Launceston for Lunch
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…In this episode (6.1), Wilhelm and Letitia begin their journey to Launceston in Will’s Aston Martin.]
Real-estate at Richmond
Letitia’s influence over the computer did not even last the night. The morning greeted her with barely four hours sleep, a hung-over and grumpy Wilhelm, his yacht bathed in an orange hue, and a computer in mutiny. The dream performance of yester-noon, was replaced by abject refusal to work. Clarke, the computer had downed tools, gone on strike, and short of blowing up in a puff of smoke, plainly refused to go.
After conceding that moronic model was a “lemon”, Wilhelm made a hasty trip home to settle a seedy and rather irate Frieda. Then, by mid-morning Wilhelm and Letitia could be seen, at speed in the Aston Martin, clipping across the vast dry plains of Eastern Tasmania, heading northwards to Devonport. Plans had been hastily altered and tickets for the ferry purchased through a very obliging travel agent friend of Wilhelm’s. For some reason, Wilhelm had been reluctant to sail the vessel without a functioning computer. And then, for some unexplained reason for which Letitia was most grateful, Wilhelm preferred to drive to Devonport rather than fly. Even though, he risked the ire of his wife who currently accused him of neglect while she was so poorly. Letitia asked no questions. After her not so distant altercation in such a craft, she had had enough of aeroplanes.
Morning tea and the pair who appeared as mother and son, picnicked on the banks of a river that accommodated the oldest bridge in Tasmania, if not Australia. Letitia admired the family of ducks that possessed this sloped grassy land, while Wilhelm wandered off to investigate some prospective investment property.
‘Real estate, that’s where it’s at.’ Wilhelm upon his return from wandering remarked. He unscrewed the lid from the thermos in the picnic basket and poured steaming coffee into two waiting metal cups. He then held up a tube of condensed milk. ‘Milk?’
Letitia nodded and Wilhelm squeezed a dose into her cup.
Chuckling Letitia remarked, ‘The ducks look as though they already own the bridge from the dawn of Tasmanian history.’
Wilhelm plonked himself down on the tartan blanket placed on the grassy slope and briskly shuffled through the recent acquisition of colourful real estate flyers. He admired his property prospects while Letitia silently sipped her morning coffee. Every so often he would mutter, ‘Hmm! Richmond. Now there’s a good investment.’
The ducks had waddled under the shadow of the bridge and disappeared. The coffee also vanished slowly consumed in the comfort of the mid-morning Richmond sun. Letitia was being lulled into a false sense of forgetfulness. Perhaps, she reasoned, nothing else mattered but basking in the sun on a grassy slope admiring an old stone bridge.
‘Where did you say your house was, Letitia?’ Wilhelm interrupted her dreaming.
Letitia looked up and frowned. ‘On Mirror? Or before? When I lived with Mum and Dad.’
Wilhelm blinked. ‘Before, I suppose. Before you went missing on us.’
‘Sydney, near Bondi,’ she said, ‘the house was walking distance to a park where the lion statues were.’
‘Sydney, ah, yes, of course.’
‘Your father came from a village in the Black Forest, though.’
‘Hmm, yes, I know. A long time ago. But my mother, Gertrude, came from Adelaide. He met her there in the Botanical Gardens, after the war.’
Wilhelm turned from his coffee drinking and studied Letitia. ‘Are you that old? I mean, you look older than I remember you, but…’
‘No, yes, actually, I was born 1935, technically…But I lived on Mirror twenty-six years. I have a daughter who is all grown up…’
Wilhelm sniffed and nodded. ‘Oh, yes, that makes sense, now. And then you travelled back in…’
‘Time.’ Letitia concluded. ‘It seems, unless this is an alternate…’ then as if to steer the direction of the conversation, she asked, ‘Did you know my father? August?’
Wilhelm blushed and mumbled, ‘Hmmm, yes, quite well, actually.’
Letitia noted the reaction. Her eyes widened. ‘Really? So what’s your story, Doctor Thumm?’
Wilhelm rose and stretched. ‘Well, must be getting on. Must be in Launceston for lunch. There’s a lovely little café in Cataract Gorge I want you to try.’
That was awkward, Letitia thought. With the picnic basket hooked over her elbow she followed him. His avoidance on the subject intrigued her.
As they left the picnic place, the ducks emerged from under the sheltered darkness of the bridge to possess the river reeds and banks of lawn.
[to be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Ducks of Richmond Bridge, Tasmania © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1981