The Birdman's big fuzzy smoo> by eric yoshiaki dando

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staring into a big fire makes me remember things.  there's a lot of music in all the snap-crack and popping.  you never see the same shapes twice, that's for sure.

the heat from this fire is fantastic.  i'm way up the other side of the valley now, and i can still feel it.  i can still see it. it is, as i’ve said, fantastic.

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my parents met at the aquarius festival and fell in love and eventually bought this land that i am standing on now.

my parents gave themselves new names when they bought this place.  invented a ceremony, with candles and bush flowers.  there’s photos somewhere.

they decided to call me tractor.  my parents just liked the sound of it.  if i was born a girl i would have been called petrol.  my mother reckoned if you repeated it enough it sounded like a flower.

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they educated me here in the valley, raised me on rabbits and wheat grass and chick peas, let me paint on the walls and express myself verbally.  my mother would tell me all the bird's names and my father would tell me which trees they ate from and we would go and inspect the trees and bushes that grew out of the various squirts of bird shit. my father was fascinated by that.  we had trees and mushrooms and birds that we loved individually each day as a family.

my father taught me a great respect for plants, trees especially.  'each one is as important as you or me.' 

we would have a nightly bathing ritual in the dam and dry ourselves around the fire and make up stories and sing and my mother would tell us our future.

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i remember one night sunbeam was wearing this little mini skirt she had made out of rabbit skins and moondoggy said, 'i should make myself a fox suit.  then you could dress up like a rabbit and hide in the blackberries and i could come and search you out,' as he rips off her rabbitskin and spreads her on the table, 'skin-a-bunny,' he says.

'ah, skin-a-bunny!' she shrieks.

'yeah,' i say from behind the telescope, 'skin-a-bunny.'

there were no doors in our house, they just didn't build them.

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my mother predicted many things, but she did not foresee the big iron bark tree that grew tall and straight for two hundred years only to fall on them while we were out for our nightly stroll.

it was a stormy night alright and the wind was blowing cold and bloody fury and we were walking up to the other side of the hill to get a better look at the lightning. 

one moment they were walking beside me and the next they were not and the tree was there instead.  i didn't even have to bury them.  and the spooky thing is, the tree didn't die.  it was only half uprooted. it's grown even bigger since it swallowed my parents.  i pretend to believe that the tree fell on them for a reason.

mum and dad always said that they wanted to be buried under trees and now they are.  my parents death was not as great a shock as you might expect because my father said that we will all die someday, somehow.  that it was best to meet death in good spirits, with a good sense of humour.

i think people have forgotten that we live here.  nobody visits.  nobody seems to miss my parents except me.


i've got this big telescope i use for looking at birds but right now i can see people camped out in tepees, babies shitting into the dirt, dogs licking sleeping faces.  the bush around here is full of these strange new creatures.

one day there was just a hill there and then the next day there were all these panel vans and kombi vans and tepees and i had heard my parents talk about the circus and i thought that maybe the circus had come to my little valley. 

and they made this huge fire and all joined hands and everyone was juggling and breathing fire and walking backwards over hot coals and whatever.

and it was a good show, i enjoyed it at the time.  but they have stayed.  maybe a year.  more maybe.  they have half built shacks, they have doubled their tepee circle.  they have cooked and danced and reproduced and bashed each other up and stolen from each other and whatever.  i've been watching it all through my telescope from this side of the hill.  i can see everything. 

they all look so small from where i'm standing.  i can fit the birdman’s head between my thumb and forefinger.  i can squash his head in my fingers like a pea.  that's something my father used to do, squash my head between two fingers through one eye.  ‘i'm squashing your head like a pea,’ he would say.

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all the people that live over on the other side of the hill are crazy.  they bought this huge shipment of acid.  it was so cheap.  sunbeam always said that most things are cheaper when you buy a lot of them but this was ridiculously cheap.

my parents made sure i knew all about lsd and marijuana and heroin and whatever.  they wanted me to be prepared for every situation.

so when the birdman came down and asked me if i wanted to buy some acid i told him what moondoggy told me.  i told him what i will tell you.  lsd is just a government experiment abandoned in the late 60's.  the lsd all came from one person.  he was paid by the cia to grow his hair long and go out into the streets with sheets and sheets of free lsd. 

the cia is a curious organisation.  the cia wanted to see what happened and then they changed their minds.  that's the way my father told it.  they didn’t know what to do.  they were tripping.

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my parents told me that each batch of acid has a different design or logo, like a dancing test tube, or strawberries or a smiling budha.  like when they first met each other, moondoggy was on a very sophisticated gelatine clear light, while sunbeam was under the influence of some kind of bogus brown paper acid, the type the government warns you about.  she thought she was an insect, my father took her under his wing.  found her a cup of orange juice.  danced a slow dance that lasted until breakfast.

there were no doors, no secrets in the house my parents built.  my father had sex with many women and even another man, who my mother also had sex with.

'moondoggy isn't your real father', she told me one night around the fire.  she told me about bj the big fat biker that wiggled and jiggled and came inside her.  she was too jazzed by all the bogus brown acid, she can't remember much about it.  she remembers that bj was giving away the acid for free.

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so when the birdman told me that the acid came from a big fat biker, i instantly thought of moondoggy and that big iron bark tree.

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when buying the acid, the birdman had asked the biker what kind of trips they were.  he wanted to know if they were strawberries or microdots or purple ohms or whatever.

it wasn't even acid.  it was a completely different set of chemicals altogether, juggled in the bath by the big fat biker.   he just threw it all in there and stirred.

and the birdman said 'well i never heard of a big fuzzy smoo.  what do they do?'

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the bfb didn't care what happened to the birdman or his friends.  he had no interest in his experiment once he had their money in his fat little fist.

so perhaps that is why i am recording this information.  i am taking over the bfb's abandoned experiment.

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i can hear them up there on the hill doing the war dance.  big fuzzy smoos have fried their brains but they're still taking them.  they are out in the rain beating on their bongo drums.

they have a dam over on the other side of the hill but i have never seen one of them take a bath in it.

i can't understand why they don't wash.  i mean, moondoggy had dred-locks but he managed to keep them clean.  but this one guy i am observing today, his hair has a life of its own.  i can see the individual insects jumping around in there and i am nearly a mile away.

the birdman actually wears parts of dead animals, i mean sunbeam used to make jewellery out of bones and teeth and whatever but she let the ants eat the flesh off first.  the birdman has these goat horns embedded in two of his biggest dreds, he has a dried out cow's tail attached to the bum of his jeans.  he has a waistcoat made out of a dog.  it's like he's the prince of flies, i can see them individually through the telescope.

the feral kids have been chasing him around the tepees.  pulling his tail off again. 

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he has come to visit me, i see him walking down the track a mile away.  i pull a blanket over the telescope and walk outside.

he wants to know something, or wants to trade something, i don't know.  he wants to sell me a big fuzzy smoo.  yeah, he wants ten dollars for it and that's pretty cheap, he says. 

i am looking at the birdman’s dried up cows' tail.  it is all muddy and tattered, it is hanging off his bum on one, maybe two threads.  he sees me looking and stiffens up and takes a breath. 

'those little snot munchkins,' he says, 'little buggers.' 

i go inside and get a needle and some thread and he stitches his tail back on.  he asks me again if i want any of that acid and i tell him again that i don't.

and i've only just found out what a tractor is, i've never seen one.  the birdman tells me: a tractor is a mechanical pig: they dig up fields, knock down trees, they are horrible, destructive things.  i am really beginning to wonder what my parents were thinking when they gave me this name.

i give the birdman ten dollars anyway and he says that i had better take a big fuzzy smoo then.  and i tell him again that i don't want one, that the money is a gift.  i don't know why, but he seems so disappointed.  it's like i've insulted him.

i make a pot of tea and we talk for an hour or so.  the birdman keeps pointing behind my shoulder and when i look there is nothing there.  then i notice, some sort of fuzzy energy coming out of his fingertips, shooting out at me in all these colourful streamers.   

then it hits me.  the awkwardness creeps up from my feet.  my feet are so far away.  i'm shrinking in my chair as if i am on the edge of a great cliff.  a terrible vertigo.  the birdman dancing to the bongo drums in slow motion, throwing back his head and laughing.        

i turn all jaded and mean and i mean business.  i grab the axe and turn to the birdman, but he flies away giggling, shedding feathers.  i follow him up to the iron bark tree, but lose him in the branches.  he breaks apart into crows, crumbles.  i don't know which one is which.  he must have slipped a big fuzzy smoo into my tea when i wasn't looking.

so i just start hacking away at the tree and the birds all scatter, i hack away and hack away.  i cut the tree for killing my parents and i cut my leg, i split the axe handle, bleeding all my blood into the wound in the trunk, bleeding all these bloody sweaty stinking tears, getting all these sparks and flashes in tunnel vision, through the wrong end of the telescope; trapping feral cats with my father, collecting blackberries with my mother and sleeping in the same bed and telling stories and massaging each others brains and the sun bounces off the creek beats my egg shell brain and i dry out and crack open and cry out for sunbeam and scream out blue and solid for moondoggy. 

slowly, all those birds come back peeping, poking through leaves.  hanging around me in the iron bark branches like i'm not even there.  i am not myself.  not a plant or animal.   just some sort of fungus or lichen growing out of the bark, i hear water in the creek, a dragon fly grinds its chasse against my ear.

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my parents money and property has always been in my name, they decided on my name before i was even born.  tractor hamilton-burn, there was great debate about burn-hamilton and in the end it was up to the fate of two bob, that's what my father called a twenty cent piece.  two bob.  they had worked out my whole life for me.  they knew that if something happened to them; if they became insane with jealousy, or were divorced, or murdered, then i could live here in security until i was grown.  i could sell the property, cash in the last crop and have enough money for adventures and meeting people.

i've sold it to the real estate agents in the next valley. 

my parents were very clever for giving me such an unusual name.  i mean, it's the first time i lay eyes on my namesakes, the top of the hill is humming with tractors and bulldozers, swarming with workmen in utes.  the birdman was correct, tractors are horrible destructive things, tearing down the trees with chains and hammers, stacking them against the fallen iron bark.  my parents could have called me 'real estate agent', or 'chainsaw', or 'drunken yobbo bastard'.

they hired private detectives to eliminate the birdman.  they sewed him up in a drug sting, hauled the women and crying babies away in police cars.

the tractors and bulldozers cut up the valley like a quilt. each square is worth more individually than as a whole.  sunbeam always said, most things are cheaper if you buy them in bulk, but this is ridiculous.  i ask the real estate agent to pay me in lobsters.  i tell him, 'that's what my dad used to call twenty dollar notes, lobsters.'  the agent gives me a suitcase of them.

all the workmen knock off around dusk, knock the ears off their stubbies,  spread out their bluey jackets, sit perched on eskies, listening to radios.  the pile of trees becomes a fiery monster with all this hooting and hollering and screaming.  the noise is fantastic.  the sky churns with smoke and screaming birds.  i can feel the blaze on my face and i am nearly a mile away.   





Eric Yoshiaki Dando ( was born in Tokyo in 1970 but now lives in Melbourne. He is the author of the novels Snail (Penguin, 1996) and Oink, Oink, Oink (2008). His short fiction has been published in Sleepers Almanac, The Age, Vice Magazine and Australian Goat World.

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