Magpies Don’t Like Tomato


The secret to surveillance is patience.

Some will tell you coffee, others will tell you having a bottle to pee in because something always happens while you are off taking a leak — and it’s true, but those things can be managed.

Without patience and a keen eye, you are just sitting on your arse ticking off the hours.

Allowing yourself to get bored is fatal. So, being in the moment keeps you sharp and wide awake.

Take the magpie drinking from the leaking tap as an example.

I see him most days around lunch time — the hottest part of the day. He lets the water fall from the sky and trickle down his throat. Birds can’t swallow like we can. I read that somewhere. It’s why they tilt their heads back after they dip their beak. This bloke has it covered — straight down his throat.

I’m a low-level operative in a big agency, and it suits me just fine. They don’t give me a lot of responsibility, and that’s fine too. I get lots of jobs like this one, “Keep an eye on Joe Blow’s apartment. Don’t follow him if he goes out just record the time and the time he comes back.”

Easy as.

The client must be well healed. One bloke to record the comings and goings and another to follow him to and fro.


I vary my vantage point. 

Sometimes in my car and other times, I sit in the cafe with the red and white table cloths.


The magpie is starting to get used to me. 

I give him some of my sandwich. 

He doesn’t like tomato.


The cafe owner is distant but friendly, and as long as I order a coffee every hour or two, he doesn’t bother me. He thinks I’m one of those people who write in cafes and that suits me.

I had ambition once. 

Then a small boy fell off a fence, and my heart sank with him. No one said it was my fault because no one knew he was helping me. All little boys can climb, right?

I went to the gravesite. There was so much grief and so many people that no one asked me why I was there.

If I sit on my arse and chronicle the comings and goings, nobody gets hurt.

For a while, I thought the magpie was keeping the leaky tap all to himself, but yesterday he turned up with a female. It was hard to tell if she was impressed with his prized secret. 


Women are hard to understand — with or without feathers. 


Dr Doug.

Australian Magpie IMG_0775

“As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion.”

Antisthenes Pinto


Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 5.24.50 pm

This story is now published as part of the anthology ‘Loyal and True’.


Dr Doug was born without a sense of humour. 

While leaving Dr Doug’s office, one of his patients ordered ‘100cc’s of humour for Dr Doug, stat’!


Dr Doug didn’t think it was funny and neither did his receptionist.

She had to work with him after all, and a complete lack of humour made the day go a lot smoother.

It seemed to her that almost everyone thought themselves to be hilarious, but they weren’t.

Dr Doug was angry, and his anger filled up the space that was normally reserved for a sense of humour.

Mostly he was angry because other doctors in his field of expertise made more money than he did.

All day long he looked at people’s skin, deciding if it was a freckle or a melanoma, which in a country with the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world meant he was kept very busy.

But, it was not enough.

Other doctors were reaping the rewards of the government’s skin cancer awareness campaign, which scared the Hell out of everyone.

Other doctors were burning, cutting and slicing from morning till night even though most of what they were removing were harmless Seborrhoeic Keratoses. As long as they said it was Melanoma, the government would kick in a sizeable chunk of the cost, and the patient paid the rest.

The government had succeeded in scaring the bejebees out of its citizens, but Dr Doug’s moral compass would not allow him to cash in.

This made him even madder.

It got so bad that he started to take it out on his patients.


Magpies don’t get skin cancer but like all creatures in the wild, they live a precarious existence, and much time must be devoted to the gathering of food and the finding of shelter.

The magpie that lived in the medical centre car-park did not like Dr Doug.

Every afternoon, as Dr Doug made his way to his car, the Magpie would swoop down and do his best to peck the angry skin doctor. Under normal circumstances, he would only do this during the mating season when he had chicks to protect.

But, for Dr Doug, he swooped all year round.

The angry doctor carried a copy of The Australasian Skin Specialist Monthly, wildly and ineffectively swinging it above his head to protect himself from this vicious Magpie.

Angry birds target angry people.

Dr Doug had lots of stuff, but his colleagues had a lot more, and it really pissed him off.

The Magpie had lots of other things that he could be doing, but he always blocked out a bit of time in the afternoon to give Dr Doug a hard time.

The Magpie’s life was hard, but he didn’t mind, there was always Dr Doug to harass. Seeing the angry skin doctor flailing away bought a song to the Magpie’s heart.

Everyone needs a bit of fun.

Except for Dr Doug.



Click Photos for photo credit.