Outback Despatch

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?”

“Nope.”

“Not another herbal tonic or miracle face-powder?”

“No.”

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?”

“Yeah.”

“We’re missin’ a letter for this.” Jack pointed to the ceramic jar. “Where’s the pilot?”

“He’s nappin.”

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.”

(500 words)

 

from the flash fiction collection, HOME SWEET-not!

HSN TW2

#HomeSweetNot #R&Rramblings #RuralRomanticRamblings

Adulting

Sally stepped into her apartment, leaned her bike against the wall and dumped her backpack onto the floor. ‘Mum, Dad, Sis and your latest boyfriend, and Mr Jamieson my school principal, and… who are you?’

‘The lady at the local milk bar.’

‘Thought you looked familiar. Why are you all sitting in my living room?’

‘Good question.’ The little old lady looked to those seated in fold-up chairs.

‘We’re here to talk to you,’ said Mr Jamieson.

‘Will this take long? I need to download these photos from my mountain bike ride to create content to meet my deadline. Then I’ve got to get ready for my date with this amazing guy I met falling off a mountain-–literally. He’s my new para-gliding instructor. I’m teaching him to surf, which he wants to incorporate in his next jump, and I’ve agreed to –’

Mum, placed her palms on Sally’s shoulders and guided her to the spare camping seat, then scooped up her large wine glass. ‘Honey, how long have you lived here?’

‘Two years.’

‘Don’t you have furniture? We had to bring our own chairs.’

‘It’s minimalism.’

‘Cannibalism, you say?’ Called out the little old lady.

‘Baby sister, we’re worried about you.’

‘Why bring your boyfriend. Who are you?’

‘I’m Rick, remember?’

Sally twisted her mouth to the side. ‘The creative entrepreneur?’

‘No.’

‘The adventurer?’

‘No.’

‘Where did we meet?’

‘At the milk bar.’

‘Oh, that’s me.’ The little old woman waved a frail hand in the air. ‘You’re the sales thing-a-me-jobby for insurance.’

‘Now I know why I don’t remember. Why are you all here in my apartment?’

‘Honey, this is an intervention,’ announced Mum.

‘But I don’t drink, don’t smoke–’

Mum poured the last of the wine bottle into her glass. ‘Honey, we’re here because you’re having fun, running out the door, chasing your next adventure.’

‘What?’

‘You should be like everyone else,’ Sis said. ‘Trapped in the 9-5 world of rooms and partitioned office cubicles. You should be spending your day staring at shiny screens under fluorescent bulbs while hiding from fresh air and natural light, where you need to be told what time to eat, and learn of peak hour traffic stresses, and –’

‘Be like us, honey,’ said Mum, nudging her husband.

‘It’s tradition,’ Dad mumbled with a deep sad shoulder sagging sigh, staring at his hands in his lap.

‘Honey, you don’t need to trip around meeting new people because young Ricky, here,’ as Mum patted his shoulder, ‘can get you in at his work.’

‘It’s where you’ll be strapped to the one spot for eight hours,’ Sis said. ‘Speaking to lots of upset people over the phone discussing their poor lifestyle choices at the insurance company–it’ll make you feel good.’

‘We’re only doing this for your own good, honey. Being an adult isn’t meant to be fun, and it’s time you grew up.’