From the bunker

Sparkles cracks a very bad pun

(So far: Not-so-secret agent 001 has breached the defences of Pearly Gates Dormitory Retreat only to find a host of evil geriatric forces ranged against him. He pleads with his Chief …)

I tell you, Chief, Pearly Gates is a powder keg sitting in a bushfire. When it blows there will be a lot of noses out of joint. High-up noses, you can quote me on that.

Remember, you sent me into this geriatric hellhole to finger the dissidents. It was your call, Chief.  I recall your parting words, “It is a far, far better thing that you are a better man than me, Gunga Din.” Inspirational! I don’t know where you get it from, Chief’. 

Those words lifted my spirit, strengthened my steely resolve to go above and beyond the call, as it were. “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times,” I clichḝd to myself. It didn’t make a great deal of sense but certainly sounded good. So good, that I repeated it when I was being introduced to the assembled Pearlies. 

“It is the best of times, it is the worst of times,” I said.

“Wanker,” an ancient woman with washed-out red hair cried savagely.  When I started to say “It is the season of folly …” she tumbled out of her wheel chair and whacked me on the scone with her walking stick. It’s made of iron bark and is knobbly like a shillelagh.  It’s been all downhill from there.

They patched up my head wound in the little hospice within the home and advised me not to go anywhere near the former red head. 

“Old Lily’s dynamite with that walking stick,” the head nurse chuckled. When I suggested she should be locked away, the nurse 

got a bit huffy. “We’d be out of work, out on the streets without Lily,” she said. “Without her, there’d hardly be anything for us to do.”

I was about to let the conversation slide, but the nurse grabbed me by the throat and said, “Listen, mate, you just listen to what you’re told. We don’t want trouble-makers here in Pearly Gates.”

Trouble-makers! The place is full of them. The old folk are divided into five Houses, just like at school. Tony Abbott’s House of Horrors, the Julia Gilliard Eggbeaters, Malcolm Turncoat’s Double Dealers, Kevin 07’s Cry-Babies and the ScoMo Dunnos. They hate each other with a vengeance, just like on the outside, in suburbia

The Eggbeaters are all women except for one bloke dressed in drag. He’s 84, wears a different sequin dress every day – they call him Sparkles – and is a former wharfie. 

The hoods from the House of Horrors hate the Eggbeaters, and they particularly despise Sparkles. Five of these latter-day bovver boy Blackshirts waylaid him in the bathroom recently. Sparkles just laughed in their faces and told them, “Line up, lads, and I’ll deal with you in sequins.” They love a bad pun, the Eggbeaters. 

The HH hoods have an image issue. It’s freezing cold here in Pearly Gates; wearing shorts isn’t an option. All their long pyjama pants come from different Vinnies outlets; they don’t match up. What a dilemma for these hardy warriors. Like all fascists, they love a uniform. They’ve solved the problem by allowing each trooper to wear his individual longies but they all have Tony Abbott budgie smugglers pulled over the top of them, all with Tony’s death-skull grin pictured on their backsides. An intimidating sight, I can tell you – a couple of dozen Tony Abbotts grinning you down as they march in lockstep backwards towards you. They can’t goosestep going in reverse but make up for it with some impressive precision drill work with their walking sticks. 

There’s talk of a hunger strike next Tuesday. Are you listening, Chief, I need your attention? They have a hunger strike that day, I’m out of here; I don’t care what my secret agent contract says. Tuesday’s the only day of the week they have edible food here. Pavlova! Yummy!

Turncoat’s Double Dealers are behind the putsch, so it’s impossible to tell whether they’re fair dinkum strikers or if it’s a blind for some other sneaky manoeuvre. 

To clarify their position, Kevin’s Cry-Babies have issued a statement, reading: “By way of detailed programmatic specificity we have an inherent distaste for grandiose rhetorical actions which don’t have any substantive dimension and in regard to possible strike action we believe our community would be going a bridge too far by not going far enough.”

When I asked their leader, a goofy old dame named Kevin 09, whether they were striking or not, she plucked a nob of wax from her ear and chewed on it a while, swallowed and caught her breath again. She said: “There’s nothing like having a little bit of somebody else in you.” I don’t know, Chief, I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine.

I’m keeping my official report brief, Chief, for obvious reasons. If I have to do a runner, the less I’ve said on the record, the better my chances of getting away


Sirs, I have to report that Bunker 001, known as the Pearly Gates Dormitory Retreat, is in turmoil, on the brink of anarchy. Ancient militants from the Tony Abbott clique have been out on manoeuvres in wheel chairs and metal walking frames, conducting complicated drills with their walking sticks. They insist on using military jargon (“Able-Baker-Charlie to base, Able-Baker-Charlie to Base, Come in Base”) when they are talking with you face to face and it makes no bloody sense at all. A group of younger pensioners has banded together, touting themselves as the ScoMo’s Dunnos. and has hit management with a list of demands. They’re all   Baby Boomers who, as we know, have been a pain in the you-know-what since birth. Of more immediate concern – Malcolm Turncoat’s Double Dealers, have gone underground. No, I don’t mean into their graves; they’re not talking, to anyone, when normally they’d talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles. Urgent request: 001 seeks immediate compassionate leave.  

© Michael John Barnes. 

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