After thumping the front of his sturdy vintage car against Keith, Stan regained control of his right foot and slammed on the brakes. The car screeched and skidded into a streetlight. A few seconds later, Stan raised himself from his position slumped over the steering wheel and looked groggily about. Steam spewed from the front of the car; shouts and screams came from the crowd behind him; and there on the footpath lay the head of the koala costume. Stan trembled. He fumbled with the door handle and got himself free of the car, then staggered over to the koala costume head and knelt before it. He reached out and touched the black, hard plastic koala nose. “Dickhead?” said Stan. Tears ran down his cheeks. “Oh no… What… What have they done to you?” Stan picked up the head and stared into its cartoonish eyes. “Oh no… Dickhead… They killed you. I tried to save them from Covid—” he sobbed and shook his head “—and they killed you.” Stan turned the head around and placed it over his own head.
“There he is!” called a woman from the crowd.
Footsteps rushed toward him, and he turned around. Through the open mouth of the koala costume, Stan saw a hundred angry acrobats racing toward him. Beyond them, scattered protesters and a small group administering first aid to Keith.
“I tried to save them, Dickhead,” said Stan, “but they don’t want me to stop Covid.” Sirens wailed. Stan stood up and peered at the oncoming protesters. “They don’t want me to stop the virus… because they are the virus!”
Still wearing the huge koala head, Stan turned and ran, and two dozen acrobats chased him.
“Go away!” screamed Stan, though the koala head muffled his voice slightly. He ran for his life down the middle of Main Street, with the protesters closing in behind him. “You can’t protest me! I’m the premier! I’M THE PREMIER!”
“You’re insane!” yelled a protester. “You tried to kill him!”
All Stan heard was the words, Kill him! The koala head wobbled on his shoulders as he tried to outrun the mob. The rush of footsteps behind him grew louder; the voices terrorised him. Sirens screamed in his ears. When the fastest of the protesting acrobats were within metres of laying their hands on Stan, two police riot squad trucks drove across his path and blocked the road. Stan darted off the side of the road and down the grassy hill to the botanic gardens. Four giant police officers in riot gear jumped off the back of the trucks, pepper sprayed the nearest protesters and then beat them with batons. The rest of the protesters split up and retreated. “Sir!” called the commanding officer, exiting the lead vehicle. “Mr Berserkervich, is that you?”
Stan screamed a muffled scream and disappeared into the trees.
“Was it him?” asked another officer.
“Yeah, I think so,” said the commanding officer. “Go find him. I’ll stay here and teach these people some Covid safety.” He lifted his helmet visor, raised his rifle to his shoulder, and opened fire with rubber bullets on the fleeing crowd.
Around five-thirty that afternoon, a police officer found Stan wandering near a gum tree in the playground of a shut down primary school. He was picking gum leaves from the ground and putting them in the mouth of the koala costume head he was still wearing. The officer convinced Stan to remove the head by telling him what people needed more than a Covid safety mascot was the leadership of their premier. Stan set the head down gently, then pushed the sweaty hair from his forehead. He nodded. “People really love me, don’t they?”
“Sure,” said the officer. “Why wouldn’t they?”
Stan smiled and sat down in the shade of the tree. “I am the best premier.”
A police car arrived soon after, and then an ambulance. Finally, Stan’s helicopter landed onto the school football field. It was a short trip home. Stan felt tired but satisfied.
Alexei, Stan’s butler, helped Stan to bed and gave him a pill to take. As a drowsy peacefulness filled Stan’s head, Alexei sat on the edge of the bed, held Stan’s hand and whispered, “Booster shots, Stan, that’s the next thing. We want you to buy millions of booster shots. Tell people they must get booster shots if they don’t want to die of Covid. Booster shots, Stan.”
“Booster shots?” mumbled Stan, slipping into unconsciousness.
“That’s right, booster shots. Only the medicine can save people. Make people get the booster shots, Stan. You like helicopters, don’t you? And yachts? We could get you a bigger yacht this time, or maybe a private jet.”
Stan’s eyebrows lifted a little, and there was a drunken smile on his lips.
“Okay,” said Alexei, “we’ll make it a jet this time. But only if you buy the booster shots, Stan. Then you will be the best premier in Australia.”
Stan grinned and nestled into his pillow. Suddenly, he moaned, lifted his head and half-opened his eyes to look at Alexei. Alexei sat up in surprise. “Did Tim…” slurred Stan. “Did… Tim Capilano call?”
Alexei took another pill from his pocket. “No, he didn’t call.” He slipped the pill into Stan’s mouth and then pushed a glass of water to his lips. Stan drank obediently. “Would you like him to call?” asked Alexei.
Stan laid his head back down and sighed. “That would be nice.”
“I’ll make sure he calls,” said Alexei, as Stan drifted to sleep.
It had been a long, tough day for the premier, but a productive one. And so long as Covid threatened lives, he would persevere. Even if it meant he had to be premier for a hundred years.
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