Taste Of Country
Judith La Porte
‘O’Grady ! Take a photographer and get out to Emu Road. The Harris property.’
Joe, the corpulent and cantankerous editor of the Country Advocate appeared in the doorway of his office. He peered over his multifocals.
‘More sheep have been mauled out there,’ he growled.
Larry O’Grady wolfed down the last of his morning doughnuts. He licked the remains of the pink icing from his fingers. Gulping down scalding sour-tasting coffee he threw the styrofoam cup towards his bin, missing it. The cup landed under the desk. Dark brown liquid, like blood, dribbled onto the carpet.
‘Jeez, mate,’ the editor said, eyeing the empty doughnut carton on Larry’s desk. ‘It’s only 8am. It’s a wonder you’re not fat as a mining magnate the way you eat.’
He looked with irritation and a certain amount of envy at Larry’s lean muscular frame. The Advocate’s star reporter was strikingly handsome—tall, in his early thirties, with a mane of shoulder length brown hair. His good looks were marred only by his slightly discoloured teeth and dark mono brow.
‘But have you tasted the doughnuts from that new place next to the supermarket − mouth-watering. The chocolate ones …’
‘Yeah, yeah. Just get cracking,’ grumbled Joe, thinking gloomily about the green salad and carton of natural low-fat yogurt his wife had packed for his lunch.
‘Hell, what a mess,’ muttered Bob, the Advocate’s photographer. He stared with distaste at the three sheep carcasses.
Grunting, he gingerly lowered his arthritic knee to the ground to get a close-up of one of the mutilated sheep. All three had had their throats torn out. Their stomachs had been bitten into savagely and hollowed out. Crimson wool, matted with saliva was scattered about the paddock.
Larry slid his designer sunglasses onto the top of his head. He surveyed the carnage with cool disdain.
‘What do you reckon, Constable?’ he asked the young police officer who was standing with Greg Harris, the property owner.
The constable shrugged. ‘Dingos I suppose. Or domestic dogs gone feral.’
Greg Harris pushed back his sweat-stained hat and grimaced.
‘Once those bastards get a taste of blood they come back for more. I’m the third place ’round here they’ve hit.’
Larry pulled out a small paper bag from his fitted black leather jacket. He fished out a fistful of salami sticks and jammed them into his mouth, chewing noisily.
‘We’ll do a front page feature—unless of course we get a murder or a juicy sex scandal before this evening.’ He winked at Bob. ‘We live in hope.’
Larry suggested he and Bob stop off at the Tasty Truck Stop Café before heading back to the newspaper office in town.
‘Large steak sandwich—bleeding and still kicking thanks, babe.’ Larry gave the
plump middle aged waitress a wolfish grin.
She frowned at him, unmoved by his dangerous good looks and startling pale blue
eyes. She knew the type.
‘Just coffee, thanks,’ said Bob.
Bob looked thoughtful. He drummed his fingers on the table.
‘Remember there was that old bloke living out in a bush shack near the Harris place. The cops found him dead a month ago. There was no press coverage but my mate, Dave at the police station told me he’d been, how’d he put it, half consumed. Savage injuries just like those sheep.’
Larry glanced at Bob. ‘So?’
‘Well, I know you’ll think I’m barking mad, but have you ever considered there might be …’
He looked around furtively and lowered his voice to a whisper: ‘a werewolf?’
Larry let out an explosive laugh. ‘Mate, are you serious? This isn’t the Dark Ages. Next you’ll be telling me you believe in vampires, little green men and that Elvis is still alive.’
‘Elvis. He is still alive. Me and the wife went to the States last year to visit her sister. We saw him, large as life, old as dirt, sitting in the booth next to us at a Burger King in Macon, Georgia. Got his autograph.’
Larry stared at Bob open-mouthed. He shook his head, speechless. Just then his food order arrived and he set about it hungrily.
While Larry ate ravenously, Bob sipped his coffee. He peered morosely out of the smeared café window. The day was grey and blustery. He wished he had not witnessed those pathetic bloodied sheep lying in the desolate paddock. He could still smell them and there was a sickening taste in his mouth.
He finished his coffee and tried to ignore the disconcerting gnawing sounds coming from across the table.
For such a good-looking bloke, Larry can be bloody unattractive sometimes, he thought.
Throughout that spring and summer, farm animals in the area, including a couple of young dairy goats, continued to be found mutilated. Neither the police nor the land owners were ever able to catch the suspected canine culprits. Traps were set and guns were always loaded and at hand, but to no avail.
The slaughter became so commonplace it was no longer front page nor even second page news in the Country Advocate.
Larry got his sex scandal—scintillating hijinks between the mayor’s wife and one of the local councillors, involving fluffy pink handcuffs, whips and careless emails.
A travelling salesman driving into town late one silvery moonlit night claimed to have seen a large course-haired animal moving with extraordinary speed alongside the barbed wire which fenced the O’Toole sheep property. It had raised its massive head and stared into his headlights, baring large yellowed fangs.
‘I swear its eyes glowed red. It looked positively evil,’ he shakily told patrons in the bar of the hotel where he was staying.
The barman raised his bushy eyebrows incredulously and handed the salesman another schooner.
Inexplicably by the end of December the killings had ceased. As the months went by the farmers and their livestock, or what was left of them, started to relax.
Larry had resigned from the Country Advocate just prior to Christmas. He had landed a job with an Adelaide newspaper. Everyone always said he was wasted working for a small town rag.
‘I’ve lost my taste for the country life, mate,’ he told Bob airily. ‘New horizons, fresh blood calls.’
Several young women in the district cried a lot after Larry’s departure.
Joe, the editor, begrudgingly admitted to himself that he missed Larry.
‘I suppose he’s covering that spate of unsolved murders of vagrants in the Port Adelaide area,’ he remarked wistfully to his wife one evening.
He smiled ruefully. ‘More exciting than dead sheep. Something a journalist can really get his teeth into.’
Bob stopped regaling people with his improbable werewolf theory. He did however occasionally bring out his treasured Burger King paper napkin signed Elvis Presley and dated September 2014.