Young Billy, aged eight, squinted as the powerful rays of the summer sun burst through an opening in the tree canopy. “Hmm hmm nah nah ...,” he hummed happily as he slowly made his way through the small stretch of tropical rainforest that skirted the little town where he lived. Now and then, he looked up from the wood chip covered path that led to the waterfall to listen to the sounds of the bush. Cockatoos, lorikeets, currawongs, kookaburras and crested bellbirds sounded intermittently through each other in a cacophonous concert. Billy loved it here. This is where he came whenever he got half a chance. He felt at home among the many shrubs, trees, birds and animals of the rainforest. Being here, helped him to clear his mind and retreat into his own little world.
He had been walking about ten minutes when he recognized the faint sound of the waterfall that slowly became louder and louder. A smile appeared on his face, and he briefly stopped to close his eyes and breathe in the familiar sweet and musty smell so typical of the rainforest. “Hmm ...,” he sighed as he was overcome by a deep peaceful feeling. No longer aware of the outside world, he looked forward to swimming in the billabong. And so, he continued walking and before he knew it, he arrived at the waterfall.
“Woohoo!” he shouted on seeing the water that poured continuously into the billabong and caused the surrounding area to be covered in a haze of tiny droplets. Billy wasted no time in taking off his T-shirt and kicking off his thongs. With a loud “Yahoo!” he ran over the short stretch of sand and leaped into the water with a big splash. “Aaahh,” he gasped as he came up to the surface, feeling refreshed. It was exactly what he needed after having to pay attention in school all day long. Just as he was about to submerge again, he was distracted by something he had never seen before.
On the big boulder to the left of the waterfall sat a funny looking giant man, wearing nothing but a pair of purple boardies that looked surprisingly similar to Billy’s.
“G’day,” the giant drawled with a wide and friendly grin on his chubby face.
“Hi,” Billy greeted in return with an equally friendly smile. “How ya goin’?”
“Not bad,” the giant replied, “How about yourself?”
“Okay, I suppose.”
“Haven’t seen you here before,” the giant continued.
“Funny you should say that,” Billy said smiling, “I was about to say the same.”
The giant arched his eyebrows.
“I come here all the time,” they then said in unison and burst out laughing.
“My name’s Billy. What’s yours?”
Billy’s question made the giant frown a bit.
“I haven’t got one, but they call me the Bunyip.”
Now it was Billy who arched his eyebrows.
“I’ve heard about you!” he yelled in excitement. “But you’re not a monster at all.”
“Yeah, a monster who creeps up on people and scares them away.”
The more Billy told the Bunyip what he had been taught about him, the gloomier the Bunyip’s face became. Billy stopped talking just when the Bunyip looked as if he was going to cry.
“What’s the matter Bunyip?”
“I want my mummy!” the Bunyip bawled.
Billy looked on in amazement while the Bunyip rubbed his eyes and tears rolled down his face and into his twisted mouth. This was not the first time he had seen a grown man cry, but he had not expected someone like the dreaded Bunyip to cry like a little kid.
“I’m sorry Bunyip. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Billy said and climbed onto the boulder next to the Bunyip.
“That’s alright,” the Bunyip sniffed.
“Can I ask you a question?” Billy asked when the Bunyip calmed down and managed a faint smile.
The Bunyip nodded. “Go ahead.”
“How old are you?”
“I’m only 834.”
“WOW!” Billy cried out. “834? That’s really old.”
“Not really,” the Bunyip responded. “My mummy’s 3332 and my daddy’s 3334.”
“Huh?” Billy said in disbelief. “You’re having me on.”
“No, it’s true. We Bunyips age real quick. I’m probably about five in human years.”
Billy started laughing.
“I’m eight. So, that makes you younger than me.”
“Yeah,” the Bunyip said with an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
“And I bet you don’t have to go to school.”
“School? What’s that?”
“Oh, it’s a place where us kids have to go to learn stuff, like reading, writing and maths.”
Dire Straights – Why Worry
The Bunyip stared at Billy with a look of curiosity on his face, and so, Billy decided to tell him about the world he lived in. He told him that he went to school every day of the week except for Saturday and Sunday and in the holidays. The Bunyip then asked him why he went to school when his mum and dad could teach him everything he needed to know, just like he did. Billy’s reply was that you had to go to school when you turned six and did so until you were sixteen. The Bunyip was astonished. Especially when Billy said that he did not like school very much at all. Some of the lessons were okay and he made lots of mates there, but mostly, school was a drag and a waste of time that he could have spent playing and exploring instead. The Bunyip noticed that the more Billy spoke, the sadder he looked. He could feel Billy’s heart growing heavy.
“On Saturday my dad drove me to a birthday party,” Billy began to say.
“Oh, I love parties,” the Bunyip interrupted enthusiastically.
Billy faintly smiled.
“Me too,” he sighed, “but before we left, my dad said he hoped I would really enjoy myself while I still have the chance. Because when I grow up and leave school, I’ll have to find a job and spend my life doing heaps of stuff I hate doing.”
“What’s a job?”
“Oh, that’s when you work to get money to pay for your home, food and clothes,” Billy explained.
The Bunyip looked puzzled.
“It’s difficult to explain,” Billy said as tears welled up in his eyes, “I hardly understand it myself.”
Then the Bunyip put his huge arm around Billy’s shoulder, bringing a big smile to Billy’s face.
“Don’t worry, Billy. My daddy says there’s always sunshine after rain.”
Billy smiled even more.
“Thanks Bunyip. Your daddy’s a smart bloke.”
Now the Bunyip smiled. He dropped his arm from Billy’s shoulder, grabbed Billy gently by the arm and said wide-eyed: “C’mon Billy, let’s go for a swim.”
“Yeah!” Billy replied, jumping to his feet and leaping into the billabong.
The Bunyip followed close behind.
“Woohoo!” he shouted in exhilaration just before he landed in the water with a huge splash.
“Ahh, it feels good to be alive!” Billy shouted as he emerged.
“Yeahh!” the Bunyip agreed.
Then Billy rushed out of the water and began making his way to the top of the waterfall. The Bunyip looked on from the water, wondering what Billy was up to. When Billy arrived, he found out just how high it was. He briefly closed his eyes, took a deep breath and jumped.
“Bombs away!” he yelled with his heart pounding and wrapped his arms around his knees.
A few moments later, he landed in the water with a great big splash that made the Bunyip laugh with joy.
“I’m gonna do one now,” the Bunyip said when Billy popped up from the water, gasping for air.
“Yeah! Go for it, Bunyip!”
The Bunyip wasted no time making his way to the top, and it was not until he was about to leap in when Billy realized what effect a bomb by the Bunyip would have. He wanted to shout out to him to stop, but it was too late. With a loud “Yahoo!” the Bunyip followed Billy’s example and came plummeting down towards Billy. Billy’s heart froze a second or two before the Bunyip landed no more than two metres away from him, sending humungous waves to all corners of the billabong and making it overflow.
“Woah!” Billy shouted, getting to his feet after being bowled over by the waves. “You little beauty!”
The Bunyip just floated on his back with a big grin on his face, clearly satisfied with himself.
“Not bad, eh?” was his dry reply.
Herbie Hancock – Swamp Rat
The two newly found mates spent the remainder of the afternoon doing many more bombs, swimming and having fun. When they finally tired of this, they sat down in the sand and chatted. It did not take long before Billy began to feel dreamy. He was about to nod off when he was startled by a familiar voice that sounded in the distance. Was that his mum calling him, he wondered. No, it could not be, but it was. “Billy, your tea’s ready!” It was then that he realized he was not sitting by the billabong talking to the Bunyip at all, but lying on his back in the grass in the backyard. He sighed with a disappointed look on his face. His afternoon with the Bunyip had been nothing but a daydream.
That was in the early 70s. Now some 46 years later, Billy lives in a different part of the world. Although he does not daydream as much anymore, he still regularly drifts off into his imagination to return to the billabong by the waterfall. It is moments like these that remind him he is still a big kid at heart. They remind him of one of the most important lessons ever. To be true to himself with childlike innocence and to follow up on his heart’s desires. With curiosity, imagination and playfulness he makes the most of any situation. He loves his work, leads a happy and fulfilling life and is very grateful for it. And, while writing the final lines to this story, he smiles through tears of joy. With a warm feeling in his heart, he cherishes that day by the billabong when he made friends with the Bunyip.
Listen to the echoes of your heart
Tune your mind in, then make a start
Anything you want to be
Will soon become reality
Then you’ll see
From ‘Turn It On’ by Level 42
Level 42 – Turn It On
‘Waterfall’ by JoaKant on Pixabay
‘Daintree’ by Adrimarie on Pixabay
‘Man Under Waterfall’ by Fifaliana Joy on Pixabay
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Fri, 28 February