Jack Was Poor

The “Jack Tale” so far…

Jack was poor. Not down-to-your-last-few-dollars-poor but empty-pockets-poor. Empty-pockets-poor and one-plugger-broken and limping-poor. Every fourth step he would have to stop and reassemble his thongs. He gave up and tossed them and so had to go bare foot. It was forty degrees again.

The pavement was covered in a fine yellow powder and the soles of his feet picked it up and began to smell even worse than usual. He sat in the shade of the smelter and watched a grey cloud bloom from the chimney stack and then melt into the baby blue sky.

It hadn’t rained in weeks. The grass was yellow and sparse so the magpies could pick off any creature that dared to break the cover of the shade.

Jack watched the carefree birds strut and eat and he could do neither.

Being an ever-resourceful soul he decided to go and seek his fortune. His fortune lay in the refuse bins of the city. Here was opportunity in the shape of the discarded plastic bottles and iced coffee cartons. The summer heat helped fill the bins with empty containers and each was ten cents in his pocket.

Jack worked for hours walking the baking streets with his soles blistering on the cement pavers. He collected over one hundred empty containers and flattened them under his yellow feet so he could fill his pockets, stuff them under his belt and down his t-shirt. Then Jack walked the mile to the recycling centre on his broken yellow feet along an unsealed road so the red dirt mixed with the sulphur dust and turned him from the ankles down a bright shade of orange.

With ten dollars in his hand Jack returned to the city. He was hungry but above all his feet were sore. He would eat and sleep but first he would spend a few dollars on thongs to protect him against the burning cement.

He came across a HugeMart and headed inside to get what he needed. He was just inside the door when a security guard with a huge Elvis quiff stopped him with a stiff hand to the chest.

“And where do you think you are going, brother?” Elvis asked.

“I need to go inside and get some shoes”, said Jack.

The security guard pointed to sign pasted on the automatic door. It read: Conditions of Entry. Bags will be checked, Shirts must be worn and patrons will not be admitted without shoes.

Both Jack and Elvis looked down at Jack’s orange, battered feet and even this irony didn’t persuade the security guard. Jack was told that he could come back to buy shoes as soon as he had some shoes.

So Jack walked back through the city, the ten dollars still in his hand and the burning sensation in the soles of his feet.

Down by the shore was a long wooden jetty. Jack walked the smooth wooden planks because they didn’t hold the heat like the pavement. As long as he avoided the huge iron bolts that held the planks in place the journey was quite comfortable.

He sat at the end of the jetty looking out to sea and wondered about what the next day would bring. He dangled his feet in the water and the salt stung a little at first but then began to sooth his blisters, burns and sores.

The yellow, orange, red dirt began to drift from his flesh and melt into the blue of the ocean.

Just then a crab rose to the surface. It was about the size of a dinner plate and it bobbed just in front of him so that all he had to do was reach forward and grab it. It was a big, green and blue specimen and he held it up to his eye level to see if it was still alive. It was, barely. The crab was breathing but its legs hung limp and its eyes seemed to be windmill-ing on the end of their stalks. Somehow the crab had got drunk and had foolishly presented itself to him. Jack could add to the ten dollars he already had by selling the crab to the fishmonger. Crab was a particular delicacy in this town.

Jack readied to walk back down the jetty when he noticed another crab surface and float helplessly in front of him.

“Another drunk”, thought Jack as he scooped it up and placed it on the jetty beside him. As fast as he put that one down another appeared and then another so Jack took off his trousers, knotted each leg and began to stuff them with crabs.

In a few minutes Jack had two trouser legs full of intoxicated crabs and he walked the jetty bare foot and trouser-less back into the city.

The fishmonger was glad to take all his catch and asked how he had caught so many in one go.

Jack would keep that a secret and he wouldn’t be spending any of his wages on shoes.




This is a SA Writers Centre project that will take place on the traditional lands of a number of Aboriginal nations in South Australia. We acknowledge Aboriginal people’s ongoing relationship and spiritual connection with the land, and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

Supported by Arts South Australia’s Community Arts and Cultural Development project fund

Arts sa



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