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The Dreaming



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The Oyster Brothers and the Shark






The Oyster brothers sat on the beach watching Shark as he rushed backwards and forwards. It was a beautiful day with a cloudless sky and a soft, cool breeze blowing along the beach. They had full bellies and nothing to do but watch Shark chasing the stingrays. Presently he caught one and carried it to the beach, where he left it on the sand and went back to hunt for more.

‘It would make a good meal for us when we feel hungry again,’ one of the Oyster brothers remarked.

‘Yes, much better to eat when someone else has caught it! Let’s hide it.’

They carried the stingray to their camp in the scrub on the edge of the beach and covered it with branches and wisps of dried grass.

Shark had no more luck after his one catch. The stingrays had decided that the stretch of open water was no place for them when Shark was on the prowl, and had gone to a bay where they could hide among the rocks.

Shark waded out of the water and looked everywhere for his stingray. He noticed the Oyster brothers who were sitting innocently on the sand. He strode up to them.

‘Where is my stingray?’ he demanded.

‘What stingray?’

‘You know very well. I left it here a while ago, and you are the only people on the beach.’

The elder Oyster held out his hands as if to show that they were empty. ‘We have been here all day and we haven’t seen any stingrays. They don’t go walking about on the beach for our benefit, you know.’

Shark made an angry noise and stalked away. As he was leaving he turned and said threateningly, ‘If it was you who took it, you will be sorry.’

After giving him plenty of time to get away, elder Oyster stood up and said to his brother, ‘Do you feel like a nice feed of stingray?’

‘Yes, that would be good, but where can we find one?’

‘Who knows?’ elder brother chuckled. ‘Maybe the good spirits have left one in our camp. Let’s go and see.’

‘There you are!’ big brother Oyster said as he pulled it out from under the leaves and grass. ‘It’s a pity Shark isn’t here. He could have shared it with us.’

Some time later he wiped his mouth and patted his stomach. ‘But perhaps it’s just as well,’ he remarked. ‘There was only enough for us. They lay down by the fire to sleep; and then it was morning, and Shark was kicking them.

‘You have been eating stingray,’ he shouted. ‘I knew you had stolen mine.’

‘How can you be sure?’ the elder Oyster asked. ‘Ouch! Stop it! That hurt. How do you know it was your stingray? We are able to go fishing just as well as you are.’

Shark towered over him. ‘Oysters are too lazy to go fishing for themselves. I know you are the thieves.’ He belaboured young brother Oyster with his spear, and when elder brother Oyster tried to protect him he pushed him aside. He drew back his spear ready to hurl it at him. Oyster struck it aside with his woomera and leaped on to Shark, who grappled with him at once. They fell to the ground, rolling over the ashes of the dead fire. Shark managed to struggle to his feet. He buried his hands in the ashes, smearing them over Oyster’s body until he was covered with the white powder. Stung to retaliation, Oyster dug out some hot sand and threw it into Shark’s eyes, until he begged for mercy.

The Oyster brothers stood back, but Shark was not finished with them. Swinging his waddy round his head, he brought it down twice, flattening the bodies of the Oysters. The younger one was so furious with pain that he chased Shark down the beach and into the water, where he flung his boomerang at him. It stuck into his back, projecting above the water as Shark swam out to sea.

None of them forgot that day. Shark’s eyes have been small ever since because of the hot sand that was thrown into them, and Oyster’s boomerang is still in his back. As for the Oysters, they were so small and flat after their beating, and covered with white ashes, that they crept round to the hiding place of the stingrays and sank down into the water, where they attached themselves to the rocks and waited for someone to come and eat them. And someone always does!

  

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