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Popinjay’s Beverage Emporium
Roderick Makim

Popinjay’s Beverage Emporium

Fiction & Poetry

Voters Rating 1019 / 1000

1019

Synopsis

In a remote Outback community in the Gulf Country, an odd collection of heroes and monsters come together under the hot November sun to play out a conflict stretching back 5,000 years - but who are the heroes, who are the monsters and who are the poor fools in between?

 

The town of Arthur’s Crossing and its satellite, the almost-abandoned village of McAllister, both receive new arrivals. In McAllister, an aimless, hitchhiking backpacker with purple hair and a guitar finds work at a pub owned by three of the strangest characters he has met anywhere in his travels - Herculaneum Popinjay, Polaris Zhenshchina and Sonny Somnamble. They claim to be low-level monsters who never had any stories told about them, and migrated to Australia from Europe, Russia and India.

 

Meanwhile in Arthur’s Crossing, a family looking for a new start and a doctor with a secret mission arrive one November only to find their own stories linked in ways they could never have foreseen.

 

An eclectic tale, it weaves folklore, mythology and history from all corners of the world along with a very real glimpse of life in a struggling small town in North Queensland, weighed down by drought and drained by constant decline of population and services.

 

By turns comedic, terrifying, tragic, and triumphant, Popinjay’s Beverage Emporium is both an outlandish fireside yarn and a thoughtful examination of ideas of power, politics, friendship, inclusiveness and prejudice, and how ultimately we can all choose our own identities.

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Extract

His name was Herculaneum Popinjay.


That name set him back when he first moved to the Arthur’s Crossing Shire. It was a part of the world where a stranger would have to stay for at least 20 years before considered a local, but if your name was something like Herculaneum Popinjay, you would probably have to wait another couple of decades on top of that. But that didn’t worry Herculaneum. Time was something he had a great deal of.


It was the sort of name you get when you decide to furnish yourself with a new moniker after a three-day drinking bender in 18th century England. He chose Herculaneum as a mark of respect and remembrance, and Popinjay because he liked the sound of the word. He occasionally regretted it, but never enough to change it again. Not yet, anyway.


It was not a name that inspired fear, which pleased Herculaneum despite his occasional forays into highway banditry over the centuries. He always abandoned those forays quickly, because they were always less glamorous than the popular culture of whatever time it was led him to believe.


It was a name that lent itself to rambling, outlandish tales into the small hours of the long, hot nights of the North Queensland summer, over cold beers and endless rounds of Five Hundred. It was the name of a short, stocky man of indeterminate age, less than average physical fitness, a somewhat elastic sense of honesty and a rather lazy intelligence. It was the name of a man who had stumbled onto the secret of immortality and wasn’t much fussed by it.


It was the name of the owner and proprietor of Popinjay’s Beverage Emporium, the only business and abode in the otherwise abandoned town of McAllister, North West Queensland, Australia. The Gulf Country. He was standing behind the bar, polishing it with a dirty cloth and talking to his friends Sonny and Polaris, who will have their own introductions in good time. For the moment, it is enough to know that all three would probably be the most amiable monsters in all of Australia, although Polaris could be a bit severe at times.


They prefer the term ‘supernaturally gifted,’ incidentally, but they’re OK with ‘monsters.’ They’ve seen enough heroes in their time to feel comfortable in the other group.


‘What this place needs is music’, Herculaneum said, not for the first time. Herculaneum couldn’t play any instrument worth a damn, and his singing could kill a brown dog, but he was a great lover of music nonetheless.


The monsters didn’t know it, of course, but there was a musician of sorts making his way towards them, provided he didn’t die of thirst or heatstroke first.


There was something else headed their way, as well. It thought of itself as The Hero. They didn’t know The Hero was coming, either - but then again, The Hero didn’t know there were monsters in McAllister in the first place. The Hero wasn’t coming to North Queensland for them. He had other business to take care of and, if the musician had died of thirst, it’s possible the monsters of McAllister would have never encountered The Hero at all.


Possible, but not very likely. The Hero was very, very good at his job. He really should be, though. He’d been doing it for nearly 5000 years.

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