One of them was wearing high-heeled shoes. She was an old American lady with white hair. I didn't say anything. Her husband had four or five cameras and a big hat. There were two English ladies in their seventies, three boys from New Zealand and a young Canadian couple. They got into the boat. Ray wasn't there. He was late again. It was hot, very hot - about 32 °C - and it was only ten o'clock.
'When are we leaving?' said the American lady.
'I don't know,' I said. 'We're waiting for the captain.'
They found seats and waited in the sun. The Canadians didn't have any hats. I got two old hats from the back of the boat. 'Here,' I said; 'you're going to need these. It's going to be hot out there.' They put them on.
'The advertisement said ten o'clock,' said the American man.
'Yes?' I said. 'Well, we usually leave at ten. Today we're late. Sorry.'
Then I saw Ray. He was running towards the boat. He was wearing his white suit, and his face was red. He got onto the boat, and it went down a long way into the water. Ray's a very fat man.
'G'day,' he said. 'It's a nice morning.'
'Good day,' said the tourists. I smiled. In Australian films people always say 'G'day', but the tourists didn't have the right accent.
'G'day Ray,' I said. I was doing my job. Tourists want to see Australia, and hear Australians. That's my job. I'm a professional Australian. What next? Yeah, a joke. Australians always make jokes.
'Did you have a good breakfast, Ray?' I said.
'Yeah,' said Ray. 'Why?'
'I can see it on your jacket. You had eggs, tomatoes, and coffee, right?'
Ray was angry about that one. His jacket was dirty. His clothes are always dirty. His boat's dirty, too. Last month I said, 'Ray, why don't you clean the boat?'
'Look,' he said; 'tourists want a journey through the jungle. A dirty boat has got the right . . . the right . . . ambience.
'What's ambience?' I said. 'You know me, Ray. I'm just a crocodile hunter. I don't understand difficult words.'
Ray doesn't like me, but then I don't like him.
But it's a job.
I started the old engine and we went up the river.
It's a two-hour journey into the jungle. The tourists bought drinks from Ray. He always sells them warm Pepsi-Cola, at a very high price. Ray talks about the jungle on the journey. And me? I sit at the back of the boat and sleep.
'There they are!' shouted the American woman. I opened one eye. There were some big crocs at the side of the river. They were asleep. They always wake up when the boat goes past. One big old croc came into the river. All the tourists had their cameras. The American man was taking photographs. Ray was in the middle of the talk.
'Yes, crocodiles sometimes eat people,' he said. 'In this part of Australia they eat three or four people every year.' I smiled. Was it true? I don't know. But the tourists love the stories. We got to the Tickabaree River, and Ray turned the boat into it.
'But don't worry,' he said. Mr Preston is a professional crocodile hunter, He's got his gun.' Ray was looking at me. 'He's got his gun,' he said again. I found the gun at the bottom of the boat. The tourists looked at me. 'Do you need that gun?' said one of the Canadians.
'Oh, yes,' said Ray. 'Sometimes the crocodiles attack small boats.'
The tourists went quiet, very quiet.
I saw the big tree. We were at the right place. I put my hand on a small electric control next to the engine. The crocodile came out of the water right in front of the boat. Water came into the boat. 'Aargh!' It was the American woman. 'The gun!' said Ray. 'Quick!' I pulled the trigger. 'Oh no!' I shouted. 'The gun! There's something wrong with the gun!' Then I was in the water. I had my knife in my hand. I put my arm round the crocodile. We went under the water. Then I came out of the water with the crocodile and then went under again. The tourists were screaming and shouting.
I came out of the water again, and smiled. I had the crocodile's foot in my hand. It was the end of the show.
Tourists always love it. The electric control operates the plastic crocodile. They're afraid, but then they see it's a joke. But Ray was shouting. 'Get her! Get her!' 'I've got her!' I said.
'Not the crocodile,' he said; 'the American woman! Look!'
The old American woman was in the river. The high-heeled shoes! You never wear high-heeled shoes on a small boat. I went towards her.
'She can't swim!' shouted her husband. The water in the Tickabaree River is only about one metre deep, but she was afraid. I got her arms, then I heard Ray again.
'Preston! Be careful! There's a crocodile!'
'Very funny,' I shouted.
'No, behind you! There's a crocodile!' It wasn't a joke. There it was, a big old croc about two metres away, and it wasn't a plastic one this time. The American woman was in my arms. Then the crocodile was next to us. I didn't have my knife now. I saw its cold eyes and its big teeth. It had a lot of teeth. Then I hit the crocodile. I hit it once on the nose. Was Ray's story true? Do they eat three or four people a year? Was I on the menu for today?
Then the crocodile went. It turned and went away. I was at the boat. They helped us into the boat. Perhaps that old croc just wasn't hungry, or maybe it didn't like me. I don't know, but I was a hero. Me, a hero!
The plastic crocodile isn't in the Tickabaree River any more. The next day Ray put it outside his office. It's an advert for the boat journeys. I don't go in the river now. I was lucky that time, but maybe next time . . . who knows?
1. What kind of shoes are high-heeled shoes? Is it safe to wear them on a boat trip?
2. What could Preston have said to the old American lady about her shoes?
3. What happens to one's hair when it becomes white?
4. What does the American man mean when he says, 'The advertisement said ten o'clock.'?
5. What is 32 °C in degrees Fahrenheit (for USA, Canada, and Jamaica)?
6. How does an English person pronounce the words: day, wait lady, may, etc.? How does an Australian person pronounce the same words? Single out the difference.
7. Is it true that Preston works as an Australian? Or is it a joke of his?
8. Why did Ray get angry with Preston's joke?
9. What does the word ambience mean? What does Ray mean by using this word?
10. Why does the author use the indefinite article in the sentence But it's a job, not the definite article? Single out the difference.
11. What's the full word for the clipped croc? Fridge? Brolly? Trolley? Pram? Give some Russian word clippings?
12. What do the verb forms mean in the sentences All the tourists had their cameras. The American man was taking photographs.?
13. Where do you think Ray got the information about the number of people yearly eaten by crocodiles in that part of Australia?
14. What does the second definite article in the sentence Ray was in the middle of the talk mean? Why not ... his talk? What's the difference?
15. What does the possessive pronoun in the sentence 'He's got his gun,' he said again mean? Why is it the in the next sentence I found the gun at the bottom of the boat?
16. Why does the author use definite articles with the words: tree, place, crocodile in the first sentences, although the readers encounter them for the first time?
17. Why does the author use no articles in the sentence Tourists always love it? What tourists does he refer to?
18. Did the tourists like the show?
19. Why does the American woman fall into the water?
20. Do you think that the tourists consider the American woman's fall into the water to be part of the show?
21. Why does the author use indefinite articles in the sentences 'No, behind you! There's a crocodile!' It wasn't a joke. There it was, a big old croc about two metres away, and it wasn't a plastic one this time.?
22. Why was Preston a hero?
23. Why isn't the plastic crocodile in the Tickabaree River any more? What would the case be in your country?
24. What's an advert for something? Give your examples.
25. What would you do in this situation if you were Preston?