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2018 Traditional Verse

Highly Commended

Highly Commended

The Price of Beer
Jacqueline Winn

Possum Brush, NSW

“The wife has up and left me,” moans the young man through his beer.
“She took the kids and all me cash, the rent is in arrear.”
At this, a dozen faces lift around the outback bar
And watch the young man as he downs the last dregs of his jar.
Then Harry fumbles in his shorts and slaps a crumpled ten
In front of barman Ted and says, “Just fill ‘im up again.”

It’s silent while the stranger slowly sips on Harry’s gift
But as he nears the final drop he gives his glass a lift.
“She even took me trusty ute, I dunno what to think.
I had to walk the last three hours, to find a bloody drink.”
From all around the bar, each knowing drinker gives a nod.
“The ute!” one murmurs mournfully. Another adds, “Poor sod!”

“And then she went and took away me good old Bluey Dog.”
A loud intake of breath ensues, twelve faces all agog.
“For years he’s been my faithful mate, me heart is damn near bled.
I can’t imagine how I’ll sleep without him in the bed.”
Already Billy’s counting out the loose change from his pay.
“Another beer!” he calls to Ted. “A bloke needs mates, this day.”

The young man slurps three mouthfuls down and slips a smile to Bill
And every man basks in the warmth of bloke-to-bloke goodwill.
But just ten minutes later, there’s an awful heartsick sigh.
“Who’s gonna cook me tea tonight? I swear a man could die!”
Then Tubs, a man who’s never missed a good meal in his life,
Coughs up the price of one more beer to ease the young man’s strife.

Some lesser souls slip out the door before the next beer drains
Before he says, “She reckons I’m just thoughtless, got no brains.
You can’t expect a bloke to think till Footy season’s done.”
All heads nod wisely round the bar. “Priorities,” says one.
Then that one takes his wallet, puts his Visa on the bar,
And says to Ted, “A beer, to drown the saddest tale by far.”

Another fifteen minutes passes by without a word
And then the young man utters the worst plea they’ve ever heard.
“Who’s gonna wash me socks and jocks? Who’s gonna chop the wood?
A man without a woman is, for sure, no bloody good!”
About to scarper home, old Trevor’s conscience feels a stab,
While rushing out the door he yells, “Just put one on my tab!”

Now all around the old bush pub, they’re staring at the floor
All waiting for the telltale groan that’s come five times before.
But this time, when his beer is done, the young man tips his hat
And wanders out to where he’s parked his flashy new Passat.
Then as the trickster speeds away, the barman makes it clear 
“You’ve gotta give him credit, that man knows the price of beer.”



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