it was too late. Id swallowed. The Alchemist laid a reassuring hand on my shoulder and muttered something about it being better boiled as everybody else moved slowly away. They ordered dinner in hushed tones casting furtive, concerned glances in my direction. Slowly as the night went on I began to turn a pale shade of green. Everybody was very kind about it, often running off to get me a bucket, or the odd glass of antiseptic Cabernet Sauvignon. I dont remember now, its all a blur.
Trippy gear that Source. At one stage I thought I was just sitting in a regular restaurant in a plain purple shirt and black slacks playing animal trivia. How absurd as if that would have happened?!
In the morning it all came back to me the apparatus, The Alchemist, and The Source.
I felt dreadful and staggered to the sink to pour myself a glass of water. It was clear, fresh and untainted by any odour. I sipped and swallowed, relishing the smooth, cold feeling of the pure liquid rushing down my throat. I looked out at our rainwater tank and smiled. Magic does happen.
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