Myers Ellis was born and educated in
married Joseph Ellis and had three children. Freda taught in schools in
now resides on
has had several poems published and also broadcast. A book of short stories was
published in 2005.
She is a member of Gold Coast Writers.
really enjoy The Pink Cockatoo you would be advised to first read Payback.
The Pink Cockatoo
is the sequel to Payback. The characters, hotels and locations have also appeared in Payback.
book was written at the request of many of my readers pleading with me not to
let these three incredible and amusing women disappear.
However, I am sure you will enjoy The Pink Cockatoo either way.
was hot, very hot in the kitchen of the Stockman’s Hotel. Summer in Townsville
Why oh why, sighed Ruth for the
hundredth time, had she become a cook?
She could have worked in an ice-cream parlour or on a fishing trawler. Fish were
cold. She could have been a fish packer, but no, she had become a cook and a
good one. Whoops, the timer. Back to
the oven. The pies were done. She lifted them out. Steak and kidney. They
certainly smelt delicious. The aroma was enough to bring the people in off the
streets. Two stray dogs were hanging around the back door. She gave them some
bones and shooed them off. She knew they’d be back, but what the heck. The
poor things looked half starved. This was against all the rules, but no one
bothered Ruth. She also had an old baking bowl she filled with water. This she
also left for them outside the door.
Ruth smiled. The Stockman’s Hotel was famous for its cooking. Julie
Curtis the co-owner popped her head around the door.
“Rachel’s on the telephone for you Ruth. Hope nothing is wrong.”
Ruth went into the hall and picked up the telephone, dabbing the
perspiration from her sticky forehead.
“What’s the problem Rachel? Make it snappy I have more pies in the
oven and they are almost done.”
“Sorry Ruth but I just had to tell you. We have fixed the date of the
wedding, 26 September. A spring wedding.”
“Couldn’t it have waited until tomorrow Rachel? We are going out
tomorrow night. Never mind, I think that’s wonderful news. See you
Julie was hovering around.
“Nothing wrong Ruth I hope?”
Ruth laughed. “No, she couldn’t wait to tell me they have fixed the
date for the wedding. I shall hear nothing else tomorrow night.”
Julie was secretly hoping for an invite to the wedding. She knew it would
be a big affair. The
Back to the kitchen and only just in time.
It was almost lunchtime. Everything was ready. She confidently passed the
food through the service hatch and the waitresses took over. When she had
finished, Ruth walked over to the other service hatch. She had a perfect view of
There were four salesmen from
Ruth stepped back. This was unusual. A young woman around twenty had
entered the lounge. There were only the four men at the bar. Heads down
listening to another dirty joke, but Ruth was not prepared for what happened
next. In fact she was stunned.
The girl quietly slipped behind them and lifted all four wallets from
their back pockets. She slipped them into a holdall and vanished through the
door. Ruth was staggered. She couldn’t believe what she had just seen. Should
she tell Julie or ring the police? She smiled. No,
let them suffer a while. She took her apron off and called to Julie.
“I’m just going out for a breath of air. Have you got everything?”
“Everything Ruth. It will do you good to get out of the kitchen for a
crossed the road and went into the park making her way to the seat under a huge
gum tree, but here she got another surprise. Someone was sitting on the seat,
head bent and sobbing. Ruth sat down beside her. When the girl didn’t look up
“And what are you going to do with the wallets when you have taken the
money out of them? Your finger prints will be all over them.”
The girl jumped up.
“Sit down,” said Ruth giving her a handkerchief. “You might as well
tell me because I watched you take them,” she paused, “very clever I
thought. Do you do this for a living? Bit risky I’d say.”
The girl shook her head.
“I’ve never done it before, honest, never in my life.”
“Well you could have fooled me,” said Ruth. “A real professional
job I would have said.”
“Who are you anyhow and why haven’t you called the police?”
She held her head up defiantly.
“Well,” said Ruth. “I’ve been busy and I’ve given it some
thought. You didn’t look like a member of a gang so tell me why you did it and
we will see.”
The girl sat down. “It was the only way out, but I never thought I’d
manage it. I’ve seen it done on films, but I was sure I would get caught.”
“But why?” asked Ruth. “Those four would have hung you out to dry
if they had caught you.”
“Well as you saw it all, though how I don’t know, so I will tell
“Before you begin, I’m Ruth the cook at the Stockman’s Hotel and I
saw you through the service hatch.”
“I’m Rosemary Wallace,” said the girl. “But everyone calls me
Rosie and two years ago I married Andy Wallace. My dad warned me and begged me
not to, but I loved him and got my own way. The first few months were fine then
he started going out with his old mates and gambling again. He’d promised me
he would never ever do it again, but he did. Well he got himself in so much debt
last month that he stole my money that I’d been saving for a cot and things
for the baby.”
“You’re pregnant?” said Ruth.
“Not any more,” said Rosie. “I was so mad I went after him with the
frying pan, but he pushed me back and I fell down the steps and ended up having
a miscarriage. Two days later he shot through saying he was going to
“How much money did you get Rosie?”
“More than I need,” said Rosie. “And I can’t give it back can I?
I had to get $80 and I have $100.”
Ruth laughed, “You are in a pickle aren’t you? Don’t worry they are
all on expenses and a few less drinks will do that crowd good. Do you know where
to take the money to Rosie?”
“Well,” said Ruth, “tell them he has gone and you have left him and
not to ever bother you again or you are going to the police. It’s illegal you
know, bullying you and they know it. Give me the wallets. I’ll put them in my
stove. They will be ashes in no time at all.”
“But what do I do with the extra $20? And I’ve got to find a job.”
“I might be able to help there,” said Ruth. “How would you like to
work with me at the Stockman’s Hotel?”
“Fine,” said Rosie, “but I’m no great cook.”
“No I don’t suppose you are, but you can wash dishes and peel the
vegies and mop up, and if you like the work I will teach you to cook. Julie, my
boss has been on at me for months to get some help. Go and buy yourself a dress
and some shoes and some goodies for your mum and dad. Tell them you got an
advance on your salary. One more lie can’t matter now.”
“Are you sure?” asked Rosie. “My gran always said we all had a
guardian angel, but not a live one. How can I thank you?”
“Be at the back door of the Stockman’s Hotel tomorrow at nine
o’clock, looking fresh as a daisy. I will have to introduce you to Julie my
Ruth took the wallets and left behind a very bewildered Rosie.
wallets were quickly disposed of and Ruth suddenly realized there was uproar in
She looked through the service hatch. A policeman with his notebook and
pencil was standing there with four cursing, furious salesmen.
“Are you there Ruth?” called out Dave Curtis. “Come round, you
might be able to throw some light on this.”
Ruth came around and said, “What’s all the fuss about?”
“These men have had their wallets stolen. Did you see anything
“The only person I saw,” said Ruth, “was a young guy. Looked like a
hippie, but he didn’t stay long. Never saw him with a drink though.”
She couldn’t tell them about Rosie.
Julie and Dave followed Ruth.
“Now,” said Dave, “if you will just calm down, maybe we can get to
the bottom of this.”
“Did you get a good look at him Ruth?”
“Not really. I just thought he looked out of place in the lounge.
Average height, long straggly hair, dark blue jeans and an outsized shirt. Grey,
I think? That’s the best I can do.”
“Well that should certainly help matters,” said the policeman.
“Calm down guys, he can’t have got far.”
“Bet he’ll have spent the
lot by now,” said one of them. The others nodded.
Ruth went back into the kitchen and the guys went up to their rooms.
Julie came into the kitchen. “Nasty business Ruth. This hotel can do
without a court case or the publicity. I hope your description of the guy
wasn’t too good. They will lose nothing those guys and frankly I wouldn’t
care if we never saw them again.
“I wasn’t born yesterday,” said Ruth, “they won’t find him, not
with my description. Oh, but some good news. I have found someone to help in the
kitchen and I want you to meet her. She will be here at nine a.m. tomorrow
morning. Can you manage that?”
“You know if she suits you it will be fine by me.”
“I know that, but I told her you were my boss and I want you two to
Julie smiled, “Right I’ll make a note of it. I hope she is suitable
Ruth. You really need some time off.”
was at the back door of the Stockman’s Hotel at 8.50am the following morning.
Ruth couldn’t have been more surprised.
Rosie had washed her hair and put a rinse through it and she was wearing
a simple pale blue shift dress with a white plastic belt. The belt and her
sandals were white. She looked quite pretty, but so very nervous.
“I… I am in the right place Ruth? You did mean it, didn’t you?”
“I certainly did Rosie. Come in, don’t stand outside. There’s a lot
of hard work but if you like it here I will teach you to cook, then someday I
can leave and you can take over.”
“You must be joking Ruth.” She was watching Ruth take out six cooked
chicken pies from the oven and putting in three trays of meat pies. She eyed the
table. There were more pies to go in when those came out and huge bowls of
puddings, all mixed and ready for cooking. Fish was on the trays. Some of it was
battered and dishes of oysters and prawns. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, celery
and other salad ingredients were sitting on the draining board ready to be
Rosie was overawed, both by the sight and the wonderful smells.
Julie came through the swing doors and gave Rosie a huge smile.
“So you are going to help Ruth. Not too hot in the kitchen for you
“Oh no,” said Rosie, “I would love to work in your kitchen and I
promise you I will work very hard.”
“Not too hard,” laughed Julie, “we like our staff to be happy.”
She turned to Ruth and nodded. “See you both later. Must get back to the
“Well,” said Ruth, “that’s my boss. Are you staying?”
“Yes please,” said Rosie, “just tell me what to do.”
Ruth pointed. “There’s a big apron behind that door Rosie. Put it on
and wash that lot for the salads.”
“Right Captain.” said Rosie saluting and giving her a cheeky grin.
Rosie was eager to learn and after she had told Ruth about paying over
the money and the men being so grateful for it, they had almost apologised to
her and they’d said if he came back they would only break one of his legs!
They both laughed and Ruth gradually discovered it was rather nice having
Rosie to chat to and to teach her to cook.
She also made sure Rosie took home enough food for all her family to have
a good dinner every night. “So much is wasted,”she had said to Rosie, so she
must take it home with her.
Rosie was actually on cloud nine. Every day she was getting stronger and
feeling important, now she knew one day if she worked hard she could become a
cook like Ruth. Her parents were happy to have her back and Rosie’s help and
good food every day had made their lives so different.
night Rosie spoke to her parents.
“I have to get out of this mess Dad, and I know you don’t approve of
divorce, but I have to be rid of him. I now have a new life and a good future
and I want him and his family out of my life for ever.”
Sadly, her father came round after her mother had said to him, they were
not married in the church, “So Bill, as far as the Catholic Church is
concerned, they were living in sin. Let her get it over with and maybe one day
she could have a better life.
“The world is changing Bill and we have to move with it and as Rosie
said, you were right and if she marries again, it will not be without your
“You always did know how to get round me Sarah,” said Bill giving her
a hug. “You are right of course. We’ll stand by her.”
So knowing this would take time, Rosie applied for a divorce on the
grounds of desertion. For the next few months Ruth watched Rosie and knew she
had backed a winner. Rosie listened to everything Ruth told her and really
amazed both Julie and Ruth.
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