Wandering Wednesday–Road Trip in the Charger (2)

Road Trip Adventure in the Charger (2)

Part 2

No Headlights

The highway, so straight, never curving to the right nor the left, was hypnotic. Again, in the late afternoon, the burning sun on the back of my neck, now sinking in the West, and the rushing of air from the open window, lulled me into a state of semi-sleep.

By increments, as sunset turned to dusk, the air cooled. I trusted Rick to keep us safe on the highway to Sydney. I noted Cordelia resting her head on Mitch’s shoulder and then I sank into a deep satisfying sleep.

[Photo 1: Sunset near Sale, Victoria © L.M. Kling 1989]

‘Oh, no!’ Rick said.

‘What?’ Mitch cried.

‘We have no headlights.’

‘What do you mean, no headlights?’ I asked.

Car slowed to a stop by the side of the road, again. Groggy from sleep and the hypnotic effect of the endless highway, we piled out of the Charger and milled around the non-functioning headlights.

Mitch peered at the offending lights. ‘Are you able to fix them, Rick?’

Rick pulled up the bonnet and in the dim light examined the engine. He poked around at the dark nether regions of the Charger’s insides.

Mitch hovered over Rick’s back while he prodded and poked at the parts in the dimness. ‘Do you need a torch?’

‘Do you have one, Mitch?’

Mitch shrugged. ‘I don’t…didn’t think…would you have one in the glove box?’

‘Might have, but the battery’s gone flat,’ all mumbled to the engine.

Mitch had already left to torch-hunt in the Charger’s glove box. At this time, I watched Jack busy himself sorting through luggage at the rear of the vehicle.

Cordelia sat all hunched over on her duffel bag. ‘I still don’t feel well,’ she said.

‘Are you carsick?’ I asked.

‘No, it’s worse than that,’ she answered. ‘I think I need to see a doctor.’

I gazed around the silent darkened landscape. ‘Maybe at the next town, we can try to find one.’

Jack called, ‘Hey, I’ve found another torch.’

The feeble light of Rick’s torch wandered over the car engine. 

‘It’s the alternator, it’s cactus. Needs replacing,’ Rick said. ‘We’ll need to park here for the night and in the morning, I’ll fix it at the next town.’

Cordelia clutching her stomach walked up to the lads. ‘I need to see a doctor; I’m not feeling at all well.’

Mitch glanced at the girl, his eyes wide and brow furrowed. ‘Perhaps we better push on and find a doctor—hospital—something.’

‘How can we?’ Jack said. ‘We have no headlights. It’d be dangerous.’

‘I’m not driving without headlights,’ Rick said.

‘How far to the nearest town?’ Mitch raised his voice. ‘The girl needs help.’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘How far is it to Dubbo?’

Mitch grabbed the RAA strip map, Jack handed him the torch and with the stronger light Mitch flipped the pages and then studied the relevant page.

Cordelia sat down on her bag and was silent.

[Photo 2: Twilight at Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges, South Australia© L.M. Kling 1999]

‘Says here,’ Mitch began, and then continued, ‘we are twenty miles from Dubbo.’

‘I’m still not sure…’ Jack said.

‘Oh, come on,’ Mitch huffed, ‘only twenty miles. If we use the torches for our light, we can get there safely.’

‘What, waving the torches out the side of the windows,’ Rick said, ‘Are you mad?’

‘If we go slowly, we can make it,’ Mitch said. ‘Come on, give it a try. For Cordelia’s sake, we have to try.’

[Photo 3 and Feature: Rick will save the day…eventually © courtesy R.M. Trudinger 1983]

At Mitch’s insistence to save this damsel in distress, we piled back in the car, and crawled down the highway, torches flashing back and forth from the rear windows.

After a few minutes, Rick shook his head, his curls flopping about his damp forehead. ‘It’s not working.’

‘What about,’ Mitch sighed, ‘what about, if I sit in the front and you and me shine the torches from the front.’

‘If you think it’ll make a difference,’ Rick muttered.

Mitch changed places with Rick who was driving, and Rick moved into the front passenger seat where Jack had been sitting. Jack then bumped Cordelia into the middle and sat behind Mitch.

The car crawled a few metres with Rick and Mitch waving torches from their front positions.

I looked behind me at the expanse of dark landscape, and the sky clotted with the Milky Way.

‘I hope the cops don’t catch us,’ I murmured.

‘What cops?’ Jack said.

The Charger slowed, and then stopped.

‘It’s not working,’ Rick said.

‘But we’ve hardly moved,’ Mitch said.

‘I think it’ll be better if we don’t use the torches and I drive by the starlight.’ Rick sniffed. ‘I think my eyes will adjust. And we’ll take it slowly.’

‘I can do that,’ Mitch said.

‘No, I’ll drive.’ Rick pushed open his door and marched over to the driver’s side. ‘It’s my car. I know how to handle it.’

Mitch breathed in and out with an emphasised sigh. ‘If you insist.’

Rick forged ahead on the highway to Dubbo at a leisurely twenty miles an hour. I know it was twenty miles (not kilometres) an hour as it took us an hour to reach the outskirts of Dubbo. Mitch couldn’t resist the urge to hang his arm out with Jack’s torch, offering slim beams of light to guide Rick as he drove. Fortunately, we met no police on patrol.

[to be continued…]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023


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