If you aren’t familiar with the sport of cricket that will be a barrier to understanding many of the details of this story. I recommend watching some highlights on YouTube and researching the jargon I’ve used.
“You should be worried” Nostradamus warned opposition coach, painter, agriculture teacher, hairdresser and poultry show extraordinaire Randall Grey, as he strolled to the pitch.
“About what Nostradamus, if one of my boys flukes getting you out I’ll be happy and if I witness another of your brilliant displays I’ll be happy.”
“Grey, You need to move your mind, the way I move my feet, to do the dance they call lateral thinking. The possibilities are endless. Me destroying your bowling attack and my freak dismissal are just two blades of grass in an outfield where every blade is unique”
“They all look the same to me”
“Five sixes, one single” Nostradamus Bradman declared to all within throwing distance, as calmly and resolutely as a man ordering drinks. Every six struck the sight screen. His batting partner Dexter Matrix was so confident all five would clear the boundary rope that he was engrossed in an online game of chess, until Nostradamus signalled that the final ball was about to be bowled.
Dexter wasn’t a cricketer, he was a sprinter, there for the sole purpose of running quick singles, with the knowledge that Bradman would retain the strike. On the rare occasions Matrix had to face a ball, Bradman instructed him to step as far forward as possible, always play a shot and always with his pads in line with the stumps. Matrix was yet to meet a wicket keeper with reflexes quick enough to stump him. After one of his mighty air swings the kid could spin faster than a cockroach and lunge at the crease quicker than a man in concrete boots snatches at a life raft.
In just two overs, Bradman had painted a smiley face on the sight screen with the cherry red stains of the six stitcher.
“Kindergarten art, so what” Randall Grey mocked, from what he assumed was a safe distance beyond the boundary rope. He was working on his Archibald Prize entry. In his twenty years of attempting to make the final, apparently nobody had told him one of the conditions of entry was that the portrait had to be of a human. Grey shook his head as his prize turkey Julius did his best to imitate a body builder. Julius was quickly running out of poses.
Grey had decided long ago there was no point in trying to help his team tactically out manoeuvre Nostradamus Bradman. They were as outclassed as the clumsiest drunk against Muhammad Ali in his prime.
To the umpire’s chagrin some younger students began moving the sight screen without consulting the batsman. Bradman couldn’t have cared less. If the ball had of been camouflaged with the pitch and the size of a dehydrated pea, he’d still have spotted it as easily as a beach ball. The kids wanted to see what shots he had besides sixteen kinds of straight drives and they weren’t disappointed. By the tenth over he’d hit the sight screen with a reverse cut and a reverse sweep. He’d turned a yorker into a waist high full toss and smashed it over the wicket keepers head, striking his target with millimetre precision. That particular cherry red blotch formed the pupil of the left eye, of the emerging portrait.
After hearing about the impossible feats occurring on oval one, the players in matches on surrounding grounds dropped their bats and balls, to join the procession to the grandstand. As soon as Randall Grey recognised himself, in the cherry red portrait, he dug a pen and pad from his briefcase and offered his autograph to everyone in sight.
A mysterious suit clad figure looked on from the hill, on the opposite side of the ground. He paid no attention to the laptop perched on his briefcase. The way his eyes flitted from one part of the sight screen to another was reminiscent of a child playing Where’s Wally, but there was clearly no striped t-shirt figure to be seen.
Nostradamus Bradman wasn’t merely controlling the trajectory of his cherry bullets, he was imparting the ideal amount of spin for the red blotches to blend into one another as though they’d been applied with a brush. Randal’s pallor was suddenly as grey as his name. His grotesque smirk turned to a snarl, as he realized Bradman had depicted a translation of the tattoo on his right forearm.
The mysterious figure on the hill was suddenly paying more attention to his laptop than the game. Nostradamus had found the translation of Grey’s tattoo in a diary, hidden inside a hollowed out manual for an obsolete computer program. It looked like a password. That was all that Bradman knew.
Grey, his suspected victims and his sabouteurs had been under surveillance for months. Recently he’d communicated with several suspected members of an organized crime network, on the dark web. They were believed to be heroin dealers who had branched out into human trafficking for the purposes of organ harvesting, forced labour, arranged marriages, sexual slavery and hair extensions. In his conversations with these tyrants, Grey alluded to the secret meaning of his tattoo, which consisted of writing in an archaic language the police had been unable to identify let alone decipher.
Using a telephoto lens Detective Sherlock Columbo photographed the jumble of numbers and letters, which he believed was the password to a collection of illegal videos. By the time Columbo and his fellow investigators had finished watching the movies their throats were sore from puking and their abdominal muscles strained from laughing. To say all of them were in desperate need of a holiday is like pointing out that the sun is warmer than frozen hydrogen.
What the investigators discovered was appalling, but not as horrific as what they’d expected to find. If the expressions Randall Grey’s flock of turkeys wore were any indication, they begged to differ. The ones in the audience looked just as shocked at his co-stars. Apparently Grey was a celebrity in avian porn circles. The golden mask and the harpy suit he wore to the bird masquerade ball weren’t enough to conceal his identity from those who knew him best, his turkeys. The investigators were forced to rely on the credits.
Among Grey’s bad habits was leaving his phone in his car. This prevented him from logging into the site and deleting his channel before Nostrodamus Bradman clobbered the battered six stitcher down the ground, striking the remote control for a big screen television, from so far away he’d had to allow for the curvature of the Earth. Bradman’s next attempt missed the intended target by a coat of varnish, sparing Grey’s ancient parents the horror of discovering the true nature of their son’s passion for turkeys.
Bradman indulged in more switch hitting. This time he played a reverse hook, which flew like a Tiger Woods tee shot, soaring over the grandstand, to the top of the hill, in the centre of Grey’s farm, through his kitchen window and into his loungeroom. The ball finally struck the trophy that depicted Grey in a compromising position with a bewildered Ostrich, smashing that monument to his avian amorousness into multiple pieces.
Without the GPS chip embedded into the ball, Bradman would’ve needed to catch a taxi to check the result. He was the only cricketer in history that required expertise in cartography to master his craft.
Grey’s trial took place on the day the finalists for the Archibald Prize were chosen. His entry was among them. On a whim he’d decided to paint his reflection in Julius’s sunglasses. He considered it his worst entry in years, thanks to Julius sub standard modelling. Why he’d made the finals now, after all this time, he had no idea.
There was a delay in proceedings. Grey was out on bail, on the condition that he didn’t go within a mile of a poultry farm. He planned to use the opportunity to stand near his painting, in the Archibald Prize exhibition and listen to everyone’s praise for what he called one of his Rembrandt humbling masterpieces. Despite Julius’ poor performance, Grey fully expected to be the winner.
Meanwhile the philanthropic heavyweights of the Australian art world were in a meeting with the curator of the Art Gallery of New South Wales “It doesn’t matter how long the opening of the exhibition has to be delayed. As long as you don’t jeopardise the structural integrity of the building we don’t care how many walls you have to rebuild twice to get that sight screen in and out” the chairman, Corey Harvard, bellowed. Corey had made a name for himself tattooing unicorn riding Cossacks on to yeti pelts. The man had one hundred and twenty million followers on WordPress.
“Corey, why can’t we just cut the screen into segments and reassemble it?” Ava Ferrari, the horrified engineer protested.
“Miss Ferrari, I suppose you would turn the original Mona Lisa into a puzzle too wouldn’t you, if you thought it would get you out of a few hours of work”