Friday Fiction–From the Backyard

[This account is based on a true story, but the names of the people have been changed, to protect the not-so-innocent…yada, yada, yada…so truth be told, it’s fiction to entertain.]

 Neighbours to Entertain

Gliding home in her Toyota, Mum waved at the children gathered in the street around the corner from her place. Karl, her younger teenage son scowled, ‘Why did you do that?’

‘Just being friendly, love.’

‘Stop being friendly. It’s embarrassing!’

‘Just changing the culture, you know, trying to make this community more friendly.’

‘We should just keep to ourselves,’ Karl muttered. He slouched in the passenger’s seat and pulled his hoody over his eyes.

‘Now, remember to let your brother, Phillip in, if he comes home before me,’ Mum said.

Karl mumbled a reply that Mum hoped resembled the affirmative in “Karl-ish”.

The mother dropped her sulking son home and tootled off to her hair appointment in a nearby shopping centre. The hairdresser was very chatty filling Mum in on all the latest gossip and then emptying her purse of cash. Mum didn’t trust credit cards; she always paid in cash. After shopping at the local supermarket, she loaded her environmentally-friendly cloth bags filled with groceries into the trunk of her car and sailed back home.

She pulled up the driveway, and observed Ned, who lived across the road, leaning against his fence and peering over at his neighbours. “Never trust a man in brown trousers,” her friend used to say when she spotted the man lurking in his garden. Ned was wearing the said trousers and a dirty white singlet, that day.

[Photo 1: Suburban Street scene of looming dust storm © L.M. Kling 2021]

‘I wonder what he’s up to?’ Mum murmured as she dragged the groceries out of the trunk.

Shouting echoed across the road.

Mum placed her loads down, and then ducked behind the acacia bush. She watched through the lattice of leaves and listened. JP, the father of the young family next door to Ned, raged at a pot-bellied man.

Mum frowned. ‘Poor JP, still in his pyjamas. Hmm, he doesn’t look happy. Wonder what Potbelly did to wake him up?’

JP jabbed his finger at Potbelly. ‘Get out of my home!’ he yelled. ‘I’m a shift-worker! You’re disturbing my sleep!’

Potbelly edged backwards up the drive as JP drove him up there with his finger-jabbing.

JP’s daughter darted around Potbelly. She waved her arms around and pleaded, ‘Please! Listen Mister…’

‘Get inside!’ her father snapped. Then back to Potbelly. ‘What gives you the right to come knocking on my door—waking me up. Did I mention that? How dare you accuse…Rah! Rah! Rah!’

Three more children emerged from the shadows and joined the dance around Potbelly, squeaking their protests. The grown men, as if bulls, launched at each other, locked horns with words, and flailed arms on the edge of blows.

Mum darted to her carport door where she watched, willing their fists to cuff. She breathed out. ‘More exciting than television.’

One boy, maybe a friend of JP’s son, lifted a mobile phone to his ear. The men, angry eyes only for each other, ranted.

JP bellowed at his kids, pushing the children before him as he steered them into the house.

Mum sighed, and then crept around the back of her home, entering through the rear door. Pushing aside the living room curtain, she observed the continuing drama.

*[Photo 2: Through the curtains © L.M. Kling 2020]

Mobile-boy’s mum rolled up in her little red Honda sedan. Voices now muted by the intervening glass, Potbelly, his face the colour of beetroot, railed at her. He pointed at the boy. Clutching his mobile, the boy ran the back of his hand over his eyes, and his shoulders shuddered. His mother raked her fingers through her dark curls. JP’s boy and girl stepped out of their home. They stood each side of “Mobile-boy”, placing their arms around him.

‘Mmm, this looks interesting,’ Mum said, and on the pretext of taking out the clothes-washing, slid out the back door. Instead of heading for the clothesline, she wandered down to the side gate and poked her head over it. ‘They can’t see me, but I can hear them,’ she whispered while catching glimpses of the action through the shifting apple tree branches in the breeze.

‘But we can’t find it!’ JP’s boy bawled.

‘We’re sorry, we didn’t mean it,’ JP’s daughter bowed before Potbelly whose elbows jutted out as he bore down on his victim.

Mum moved her head left and right. ‘Trust the bush to be in the way.’ She then scuttled around the backyard and out to the carport again. ‘Darn! What happened?’

[Photo 3: Bushes in the way © L.M. Kling 2022]

Potbelly and Mobile-boy’s mum were shaking hands. Then he shook the hands of another parent, a man.

‘Must’ve turned up when I wasn’t looking’ Mum murmured before returning to the backyard. She disappeared into her home to continue on with her life and dinner.

Pot-belly’s voice boomed. Mum dashed back outside to her stake-out position behind carport door.

‘You see,’ Potbelly said to Ned who still leaned up against his neighbour’s fence, ‘I saw them by my car. Fiddling with the wheel. By the time I got there, to them, they had run off and my hubcap was gone. It’s a Porsche, ya know. I chased them and caught up with them here. I want my hubcap back!’

Mrs Mobile-boy-mum spoke but the wind caught her words and blew them away. She pointed at JP’s carport door. Then the children and Mrs Mobile-boy-mum rolled it up, revealing the way to JP’s backyard.

Ned eased himself off the fence and followed the procession into the backyard of interest.

‘I wonder if they found the hubcaps?’ Mum said.


Mum turned. Karl towered over her, his arms folded across his chest of black windcheater.

‘What’re you doing, Mum?’

‘Er, um…just looking for the…I thought I heard…there was a disturbance…just checking it out…’

Karl tossed his head and flicked the dark fringe from his face. ‘You’ve been spying again, haven’t you.’

Mum glanced across the road. Ned and Potbelly had resumed their station leaning against the fence and mumbling in low tones.

Karl’s brother, Phil, backpack loaded with university books, strolled up the driveway. He threw a look behind him. ‘What’s up with those two? What’s with the glares?’

‘Mum’s been spying again,’ Karl replied.


 [Photo 4: Festival © L.M. Kling 2010]

A few days later…

All was calm, all was quiet for Karl who slept contentedly while his mum, dad and brother ventured down to some local hills spring festival. Karl smiled, pleased that his demand for his family to stay in their own little box, out of neighbours’ way, had been obeyed…And that he didn’t have to take any more drastic action.

‘Thank goodness nothing came of Mum’s spying,’ he said, smacking his lips. He patted the shiny hubcap under his bed, sighed and then drifted into dreamy entertainment of his childhood lost.

He was glad he’d been friendly to the neighbourhood kids the other day.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018

Feature Photo: Sunset Gumtree © L.M. Kling 2017


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Frolicking Friday–Fantastic Fleurieu

Our Mother’s Day Secret

 [May’s our horror party month. We endure enjoy several family birthdays plus Mother’s Day. The last few days I have been stressing because the chosen restaurant for a special “0” birthday, seemed to be dragging their proverbial heels in getting back to us confirming if we could be seated there. Actually, I had used a tried and, so I discovered, not so true that uses the symbol of a familiar table implement, and they had been the one’s inconveniently delaying the response. So, I contacted the restaurant directly by email and received confirmation in the positive of our booking the next morning. Big sigh of relief!

Anyway, this trial reminded me of the recently celebrated Mother’s Day and one that happened and that I shared a few years ago. I will share some of our celebrations and scenery from May/June parties past and present.]


Everyone, and I mean everyone in Adelaide must celebrate Mother’s Day. And everyone and their mother go out—eat out, picnic out, filling the parks, beaches, hills and car parks. The whole city—and their mothers, jump on the bandwagon of “mother-worship”, the restaurants filled to capacity, and unless you book months in advance, you won’t get a table for you and your mother.

[Photo 1: A pancake party at Le Paris Plage © L.M. Kling 2023]

My mother doesn’t like crowds, and our family struggle to organise themselves a few weeks in advance, let alone months. So, with that in mind, my mother has designated the Sunday after Mother’s Day, as her day.

On that Sunday, a week after all the mother-fuss was over, or so we thought, my family and Mum set off for Kuitpo forest (about forty kilometres south-east of Adelaide CBD). After a week of rain which began the previous Sunday, we were treated with the sun shining, no clouds and a clement twenty-two degrees Celsius. Perfect for sitting around a small wood fire and barbeque. Just what Mum and I wanted for our “Mother’s Day”.

[Photo 2: A different type of Party. Rogaining Second Valley, Fleurieu Peninsula © L.M. Kling 2012]

We piled into Mum’s station wagon and cruised down past Clarendon taking the road to Meadows.

‘What happened to the others?’ my older son asked.

‘They couldn’t make it. They had other things on,’ I said. I guess there’s always a cost to changing “Mother’s Day” to suit ourselves as mothers.

After my faulty human navigation skills led us astray as we turned down a road too early, we turned and we trundled back to the Meadows Road. There we sailed to the next turn off, this one sign-posted, white letters on brown, to Kuitpo. I apologised for leading us astray while my husband reminded me he knew the way.

Within ten minutes, we rolled into Chookarloo Camping ground. We’d picnicked here for our designated “Mother’s Day” a few years earlier and had found a clearing for a wood-fire with ease. I remembered a happy, though cloudy day, cold, but the company of family warm. The kids collected a stick insect and I took photos.

[Photo 3: Weber party © L.M. Kling 2007]

The sign at the entrance, though, warned of change. I read it and exclaimed, ‘Oh, we can only have fires in designated fire-rings.’

‘And where are these rings?’ Hubby asked.

‘Around,’ I said. ‘We have to drive around.’

We circled the camp grounds twice. Every clearing furnished with a fire-ring was filled with jolly campers and families munching on their chops and sausages. Cars guarded the cement rings where the occupants had finished lunch and gone on a hike.

[Photo 4: K-Team party, Kuitpo © L.M. Kling 2017]

We crawled past a clearing surrounded by a ring of trees but no fireplace.

‘If only I’d packed the portable barbeque,’ Hubby said.

‘Let’s go to the bakery at Meadows,’ I said.

‘Why not?’ Mum said.

‘What a shame they’ve spoilt Kuitpo with these rules,’ my younger son said.

‘It’s not the same, anymore,’ my older son said.

‘They have the rules because of the fire in Kuitpo a couple of years ago. They’re making sure it doesn’t happen again,’ I explained.

‘Stop complaining, Lee-Anne,’ my husband raised his voice, ‘the rules say you can’t have a fire.’

‘That’s what I was explaining, the National Park are making sure we don’t have another fire. The last one was pretty bad.’

My sons grumbled.

‘We had all this rain.’

‘How’s there going to be a bushfire?’

‘Let’s go to the bakery at Meadows,’ Mum said. ‘Anyway, it’s been a nice drive.’

Hubby shook his head and then exited the Chookarloo Camping ground.

[Photo 5: Braizier Party © L.M. Kling 2015]

We trekked off to Meadows, parked in the main street and trooped into the bakery. The aroma of fresh baked bread and brewed coffee greeted us. So did a variety of empty tables and chairs in the wide porch area with wall-to-wall views through the glass of the Meadows country-side. We settled down at a long table and basked in the sun shining through the windows.

As we supped on our pies and sausage rolls and sipped our cappuccinos, my younger son gazed out at the majestic gum trees, green hills and people with smiles walking up and down the street.

‘I like it here,’ younger son said. ‘It’s peaceful.’

After a pleasant family time, we wound our way back home. More than once, each of us in the car commented on the stunning scenic drive to and from Meadows: the golden sun glinting through the autumnal leaves of the deciduous trees that line the road, the gnarled eucalypt tress, the cows nibbling on grass in the paddocks and horses grazing in the field. We stopped for my older son to photograph the view of the rolling hills to the sea.

[Photo 6 and Feature: View over Fluerieu and beyond © L.M. Kling 2011]

At home, I fired up the brazier. The crowds had commandeered all the fire-rings at Kuitpo, but they couldn’t touch my brazier in my back yard. Let me tell you, we have a country-feel in our back yard. The neighbours’ two huge gum trees with wide girth shade our lawn, parrots congregate and chatter in the branches of those trees, and we even have the occasional koala visit.

My husband cooked the chops and sausages that had been assigned for our lunch in Kuitpo. We had the meat for tea instead. As a family, we sat around the brazier fire and enjoyed a simple barbeque, with a glass of wine. Family stories and adventures were shared into the night.

A perfect end to a perfect day, even though, perhaps as a result of the rule-change at Kuitpo. The secret? We actually talked with each other and listened to each other’s stories.

[Photo 7: Party around the home fire pit © L.M. Kling 2022]

‘Thank you for a lovely day,’ Mum said, ‘and I mean it. Because going for a drive in the hills, sitting around at the café and then the brazier fire, I got time to spend with my daughter, son-in-law and my grandsons. That’s what I wanted to do.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2023

Photo: Willunga Hills near Meadows © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2011


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Travelling Thursday– Road Trip in the Charger (6)

Road Trip to Sydney in the Charger (final)

[Based on real events but some names have been changed. And some details of events may differ. After all, it was over 40-years ago.

Finally…the intrepid road trip travellers reach Sydney.]

Feature Photo: Sydney Harbour from Ferry © L.M. Kling 2002

The conference and Rick’s never had a girlfriend

As far as conferences went, not a bad one. Lots of singing, worshipping God, that is, lectures, Bible Study, eating, and meeting new friends and old friends too. Our accommodation was down Anzac Parade, about five kilometres, halfway to the beach. I shared a small apartment with Rick and Dad. Dad drove me back and forth from the conference centre at Randwick. Not sure what Cordelia did, but I think she connected with other members of her family who attended the conference and stayed with them. Rick, I think ferried Mitch and Jack to and from the conference centre.

This arrangement becomes relevant later in the week of the conference.

One session that stands out, was the one on relationships.

Rick and I sat side by side, in the front row.

This will be interesting, I thought. Maybe I’ll get some tips on how to get a boyfriend and be popular like Cordelia.

‘So,’ the speaker said, ‘How many of you have had a boyfriend or girlfriend?’

Everyone including me, raised their hands. Everyone, that is, except my brother Rick.

‘What? You’ve never had a girlfriend, Laddie?’


The speaker pointed at me. ‘What about that lovely girl next to you?’

‘She’s my sister.’


[Photo 1: A lone tall ship in Sydney Harbour © L.M. Kling 2002]

Abandoned at the hostel and trek up Anzac Parade

Towards the end of the conference, one more event stood out.

Dad told me to wait for him at the hostel apartment where we were staying. After lunch we had an afternoon of free time before the final worship session.

I returned to the apartment lunch with my brother and friends eager to catch up on some rest and losing myself in a book. Maybe some journal writing which had been neglected in all the activity and excitement of the conference.

However upon my return to the dreary grey corridors of the hostel, my door was locked. Oh, well, Dad said he won’t be long.

I had nothing with me. All my supplies of entertainment and comfort were locked away in the apartment.

So I sat.

For hours.

After two hours, I began to sniff.

Then snivel.

Then finally, cry.

A lady poked her head out of a nearby door. ‘Are you all right?’

I wiped my eyes. ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’

She retreated into her apartment.

I looked at my watch. Five o’clock! Almost three hours I’d been waiting for Dad.

Convinced that he’s forgotten me and I’d be waiting further five hours with that lady sticking her nose in my business every so often, I stood up. Stiffening my lip in grim determination, I marched out the hostel and strode up Anzac Parade.

I prayed that God would protect me.

[Photo 2: Yachts in Sydney Harbour © L.M. Kling 2002]

Along the cracked pavement. Past long neglected houses. And cared-for ones. Over busy roads at the lights. Narrowly escaping any impact with red-light running cars. In the humidity. Under light rain. Taking a wide berth around the many hotels. And leering drunks who spilled out onto the footpath. In the ever-fading light that faded into dusk.

Five kilometres and forty minutes later, I entered the conference centre. The session where all had gathered, was concluding with prayers. All in a circle holding hands. I slipped in the circle. 

The boy next to me squeezed my hand.

Oh, he’s just being kind to poor little old me, I thought. After all, if even my father forgets me

After, over tea and biscuits, my miffed Dad asked, ‘Where were you?’

‘What do you mean? I waited three hours,’ I retorted.

‘Couldn’t you be patient?’

‘Not when I couldn’t get into the room,’ I said. There was a limit to my patience.

‘I went to pick you up and you weren’t there,’ Dad said. ‘I told you to wait.’

‘And, what time was that?’

‘Oh, er, um, about…’ Dad’s voice faded, ‘about five.’

‘Well, I was there at five, and I didn’t see you.’ I sniffed. ‘So, I walked.’

‘But don’t you know how dangerous that was to walk here?’ Dad showing so much concern, after forgetting me for the whole afternoon.

‘I’m here, aren’t I?’ I replied. ‘I prayed and God protected me.’

‘He did. Praise the Lord,’ Dad said and then wagged a finger at me. ‘But don’t you ever do that again.’

‘Yes, Dad.’ As long as you don’t forget me again.

Passing through the Blue Mountains

[Photo 3: A view of the Blue Mountains from actual trip © L.M. Kling 1979]

Our return to the less crowded and more sedate city of Adelaide, was serene and uneventful as the fair city itself. Especially at the time in 1979.

A few highlights. Mostly, in fact, all associated with the Blue Mountains. We had missed the beauty and wonder of the mountains on our journey to Sydney, so, Rick endeavoured for us to see these mountains in daytime on our trek home.

At the lookout to the Three Sisters, we lunched and admired the majesty of God’s creation. Even Rick using his polaroid camera, took photos of us admiring the scene. He was taken with the layers of misty blues and subtle greens cascading down into the depths, while the cliff tomes forming the Three Sisters presided over the valley.

I burst out in song and Cordelia joined in.

After a chorus, Cordelia said, ‘You should try out for the worship band.’


‘You have such a sweet voice, although it does need to be stronger.’

On the drive home I considered the prospect of trying out for the band. Perhaps singing in front of the church would make me more popular with the boys. Like Cordelia. But in the end, I decided against it. Too hard. Too much of a challenge for plain old me. After all, the worship band was a highly coveted affair, where lead singers jealously guarded their position. I’d never have a chance. Sweet voice, but not strong voice would never cut it.

Back at school, I continued my enjoyment of music singing in the choir. But I’d always secretly envy the solos with their stand-out song voices. The stars with their melodic strong notes, the audience’s focus on them alone.

Instead, that new year of 1979, my passion turned to art…and writing. These were the gifts God had given me.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023

Feature Photo: Sydney Harbour from Ferry © L.M. Kling 2002


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Friday Frolics–Road Trip to Sydney in the Charger (5)

Cordelia makes a brief visit to the hospital.

Jack woke and rubbed his eyes. ‘What’s happening?’

‘What are you doing?’ Mitch asked.

‘What do ya think?’ Rick said as he slowed to the 60 km/h speed limit of the town.

Mitch pointed the other way, out of town. ‘Couldn’t we just…’

‘No,’ Rick said.

‘Cordelia’s going to be sick,’ I chimed in.

Rick slammed on the brakes and skidded on the rubble on the side of the road.

‘Not yet,’ Cordelia said in a soft voice. ‘But I need a hospital.’

None of us asked the reason we needed a hospital for Cordelia. Under the light of the newly functioning headlights, I studied the strip map for the district hospital. Not much joy there. The map only showed the strip of road or highway from town A to town B, no diversions. However, we did find a 24-hour service station where Mitch asked the way to the hospital.

Upon arriving, Cordelia insisted on entering the premises on her own while the rest of us waited in the carpark. Making the most of the opportunity not to be cramped up in the car, we sat or paced around the car in the balmy night.

*[Photo 1: Missed—the Blue Mountains © S.O. Gross circa 1960]

An hour or so later, Cordelia emerged feeling better. No explanation.

And once more we piled in the car and headed for Sydney.

‘If we drive through the night, we’ll reach Sydney by morning,’ Mitch said. ‘Plenty of time for the conference.’

Rick adjusted his grip on the steering wheel and grunted. ‘As long as nothing else happens.’

I squeezed myself against the back passenger door. I had lost my place in the front with Rick to Cordelia. I had been relegated to the back seat with Mitch and Jack.

The gentle rocking of the drive lulled me to sleep.

Lost in Sydney

I yawned and stretched.

‘Hey, watch it!’ Mitch said and pushed my hand away.

‘Sorry.’ I covered my mouth and yawned again.

The Charger crawled along following bumper to bumper traffic. High rise buildings towered over the narrow road and every side street garnered either a black and white “One Way” sign, or red and white “No Entry” sign. A bridge looking like a giant coat hanger peeped through a gap in the buildings.

*[Photo 2: Sydney Harbour Bridge before there was an Opera House © S.O. Gross circa 1960]

‘Where are we?’ I asked.

‘Isn’t it obvious?’ Rick said.

‘Oh, Sydney,’ I said. ‘How come we’re not at the conference?’

‘You tell me,’ Rick muttered.

‘We’re having trouble…’ Mitch began.

‘It’s all these one-way streets,’ Rick said. ‘Who ever designed Sydney must’ve had rocks in their head.’

Jack suggested we head for Bondi Beach for a swim as it’s so bleeping hot, reasoning, that if we hadn’t had the car trouble, we’d have had a day to take in the sights and go for a swim.

‘Aren’t we late for the conference?’ I said.

Rick rolled his eyes. ‘Rate we’re going, we’ll never get there.’

‘But, if we go to Bondi,’ Mitch said, ‘perhaps we can find a park and work out where we are and how to get to the conference.’

‘But how do we do that?’ Rick asked. He moved the car at the speed of a tortoise along the road chock-full with near stationary vehicles.

I pointed at a sign which read, “Bondi”. Head east, follow that sign. I’d given up on attending the conference, and believing we’d be stuck in Sydney city traffic forever, resolved to content myself with the promise of the beach sometime in the next week. Not sure how Dad would feel about us not turning up, though. He’d made it his mission to persuade our little tribe to come. And, here we were, lost in the city traffic, wandering in circles around one-way streets.

*[Photo 3: Speaking of circles, Aquarium at Circular Quay, Sydney © L.M. Kling 2002]

I imagined Dad pacing the floor of the conference centre, wearing a groove in the carpet, glancing at his watch and peering out the window. ‘Where are those children,’ he’d be saying, ‘they should be here by now.’

‘Where, exactly is the conference?’ I asked. ‘Is it near Bondi?’

‘Have you got rocks in your head?’ Rick said. His face was flushed with beads of perspiration dripping from his temples. ‘Of course it’s not. And at this rate, no matter where it is, we won’t get there. We’re stuck.’

‘Um,’ Jack interrupted Rick’s rant, ‘I think it’s at Randwick Racecourse.’

‘And where’s that?’ I said.

‘Perhaps, if we go to Bondi, find a park, then we can study the map, and work out where to go,’ Mitch said.

‘Or we could lob into a corner shop and ask someone directions,’ I suggested.

The guys ignored my idea, as guys do. All this time Cordelia remained silent, contributing nothing to the discussion. Perhaps to be more popular with the boys as Cordelia certainly was, I considered I should remain silent. But, me, being me, I just could help myself. Being one of the “lads” and voicing my opinion, that is.

We reached Bondi. Early afternoon.

I remember the weather. Warm, cloudy and humid. Specks of rain assaulted the windscreen. Despite the inclement weather by my Adelaide standards, the streets around this beachside suburb were cluttered with more cars, and even more people. It seemed to me that Bondi was crowded with the entire rest of the population of Sydney; the ones who were not still stuck in traffic in the city centre.

As a result, no parks. Nowhere. Not a thin strip anywhere to put the Charger.

Rick sighed and drove through the park-less and crowded Bondi, along some coastal road and then up a road heading east again.

*[Photo 4 and Feature: What else, but the Opera House with the Sydney Harbour Bridge © A.N. Kling 2016]

Jack, who had been studying a simple map of Sydney that the RAA strip map provided, pointed at a road on the map. ‘I’m pretty sure if we turn down Anzac Parade and follow it all the way down, we will reach our destination.’

Rick followed Jack’s directions and we arrived at the conference just in time for afternoon tea. And, I might add, a roasting from Dad who could not understand how we could get lost in Sydney.

Mitch, though was philosophical. ‘It could’ve been worse, but I was praying the whole time, and God got us here safe and sound.’

Dad sniffed and tapped his trouser pocket. ‘Hmm, yes, you are right Mitch. Ah, well, praise the Lord.’

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023


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Wandering Wednesday–Road Trip in the Charger (4)

Our next challenge in our road trip to Sydney in the Charger were car repairs. Car parts in the outback were not so available, and in the middle of summer, the group were feeling the heat and they were hungry.

Waiting for the Alternator

Mitch’s hopes turned to practicalities as the morning dragged on while we waited for another elusive item, the alternator. I figured that the alternator must be hiding in the same place that the roadhouse in Dubbo must be.

By the time my watch read 8am, us four who were not mechanics, once more headed down the main road to the town centre in search of a “deli” as we in South Australia call corner shops, or a supermarket of some description.

We found a supermarket come snack bar, and treated ourselves to a meat pie, chips and Famers Union iced coffee. Just the sort of food one has for breakfast after a grueling sleepless night. Mitch, appreciative of my mechanic brother’s efforts, brought him back the same fare as we had eaten.

Rick was leaning against the side of his precious Charger, still waiting for the elusive alternator.

*[Photo 1: Morning in outback © L.M. Kling 2013]

A heated discussion ensued amongst the fellows. Mitch put forward that we could be using daylight to drive to Sydney.

Rick refuted that suggestion with, ‘Do you want to sleep in the car again?’

Jack began to raise his hand, but Mitch cut in. ‘No, you’re right, Rick.’

Rick went onto explain that the problem with faulty alternators is that they affect the battery. He described how in the short but slow drive to Dubbo, he drove the car in a lower gear to get the most out of the failing battery.

And so, we waited, sitting in what little shade the garage’s carpark afforded, waiting for the alternator to arrive.

Early afternoon, the sun’s heat beating down on us, Jack, Mitch, Cordelia and I again walked down to the main street for some lunch. Upon our return with stale ham sandwiches to share, Rick was hunched over under the Charger’s open bonnet.

*[Photo 2 and Feature: Mechanic’s Backyard of experience © M.E. Trudinger circa 1989]

I put my hands together in a half-hearted clap. ‘Hooray! The cavalry has arrived!’

‘No,’ Mitch had to be correct, ‘it’s the alternator.’

‘I had an idea how to repair the existing one,’ Rick said.

‘Hooray! Rick has worked out how to fix the alternator,’ I laughed.

‘You have a strange sense of humour,’ Cordelia said. ‘No wonder you find it hard to make friends, Lee-Anne.’

‘Praise the Lord!’ I raised my hands. ‘My brother can fix…’

‘Don’t make it worse,’ Cordelia said.

Perhaps she’s right, I thought, then took my sandwich pack, split from the “social police” before drifting over to Rick, to watch him as he operated on the car. Strange thing was, Mitch made a speedy dash away from Cordelia and followed me.

‘Hey, Rick,’ Mitch asked while hovering over his shoulder, ‘how long till you’re finished?’

Rick grunted in reply and swore.

I stepped back, knowing all too well not to crowd my brother when he was concentrating. Obviously, Mitch was not as aware. He leaned over Rick, blocking the sunlight from the engine. Rick poked out his tongue as he tackled a stubborn bolt.

Mitch stuck by Rick’s elbow. ‘Is that all you have to do?’

Where’s the social police now? Oh, there she is, staring at her sandwich and grimacing. She looked like a chipmunk.

[Photo 3: For a koala its always time for food (Melbourne Zoo) © L.M. Kling 1986]

I smiled observing Rick as he gritted his teeth and muttered expletives. Mitch seemed totally unaware that his attention wasn’t helping.

‘Bu#@%er!’ Rick cried.

A ping and a clunk, and the spanner dropped into the engine of no return.

‘What happened?’ Mitch asked all innocent.

Rick narrowed his eyes at his friend. ‘What do you think?’

‘Did you drop the spanner?’

‘Yes. And now I’m going to have fun getting it out.’

Mitch rubbed his hands together. ‘Can I help?’ Mitch loved to help.

A grin slowly formed on Rick’s face. ‘I think you can, Mitch.’

Mitch was dancing on the spot in anticipation. ‘How?’

‘See the engine?’

Mitch nodded. ‘Yes.’

‘I want you to find the spanner and pick it out for me.’ Rick wiped his sweaty brow. ‘This is hot and thirsty work and I need a drink and some lunch.’

‘Okay,’ Mitch said while studying the engine, ‘I can do that.’

In the shade of a scraggly bush by a low stone wall, I handed Rick a quarter of sandwich and bottle of Fanta. My brother and I sat on the wall and watched Mitch hunt for the spanner. Rick munched on his ham and relish sandwich, unperturbed by the dryness of bread and ham tasting too salty. He washed down some of the fizzy drink and then said, ‘Well, I better go and rescue Mitch.’

The sun travelled westwards, and shadows lengthened as the “quick” job took several hours to complete.

Just before the sun set, Rick rubbed his grease-covered hands on an old cloth and declared the vehicle ready for action. He hoped the battery would give us no trouble.

*[Photo 4: Sunset on parrots © L.M. Kling 2022]

Once again, we piled in the car and Rick turned the ignition.

A squeak.

A sputter.

Then a roar.

The Charger puttered and shook as the engine turned over and the beast began to move out of the garage carpark.

We entered the main street, passing the store which had provided our breakfast and lunch. Closed for the night. Jack gazed at the store and sighed.

As if reading his mind and everyone else’s, Rick said, ‘We’ll need to drive for an hour or so before we stop.’

Mitch put on a brave face. ‘We’ll find a roadhouse sometime later tonight to have tea.’

We watched Dubbo’s Shell service station come roadhouse flit past as we left the town.

Sitting in the front passenger seat next to my brother who was driving, I pulled out the RAA strip map and flicked through the pages. Locating the one with Dubbo, I scanned the last few pages and calculated the distance and time to reach our destination.

‘According to the strip map, it will take us about six hours to reach Sydney,’ I said.

‘So,’ Mitch from the back replied, ‘we shall make it in time for the conference.’

‘Where, exactly is the conference?’ Jack asked.

‘Randwick Racecourse, if I remember correctly,’ Mitch said.

‘Where’s that?’ I asked.

‘Beats me,’ Rick said.

‘Do we have a map of Sydney?’ Mitch said with an edge to his voice.

Rick shrugged and planted his foot on the accelerator. The Charger roared to the highway’s maximum speed of 110 km/ph.

*[Video: Long stretch of Central Australian outback highway © L.M. Kling 2021]

‘I guess we’ll have to…’ Mitch began.

Cordelia who seemed to be quieter than her usual demur self (I guess she had no social mores to report on), clutched her stomach and whispered, ‘I don’t feel very well, I need to find a hospital.’

Slowing the car, Rick sighed and shook his head. ‘I guess we better go back to Dubbo.’

Tyres crunched on the gravel before he swung the car in an arc performing a seamless U-turn and headed back towards the twinkling lights of Dubbo.

 © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023


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Wandering Wednesday–Road Trip in the Charger (3)

Road Trip to Sydney in the Charger (3)

Crammed in the Charger of No Sleep

We parked in the car park of a closed service station come garage. By this time Cordelia’s request for a doctor had been forgotten. She remained silent and didn’t remind us. I wasn’t going to mention her need. She looked well enough to me when we extracted ourselves from the car and stretched our legs. She was upright and not running off to the nearest public toilet.

After a brief stamp of our legs and rubbing of our arms, Rick said, ‘We’ll need to get some sleep.’

‘How are we going to do that?’ asked Jack.

‘In the car, I guess,’ Rick replied.

Mitch herded us back into the car. ‘Come on, in we go.’

Again, we piled in. Again, Mitch crammed in the middle of us two girls, while Rick and Jack reclined in semi-luxury in the front seats.

I observed that Cordelia had no complaints and her need for a doctor remained a non-urgent issue. For now. She snuggled up to Mitch, who also made no drama of the arrangement. No sleep for me, though. I squashed myself up against the side, putting as much space between me and my cousin as humanly possible. All through the hours of darkness, I sat upright trying to sleep while Mitch twitched, and my brother snored.

[Photo 1: Full moon © L.M. Kling 2009]

In the grey light of pre-dawn, I spied Mitch pacing the gravelly clearing of the carpark. How did he get out? The Charger is only a two-door car. On the other side of the back seat, Cordelia slept soundly. Rick snorted and shifted his weight in the driver’s seat while Jack lay stock still. Looked like a corpse. Then he moved.

In an effort not to disturb the three sleepers, I slowly, gingerly, silently, crawled over Rick. My brother snorted as I landed on his knees.

‘Sorry,’ I whispered. ‘Have to answer the call of nature.’

‘Why didn’t you say so,’ Rick said, smacked his lips and continued snoring.

I pushed open the car door and crept out.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked my cousin.

‘Stretching my legs,’ he said.

‘Weren’t you comfortable?’

‘No,’ Mitch said, ‘sleeping upright and squashed up next to…next to,’ he jerked his head in the direction of the car, ‘I found it very—very…uncomfortable.’

I glanced at Cordelia sleeping like a kitten but decided not to comment on the arrangement. ‘Well, it wasn’t a Sunday School picnic for me, either. I didn’t sleep a wink.’

‘Oh, yes, you did,’ Mitch said. ‘You were snoring.’

‘No, I wasn’t; that was Rick. He always snores. Anyway, I was awake all night.’

But Mitch was adamant that I snored. Just like Rick.

‘What do we do for breakfast?’ I asked.

Mitch shrugged.

‘Perhaps there’s a roadhouse around here somewhere,’ I said. ‘I’m starving.’

Mitch though advised that we must wait until the others had risen before we venture into town to find a place to eat.

I gazed in the direction of the main street with the shabby buildings all monochrome, the sun’s rays yet to burst over the horizon. I hoped that there was a place to eat in this sleepy town.

‘Is this Dubbo?’ I asked.

Mitch again shrugged.

‘Looks awfully small for Dubbo.’ I remembered when our family had visited Dubbo on the way back from Canberra three years earlier. We had toured the zoo there at that time. Didn’t take much time to tour the zoo. Rather small, actually and I went away disappointed. Still, my memory of Dubbo was that it was much bigger than this tiny collection of real estate.

‘I think so,’ Mitch replied. ‘We’re on the outskirts.’

‘Lucky I found this garage,’ Rick said while strolling up to us.

Mitch smiled. ‘Well, that’s an answer to prayer. We won’t have to go looking for one.’

‘No, just a place to eat. I’m hungry,’ I said.

[Photo 2: Country town NSW © S.O. Gross circa 1960]

By the time the sun had peeped over the horizon, Jack and Cordelia had woken and piled out of the Charger.

While Rick commenced preparatory work on the Charger, the rest of us four, ventured down the main street in search of a roadhouse. We figured that at this early hour of the day, nothing much else would be open. However, the roadhouse remained elusive, and we returned to the Charger at the garage hungry.

Upon our return we noticed Rick and a man standing under the raised bonnet of the car. They were in deep discussion.

As we approached, the man waved at Rick and walked away towards the garage, now open.

[Photo 3 and Feature: On the bonnet of the Charger © courtesy R.M. Trudinger 1983]

‘What’s happening?’ I asked.

‘That’s the owner of the garage,’ Rick replied. ‘He saw our car here and came over to find out what we were doing parked here.’

‘Oh, yeah, and?’

‘He thinks he might have an alternator for us, so I’ll be able to fix the car and then we can be on our way.’

‘That’s good,’ Mitch said. ‘How long will that take?’

‘Oh, not long, just a half an hour once I get the part.’

‘So, we can swing by the roadhouse on the other side of the town on our way out once the car is fixed, then,’ Mitch said all hopeful.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023


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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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Travelling Thursday–Road Trip in the Charger

Road Trip to Sydney the summer of 1979 – Episode 1

[Based on real events but some names have been changed. And some details of events may differ. After all, it was over 40-years ago.]

Lost Control

A conference on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I wonder what gifts God has for me? I pondered while dozing in the back seat of my brother Rick’s Chrysler Charger. And Dad…why was it that Dad had to go all on his own by car to the conference? Oh, well…much more fun travelling with my peers.


I sat up. Rubbed my eyes. ‘What happened?’

The car fishtailed. Rocking the carload of us back and forth.

‘Hey, mate!’ Rick, my brother yelled at the driver, ‘Jack! You trying to kill us?’

Without reply, Jack, bit his thin upper lip and swung the Charger to the right, and into oncoming traffic.

I gasped.

A truck bore down on us.

Jack, who reminded me of Abraham Lincoln, clenched his strong jaw and corrected back to the left. Keep left, that’s what you do when driving in Australia. Jack’s usually blonde curls appeared dark from perspiration.

The semitrailer gushed past us, sucking the air out of our open windows.

Rick held up his thumb and forefinger in pincer mode. ‘You missed them by that much.’

[Photo 1 and feature: Rick’s Charger in strife © L.M. Kling circa 1984]

Rick’s navy-blue tank top was soaked with sweat around the neckline under his mouse-brown curls, and under his strong arms. Mid-January and the full car with only open windows for air-con, steamed with heat. And body odour.

To my right in the back seat, Mitch, taller and thinner than my brother but sporting dark brown curly hair, wiped his damp mauve polo shirt and then sighed, ‘That was close.’

Cordelia, in the briefest of shorts and tight-fitting t-shirt, showing off her classic beauty and assets, sat the other side of Mitch.  She clutched her stomach. ‘I feel sick.’

Mitch leaned forward and tapped Rick on the arm. ‘How long till we reach the next town?’

‘I think I’m going to throw up,’ Cordelia said.

Rick nudged Jack. ‘I think you better stop.’

Jack rubbed one hand on his blue jeans, straightened his long white shirt, placed his hand again on the steering wheel and kept driving.

Cordelia cupped her hand under her chin and groaned.

I smoothed my white wrap-around skirt, and then brushed my light cream-coloured blouse patterned with blue roses. No way did I want Cordelia to mess up my most flattering-to-my-slim- figure clothes.

[Photo 2: In my slimming white wrap-around, Clealand National Park © M.E. Trudinger 1979]

‘Stop!’ Rick shouted.

‘I can’t!’ Jack said and continued to speed down the highway. The golden expanse of the Hay Plains dried out by the fierce summer heat spanned the horizon. White posts flitted past. The red-brown line of bitumen of the highway stretched to its vanishing point on that horizon. A faded white sign flashed past. Dubbo, 265 miles. How long had Australia been metric? A few years at least; not that one would know travelling in outback Australia in early 1979. Still…

Another groan from Cordelia.

Rick screamed at Jack. ‘Stop!’

Jack slowed the car and rumbled onto the gravel beside the road.

Cordelia leapt out and hunched over a shrivelled wheat stalk. I looked away and covered my ears from the inevitable sound of chunder.

‘That was close,’ Mitch said.

‘Remember that drunk guy, your brother brought back to Grandma’s?’ Rick said. ‘Took me a week to get the smell out of her Toyota.’

‘Hmm,’ Mitch replied. ‘That was unfortunate.’

‘You mean, the guy who kept singing “Black Betty”?’ I asked. I remembered that fellow. He had messy blonde hair and a moustache. He lounged on the back seat of Grandma’s car while I sat all prim and proper in the front waiting for Mitch’s brother to drive us to Lighthouse Coffee Lounge. ‘He kept saying I was so innocent.’

‘Well,’ Mitch said, ‘you are.’

I guess I was at 15; but hated to admit it.

Cordelia stumbled back into the car. ‘That’s better.’

[Photo 3: Proud owner of his Chrysler Charger © courtesy of R.M. Trudinger 1983]

Rick and Jack arranged to swap places. So, after a brief stretch of legs and a nearby scraggly-looking bush receiving five visitors, we set off on our quest for Sydney. After all, we still had ages to go before arriving there for the Revival Conference. We hoped to arrive with enough spare time to see the sights Sydney had to offer.

[to be continued…]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023


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Travelling Thursday–Risky Road Trip to Brisbane (3)

When Angels Jump Off (3)

Seedy in the Graveyard Shift

“Phew! Pooh! What’s that smell? Rob! You’re disgusting!” Tania revived by the potent fumes fanned the stale atmosphere with a spare cushion.

“Who me?” Rob shifted his skeletal frame and adjusted his pillow.

“Ugh! That’s foul! I’m opening a window.” Karen yanked at the sliding window and stuck her permed head into the stiff breeze.

“Looks like we’ll have to stop,” I said.

“Are we there yet?” the brunette whined.

“I’m hungry, can we stop? I have to visit the ladies,” the afro blonde said.

“No, and we’re not stopping, we have to keep on going, or we’ll be late,” Tom said and then swerved. A kangaroo skittered off onto the embankment and into a clump of bushes.

[Photo 1: Watch out for kangaroos © L.M. Kling circa 1988]

“Aw! I’m bored! I want a break!” Tania said.

“Are we there yet? This is so boring! How far north do we have to go, anyway?” Karen flung empty chip packets around the cabin.

I jabbed Tom on his skinny arm. “The tribes are getting restless and we are running out of fuel, or haven’t you noticed.”

The two girls chanted, “Are we there, yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

I turned the map bought in Orange around in my hands. The signs seemed unfamiliar and did not fit the expected location.  “I hope this is a shortcut.”

Screech! In a matter of seconds, Tom slowed the van to snail’s pace and eased into some northern New South Wales town. At the Shell Roadhouse, we piled out into the icy air, and milled around while the sleepy attendant filled our tank. I shuffled to the kiosk, but I was jaded with the nausea of no sleep and exited with nothing.

Bill had another go at Tom. “Isn’t it time to let someone else drive?”

Tom anchored himself in the driver’s seat and refused to budge.

[Photo 2: Feeding time for roos © L.M. Kling 2022]

As I loitered by the plastic-coated restaurant, the smell of cheap coffee and stale hamburger grease made me queasy. I contemplated quitting the tour of terror. I filed through the meagre number of notes in my purse. I’ll get a bus home. Anything but get in that van again.

Bill hailed me. “You coming?”

The girls scuffed in their “Ugg” boots towards the Toyota armed with packets of fantails, cola and salt-and-vinegar chips. So innocent.

I sighed and made the decision to trail after them. My minimal influence was better than none at all to get us to Brisbane alive. All aboard and plugged in, on my insistence, Mad Tom Max revved up the engine and the van like a bullet shot out of the station and into the moonless night. I strained to keep my eyes open in the hours of imminent death, singing, praying and talking, willing myself not to fall asleep. Bill sat beside the driver, rambling in conversation to a young man focussed on one thing and that was to get us to Brisbane dead on time.

[Photo 3: Over the Great Dividing Range © L.M. Kling 1989]

The grey light of dawn crept over the horizon to our right. On the side of the road a truck burned. Bright yellow flames leapt and danced within the cabin. Tom slammed on the brakes and the van screeched to a halt, skidding on the gravel. We jumped out to inspect the bonfire of truck metal. A man stood behind his truck shaking his head and watching the monster “Mack” melt and burn. I lifted my camera.

“Don’t!” Tania glared at me. “That’s not appropriate.”

My cheeks prickled with humiliation; the shame of it, a 16-year-old girl telling me what to do. I spent a few minutes’ vigil observing the truck driver’s unrecorded misfortune.

Not to be outdone in true and noble acts that show up their leader, me, Tom hopped from his seat of privilege and targeted the forlorn truckie to comfort. He asked if he was alright. He was. They nodded and commiserated over the loss of a magnificent vehicle. The truckie indicated that help was coming in the next half-an-hour. Tom turned and strode towards the van. As he passed me, he tipped his pointy nose up at me, and the smug smile pasted on his mouth read: Look what a good a virtuous guy am l!

Ready to step into the driver’s seat, his smile switched to a scowl. Bill perched in the coveted seat, a wide grin spread between day-old stubble. “I’ll take it from here, mate.”

[Photo 3 & Feature: Safe at last on the Gold Coast © L.M. Kling 1989]

As we passed a shimmering green sign with the name “Brisbane” in silver on it, Tom brooded in the back of the van. Couched either side of this red-faced man, the girls soothed him, whispering schemes of revenge. Rob rocked and rolled in slumber in the middle row under a pile of patchwork quilts.

We wound through the Great Dividing Range, and I rested my head while viewing the lush green hills and the white timber houses on stilts that grew and multiplied as the out-lying townships morphed into the suburbs of Brisbane. We arrived at the Conference centre 23 hours after departing Melbourne.

I thanked God. The angels had hung on, this time.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016

Feature Photo: Safe at Last on the Gold Coast © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 1989

Note: Story based on real events. Names and sequence of events have drifted into the realm of fiction.


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Travelling Thursday–Risky Road Trip to Brisbane (2)

When Angels Jump Off

Part 2

Passing Road Trains

Bill reclined in the row of seats in front of them, making no comment. Rob in the front passenger seat, dozed as he rested his curly mop on the passenger window.

Petrol at Orange and the youth filled their tanks with lollies, chips and soft drink.

I found the “ladies”, a grotty dive around the corner. Tania ignored me as she primped her ebony bob and patted her round cheeks with blush in front of the scratched-metal excuse of a mirror.

I sauntered back over the cracked pavement of the service station to the van crouching by the pumps. Tom sat there, in my seat, hands hugging the steering wheel and a grin on his lips.

“Right, we’ve wasted enough time, I’m driving,” Tom said.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” I asked. Tom was 18, full of testosterone and a sense of immortality. “What about your P-plates?”

“Pff! Who needs them, we’re in the country,” Tom replied. “The cops won’t care.”

My manager’s warning echoed in my mind. Don’t let the youth drive. This was a company van. “l think it would be better if someone else drives.”

Bill stretched out, comatose on the middle bench seat, while Rob leant against the bonnet, eyes averted and licking an ice cream.

“Rob?” I pleaded.

“It’s alright.” He bit into the cone. In a languid tone, he said, “I’m sure Tom’s a good driver.”

Tania planted herself in the front passenger seat. She curled her lip and snarled, “Better driver than you. At least we’ll get somewhere.”

“Fine then, I hope you know what you’re doing.

“Relax! I know what I’m doing. We’ll be at the conference in no time,” Tom said and turned the key. The engine puttered contented with its new master. “Anyway, we’ve wasted enough time with you stuffing around.”

I gritted my teeth and crawled into the dark recesses of the Toyota. I chose not to fight this battle. I needed a rest, but had an uneasy feeling about the next few hours.

[Photo 1 and Feature: Road Train at Dawn © L.M. Kling 2013]

Our new driver, engaged the gears, and catapulted the car onto the highway. Tyres spun on the bitumen. I smelt burnt rubber.

Bill rolled off his seat and woke up with a start. “What’s happening?” He rubbed his eyes, and then batted at the wads of sleeping bags, sweet wrappers and lemonade bottles. He craned his neck peering at Rob and me each side of the back three-seater bench with Karen holding her duffle bag in the middle. Confused, he pulled himself upright using the driver’s seat and eye-balled Tom. Then he looked back at us, eyes wide. “What’s going on?”

“Don’t ask!” I said. Reflector posts and shadows of trees flitted past. In the dim light, the whites of Bill’s eyes glowed. “You’re letting him drive?”

“He insisted.”

He jerked his muscular arms. “Do you know how fast he is going?”

“What?” I peered at the speedometer. The needle hovered between 160 and 170 kilometres per hour. “Oh, crap.”

The vehicle mounted a low rise and flew for a few seconds. The floozies strapped into their respective seats screamed as if they were on a roller-coaster ride.

Bill gripped my arm. “You’re in charge, do something.

I tried. “Hey, Tom, I think you’re going a bit fast, could you slow it down a little.”

Tom ignored my pleas and we watched the needle creep up to 180 km/h. “Tom, slow down,” Bill urged. He patted the lad’s arm. “You’ll get a speeding fine.”

“No, I won’t,” Tom said.

“We have to make up for lost time. We’re already three hours late,” Tania whined.

“So what if we are late?” I begged. “Better that, than dead on arrival.”

[Photo 2: Meanwhile, we passed Canberra in the night. Canberra was probably gearing up for their Floriade Festival © L.M. Kling 2010]

Tom’s Teutonic features hardened like flint, eyes staring through the screen, mouth a thin line set in grim determination, and his jumbo ears deaf to our pleas. The more we urged and begged, the more resistant he became and the more he pumped the accelerator. The more we feared for our lives.

“Come on, Tom. We don’t want to have an accident.” Bill put a strong hand on Tom’s shoulder. “The angels jump off when you go over the speed limit.”

“No they don’t.” Keeping his sight fixed on the road, Tom flicked the hand from him. “We have three hours to catch up. I want to get to Brisbane by the four in the afternoon.” The needle pushed up to 190 km/h.

Bill, Rob and I withdrew, accepting our fate and praying that the angels will hang onto the van for our sake. I was not sure how much time had passed. For a moment, time seemed irrelevant. All was clear, all was calm. I forced myself to stay awake. We pelted along the highway in the dark countryside.

[Photo 3: During the night we travelled west of the Blue Mountains probably on the Newell Highway. Here are the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains © S.O. Gross circa 1960]

Somewhere along the stretch of Tom’s speedway, we rearranged ourselves. Bill moved to the front passenger seat, and Rob and I sat in the middle row. The girls curled up in the back of the van, putting their full trust and unbelted bodies at the mercy of Tom’s driving. Titan-size trucks, sympathetic to our driver’s need for speed, waved us on and we passed the road-trains of travelling tonnes of steel.

“The angels jump off at this speed, Tom,” Rob said and then yawned.

Tom laughed and made the whole van wobble and swerve into the gravel. He then swung the van to the wrong side of the road and stayed there.

“I’m not happy Tom! What do you think you’re doing?” I batted him. Blinding lights bore down on us. “Watch out, Tom!” I pressed my foot on an imaginary brake-pedal and screamed.

“Calm down, Grandma!” Tom laughed as he slipped back into the left lane with only millimetres to spare. The van shuddered with the slipstream.

“God! That was close!” Bill wiped beads of sweat from his forehead.

“That’s nothing!” Tom pressed the throttle to the floor and relished the roar of the speeding engine.

The needle on the fuel gauge sank into the red zone. Hope. We would have to stop for petrol. Using my finger as a signal, I alerted Bill to the need for petrol.

[To be continued…finale next week]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023

Feature Photo: Road train at Dawn © L.M. Kling 2013


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