The Transverse Reversal

I shift the stick into gear. Check to ensure no traffic. Commence delicate balancing act of my shoes hovering above the accelerator pedal. With a gradual clutch release, the vehicle is in motion—backwards.

An ear-splitting scream is emitted from the scrape of metal upon metal. Glass explodes. Two bodies jump, necks jerk. Seat belts tighten. The car vibrates and shudders.

Embedded in the boot compartment was a large pole squashing the back seat to half its size, now windowless.

Meanwhiles the wheels were still smoking, engine roaring, the car shuddering—backwards.

Two feet stomped on the brakes and the car stalled still, followed by a smoke-clearing silence.

CREEEEAK.

My skin prickles at the racket reminding of nails scratching across the glass, with the added bonus of an off-key bugle bleating as iron and metal bent behind us.

No, it was coming from above us.

Our eyes shoot to the roof’s interior.  Birds screech. Our bodies flinch. I cover my scalp, wincing at the noise of screaming twisting steel that topples and bounces with an earthquake shake.

It just missed the bonnet by a cat-whiskers breath, with the car now the centre of a triangle, between the road and the bent tee-pee styled pole.

Power lines whip freely like snakes across the asphalt as houses are shut-down and neighbours start to poke their heads outdoors.

Inside the compacted sedan, I turn to my driving instructor and said, “So, that’s reverse gear, huh?”

 

Do you remember your first driving lesson?

 

(250 words)

 

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Vehicular Larrikanism

“I’ll check it later,” he said, scratching beneath his oil-stained baseball cap as her bottom lip dropped while staring up at him with pleading puppy-eyes. Shaking his head, he leaned down to the rear tyre.  “Y’know, mechanicin’ isn’t magic. It’s just a process of elimination.”

“But—”

“You realize it’s a car, an’ not moving camouflaged-art?”

“But—”

“This is a two-wheeled drive —not four-wheeled drive.”

“But—”

“It’s not a billy goat or a reincarnated army tank.”

“But—”

“Not a born-again gecko gripping metallic-mud-wrestler.”

“But—”

“My truck’s tyre’s bigger than this teeny, tiny, car. Our cattle’s bigger than this vehicle. It’s a toy-car designed to never leave city limits.” He reached beneath the chassis and sighed heavily at the sight. “You know, cars perform much better when they’re not luggin’ a forest’s worth of tree,” he said, dragging out a long branch from under the wheel arch. “What did this little car ever do to you to deserve this kind of treatment?”

She jumped into the front seat and started it up. Her feet barely reached the pedals as she crunched the car into gear. “It’s survived everything we’ve put it through, so far.”

“Poor car. Especially with you drivin’ it. Where d’ya get it?”

“It fell off this road-train, Uncle. No one claimed it.”

“Course no one would want it, kid, not when we’re in four-wheel drive country. I’m surprised the bull-dust hasn’t swallowed it up yet.” He closed her door and the whole car shook. “How come you’ve got it when you’re not old enough to get a license?”

“There’s a wager goin’ on what it’ll take for me to kill it. But, I’m not allowed to shoot it or hit anythin’ to trigger-off the airbags. Hey, do you reckon it’ll float? I wonder if I can hook the outboard motor onto it?”

“Get gone, girlie,” he muttered, wiping his grimy hands on a rag as red dust billowed out from behind the tiny car cutting through the open plains. Wallabies raised their heads from under the shady eucalyptus trees, watching her drive past, upsetting a screeching aerial escort of white galahs to fly above her trail of red dust. “That’s it, I’m buyin’ that kid a bloody TV, to get ‘er away from all this country….”

(377 words)

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The Local Driver

She parked in front of the local Police Station. Jumped out the driver’s seat with a skip in her step, and smiled at the intermittent shine amongst the dented rusted panels that made up most of the farm ute.

Today was the day.

She wiped sweaty palms on her skirt. Her stomach churned as she pulled the heavy glass door open and stepped inside.  Bleach, urine, and stale air bit at her sinuses forced her to wince. She jumped at the thwack from the closing door behind her.

On the other side of the front counter, the Sergeant arched his eyebrow at her, with his glasses balanced on the end of his nose. ‘You’re wearing a dress.’

With wide smile, chin up, she smoothed out the cotton floral. ‘I know. And it’s not even Sunday.’

‘You here to pay for your parking tickets?’

Her mouth twisted the side, screwing up her nose. ‘I’ve got none.’ She hoped.

‘Well, the neighbours have been silent on that front. Your school hasn’t called me, and there’s none of your family asleep in the drunk-tank for you to drive ’em home. So, why are you here annoying me? What did you do?’ He asked, lowering his head as his frown deepened.

She gulped air. ‘Nothing—’

Yet.’

‘I ah, um…’ She frowned, teething on her bottom lip.

‘Young lady, I’m a busy man, spit it out.’

She smiled wide and said, ‘it’s my birthday today, and I’m now of the legal age to apply for my Driver’s license.’

(250 words)

 

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The Classic Above Her Class

Below searing sunsets, she’d settle to watch endless galaxies of unblemished, shimmering starlight. She’ll rise to meet the creeping sunlight, to dance across red dusty trails, skipping the skirts of billabongs, as feathered flocks flee from her sight.

She’s flown herself, fleeing smoke filled savannahs with bushfires kissing at her heels. Only to cool beneath the shade of blackened gumtrees, while lightening sizzled across infinite hazy horizons. And, like the rest of us, she too helped pray for rain.

Wide horned buffalo, hogging the back-tracks, were no match in their head to head battles with her. She’d send them scurrying, as well as scattering crowds of lazy wallabies through the scrub. She’s been a safe fishing platform while nudging at cunning crocodiles as she cruised beside creek beds, and steered millions of cranky cattle refusing to give up their taste of the wild.

As a matriarch, she conveyed the hopes of many. Has carted endless supplies to feed her army, trekking across a country she’d seen change with the days.  She’d rescued the injured, guided the visiting, carried the newborn, and even transported the newlywed.

She’d never known what the black tarmac felt under her toes.  Not once had she been surrounded by concrete, or got lost amongst a cacophony of cars that collectively crept along congested highways. She’s never had to stop at a set of traffic lights. Nor seen the extravagant coloured night glow of a city gone to slumber.

Glassless. Roofless. Rust covers her where chrome and straight painted panels used to shine. Now, a body of lumps and bumps, wearing patch-ups reminiscent of a front line survivor of WWII. Her engine was perfectly adaptable to the simple skills of the bush mechanics, reacting well to roadside repairs, using whatever layabout. Be it a cattleman’s sweat laden leather belt, or strips of denim jeans to cinch up a pipe, it was always just enough to help her to limp us all back home.

There’s no comparison to the shiny new tin toys of today that dare to compete with this grand ol’ beast, unbothered about her beauty. They didn’t have her heart or her unstopping stamina. They lack her toughness to handle intense paint-blistering heat, the thick red dust, or sideways walls of flooding rains.

She was the cause of spreading smiles, a part of tall-tales sessions where many shared her adventurous travels. And she was always that stable grounding for plenty of the Brewers’ Best consumed, rested, and spilled across her dust covered bonnet.

She was reliable. Rugged. Territory tough.

Until now…

So let’s raise a beer to this grand ol’ girl, may she follow that never-ending fence line in the land of ‘Landcruiser Dreaming’. Always remembered as a truly heroic, kickass, classic country car.

(460 words)

 

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Caffeinated Confessions - flash fiction by Mel A ROWE

Caffeinated Confessions

‘Here,’ said Dave, placing the takeaway coffee cup on the small square table of the inner-city coffee shop.

‘Cheers.’ Pete grabbed his cup while eyeing off the scrapping build on the young workman seated opposite. ‘Do you make the time to do real coffee or you an instant kind of bloke?’

‘Me?’ Taking a sip from his cup, licking his lips, Dave nodded. ‘Simplistic would be my word.’

‘Simplistic, huh?’

‘Yeah, you know,’ Dave said, thumbing towards the men in suits walking past while the two men wore tradesman’s clothing. ‘Simplistic.’

‘Like all men should be. I found ya gotta grind ‘em coffee beans first, it releases their flavour.’  Dwarfing the cup’s exterior with his large workman’s hands he inhaled.

‘I clicked onto that and its part of my coffee ritual. I blame my girlfriend for that.’

‘Gotta girl then?’

‘Yeah…’ Smiling widely, his fingertip traced a crack on the table top.

‘She the one?’

‘I like to think so.’ Then sighed, his stature deflating.

‘What’s the problem?’

‘Her dad’s apparently a real hard ass.’

‘Don’t he like you?’

‘I’ve never met him. But you’re a dad, right?’

‘Got three kids. One girl and twin boys.’

‘What do you do when your daughter brings home a boyfriend?’

‘I clean my guns an’ warn ‘em. I’m sure every father’s the same,’ Pete said, hiding his smile behind his cup.

‘Oookaaay.’ Dave rolled his eyes, shaking his head.

‘So how long ya been with this girl?’

‘A year.’

‘An’ you’ve never met the parents?’

‘Nope.’ He grimaced while fidgeting with his coffee cup. ‘But she’s met my parents. Just not hers-’

‘But keepin’ secrets from her folks…’ Pete shook his head slowly. ‘My daughter’s seein’ a medical student these past few months, an’ I haven’t met ‘im.’

‘Would you pull out the shotguns for this trainee Doctor?’

He wriggled his eyebrows up and down. ‘Sure, I remember to clean ‘em then.’

Grinning widely at the burly middle-aged male, Dave said, ‘glad I’m not dating your daughter because my ex’s dads weren’t as scary as you.’

‘My wife says I’m over-protective with my little girl. Maybe I am… So, what’s ‘em other dads like when you meet ‘em?’

‘Intimidating…You got any tips bein’ a dad?’

‘Me.’ Pete chuckled. ‘Buy ‘em beer an’ be ya-self…You’re alight. Easy to work with. And it’d be better if this idiot Project Manager showed up.’  He frowned at his watch.

When Dave’s mobile phone rang. ‘That’s my girlfriend.’ He held up the phone to show Pete the photo displayed.

‘Hold the phone!’ Snatching the phone, Pete activated the speaker. ‘Shelley is that you?’

Dad,’ replied the female’s voice over the phone. ‘What are you doing on Dave’s phone?’

‘What are you doin’ callin’ Dave?’ Pete demanded Pete, glaring at Dave.

Instantly Dave leant back scraped his chair against the floor. ‘You’re Shelley’s Dad!’

(480 words)

from HOME SWEET NOT

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A toasted Benediction, a short story by Mel A ROWE

A Toasted Benediction

Kate awoke with a gasp, as the pulse surged through veins, and wiped the perspiration beads from her forehead. Tried to swallow the dry lump as she blinked at the red numbers, trapped in that space between asleep and awake.

“Only a nightmare,” she murmured, turning off her alarm clock that never had a chance to blurt its awakening curse while trying to ignore the lower gut-gnawing sensation of panicked fear that shivered along her spine.

With her favourite, Eggs Benedict, Kate smiled serving her ‘fancified’ breakfast. She smoothed down her son’s hair, who frowned, ducked, while not looking away from his game he shoved his plate of eggs aside to reach for the cereal. Her daughter tipped the toppings to gnaw on a toasted muffin edge while tapping on her phone, and her husband scanned the headlines on his tablet as his fork blindly stabbed at the plate.

“I had a nightmare,” Kate proclaimed to her family.

They ignored her.

As per usual.

 “I said…” clearing her throat, Kate sat at the table, reached across her daughter’s line of vision where her palm covered her son’s tablet, as the other held her husband’s wrist. “I had a nightmare last night.”

They just blinked at her.

“I was in front of a gravesite where a priest was performing the last rites.”

“A premonition,” said the daughter, returning her attention to her phone. Father and son mirrored a half eye roll to each other and also resumed to stare at their vices.

“I think so, but I never saw the name and it scared me. So, I want you all to be extra careful today.”

“Whatever, mum,” muttered her son as he rose from the table.

“I mean it,” said Kate, following she hugged him. She grinned at him while ruffling up his hair that her son had spent ages in front of the mirror trying to perfect his messy cool. With a wild head flick, he spilled his workbooks from his backpack and onto the floor. “Those go in your room.”

“Later, don’t need them for today’s class.”

She’d pick them up herself and they both knew it.

“Be careful today,” Kate said, hugging her daughter who was too busy tapping on her phone’s screen. Then she turned to her husband who was patting his jacket’s pockets for wallet and phone. “Careful driving.”

“Yep. Gotta go or we’ll be late.” He gave his wife a peck on the cheek and headed for the door juggling the car keys in hand.

“I love you all,” cried out Kate, watching them leave without a backward glance. None of them even said goodbye. “Be safe.”  Her words echoed with the slam of the front door that was soon swallowed by the pressing silence of an empty house.

She cleared away the breakfast table, flicked on the tap to fill the sink. Turned to wipe the bench, lifted the toaster to wipe away the breadcrumbs when her footing slipped on her son’s glossy covered workbooks. She gripped the sink as the toaster fell into the soapy water. The lights flickered in the house as the smell of burnt hair and an acrid electrical smoke permeated the air, but it wasn’t enough to set off the fire alarm.

Everything fell silent, including Kate, dead before her body crumbled to the floor.

(556 words)

from HOME SWEET ~ NOT!

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Life’s Detour

It was a gravity crashing,

 star crushing,

 kind of morning

as a kaleidoscope of spinning planets

with unlimited, unanswered questions,

headed for catastrophe

stopped

for the prettiest snow flower of a day-dream.

He wanted to sit beside her

to carry her candle

shielded in a cracked glass

against the edge of the sun’s stolen storm of time.

Yet, silently he stood at the airport,

and stared

 at the prettiest hangman’s rope he ever saw

wishing he held a sign that read:

‘Pick me as your next life detour’.

 

A regret he never did forget.

Road Rogue for R&R Ramblings

Road Rogue

Road Rogue

‘We gotta do it.’

‘Don’t want to.’

‘Have to,’ he said, holding out the lifejacket. ‘Coppa’s already onto us.’

‘But, not like this?’ Her unlaced boots tapped on the dirt as she snatched up the yellow life preserver and slipped it over her ponytail.

‘I don’t wanna do this either.’ He passed her a motorbike helmet.

‘Can’t we do it another way?’ Slapping the helmet on her head, he secured the strap beneath her chin.

‘Sure, we could sell tickets? Recoup our costs? Maybe fetch a profit to go towards our next one.’

‘But the Coppa might show up.’ She screwed up her nose. ‘Or worse—grown-ups.’

‘Reckon they’d ruin it.’ He held out some swimming goggles, a pair of flippers, and a snorkel. ‘D’ya want it?’

‘Why not.’ She slipped on the hard-plastic swimming accessories. Through her goggles, she peeked at the drought-riddled farmlands where a crowd had gathered on bicycles, motorbikes, and saddled horses. ‘I’m ready,’ she said, taking a large flipper-flapping step over dry cracked earth.

‘We got top-shelf.’ He pulled her upwards and her bare knees shimmied onto the hot tin roof where they both gripped onto the metal tripod.

‘Only coz of your welding lesson’s.’

‘That’s about to be tested. Ready?’

Goggles and snorkel adjusted as plastic flippers tried to grip onto the hot metal and their small hands clasped onto the steel tripod. ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’

His foot stamped on the roof. ‘Let ‘er rip, Blu.’

The engine inside the dented, door-less, Datsun roared into life. Black smoke vomited from a missing exhaust pipe blanketing its bullet-hole riddled exterior. The wetsuit-cladded driver and co-pilot, lifted their helmet’s visors, gagging for air.

‘GO. GO. GO.’ She shouted from the roof with her knuckles whitening and her heart raced.

Beneath bald tyres, red dirt showered upwards like an inverted waterfall. Clang-attee-clang-clang the matchbox-rubber-banded engine rattled in its unsecured bedding. It Kangaroo-hopped with a crunch of gears. The chassis rattled rust free while groaning and shuddering onwards.

The crowd screamed with their arms waving in the air like whip-wielding jockey’s, urging the mashed-up mini-monster to move.

Down the dirt track, faster, and faster, they headed for the small rise. Black exhaust thickened like rope disintegrating skywards. The rat-a-tat-tat of the egg-beater’s-engine mixed with excited screams of chasing children.

‘Here we gooooooooo.’ His hand covered hers gripping the welded spotlight’s tripod. Both fought the urge to close their eyes behind fog-encroaching goggles. Smiles widened in the dusty hot wind that whipped against their exposed skin.

The engine screamed along with its passengers and with an almighty roaring rush, wheels left the rubbly rise, and as if on invisible wings, the hunk of junk flew.

Over the sun-soaking railroad track.

Over the sparkling, scattered white pebbles shining amongst the struggling weeds.

Over the shadows of the squat scrubby hill, and…

SPLASH!

Into the dam.

Brown bore water washed over the car like a tsunami chasing a surfer.

The internal passengers exited door-less gaps and splashed for the screaming spectator covered, clay banks.

A simple pirate flag, painted on Nana’s sheets, waved from the tripod. Like captains on their sinking ship, the diving-clad-duo saluted the crowd from the roof of the vehicle they’d gone road-rouge in and escorted their toy to its watery grave. ‘That Coppa aint gonna find it now.’

First published 17/08/2015

(557 words)

from   ‘MOVING MOMENTS’

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Four Wheels of Reason by Mel A ROWE

Four Wheels Of Reason

‘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—’

‘Social media.’

‘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

(510 words)

from   ‘MOVING MOMENTS’

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Flash fiction story by Mel A Rowe

Steer Clear

Peak hour traffic halted, and vehicles were banked-up for miles. Helicopters hovered. Emergency vehicle lights flashed. Horrified road crew workers ran for their lives.

A meeting was called with the city’s Departmental heads, and they soon released a media statement urging all residents:

 

Please remain calm.

Those trapped inside their vehicles please lock their doors.

All canines are to be secured.

Please stay off the streets until the situation has been contained.

 

Pandemonium and panic arose from …

 

LIVESTOCK—FREE IN THE CITY

 

Scattered walking sides of beef had missed their boat and pounded the pavement on a no-rush-rampage in the city. They gawked through glass windows where humans were trapped inside their vehicles. This herd of hefty heifers squeezed between cued cars, sideswiped mirrors with grain-fed (now free-range) rumps. Doors were dented by dancing hoofs and a red car’s grill got stabbed by a set of horns, killing the stereo.

Meanwhile…

Leaning against the bar were the usual suspects. Red-dust covered their jeans, their sweat-stained wide-brimmed hats shaded leathered complexions, as their scuffed boots leaned on the lower rail. Beer glasses cradled in their working-man’s-hands, the men watched the televised drama unfolding.

‘Are you mob doin’ a road trip, shortly?’ She asked, working behind the bar.

Ol’ mate grinned, giving a conspirator’s wink. ‘Let ‘em high paid experts have conversations on co-ordinatin’ them coffee-carriers into catchin’ ’em first. Let’s have another beer luv, an’ enjoy the show.’

For many days the media traffic reports on the radio included regular Rogue-Cattle-sightings of beef bludging on council lawns.

But, as part of Operation Steakout, numbers are dwindling… their barbecue has never been busier.

 

Based on a true story

First published 06/9/2015

(275 words)

from   ‘MOVING MOMENTS’

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