Lunch in Launceston
[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 (6.2.1) while lunching in Launceston’s Cataract Gorge, Will and Letitia witness the harassment of peacocks.]
- Pride and peacocks
The ensuing half hour whizzed past in a blur and soon they slowed and crawled through the weatherboard suburbs of Launceston. After travelling at the speed of Wilhelm’s light, they seemed to be standing still in the city. A massive rock wall loomed up beside the Aston Martin with only a thin strip of oncoming traffic between them and its rocky surface glistening with escaping subterranean water.
Wilhelm turned abruptly into a narrow road that squeezed through a gap in the rock and followed a creek embedded with lush eucalyptus green foliage to the concrete expanse that served as the park for cars. For all the recent minutes of agonising slowness, Wilhelm still managed to bring the car to a jerking halt. A stately structure towered before them.
Letitia carefully opened the door, mindful not to hit the gleaming chassis of a brown HR Holden Premier to her left. Wilhelm stood, key poised, waiting as she prised her body through the narrow gap left to get out of the car. Once she had nudged the door shut, Wilhelm twisted the key in the lock in the driver’s side door and all the doors locked with a satisfying click.
Letitia and Wilhelm watched the peacocks strut over the rolling green slopes as they supped on Wilhelm’s recommended Steak and chips. They admired the serene scenery and botanical beauty of the gorge and Letitia wished that she had time to traverse the suspension bridge. Wilhelm scorned the bus loads of tourists who littered the lawns, chased the peacocks with their Instamatic cameras, and swamped the gorge.
Wilhelm pointed at a pair of primary-school aged boys in Batman and Robin costumes. ‘Some parents have no control over their children.’
Letitia registered the avid foul harassment by a couple of cheeky boys clothed in red and armed with sticks. The cock darted to and fro and away from them, but the children remained in hot pursuit. The bird lurched in attack and fanned its magnificent plumage.
‘I wouldn’t get too close if I was them,’ Letitia muttered dryly. ‘You wouldn’t allow Johnny to get up to such mischief, would you, now, Dr. Thumm?’
Wilhelm pouted. ‘Of course not. I’ve never allowed my children to do such things.’
‘Children? Dr. Thumm?’
‘Pff! My patients, I mean.’ Wilhelm again blushed and then dismissed the naughty boy antics with a royal wave of his psychiatrist’s hand. ‘That’s nothing! I’ve had poo thrown at me by mad men, urinated upon by loonies, and exploded upon with blood and guts by constipated patients. This,’ he indicated with his pale doctor’s finger to the boys on the expanse of lawn, ‘is nothing! Why only the other day we had an illegal immigrant stowaway to Antarctica, escape from my very own hospital. Have you any idea how embarrassing that was for the management?’ Wilhelm’s knee bobbed up and down with agitation. ‘Parents have it easy, don’t they, Letitia?’
‘I suppose,’ Letitia replied, but kept wondering what Wilhelm must be hiding from his past.
‘I mean, you said you had a grown-up daughter. I’m sure, you didn’t allow her to chase after peacocks, did you, Letitia.’ Wilhelm swallowed the last dregs of coffee and wiped his upper lip with the back of his hand.
‘No,’ Letitia said, though remembering the time Jemima was abducted after answering an online dating ad. In an instant, boys poking a peacock seemed to pale into insignificance. How wrong I’ve been in my naivety of this time and universe. But Wilhelm what’s your story? I must ask my father when I catch up with him.
Lunch done, Wilhelm was desperate for Davenport. They had barely sucked down their concluding cup of tea, than this blonde lord of a doctor was eagerly paying the bill and hustling Letitia from the restaurant and herding her into the Aston Martin. Literally minutes later, before the steak and chips had digested, they were once again on the open road bouncing around in the cabin between fresh green hills as Wilhelm flew the car Davenport-wards.
‘Slow down, you are making me sick,’ Letitia cried.
But Wilhelm did not slow down. ‘We have a boat to catch,’ he said.
If Letitia had any idea what awaited her in Adelaide, she would have happily alighted, escaped to obscurity in the Southwestern wilderness and continued the pretence that she had expired in the South Pole. However, as the Aston Martin spirited them north-westwards, she was lulled into blissful complacency. After all, she missed Nathan. Missed her mother and father. Missed the challenge of another mission. Most of all, she missed her tranquil and complete life in Adelaide. And soon, out of time, she would miss out on the mystery surrounding Dr. Wilhelm Thumm.
She remembered her sister. Doris. Did she miss Doris? She didn’t miss the competition, that’s for sure. She murmured, ‘Doris, I wonder what became of Doris?’
Wilhelm chuckled, ‘Doris? Your sister is busy around the place tidying up your mess.’
‘My mess? What do you mean? I didn’t…’
‘Oh, you’re right. I guess, at the end of the day, your disappearance is down to Frieda.’ Wilhelm sniffed. ‘And you are aware that Gunter absconded? Straight into the arms of Boris, we believe.’
Letitia shook her head. ‘Now, there’s a surprise. Not.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Power Rangers in pursuit of Peacock, Cataract Gorge © L.M. Kling 1995