Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Mick drops me at the Gascoyne Junction turnoff, 15km north of town.
Just up there Mick, next to the tree. Thanks.
I haul out the spare from the back of the Pajero. Throwing it down on the dirt road, I walk over to the solitary piece of shade. Mick does a u-turn. Good luck, he says.
Thanks mate.
He roars off. It’s Sunday afternoon, and it’s hot.

I settle down for what could be a long wait. If I don’t get a lift within two hours, i will just hitch down the North West Coastal Highway back into town. It's a hundred and sixty eight kilometres to the Junction, with nothing in between except kangaroos, stray cattle and claypans. Almost immediately, a dark blue Falcon wagon turns off the highway, and rumbles up in a cloud of dust. Two women stare at me out the side window as i jump up and stick out my thumb. They continue on. I sit back down.

The flies stick to me like the proverbial shit to a blanket. A few minutes later, the car returns, and turns around.
Hey fella where you goin.
You wanna lift.
Get in.
I got that wheel there.
The girl gets out and opens the back door. There is a doona spread out. Pillows. A baby is lying asleep.
Put it up there, on top of the tent, says the woman driving.
Hang on mum. The girl removes her baby, and climbs with it back into the passenger seat. I lift the wheel in, and put it on top of the tent. We head off.

You got a flat tyre fella?
Yeah, about a hundred and fifty k's out, just before the Junction.
No spare?
Well i got this one here. I think it will fit.
We bump up onto a stretch of bitumen. This will run for about sixty k’s before we hit the dirt again.
I was tryin to get out to the Centenary Ball. Take some photos. For the paper. Didn't really think i would make it on those tyres, but, you know.
The girl turns around to stare at me. You that reporter. I seen your picture in the paper.
She turns back to play with the baby, who has woken up.
Yep. Where you ladies off to?
Back to Burringurrah, says the grandmother. Mt Augustus, you call it. 500k's. Long way. She laughs. Been in town for Bosho's funeral. Big funeral that fella.
Ah, yes, i think. Poor old Bosho. We filled half a page of ad space with obits this week. Bosho had four wives and ten kids. A huge extended family. Bosho was much loved around town. Heart attack, 43. Sweet baby Jesus, younger than me.
Yeah, poor old Bosho.
He good man that fella.
So i hear.

We drive on in silence.
The girl in the passenger seat has fallen asleep, the baby asleep in the pillow on her lap. We continue down the blacktop at a steady hundred and twenty clicks. Soon the doona overwhelms me and i too fall asleep. I wake to find we have stopped. The girl is smoking a cigarette outside. I take a draught of water from my bottle. The women change places and we drive on. The young driver puts on a cd.

Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me.
Don't cha. Don't cha.
Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me.

Don't cha. Don't cha.

The girl sings along with the oh oh and ah ahs. We hit the dirt. She slows to a hundred. After about ten k's, she stops again.
Mum. Mum.
Her mother is asleep. She wakes up.
Mum can you drive. I'm tired.
They are both quite obviously tired. The baby is tired. We're all tired.
I can drive if you want.
They look at me, astonished. You don't mind, says the girl. We been at the wake, says the grandmother. Big night that one.
I don't mind.
We trade places. I drive on.
Soon they are both asleep. Bitumen again. The tyres drone on the blacktop. The Pussycat Dolls drone on on the cd player.

Who you think you jiving?
You're disturbing my flow
Why you be bugging?
Like I'm some kind of hoe

Some kind of hoe, some kind of hoe. Must be a gardening song. The Sunny appears on the side of the road ahead. I haven’t seen another car for over an hour and a half. I slow down, and pull over, leaving the engine and aircon running. I wake the girl, asleep in the back seat.
Oh, uh, thanks. She gets out, rubs her eyes and stretches.
I lift out the wheel. My bottle of water.
She gets in the driver’s seat.
See ya.
Yeah, see ya. Take it easy.
Ok fella.

The Falcon disappears in a cloud of dust. A cloud of flies immediately descends upon me. I look around at the landscape where I slept last night. A lone tree on the crest of a hill. Strange, sharp, mustard coloured stones lying all around. Smooth, sharp edges. Some white ones.

The back left tyre is completely shredded. I look down at the 14 inch spare wheel. I know it’s a different diameter, but one can’t be choosy on a Sunday. I pulled it off a car at the Carnarvon tip. Had to use a length of wood as lever to lift up the bomb car where it sat atop a pile of wrecks. It was a struggle.

I hope it fits.

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