Waves dyed red with blood

The Sydney Morning Herald  1933  June Ashley

They seem to lead charmed lives—these city boys that sell our daily papers. When a tram moves, with a harsh cry of “Paiper!” they Jump on to the running board and scramble along it with the sure-footedness of mountain goats. In the densest traffic they jauntily trick fate.
Pert and wild, some of them are; but I admire their imaginative minds, resourcefulness, and courage. There is no difficult situation out of which they cannot wriggle; no startling slogan they cannot concoct out of the dullest “news items.”
It is late evening in George-street, and traffic is at its peak. A newspaper boy boards the moving tram. A grubby little face is pressed against the closed compartment door. All the passengers have papers but myself. Thinking I look “countrified,” he hurls the door open, and cunningly thrusts a paper into my hand. “Paiper, lidy. Murder in Darlinghurst-road. Terrible crime. Two people dead!”
I give him the money and open the paper with shaking hands. Ugh! a ghastly murder close to where I live. I scan the paper, but see nothing of criminal intent . . . nothing more than a cat burglar creeping into a Darlinghurst flat and escaping with a pound note. The young rascal has sold me the paper under false pretences. … But I’m glad he did not fall under the tram a few minutes ago. My heart was in my mouth as I watched him balance precariously on the running board as a tram flashed by. Only his quick wits saved him.
Early morning at King’s Cross. Two paper boys and a black dog hold the fort at a street corner. The boys are thin, ragged, clean. I presume they are brothers, because one’s pants are patched with portion of the other’s trousers. The dog is fat, broad-backed, and shiny-coated. He, like the boys, eyes me hopefully. There is something almost human about his expression.
“Paiper, lidy? ’orrible shark tragedy at Bondi,” says No. 1.
“Paiper, lidy? Man swallered by shark at Bondi,” chips in No. 2.
“Man’s fionsay swims to rescue. Shark snaps ’er leg off,” adds No. 1, mournfully.
“Waves dyed red with blood,” ends No. 2 dramatically. The dog looks on and appears deeply sympathetic.
I buy a paper from No. 1. His brother seems dejected; so, too, does the dog. No. 2’s disappointed face haunts me—so I buy a paper from him too.
“Fine dog that; nice and fat. You must feed him well,” I remark.
“Yes, lidy, we don’t ever let ’im go ’ungry, even if we are. It’s a good meal for Tim when the paipers print shark tragedies. Shark tragedies make the paipers sell like ’ot cakes.”
I leave the trio. All three appear to be grinning. Opening one paper I see nothing about a shark tragedy—Just a short sentence concerning a shark-proof fence at Bondi being damaged by a storm. The other paper referred to a big shoal of porpoises coming in the Heads.
No wonder the boys and their black dog grinned when I bought the two papers! But I forgive them. They have to fight for an existence for themselves and their dog.
I picture them living in a dingy room in some slum area, where no sunshine or fresh air enters. I see them saving precious tit-bits from a frugal meal for Tim. … They are heroes—of a sort.


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