Swept across a sapphire skyline, the small plane floated like a speck of dust. Amidst rising heat waves, it magnetised towards the red dirt runway and parked beside
a tin shed where a work-ute reversed alongside the plane’s underbelly.
Cargo unloaded. Doors slammed. And the pilot was now a passenger inside the vehicle that created a red-powdered plume to continue the Outback mail run.
Inside the cattle station’s homestead, Jack’s boots echoed across the floorboards. His chair scraped as he groaned at the assortment of envelopes and last months’ newspapers waited spread across the table. When he spied a small, simple box. “What’s this?”
The cook by the stove shrugged and said, “it came in the mail.”
With pocket-knife, Jack sliced open the tape. Unfolded the lid and extracted a bubble-wrapped vase. “Smells burnt. Is this one of your cookin’ powders?”
“Not another herbal tonic or miracle face-powder?”
Jack read from the box lid. “Please refer to the attached letter for instructions.” So he shuffled through the pile of post. “They’re not here. Jimmmmmyyyyyyy.”
Jimmy poked his head around the corner by the screen door. “Yeah?”
“This all the mail?”
“We’re missin’ a letter for this.” Jack pointed to the ceramic jar. “Where’s the pilot?”
Jack’s sun-hardened face scowled. “Tell that overpaid postman he hasn’t finished workin’, not until he’s delivered me the instructions for this box.”
Jimmy ran to the work-ute and before the dust settled he returned with the pilot. “We found it amongst a pile of crap under one of the plane’s seats.”
The pilot dropped the crumpled letter onto the table. “I’m paid to fly, not clean.”
“You’re paid to deliver mail too,” mumbled Jack, opening the envelope.
The pilot yawned. “Why the bother when it’s addressed the same as junk mail, for the Station Manager.”
“It’s for this fancy grey powder,” said the cook showing them the vase’s floury contents.
Jack held up his large workman’s palm. “Stop. You’ll wanna wash ya hands now.”
“Why,” asked the trio with fingers in the jar?
“That’s the ashes of a Heston Tipperary.”
“Who,” they chorused?
“It says he was one of the station’s original stockman and was 92 when he passed.”
“Ewww.” The cook’s nose screwed up, stepping away from the offending jar.
The pilot cringed as he replaced the lid. “How come they mailed you an urn of some stranger’s ashes?”
“Lawyer sent ‘em. Says Heston’s dying wish is to have his ashes scattered across the station.”
“We could have a ceremony,” said the cook, leading the charge to the kitchen’s taps.
Jack grabbed the urn and his sweat-stained Akubra and left before they’d finished washing their hands. “If he was an ol’ Bushman they don’t like ceremonies and fuss.”
On the escarpment showcasing the cattle station’s vista, Jack opened the urn’s lid. He released the contents in a large sweeping arc that was carried with the wind and disappeared among the streaks of pink and blues that crossed the darkening skyline. And he whispered, “Welcome home, mate. Welcome home.”
from the flash fiction collection, HOME SWEET-not!
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