‘We’re saved.’ Rick waved his arms at the vehicle weaving along the dirt track. His three companions rose from their gum tree shaded campsite and also waved with vigour.
Amidst a whirl of red dust, the ute stopped. The driver thumbed the rim on his sweat brimmed Akubra, examining the grime riddled young couples. ‘Ya bogged?’
Rick patted the ute’s bonnet then pointed to their stranded wagon. ‘We’ve been stuck here for four days.’
The driver’s door creaked as the engine idled. As he inspected their car, his rubber thongs made miniature dust clouds beneath each step. ‘Four days, huh? D’ya radio anyone?’
‘Wish we did,’ said Rick.
‘Don’t see no recovery gear. No winch. No shovel.’
Four heads shook.
‘D’ya tell anyone where ya goin’?’
Rick shrugged. ‘Our social media followers knew.’
‘Followers?’ The driver scanned the red track slicing through a harsh, sun-faded scrubland against an undisturbed skyline. ‘Why d’ya want media out here for? When reporters are nothin’ but a mob of corruption chasin’ conspirators—’
‘That face-bird thing?’
The quartet giggled. ‘We contact them through our smartphones,’ said the young woman, raising her phone.
The driver tilted his head, cocking an eyebrow. ‘Why didn’t you use ‘em smartphone’s to fetch help?’
‘There’s no reception.’
‘That’s why we have radios out ‘ere.’
‘Do you have Wifi?’
‘Me, no. It’s in town. Just look for them tourists sittin’ round this white pole in the pub’s carpark, staring at their hands like they’re prayin’ to some rod-god.’
‘May I take a selfie with you?’ Her white toothy smile stood out amongst her dirty sunburnt skin.
He screwed up his bronzed nose. ‘What for?’
‘You’re our hero,’ she said, smiling at her phone in hand, readying for the shot.
He shook his head and stepped away to peek into their car. ‘Nah mate, I’m just a bloke on the way to the pub where ya can explain all while shoutin’ me a beer.’
‘When we find civilisation, I’m having the biggest beer,’ Rick said to his three friends.
‘I want a shower.’
‘I want a pizza and—’
‘Hey, we could be famous,’ said Rick. ‘Survivors of the Outback.’
‘We’ll sell it to the media.’ Her camera phone videoed their rescue as the others followed suit.
When their engine roared into life and clunked into gear. ‘What the—’
‘What,’ the four asked in unison, as their smiles sagged?
‘D’ya know what four-wheel drive means?’
‘Yes. We hired it for off-roading,’ said Rick. The other three nodded with phones still recording.
‘But ya need to engage the four-wheel drive to make all the tyres move.’ He drove the car forwards with ease, parked it up and walked back to his own ute. Closing its creaking door he smirked at the foursome who’d lowered their heads and phones. ‘Yep, you’d wanna tell ya mates all about your adventure. I’ll be at the pub—it’s just over that hill. Surprised ya can’t smell the beer from ‘ere.’ And his laugh echoed in the midst of a red dust swirl leaving the tourists behind.
First published 13/07/2016