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!

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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)

FROM MOVING MOMENTS

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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)

 

FROM MOVING MOMENTS.

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The Nature Show

My shoes sink slightly towards the gravelly edge of a red muddy beach. It’s where the bitumen road disappears under the floodplain giving life to this red-dust riddled land. The water mirrors the early morning’s azure blue sky, casting the illusion of an inland sea saturating the wilderness. Where, like a tattered crochet blanket, contrasting plates of green water lilies and beads of white, pink, and purple flowerheads open to greet the sun’s new day.

The scene was so serene at first glance.

But on closer inspection…

Chaotic.

Imagine a musical Broadway production going through its final preparations before the show begins. Showgirls, dashing between costume changes are the bright colourful Rainbow Lorikeets and Ring-necked Parrots darting across the water. Egrets stretch their legs like perfectly poised ballet dancers. And looking every bit the musical Conductor overseeing his orchestra in a rich navy plumage is the statuesque Jabiru wading on the water’s edge.  There is a low humming of instruments being fine-tuned by the assorted bugs and beetles, as the Choir warms individual choruses via differing fly-by flocks. Lastly, the hidden stage technicians lurk beneath the water, being the Crocodiles, Barramundi, and long-neck turtles that silently direct stage props and actors to their places.

 I  flick my fishing lure into the water where the road disappears into this tropical oasis that only occurs a few months of the year. Standing there, as the sun creeps higher as the only spectator, I can’t help but enjoy the show.

(250 words)

 

 

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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One Eyed World of Wonder.

From slumbering darkness, I’m whipped into bright light and warm air – but where?

In the car, balancing on the steering wheel, we’re roaming a new road. Be it dirt, sand, or asphalt, I’ve been there, crossing countless kilometres, to scan sunsets, sunrises and storm clouds. I’ve felt the wind, the smog, and arid desert dust, and sweltered within the humid monsoons. But nothing is scarier than to cringe against a bushfire’s slickened heat, where wounds and memories are healed within the smooth roll of cool salty seas.

I’ve faced wide-eyed green tree frogs awakening for the change of tropical seasons and kissed sand covered dog noses. I’ve flinched at a Barramundi’s watery tail-flick propelling above water-lily riddled billabongs. It was a place to track a sea eagle’s wingspan that’s mirrored across stilled waters at dawn’s first light.

I’ve been swallowed amongst the street mazes, darkened alleys, and shifting crowds. Dodged bike wheel rolls and rumbling engines. Stooped before hovering helicopters. Eyed roaring planes soaring above skeletal cranes, peppering overpopulated city skylines.

Yet, I’ve basked in this galaxy’s starlit skies of silence, while camped on secluded summits to watch the eclipsing blood moon spread shadows across the desolate outback.

I’ve witnessed weddings, celebrations, and ancient mystical ceremonies. The loud and proud singing shouts of team players. And yet, I still heard a child’s whispering wish follow a falling star.

This world contains much beauty which my owner wants me to see. As I aim, focus, snap and save, with hope of sharing and keeping what they see is true.

Then I’m shoved into darkness once again.

Brought out, stripped down. Memory’s downloaded. Battery’s re-charged. Lens cleaned. Then packed away. Ready.

And I wait.

Until my eye’s re-opened to capture another small part of this planet’s picturesque magnificence.

(300 words)

First published 20/10/2015

 

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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