HEBE FLEES THE SCENE

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It’s 4.30 am. Hebe ushers her aging Jack Russell, Tom, onto the footpath. Sunrise is not far

away and a cool breeze plays through the blossom-laden murraya hedge causing it to release a

heady perfume.

With Tom leading the way, they set off down Lower Bowen Terrace towards Sydney Street, and

from there, over Brunswick into New Farm Park. Hebe loves it here at this time of day, before

it becomes crowded with joggers, walkers, the noisy exponents of bootcamp and other dog

owners.

The river is as still as a millpond, its water possessing a treacle like viscosity, so thick you almost

believe you could walk on it. Hebe unleashes Tom who immediately races off in joyous pursuit

of a foraging river rat. A curlew calls a warning to its chicks. The eerie cry echoes through the

shadows of giant moreton bay figs and is finally lost in the diaphanous mist rising from the river.

Not wanting to cause the family of curlews any further alarm, Hebe quickly brings Tom to heel.

Together, they make their way away from the rivers edge, up the embankment and towards the

rose gardens.

It was as they were crossing the ring road that Hebe first noticed the vehicle with the Brisbane

City Council logo emblazoned on its cabin door. She knew immediately it was a dreaded Dog

Ranger’s truck.

Who would have thought they would be out and about at this time of day! Hebe had always

exercised the fond and erroneous belief that these people would be the nine to five sort, and

unlikely to be seen so early in the day.

Hebe quickly secures Tom to his lead, hoping the ranger hadn’t noticed her disobeying council

law and tries to make good their escape by disappearing behind the Rotunda. But that hope is

soon dashed when, through the stillness of the dawn a voice calls out, “Hey! You there. Stop!”

Hebe curses under her breath. Desperately she thinks how best to handle the situation, shall I

employ charm or defiance? I’m an attractive woman, surely charm will win the day. Arranging

her face in a pleasing manner Hebe turns to face the Ranger.

“Oh hello!” she says smiling. “A beautiful morning.”

Ignoring her greeting the Ranger cuts right to the chase. “Lady you had your dog off it’s lead.

That’s a serious and fineable offence!”

Hebe’s smile quickly dissolves and metamorphoses into a rictus of bared teeth. She is

dismayed by the man’s aggressive and unfriendly demeanour . He is, she suspects impervious

to charm, hers or anyone elses for that matter.

A more singularly unattractive and mean spirited individual she has never had the misfortune to

meet. Pale blue eyes blaze accusingly at her from a thin ashen face. The eyes of a true zealot,

Hebe thinks. There will be no swaying this man from his purpose.

The dirty blonde hair is cut painfully close to his pointed skull. His lips are chapped and in an

effort to keep them moist, he darts his tongue continually across their dry flaking surface. Hebe

is, disconcertingly so, suddenly reminded of a reptile.

Abandoning all thoughts of seduction, Hebe quickly goes on the offensive, “It’s not going to

happen! I’m not accepting a fine. You can read me a lecture on exercising my responsibilities as

a law-abiding citizen and the necessity of dogs being kept on leads but I am not taking a fine.”

The pale blue eyes blink at the temerity of this statement. The Ranger has been caught off

guard, disconcerted by this brazen challenge to council law. A small bubble of anger begins to

swell within his narrow chest. The one thing he won’t tolerate is civil disobedience.

“I’m responding to complaints about dogs being off the lead and your dog was off it’s lead. Lady,

you’re gonna be fined.” says the ranger with awful emphasis. He leans down towards Tom

intending to read the registration tags that hang from his collar. “You touch that dog and all hell

will break loose!” says Hebe forcefully.

The ranger steps back his face infused with blood. Hebe can see he is very angry. She begins

to feel a little apprehensive. They’re alone in the park and this man clearly doesn’t like to be

challenged.

“Are you threatening me?” says the man with quiet menace. “Do I have to call the police?”

Hebe rallies and throws down the gauntlet, “Yes call them. I’m sure the local constabulary will

be only too pleased to come down here and sort out this trifling matter, especially when all their

resources are busy with a small thing called the G20 summit.”

A flicker of doubt breaks his basilisk stare, the man’s eyes glance away. With that nano-second

of hesitation, Hebe realizes she has gained a small advantage. He is unsure how to proceed.

He can’t physically manhandle her and she won’t be bullied into revealing her details. They are,

as the French would say, at an impasse.

The advantage is all Hebe’s and she is eager to take charge of it. Gathering up Tom, Hebe

quickly takes her leave. And as she weaves her way through the rose gardens away from her

nemesis, she can feel his cold blue eyes boring into the back of her skull. His voice thick with

frustrated anger calls to her retreating back, “Lady you haven’t heard the last of this!”

Hebe’s main concern now, was, how to get Tom home without him following her.

“And did he follow you?” I ask. We sit on Hebe’s verandah with a jug of Pimm’s and a wheel

of Brie set on the table before us. The sun sits low in the sky. It’s late afternoon and Hebe is

recounting her early morning skirmish with the city council ranger.

“Oh yes! in his truck.” laughs Hebe, spreading brie over a water cracker. “He followed me

through back streets, main streets and laneways all over New Farm until we finally reached

Merthyr Village. I went down into the underground car park, feeling confident I would lose him

by exiting the car park via those stairs that lead to Merthyr Road. But alas no. He was waiting

for me as I emerged. The triumph in those cold blue eyes almost undid me.”

I take a deep drink of Pimms. “How did he know you would exit the car park at Merthyr Road?”

Hebe shrugs. “I don’t know Darling. Perhaps he has a sixth sense but I suspect it was just sheer

luck. I was getting desperate by now – and tired. Tom was buggered and beginning to protest at

this relentless and – for him at least – pointless march around New Farm.”

“So, how did you get give him the slip?” I ask. Hebe smiles wickedly. “I was heading up

Brunswick street and as I neared the Arch’s house I suddenly saw a brilliant opportunity!”

“Who is Arch? Do I know him?” I ask confused.

“Not Arch Darling. It’s the Arch, the Archbishop. I went into to the Archbishop’s house!” says

Hebe triumphantly.

Choking on my cracker I splutter,”You went into Wynberg House?”

“Yes, well, into the grounds Darling. It was most fortuitous that the front gate was open.

Normally it’s closed tighter than a drum. Anyway I walked in and hid behind some shrubs in the

garden.”

“Sure enough, my pursuer pulls up in his truck and waits out the front for me to leave. It was at

this point I hear the front door of the house open and to my horror, four priests step out onto the

drive. I had in my agitated state failed to notice a car parked at the door. Obviously it was there,

waiting to transport the priests somewhere! That was why the main gate was open.”

“Oh my God! Hebe no! What did you do?” I enquire anxiously.

“The only thing one can do in these awkward situations Darling. You act as if everything is as it

should be. I smiled and graciously wished them a good morning and then with as much dignity

as I could muster, beat a hasty retreat around the side of the house.”

“Didn’t they challenge you? Ask why you were there? Oh Hebe, this is unbelievable.

“I think they were too surprised to say anything. It’s not every day you exit your house and find a

wild eyed woman with her bedraggled canine hiding behind the azalea shrubs.”

Hebe takes a sip of her drink and continues.

“I was banking on my pursuer not knowing there is a laneway at the side of the Arch’s place that

leads circuitously to Browne Street. It wasn’t an easy escape, there were some obstacles in my

path like locked gates and fences. I destroyed a pair of designer jeans climbing over them but

I did manage to get to Browne Street and flag down a taxi. At first the driver baulked at taking

Tom but a fifty dollar note soon fixed that small problem and we were delivered safely home.”

I’m impressed with Hebe’s resourcefulness and her sans-souci approach at becoming an

outlaw. “Good-on-you Hebe. I would never had the courage to defy a City Council ranger. No

matter how resentful I may feel about some of our by-laws.”

Hebe leans back in her chair smiling, as she raises her glass. “Cheers Darling!” Our glasses

clink and she then says pensively, “I do hope they don’t send the fine to the Arch. They won’t be

silly enough to do that would they?”