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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.

Manny Sarsaparilla.

My name is Manila Sarsaparilla.

Yes sir it is an unusual name but I am being prepared for a stage career if that should occur. And my mother thought it would be nice if I were to take the name of my birth place. Do you know Manila sir? A very busy place. Here is much quieter.

I live with my uncle and his family. They have been here many years. They all work very hard and I have been working too but now I must branch out. Yes I have the permit to work because my father was from this country. His name is the same as mine, Sarsaparilla, and that is the name of his birthplace. In the country. But it is a very big country and I haven't found Sarsaparilla yet.

My last job sir was with my uncle. We made pork buns, lots and lots of pork buns. It was hard to keep up with deliveries. We had to move fast because the refrigeration in the truck wasn't working. Then some men from the local council came and uncle closed the business, very suddenly. His picture was in the paper, in all the papers but it was hard to see that it was him because somehow his hand was always in front of his face. I think the family is going into the import business but uncle wants me to strike out on my own. So here I am.

I had thought of minding young people. It would suit me to be near the sea. I am good at building with sand. Although there was the unfortunate business of Uncle Jaime. But that was a long time ago.

Well, he wasn't a real blood uncle. When my father travelled into the country to see to the special crops he grew, Uncle Jaime would arrive to look after us. He was especially nice to our mother and even stayed at night in case we were frightened.

Then one day when our mother was at work we all went to the beach. We dug a big hole near the water and Uncle Jaime climbed in and shouted to us to cover him up, so just his head was sticking out. Then we had to bring him a beer and feed him some crisps. He had us running. Then he said to cover his head as he was getting sunburnt so we put a towel over him. We left him and went into the water further down the beach. We never knew who put the bucket over his head. It must have been a joke. The tide came in and then it went out and we think Uncle Jaime went with it.

All that was left was his towel and the bucket. But I think I would be good minding children at the beach

You don't think so? Perhaps I could work in a cabaret. We Filipinos have good voices.

J. Morcom.