The Hard Word: an orgy of cliches – Anna Gibbs

It was a rum show. There was a whole mob of them. They were all as camp as a row of tents and they had been building castles in the air, heads in the clouds, feathering their own nests in spite of all those people who said ‘not in my backyard’. (People in glass houses). Come rain, come shine, they were as happy as pigs in shit. They’d been painting the town red, but they had ants in their pants and they couldn’t lie straight in bed. They had all been getting on like a house on fire but before you could say Jack Robinson the winds of change were blowing. There was no smoke without fire and – poof! – it all went up in flames. Then it all came tumbling down like a house of cards. They were no longer a bunch of happy campers. The shit had hit the fan and all hell broke loose. There would be tears before bedtime.

They were running around like fleas in a fit. Jack wouldn’t know if his arse was on fire and Dick was pissing in the wind. Jack was pissing in John’s pocket while Diane ran around putting out fires, Ramona simply camped it up –  you can all go to blazes, she said. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jill had made her bed and was lying in it with Jane. 

Jill and Jane were thick as thieves, as snug as a bug in a rug, like two peas in a pod. Jill was an open book and Jane was reading between the lines. Jill was the apple of her eye and Jane was ripe for the picking. Jill was the cat that had got the cream and Jane had egg on her face.

 Let me give you the low down, she said. There’s something fishy here but if it smells it sells and there are always plenty more fish in the sea. I have my fingers in a few pies. 

But a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, said Jill, and when you’re on a good thing, stick to it. 

Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs, said Jane, as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. This is the land of milk and honey, said Jill. I know the girls swarm round you like bees at the honeypot. They’re all over you like a rash, and while the cat’s away, but I’m putty in your hands and I can feel it in my bones. I’ll be waiting for you till the cows come home. 

She was a babe in the wood. They were playing cat and mouse and the proof was in the pudding.

Meanwhile, John was as straight as a die, and he stood out like a spare dick at a wedding because all his mates were batting on the other team. The grass was greener on the other side, he was green about the gills or just plain green, and the ball was in his court. You can take a horse to water. He didn’t know whether he could turn over a new leaf because he couldn’t see the wood for the trees. You should take the plunge, said Diane, it’s sink or swim. But John was as deaf as a post and as drunk as a skunk, hanging around the bar like a bad smell, all tired and emotional and lonely as a ham sandwich at a Bar Mitzvah.  He was as useless as tits on a bull, Jill said. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks and you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear was the way she saw it. Anyway, it was no skin off her nose.

But it was a red rag to a bull as far as Jack was concerned and when the time was  right he grasped the nettle – but he got hold of the wrong end of the stick and he drew the short straw. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack and he wasn’t going to beat about the bush. 

Dick was a tower of strength – handsome is as handsome does – but what goes up must come down. (Pride goes before a fall, Diane said). Dick grabbed the bull by the horns. He had kept it all bottled up but now he wanted to let off steam. Dick was on a short fuse and John was a real bright spark. Dick had John over a barrel: he was going hell for leather when his ship came in and he blew a gasket. Blind Freddy could have seen that one coming, but John had taken his eye off the ball. Dick’d jumped the gun but he scored a bull’s eye and he got what he deserved. Fair suck of the sauce bottle, said Jack, what goes around comes around and two heads are better than one. I’m fed up to the back teeth with you, said Dick, but he was up shit creek without a paddle and he’d bitten off more than he could chew so he pulled his head in then he was out like a light, down for the count. It was a man’s world and there was nothing like going out with a bang.

As for Ramona, a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse and she was living at the cutting edge, hedging her bets, having a bob each way. No one really knew whether she was Arthur or Martha, coming or going. Still, they thought, a rose by any other name… But Ramona was too big for her boots, she had more front than Myers and a heart of gold. And as things turned out, she wasn’t just a pretty face.

She led them all a merry dance, all the way down the garden path. Moths to a flame, lemmings over the cliff. 

Jill had her knickers in a knot and Jane was having kittens because she’ d been sitting on the fence, a foot in each camp, and Diane had smelled a rat and let the cat out of the bag. Things were going to the dogs. 

Some one had been cooking up trouble. There was a bun in the oven and Jane had got out of the wrong side of bed. Same street, different house, was what she said. The lights are on but nobody’s home, said Diane.  There would be no pussyfooting around this: Diane had her finger on the pulse and she was not one to let sleeping dogs lie. There was a bull in the china shop and he hadn’t been shooting blanks.

Meanwhile back at the ranch they rounded up the usual suspects: Some one had been fishing in the wrong pond. Sewing a few wild oats. Changing hats. Throwing his hat in the ring. It was time for sorting the sheep from the goats. Time to pay the price. Hands up the guilty party. Ramona didn’t bat an eye, but Jane spilled the beans.

Ramona had been hot to trot and was right on the money when the dam broke and Jill gave her the green light. She was over the hump and bearing down like a ten ton truck, just about to hit a home run and yell ‘we have touchdown’ when suddenly Jane had moved the goalposts. This was no  longer a level playing field. She’s seen Ramona pointing Percy at the porcelain (well, her porcelain flesh, so to speak) and now she had him by the short and curlies. You’re quite a bag of tricks, she said. Give you an inch and you take a mile. It’s better than a slap in the face with a wet fish, said Ramona. Well, I need it like a hole in the head, said Jane, so you can stick it right back up your jumper. Fair crack of the whip, this is dead in the arse. She’d had him on the run and now she sent him packing with a flea in his ear. She didn’t turn a hair. But it was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. He’d upset the applecart. He’d set a cat amongst the pigeons. Jane’ d been banging like a dunny door and now she was wide as the side of a house and it was too late to make a clean breast of it. It was no good crying over spilt milk. Though Jill wanted to rub her nose in it. Waste not want not, said Diane, you should never put all your eggs in one basket. Janewas running around like a headless chook – Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched – Diane again. This went down like a lead balloon.

You’ve been barking up the wrong tree, said Dick. Spill the beans and let’s clear the air. Well, said Ramona, a good man is hard to find and a cat may look at a king and so if the shoe fits, wear it. As it happens, the boot was on the other foot. Yes, we were hand in glove and I threw caution to the wind, but it’s an ill wind that blows no good.

Yes, I was swimming against the tide, I was between a rock and a hard place, devil and the deep blue sea, the frying pan and the fire. No choice, mate, Buckley’s or Nunn. I was all dressed up with nowhere to go and then I was out to lunch. I simply threw a pink fit and then she threw me out. 

You’re a loose screw, they said, being pissed as newts and practically legless. A hide as thick as an elephant. But apart from that you’re the ant’s pants, one cool cat and every cat has nine lives. Besides, a stitch in time… And who says a leopard can’t change his spots?

Jill and Jane, Diane and Jill, Jane and Ramona, Dick and John, Jack and Dick, Ramona and the whole kit and caboodle. They were tying up the loose ends. It was a whole new ball game, the best thing since sliced bread, the greatest show on earth. They’d all gone along for the ride and their wheels were in a spin. Many hands make light work but too many cooks can spoil the broth. They were all the full bottle on that.

There was blood on the floor and they threw the baby out with the bathwater. As things turned out it was just a red herring. Things had come to a pretty pass, yet it was not a pretty picture – well that’s life. Trying to pin the story down’s like trying to nail jello to a tree, and none of them knew which way was up. Them’s the ins and outs of the situation. Still in all, all’s well that ends well and by the end of it they were all fagged out. Every cloud has a silver lining so after the shock to the system suffered by all, they were licking each other’s wounds, coming up for a breath of fresh air and going back where angels fear to tread, taking the rough with the smooth, pouring oil on troubled water and stewing in their own juices. It would all come out in the wash. That was the heart of the matter. Plus ca change. It was all the swings and the roundabouts, so let’s cut to the chase. They were all away with the fairies and no one was going to rain on their parade. It was a happening thing and as sure as night follows day, things were as good as new, as right as rain, as crooked as a dog’s hind leg, as bent as a screw, and – in a few choice words – as queer as fuck.