Saturday, November 14, 2020

Stone Stories #1

The serpents were fighting again, this time over eggs, their own eggs or maybe it was the muttonbird’s eggs, laid in burrows on the island. They writhed and rolled through the sound, smashing boulders and letting the water in to the place where once there was a wooded valley with a creek running through. Jarrah maybe. I don’t know. It’s been flooded for a while now and that was all the work of the snakes.

One of the water snakes shone like paua shell, glossy with the rushing water, given the incoming tide. The other snake could see her reflection in her partner and tormentor. Her skin was reddish brown like the bloodwood kina and soon, after he bit her and slid back to examine the wound, in a rare moment of comradery given what had been happening for the last seven days, nodded to her as she watched her wound sprout blood in the mirror sheen of his hide.

She wanted to kill him then, kill his glee in her damage and, knowing she could never kill him, that killing her fellow progenitor would cause their mutual extinction, she burrowed into the earth to escape. Her skin became ruddier as she nosed through deep black sand and deeper into the white sand of sea dunes. She swam under the mountain, beneath granite tors and found the underground stream, followed the stream gulping at the sweet water rich with minerals to keep her going. Behind her, there was a rumbling sound. 

He followed the path she made under the mountain and then swam along the underground stream, now red with her blood. He knew from the dank scent that she was failing.

She burst out the north flank of crow mountain. She asked the people to help her. They wore cloaks and stood in a small circle, looking shocked, their sticks shipped to their sides. We don’t dare, one of them said. What if he comes after us next?

Distract him then, she said as the rumbling under the mountain grew louder. She slid away, through the reeds of the wetlands, past the Big Tree and into the creek. She knew this creek flowed into a lake filled with yakka tortoises. She knew this because she had made it herself. Dug it out to let the water flow when the water rose up that time. Here and now, she rested a bit, hoping the people would make good on their promise. The little fish gathered, nibbling at her body, and it felt like a sweet massage.

When he came out of the mountain, he wasn’t gasping like her. He emerged straight into the sky, his colours pulsing in the sun. Where is she? He asked the people and they just looked at him. They didn’t seem to know what to say. A kid with windblown hair raised her arm, like she was about to point out the lady serpent but she was cuffed and she dropped her hand and looked at her feet. He looked down and saw the track of brushed aside rushes in the wetlands. He was fully emerged from the mountain now and towering above them. Where is she?

One man picked up his dog, cradled the dog, whispered into its ear. As the serpent took off through the rushes, the man threw his dog into the air. The dog howled and flailed as it landed in the serpent’s path. He had to either go around the dog or stop to inspect a likely feed. He bit the dog in half, swallowing the torso and flung the tail and the head back at the people in reproach.


The rock in the shape of a dog’s head stands in the place where all that business with the serpents happened. The main road runs so close to Dog Rock that the town council painted a luminous white collar around its base, ostensibly so drivers don’t run into it. The rock sells postcards, advertisements for car yards and tourist moments. Whenever there is talk about removing the collar citing cultural concerns, the council overrides, citing safety concerns. Yarn bombers knitted the dog a new collar and that was removed, citing safety concerns. 

Two hundred metres south is the church, attended on Sundays by processions of families and led by men in robes, carrying sticks. Outside the church is the dog’s tail. It’s a tall, upright monolyth of granite. A rectangular cavity was carved into the dog’s tail and inside that grotto stands the Virgin Mary. 

Recently, but not so recent as the epic battle between the snakes, someone stole the Virgin Mary. The thieves carved away the concrete that bound her feet to the granite, and took her away. It was considered by many as an act of desecration.

There are rumours of tunnels under the crow mountain, dug out during the war to help soldiers move around unseen.


  1. Wow, what a spectacular rendition of this Menang myth. Such an icon this rock. I'm surprised the 'authorities' didn't dynamite it years ago citing safety concerns - when they could have got away with it without much opposition.

    We've had NAIDOC at the prison and bloody hell, I'm so over the cultural politics and misinformation that sabotages the ability of these people to begin to heal and move forward. Of course it's the same bullshit that hampers all human effort - individual egos and the hunger for personal power. I always get caught right in the fucking middle of it, no matter how much I try to stay out of it. Jesus.

    I'd love to share your story with them but the ever present contingent of chauvanists would be offended with a wadjella yorga's interpretation. Not all of them of course - there are some who would be happy to read it. Maybe down the track a bit.

    1. Yeah, I was wondering about all that when I wrote it out. That particular story belongs to two families and is a blended version. What I'm interested in is the juxtaposition of cultures and religion; the planting of the Virgin Mary into the dog's tail, men wearing cloaks, and the rumour of tunnels under the mountain. The newspaper articles about the theft of the Virgin Mary were full of words like 'sacrilege'. Although I could understand their hurt, the lack of irony was telling.
      Maybe not this week!