“Listen to this! ‘These little cannibals have bad-tempers and will fly into a maniacal rage if threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending their dinner.’ They gotta have a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock to publish this stuff. Gross exaggeration, that’s what it is.”
A sharp flick of the rat-eared magazine added emphasis to Tom’s words.
“Easy on, Tom, your ears are turning red and you’re scaring the ankle biters.” Trixie pushed one of her remaining young into her pouch with a not too gentle shove. “It’s not as if it isn’t true, is it? You’re grouchy most of time."
“And you’re not grouchy? Who are they to point their useless, wimpy appendages at us. Humans fly into rages ‘if threatened by a predator’ too. We got driven off the North Island—and it wasn’t chauffeured in any Yank tank either, was it? Mark my words; it won’t be long before we go the way of the tigers…”
Trixie could tell that Tom was just warming up. His ears were the colour of ripe cherries and their tree hollow began to fill with an unpleasant smell—and it wasn’t from the rotting carcass her mate had uncovered and eaten last night. The devil was in the “Devil.”
“ …As far as fighting for a mate is concerned, those drongos do that too.”
It had been a big mistake to go through the garbage at the campsite. The magazine had been wrapped around a rather tasty bit of dog’s eye. Unfortunately, the grease had not soiled the article on Tasmanian wildlife.
Trixie admitted that hers was a violent community, though she kept herself to herself, as did most of her kind. Then again, humans killed their own young too. Maybe Tom had a point—those people had no business criticizing. Personally, she resented being called a "devil." Trixie wasn’t sure exactly what that was, but the fear and disgust that lent emotion to the word spoke volumes. Lost in her thoughts, Trixie hadn’t realized that Tom was silent. She looked over to his corner of the hollow. Her mate had fallen into a state of tupor. She kept still, knowing that the slightest movement would instantly rouse him to full alertness. He appeared dead but appearances were deceiving.
If people left us alone we wouldn’t…
A sharp sneeze sounded from outside the hollow. Immediately, Tom’s mouth stretched wide showing 42 lethal weapons ready for action. Fear? Uncertainly? They couldn’t see, but they could hear growling, the sure signal of a fight about to take place. Tom, taking the lead, poked his nose out into the night. In the shadows cast by a full moon glowing through the trees, he saw two forms locked in deadly combat. The snarling, snapping, and growling grew fierce and Tom drew back into the safety of the hollow.
“Who is it?” asked Trixie.
“Buzz. He’s finishing off old Charlie.”
“Isn’t he the one with all those lumps around his mouth? Poor old duffer hasn’t eaten in weeks.”
“That’s the one. Some kind of disease.* I hope Buzz doesn’t get more than indigestion from old Charlie.”
Trixie paused, lost in the thought of the carnage outside her door.
“I guess that magazine is right, then.”
“What?” said Tom.
“Buzz just killed Charlie and is probably feasting on his bones. I’d guess that makes us cannibals just like they say.”
“Trixie,” Tom shouted, ears suddenly darkening to the colour of old blood. “I’m getting fed up to the back teeth with you. We’re supposed to be violent, mean, and without conscience—we’re the animals. They, on the other hand, are supposed to be improving into something better. We’ve got an excuse—which is more than can be said for them.”
Tom’s mate shook her head in solemn assent.
“Now that’s the duck’s guts. I guess the devil is in the details.”
Kangaroos loose in the top paddock = the lights are on but nobody’s home, a few bricks short of a load, not all there
Ankle-bi = meat pie
Drongo = stupid, dimwit, a fool
North Island = mainland Australia
Yank Tank = an American car
Tigers = the extinct Tasmanian tiger, a relative of the Tasmanian devil
Duffer = silly person
Fed up to the back teeth = losing patience
Duck’s guts = the heart of the matter
*Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), which threatens the survival of the Tasmanian devil population
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