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Clive's Kangaroo Burgers

Clive was an Australian national, and a die-hard one at that. There wasn't a Crocodile Dundee movie he didn't own, a cute little koala bear he didn't adore, or a Foster's Beer commercial at which he didn't chuckle. But Clive had an intrinsic passion, one that outweighed all others in his moderately sheltered, yet still staunchly nationalistic, life. Clive lovedónay, reveredókangaroos. That is to say, he enjoyed partaking of the flesh of the bipedal hopping marsupials indigenous to the Land Down Under. Put quite simply, Clive loved him some big, sloppy, medium-rare kangaroo burgers!

"Surely, the meat of the kangaroo is the gift of the gods," thought Clive as he tossed another 'roo burger on the barbie. And for the most part, his friends and family had to agree with him. No one could cook up 'roo steaks, 'roo ribs, and 'roo burgers like Clive. He was born with a high calling and a dual purpose: to prepare and consume kangaroo meat for the enjoyment of himself and those around him. Verily, he was the chosen one.

Clive lived in Queensland, one of the more sparsely populated states of Australia. Nevertheless, word of his skill in the culinary arts, as it pertained to the preparation of kangaroo, spread quickly through the land. Soon there was a rabid demand for Clive's services throughout the far reaches of his country. Being an enterprising young man, he gathered some investors and opened a chain of restaurants called "Clive's Kangaroo Kitchen".

Well, Australia had never seen a more successful business venture. Soon Clive was among the richest Aussies, the horrible international exchange rate of the Australian dollar notwithstanding. It was a dream come true for the man many now referred to as "The Guru of 'Roo". Business boomed, stomachs were filled, and the kangaroo population of 4 of the 7 Australian states dwindled rapidly.

As his empire grew at an astronomical rate, Clive's coffers were filled with millions of severely undervalued Aussie dollars. Being a shrewd businessman and an amateur dabbler in Australian tax codes, Clive decided it would be best for him to spend some of his hard-earned wealth in an effort to both relax and deprive the tax man of at least a few shekels. That decided, Clive set off on an extended vacation to America, leaving the every day machinations of his Kangaroo Kitchen Enterprises to his trusted business advisor and personal masseuse, Wilhelm.

Clive's destination was New York, New York. "Strange," Clive thought to himself upon arriving in Manhattan. "No place in Australia needs to be named twice in order for the citizens to remember it." Thoroughly convinced of the intellectual superiority of the Aussies, Clive set out to satiate his lunchtime hunger. "Now where in America can I find myself a thick, juicy 'roo burger?" Clive wondered. "I should taste one here, just to verify the overwhelming superiority of my own 'roo burgers. Then," thought Clive, "I can enjoy the rest of my vacation as I sneer condescendingly upon all Americans to whom I am both intellectually and kangaroo-ily superior!" Comforted by this thought, Clive set out on his hunt for the certainly inferior American 'roo burger.

Clive searched for a while and finally decided on a place called McDonald's. Urged on by the scent of cooking meat (decidedly not kangaroo) mingled with grease and the gutter trash that seemed so common to this twice-named town, he entered the restaurant and strode proudly to the counter. "May I take your order, sir?" the young girl at the counter inquired indifferently.

"Why, yes please!" Clive replied. "I'll have an 8 ounce 'roo burger, no cheese, and a large Coca-Cola, please."

"Are you from England or something? You have a funny accent," stated the now slightly interested cashier.

"Why, no, ma'am. Actually, I'm from Australia," Clive responded, a little miffed. Didn't these Americans know anything?

"That's nice," she replied lazily. "Um, now what did you want? We don't have any 'roo burgers'. There's the menu, if that helps." She gestured at the large menus hanging on the wall behind her.

Clive quickly scanned the overhead menu, did a double take, then scanned it again, eyes wide with disbelief. "You mean to tell me that you don't have kangaroo burgers? What, then, are in these 'hamburgers'? Certainly not swine meat?!"

"Well, I think they're ground beef and a bunch of other stuff," the cashier girl replied, a bit taken aback by this strange line of questioning. "Like everybody's burgers."

"You can't be serious! Everybody's burgers? Has nobody in America tasted the glory of a kangaroo burger?" Clive was now utterly convinced of the complete backwardness of this country.

"We sell hamburgers, Big Macs, and Quarter Pounders. No kangaroo," answered the girl, completely confused and now very impatient. "Would you like to try a Quarter Pounder?"

Dejectedly, Clive nodded in the affirmative. After receiving his meal and finding a quiet table in the corner, he stared suspiciously for a moment at the slab of strange animal flesh snuggled between two sesame seed buns. "What is this substance?" he thought, perplexed. "Oh well. I suppose in a backwards country like America, one must try to fit in and not make waves. Besides, there will be kangaroos aplenty to devour when I get back home." Clive smiled at this. He stared at the burger for another few moments, took a deep breath, and partook of his first bite of an American hamburger. He savored the mouthful, testing it with his tongue to determine its suitability to his palate. "Well," he thought. "This isn't too bad, considering its source." But after another few bites, his psyche was rocked with an inescapable realization. "This is good!" he actually exclaimed aloud, causing a few patrons to stare at him unashamedly in silent revulsion. "This is very good!"

By the time he finished the Quarter Pounderóleaving his large Coke untouchedóClive's body was being rocked with dual paroxysms of ecstasy and horror. The realization that his famous 'roo burgers had met their match was not a comforting one, but he was not willing to accept that as fact after sampling only one American burger. His face felt flush and he began sweating profusely, much to the dismay of the surrounding patrons (Australians don't favor deodorant). "I must not let this idea take hold of me!" he cried. "I will not believe that American burgers are superior to my 'roo! I will not!" With eyes burning, he leapt up and was back on the streets of New York, New York in a flash.

The entire afternoon, Clive rushed desperately all over the city, sampling the burger wares of every American burger restaurant he could find: Wendy's, Burger King, Jack In The Box, Hardees, Carl's Jr. The burgers at all of these establishments were nothing short of incredible. Only one place gave him hope: White Castle. But it was not enough. His fate had been presented to him, and there was no way to return it to sender. "How can this be? My fortune is ruined! If ever word were to get back home about the quality of this 'ground beef' and the burgers it creates, I am finished!" The reality of his discovery and the gravity of his fate weighed like a ton of eucalyptus leaves on his head. "All my dreams, dashed in but a single day," he whimpered, collapsing in a heap in an alleyway off of 42nd Street. Slowly, he buried his head in his hands and began to weep.

How long he stayed there, Clive did not know. But he knew that no matter how long he stayed there, sobbing like a baby, it would never be long enough to lift himself and his life's work from the nadir it had reached, right there in New York, New York, America.

Clive died several days later. The city coroner said it was starvation. Any regular person on the street could have told you that. But his withered and emaciated body belied the glory, fame and happiness he had once known back home Down Under. Sure, his death certificate listed the cause of death as starvation. But those who knew Clive understood his pain and saw the grief forever locked in his unseeing eyes. It was the mark of a man who had lived his dream for a brief moment, but could not bear to live apart from it. Yes, those who knew Clive knew the true reason for his death. Clive died of a broken heart.

Copyright © 2000, Jeff Priskorn. All rights reserved.

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