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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
Want more Australian Adventure, but too expensive to travel down under?
Why not take a virtual travel with the T-Team Adventures in Australia?
Click here on Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981…
And escape in time and space to Central Australia 1981…
Is an adventure in space calling you?
Engage in the War against Boris
Escape to the Lost World of the Wends.