(A sequel to The Tale of the Gallah Bird and Walkabout)
I opened the door and pulled Ritch into a hug. When you’ve been through as much together as we have, it’s long past the ‘handshake’ stage.
“How the hell are ya, old man?” I asked him once we broke apart. Whilst Livvy gave him a hug, I reached past him to give Barbara a squeeze and a kiss on the cheek, drawing her into the house. She was as beautiful as ever, and I told her so, but Ritch stuck his elbow in me side and put his arm around her in mock jealousy. It’s all in fun, ya know, we’ve been friends for a long time. Hadn’t seen ‘em in a year, I don’t think, and it was great to have them finally come by for a visit. I’d wanted them to drop in and see our place for a long time, but Australia isn’t really a place where you can “drop in” for a visit. A bit too far off the beaten track, ya might say.
They looked tired, so I quickly showed them to their room and left them to recover from the trip. Hadn’t really planned anything for the day anyway, tomorrow or the next day would be soon enough, once they’d adjusted to the heat and gotten their land-legs back. Ritch wasn’t exactly a complacent flyer, and he was probably glad to be back on solid ground.
It was about a day and a half before we saw our guests again, that jet lag’s a miserable thing. Dhani had already arrived by the time Ritch and Barb came out of their room, so once they surfaced, we held a get re-acquainted session in the music room before dinner, and I enjoyed that immensely. Kinda broke into groups after dinner, the ladies going off into one room to gossip or whatever it is they do, and the men sitting about on the porch, me with a Vic Bitters (best lager in the world in my humble opinion), and Ritch with a coke. Dunno what Dhan was drinking, stopped worrying ‘bout that years ago. He’s a big boy now, doesn’t need the parental unit hovering over him. He didn’t stick with us old farts for long anyway, he’d been on Hamilton Island often enough that he’d made friends, and he was shortly off to visit with some of them.
After catching up on the trials and tribulations in each other’s life, Ritch tried to casually bring up me ‘adventure’ in the outback ‘bout eight months prior, during me last visit to Oz.
“So, ‘ave ya gotten lost in th’ bush again, ‘ari?” he asked nonchalantly.
Ya gotta understand, Ritch never brings anything up ‘casually’. The man’s transparent as the ocean around this island, ya can see clear to the bottom. He was either going to try an’ tease me ‘bout the misadventure, or he had some other ulterior motive.
“What d’ya wanna know, Ritch?” I asked, cutting to the chase.
He grinned ruefully and took a sip from his drink before replying. “Aw, jus’ kinda curious ‘bout that gurl ya met out there. What’d ya say ‘er name was?”
The bastard was still trying to beat around the bush! I’d bet you pounds to shillings that he remembered every detail I’d told him about that trip through the desert with the blue-eyed Aboriginal woman. The man had a memory like a steel trap, I’d just been teasing him in the liner of the All Things re-release when I said he prob’ly didn’t remember playing on fifty or sixty percent of the songs on the album. It was a damned good thing I hadn’t told him about the dreams I’d had whilst in the bush, the ones about Lucy and flying like a bird, he’d have taken that like a dog to a favourite toy and would have never let it go!
“Lucy,” I replied. “Lucy something-or-other. Why d’ya ask, Ritch?”
He took another sip of his drink and stared out at the remnants of the sunset that falls so quickly in the tropics. Not that we’re exactly in the tropics, but when on an island, well, it always feels tropical to me. I let him take his time and enjoyed the view and the smells from the surrounding near-jungle where our home’s set. A beautiful place, this. Seems so far removed from the concrete jungle the whole world’s turning into. I turned to face me old friend when Ritch sighed.
“Ever since ya told me ‘bout that gurl, I’ve had this really weird idear in me ‘ead,” he remarked. “Ya remember that trip back in ’64, when you an’ th’ lads were here with Jimmy, an’ I finally came an’ joined ya, but then I was gone fer a night? I know you an’ Paulie an’ Johnny thought I was crackers, jus’ figgered I was off with a bird I met, an’ ya weren’t wrong, but what I tol’ ya was th’ truth, George. I was off with a bird, but it was some weird tribal ritual or somethin’, I didn’t really understand it at th’ time, an’ I don’t really understand it now, but I gotta think that blue eyed Aboriginals don’t pop up in every generation. You said Lucy was in ‘er late-thirties or near enough, didn’t ya? That’s . . . . that’s about th’ right timing, ya know.”
Silence descended over us, and I wondered if I should agree with his suspicions or tell him he was a loony. Hell, I’d been thinking the same thing whilst traveling with Lucy! Did Ritch have . . . well . . . did he have kids living out in the Australian bush? The fable Lucy’d told me ‘bout some sort of bird ‘joining with the tribe’ had been pretty unbelievable. But there was no denying the blue eyes. Always thought that was kinda weird anyway, most Aboriginals have dark brown eyes, would have figured that blue eyes, being recessive, wouldn’t ever come to the front of a gene pool like that. It was a real mystery, and I love a good mystery.
The words were out of me mouth before I even thought about them. But the idear must have been in the back of me head for a long time. Percolating, like.
“D’ya wanna go see if we can’t find ‘er? Ask ‘er yerself? If nothing else, you can ‘ave a laugh over seeing th’ big city of Ubbir.”
He looked at me as if I was crazy. But I was definitely warming to the idear.
“We could rent th’ chopper for th’ day an’ just pop over there, see if Mary’s still running the café. Have a spot of lunch, ask if she’s seen Lucy, hell, we’d be back in time for dinner! Let’s do it, Ritchie!”
As hesitant as he was about getting onto a helicopter, Ritch let my enthusiasm carry him into the adventure. Don’t think he really wanted to do this, but he was always easy going. I could always push him into doing anything, even if he didn’t think it was smart. Which, in retrospect, this definitely was not. I called to secure the chopper for the next day.
Somehow, we forgot to tell the wives about it until the next morning. They thought we were loony, of course, going off on our own little walkabout like this. Well, maybe flyabout would be a better thing to call it, wasn’t like we were going to be doing any ‘roughing it’, just fly there and ask a few questions, have some tea, and then fly back. Hate to admit it, but we’re getting a bit old for that sort of adventure. Well, Ritchie is, anyway!
Hadn’t thought to ask Dhan along, but he’d probably prefer to stay home anyway, he’d been out late the previous night and was still abed. The ‘copter was going to be waiting for us, so I kissed Livvy goodbye and tried not to notice that she wasn’t looking too happy, I’m pretty sure she thought I’d gone off the deep end. But she didn’t complain. Not much, anyway. I felt really good about heading out, kinda wanted to see Lucy again and say hello, thank her again for rescuing me, see how she was. I knew it wasn’t likely I’d see her, but maybe Mary had some information about her. Ritch just said cheers to Livvy, kissed his wife, and we were off. Started humming ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” or some such bloody nonsense as we drove to the airport.
Didn’t know Ritch had turned into a white-knuckled passenger whilst in the air, I’d have to store that information up for future reference. Thought he’d throttle me if I said anything right then, so I stayed quiet during the flight and tried not to laugh at the old man. Got to thinking I might wanna stop referring to him as ‘old man’, he’s really only a few years older than me.
It started raining just as we set down in Ubbir, and there was no opportunity to dodge the raindrops as we stepped off the chopper and ran for the general store cum motel cum whatever else it was, leaving Bill, the pilot, to follow us when he was ready. There were still only two buildings in the little town, and I figured if we were lucky, Mary might still be the proprietress on hand. Felt like a wet dog shaking meself on the porch before going through the door, but I grinned at my companion as I ushered him inside. He was looking none too pleased by the unexpected deluge; I swear the man’s like a cat, he hates the water unless it’s on his own terms. This was supposed to be the dry season, the weather was definitely different this year.
You here?” I called out after I entered the little building. The
door to the kitchen swung open and the woman bustled through it.
Izzat you? ‘ow are ya,
mate? Didn’t expect to see
you in these parts again,” she replied, coming over and giving me a rough
hug. Was a bit surprised she
even remembered me, it had been over eight months since I’d set foot in
fine, Mary, yourself? This is
me friend Richard. Ritch, this
is Mary, she’s the best cook I’ve ever met.”
older woman blushed a bright pink as she enveloped a very startled Ritchie
in a big hug. She was a nice
sized lady, and Ritch was dwarfed by her . . . errrr . . . enveloping
attributes. I’m not saying I
wasn’t likewise enveloped when she hugged me, but I’m not only younger
than Ritch, I’m a bit taller as well, and he’s been shrinking lately.
I think it happens to all of us after a certain age. But I gotta lord me youth an’ height over him from time to
time, so I stood up straight and was able to look Mary in the eye when she
turned to me with a bit of a blush still evident on her cheeks.
la, George, I’m sure ya say that to all the ladies? You were simply starving the last time you were here,
that’s all, anything would have tasted good to ya.
Nice to meetcha, Richard, come in and sit down, lads, can I fix ya
just some tea for now, Mary,” I replied, pulling up a chair and settling
into it as Mary turned and headed back into the kitchen. “There’ll be one more for tea, love, our pilot.”
looked ‘round, the place hadn’t changed a bit.
One table, four chairs, a few things stocked on shelves of rough
lumber, a door leading to a kitchen where Mary worked culinary wonders.
She shortly returned through that door with a tea tray loaded with
tea and little savoury biscuits of some sort, they looked home made and they
were probably wonderful. I tried one, oh, yeah, perfection. A great cook, Mary was!
ya come in a ‘copter again, then? La,
you’ve got to be the most famous visitor we’ve ever seen ‘round here?
What’d ya say ya did then?” Mary asked, all inquisitive eyes and
every statement she made ended on an upturned note, as if a question; it was
a typical Australian inflection, and it always made me chuckle a bit.
But I outright laughed at Ritchie’s expression, I could tell he was
surprised someone didn’t know
who we were! I just love the
outback! Anonymity, blessed
didn’t say. So what’s been
happening, Mary? It’s been a
joined us and we sat through several pots of fragrant tea and the arrival of
our pilot, who joined us once he was done outside. It was nearly an hour later before I could fit a word in
edgewise. Got the feeling they
didn’t have many visitors in these parts, and she could probably talk us
to death if we let her.
ya seen Lucy recently?” I asked.
looked a bit cautious, then shook her head.
“Nah, she hasn’t been by since she came back by helicopter?
That’s the way of it, they tend to wander a bit and I may not see
any of them for months or years at a time?
Her mate’s been in once, and her mother and grandfather came by,
oh, ‘bout four months ago?”
have any idear where they are?”
d’ya wanna know?” Mary asked, suddenly all business-like and stiff.
I couldn’t quite figger out why.
just wanted ta pop in on the girl and see how she was, thank her again.
Ya know, I’m pretty convinced she saved me life after I was robbed.
I don’t think I’d have made it without her.”
you’re right about that, you prob’ly wouldn’t have survived an
hour?” Mary chuckled, dropping the reserve that had come over her.
Wonder what she’d thought, that we were here to cause trouble?
“So ya just wanna see the old girl and tell her thank you, is that
it? Why?” she asked.
shook my head at Mary’s challenge and shrugged. “I dunno really. We
never did say goodbye, she just took off before me wife an’ I were awake,
badgered me employees into supplying her an’ calling for th’ chopper,
an’ by the time we woke up, she was already gone.”
chuckled again, loosing the last of the reserve. “That sounds ‘bout right, mate.
The Abo’s kinda come an’ go as they please, ya know?
Lucy prob’ly just figgered it was time to leave, an’ that was
that? But I’m afraid I
can’t really help you, George. I
can tell ya where their permanent camp is, that’s where Lucy teaches in
the school? But it’s the dry
season, school’s out an’ they could be anywhere?”
season?” Ritchie asked in astonishment.
I think it was the first thing he’d said since we sat down.
But then, Mary hadn’t left us much opportunity to say anything.
“It’s pouring bloody cats and dogs out there!” he continued.
turned to look at him seriously.
“La, that’s just a little shower, cause a few floods and that’s
it. It’ll be over in a little
bit and you’ll never know it’s rained?”
She ignored Ritchie when he snorted in disbelief, and she turned back
to me. “So, are ya gonna go
looking for her? Will ya be
takin’ shanks pony ta find ‘er, or are ya gonna take that modern
grinned in answer to her curiosity. “I
think Ritchie’s a bit old fer much traveling by foot, hadn’t really
planned on searching her out. Just
wanted ta pop in an’ say hello, see if ya knew anything, then we’ll head
on back, be home in time fer supper.”
the face Ritchie made at me, but I was sure I’d be hearing about it on the
return flight. ‘s all right,
though, matching wits was always one of the best things of being in the Fabs,
hadn’t had a chance to sharpen me skills in a while and I was looking
forward to it.
I have to admit to feeling a pang of disappointment after receiving the
information from Mary. Even
though I hadn’t really thought
we’d see Lucy, I guess I’d still been hoping a little bit.
Didn’t think I had to worry about asking Mary to tell the girl that
we’d stopped by to see her, thought for sure Mary would impart every
detail of our visit, even down to a word-by-word account of what was said.
She prob’ly had a tape recorder running at the bottom of the
teapot. Nah, not Mary, she’d
just memorize everything an’ make up what she didn’t remember, I decided
with a chuckle.
sat and chatted about anything and everything for another hour, then Bill
mentioned it was getting late. We
said our goodbyes to Mary, hugged the woman, and then got back into the
chopper to return home. Too bad
we hadn’t seen Lucy, but p’rhaps we’d try this again sometime. It was too depressing to think I might never see her again.
Noted the storm clouds in the distance as we took off and swiftly
left Ubbir behind.
I wasn’t exactly sure why I’d come here, but the compulsion to see Mary in Ubbir was simply too strong to ignore, so even at eight months pregnant, I made the trek to town. It was a definite trek in the heat of the dry season, although we were having some unseasonable rains. I’m a bit worried that it’s greenhouse effect, and being so close to the South Pole where the ozone layer is thinning so rapidly, well, it’s a big concern in this part of the world. Even though I’m tribal and live mainly on the land, I still keep up with current events, at least in the larger scale of things. I mean, I’ve seen movies and television shows, but I couldn’t tell you what’s popular on the telly, that’s simply not important. But talk to me about wetlands deforestation or reef destruction or the problems with the ozone layer, and you’ll get an earful! It’s hard to explain to a non-Aboriginal. But the earth belongs to us, and we to it. It’s a part of us, felt deep inside. And when something inside told me to go to Ubbir, I knew it was important to go, no matter what.
As the little town came into sight near dark, I felt a cold chill of fear. There were vehicles all about the town, parked any and everywhere, big ambulance-type vehicles and scout trucks, police vans and rescue vehicles, all sorts of small campsites dotting the bush surrounding the buildings. Something big had happened, and I hoped it hadn’t involved Mary or her husband. I told myself it was simply another search and rescue, someone had gotten lost in the bush or something. But I’d never seen an operation this large. I hurried into the café and stepped back against the wall to observe for a bit. I was grateful to see Mary come out of the kitchen with tea for some of the men. She seemed fine, so whatever had happened didn’t have to do with her. Who, then?
The hum of voices strangled the air of oxygen, it was so loud after the quiet of the bush. I was finally able to start separating voices and accents, and one voice from nearby stood out from all the others. I turned slowly and saw a young man talking on the phone, his back was to me, but I recognized him instantly by his voice and his aura. It was the Grey Falcon’s son. The cold chill crept into my heart and squeezed it so that it began beating faster and harder. I focused my attention on him, shutting out all other noise.
“No, Mum, there’s been no news, I would have called you if we’d found anything. No, the search planes can’t set down in Ubbir, there’s no landing strip and there’s no refueling here, either, so they’ve gotta come out from either Darwin or Cooktown, and there’s only so much they can do. No, you an’ Barbara have gotta stay there in case they call, I’m in close contact with the police out here, and the search and rescue teams. We’ll find them, Mum, I promise we will. Yeah, I love you too. OK, yeah, I’ll call tomorrow. Yeah, I know.”
He sighed as he replaced the receiver, and he stood with his head hanging, his shoulders slumped. He’d sounded upbeat whilst on the phone, but his whole stance changed now. I could nearly smell his fear and helplessness, it was so powerful. I reached out to touch him on the shoulder and he turned to face me. Such a handsome young man, with such tragedy and despair in his eyes.
“Danny, it’s Lucy, tell me what’s going on, please,” I requested, pulling him to the door and out of the building so we could have some privacy and quiet. Quiet was impossible in the cramped building, so over-filled with bodies and voices suggesting options and possibilities. And then there were the doomsayers, their stench took even more oxygen from the air, and Danny didn’t need to be breathing that in.
He tried to smile at me once we were outside, tried to say how nice it was to see me, tried to be strong. I shook my head impatiently.
“Tell me what happened. We can have small talk later.”
Danny took a breath and held it for a moment. I think he was trying to avoid tears. The despair was so heavy in him that I could feel it, for all his attempt at being strong. His explanation came out in one or two rushed breaths.
“Dad and his friend Ritchie came to Ubbir by helicopter four days ago, it was just a day trip, they were supposed to be back that same night, but they never made it. No radio message, nothing, they just took off from here about four in the afternoon, according to the lady over at the store, then . . . . nothing. They just vanished. We’ve been searching ever since, by air and by land, and we haven’t seen a trace of them.”
I sat down on the step, pulling him down beside me and holding his
hand in mine, our fingers interlaced, wanting even more of a connection with
the Falcon. I absentmindedly
waved Danny to silence when he started to say something. I closed my eyes and thought, felt, breathed the night air, searching
out the Ancient Ones and the Spirits who could aid me now, dropping into the
Dreamtime to search them out.
The Grey Falcon was still alive, I knew that for certain.
I couldn’t tell about the others on the helicopter, I had no
connection with them. But
George was part and parcel of my tribe now, joined forevermore with The
People, even though he didn’t know it.
But where was he? And how far? I
concentrated on my connection to the Earth and The People that stretched
back so many millennia.
East, of course, if he’d been heading back to Hamilton Island,
east and several days, the Earth told me, but alive and well for the time
being. I thought I felt
something or some one besides just
the Falcon’s presence, but I wasn’t sure what or who it was. I could tell that the other posed him no threat, so I tried
to forget about it for the time being, although being able to acknowledge
another strong presence unconnected to The People was definitely puzzling.
I shook my head and opened my eyes, coming back to the Now,
returning from the Dreamtime. There
would be time enough to decipher puzzles once they were found.
It was too late to start right now, but I’d be gone from here
before daylight. Traveling in
the dry season wasn’t going to be very pleasant, but I owed the man more
than I could ever repay. I
turned to face his son.
“He’s alive, I can tell you that.
I’ll leave before light, don’t worry, I’ll find him,” I told
the young man.
“How do you know? And
where are you going? What makes
you think you’ll find him?” he blurted in reply.
I could tell he wanted to believe me, but his very nature made him
suspicious. He’d had too many
disappointments already, and he was too white to believe in Aboriginal
‘superstitions’ or whatever it was they thought of the Earth Sense and
the ability to connect with the Ancient Ones and the Spirits.
“I know he’s alive, that’s all I can tell you.
I’ll be going East. And
I’ll find him.”
He was quiet for several minutes, a rarity in a white, they usually
talk things to death instead of listening to the silence.
He finally sighed, running his hands through his dark hair and
leaving it an untidy mess that I wanted to smooth back from the brow of his
familiar-yet-unfamiliar face. Yes,
he probably looked exactly like George had looked at that age.
But this young one had lived through too many worries, his eyes spoke
of recent and past fears. I
wondered about it, but turned my thoughts aside when he opened his mouth to
“Right, then, I’m going with you.”
I shook my head. “No.
I’m sorry, Danny, but I don’t have time to baby-sit you.
I’ll be traveling fast, and I can do that alone much easier than I
can do it with you holding me back.”
I didn’t mean to be brutal, but it was a true fact, and he needed
to understand it. He’d slow me down, and time was crucial right now.
“My name’s Dhani, D-H-A-N-I, and I won’t be holding you back,
I’m not a kid. I’ve got
camping and backpacking experience. And
besides, you’re really . . . uhhh . . . pregnant, what if you run into
problems?” he argued.
I almost laughed at this young man-child. “What do you know
about childbirth, boy? I’ve
been through this before. Aboriginal
women have been having babies for eons, I could give birth and be back on my
way in an hour. I don’t need
you to help me. You’d simply
slow me down, Dhani, I’m sorry, but you can’t come with me.”
I stood up, the conversation was over and I needed to pick up a few
supplies, if Mary still had anything left after the hoard had descended upon
her limited resources. I was
surprised when Dhani grabbed my arm and pulled me back down onto the narrow
step beside him.
“You don’t understand,” he growled, bare inches from my face.
“I almost lost my Dad twice over the last few years.
A crazy man tried to kill him back in ’99, it was touch and go and
we were all incredibly lucky. Then,
eight months ago, he got robbed and left for the bush to kill him, and you
found him and saved his life. He’d
have died without you, I know that, and he does too.
Lucy, I’ve got to come with you, you’re the only one who seems to
think he’s still alive. I can
see it in the others, in the rescue squads, the police, they all think
he’s . . . dead. I’ve got to come with you,” he pleaded.
Oh, his eyes, so close to mine, burning with desperation, drilling
into my soul. That explained
it, then; near loss, twice over and in quick succession.
And now, a third time so near upon the heels of the second.
His eyes were so like his fathers’ eyes, but so filled with heavy
emotion that shouldn’t be experienced in one so young.
I had to shake my head again, but it was difficult to refuse his
“Dhani, this is ‘touch and go’ too, and he could die if someone doesn’t get to him in time.
I think I have the best chance of finding him.
I can’t have you slowing me down, it’s too important.
He didn’t stop me this time, and I went into the building and got
Mary’s attention. I choose a
few items of what she had left, and we talked for a bit, she exclaiming over
my rather advanced pregnancy and the excitement of the past several days.
She told me that the two passengers on the helicopter were Beatles,
which meant nothing to me, except that it brought back the memory of a gold
record on the wall of George’s home on Hamilton Island.
I shrugged and the conversation turned elsewhere. I
would have preferred to stay outside that night, but with all the campsites
and all the strange men around, I took Mary up on her offer to stay inside
with her and her husband, creeping silently away when the sky began to
lighten just a bit.
Apparently not silently enough, I thought as the kilometers fell
away. He was fairly stealthy,
but I could tell that Dhani was following me.
I really couldn’t blame him, if it were my parent out there, I’d
have been following as well. But
I had to lose him quickly, so that he’d find his way back to Ubbir before
we got too far away. I didn’t
even stop for lunch or the heat of the day, merely chewed on some dried
fruits and kept going. The boy
clung to me like a thistle, far enough behind that he probably thought I
didn’t know he was there, close enough to stay with me.
I grudgingly admitted to myself that he was pretty good, even knew a
bit about tracking and had followed me when I’d taken a few turns that
should have lost him.
When I stopped after dark, I listened to him settle nearby for the
night. I planned to set out
very early in the morning; it was better traveling in the cool times,
anyway. Traveling through the
heat of the day had worn me out, and I needed to go back to normal
dry-season traveling, moving out in the early morning and late evening,
whilst resting during the hot part of the day.
Hopefully, when he realized I was already gone, he’d turn around
and head back. He shouldn’t have a problem finding the town, I didn’t
think. Another day and he
might, but only one day’s walk should be all right.
I spoke to the Ancient Ones that night and asked them to be certain
the boy found his way back to Ubbir in safety.
I found the next morning that I’d underestimated the young man.
He must have been a light sleeper, unlike his father, I thought with
a bit of amusement, remembering how I’d had to shake George awake during
our previous journey. Or perhaps Dhani hadn’t slept at all, merely rested and
waited for me to set out once more. I
tried to lose him again, but wasn’t any more successful than I’d been
the previous day. I finally
stopped to cook lunch during the heat, walked back once the pot was
bubbling, and invited him to join me. The
surprise on his face was almost worth it, he’d obviously thought he was
stealthy enough that I hadn’t known he was following.
“You might as well come and have a hot lunch, Dhani,” I said
He followed me back to my fire without a single word.
The poor lad was exhausted, struggling to stay awake, his eyes sunken
and bloodshot pits in his face, his weariness and desperation shining
therein. He ate hungrily, not
even commenting on or questioning what I’d fixed, a kind of porridge of
sago palm flour and sliced bunya nuts with some dried midyim and beach
cherry fruits. Once I’d
finally accepted the fact that we were going to travel together, I thought
I’d better cook vegetarian for him, in case he followed in his father’s
footsteps. When lunch was over,
I patted the ground at my side.
“Get some rest. I
promise I won’t leave without you, but we’ve got some hard traveling
ahead, and we’ll be leaving in the late afternoon, as soon as it cools
down a bit.”
Again, his exhaustion was such that he didn’t question me, but
merely lay down and closed his eyes. I
watched him sleep for a while, somewhat surprised at the fondness I felt for
this persistent young man, half brother to my unborn twins.
I fixed a pot to bubble on the fire and lay beside him, thinking.
Perhaps the Ancient Ones wanted him with me for a reason.
It didn’t matter at this point, he’d proved he could keep up, and
I couldn’t very well turn him over my knee to spank him and send him away!
Although the thought was rather appealing.
I firmly turned my mind from that
mental image and slept away the heat of the day at his side.
We had a quick dinner of grass potatoes and lemon myrtle, along with
some more bunya nuts that had overcooked in the heat of the fire.
I can’t pretend to be a good cook, but we both ate everything and
then set out walking. Dhani
appeared somewhat rested from the afternoon’s sleep, and it was easier for
me to move around in the cooler weather.
The twins were certainly active of late, I wondered if they felt the
presence of their father or half brother nearby. Of course, I didn’t say anything of that, he didn’t need the knowledge any more than the Grey Falcon
needed it. Besides, even if
they knew, they’d dismiss it as a pregnant woman’s fancy. Another
Aboriginal would understand, it’s like the Earth Sense, it’s very real
to those of us who have it, yet it’s probably incomprehensible to those
without it. It’s the same
thing with how I knew that George was still alive.
It wasn’t merely a flight of fancy, the very earth itself told me
he was alive, and it led me in the right direction, although Dhani gave me a
strange look a time or two when I doubled back after realizing I’d missed
a ‘turn’. He finally asked
me about it once we’d stopped for the night, after the moon had set and we
couldn’t see any more.
“So ya think Dad’s still alive?” he asked quietly as we shared
a little johnny cake and tea before sleep, while I quickly mixed up some
spotted dog for breakfast.
“Yes, I do, Dhani, I know
He was quiet for several minutes, then raised his head.
“What about Ritchie? Or
I shrugged, placing the wrapped bundle in amongst the coals and
banking the fire. “Sorry, I
“Then how d’ya know Dad’s alive?” he shouted, absolutely
startling in the silence of the bush, nearly making me jump to my feet in
surprise. He got up and paced
out of the light of the fire and then back again.
“How the bloody hell do ya know that he’s
alive but you don’t know if the others are alive? What am I doing here? Why
did I even come with you? One
of the search and rescue teams might have found him, and now he’s going to
be worried about me! Oh, God,
what am I doing?”
I tried to calm him down. “Easy,
“I’m no bloody boy,”
he spat angrily, and I lowered my eyes in apology.
It was his fear and anger speaking, but I’d been wrong to address
him that way. He was probably
ten or fifteen years younger than I, but he hadn’t been a child for many
years. I nodded acceptance of
his reluctantly muttered apology, and returned to the conversation at hand.
I tried to put myself in his shoes, tried to think of a way he might
understand without telling him the absolute truth.
“Dhani, you’re here because . . . because I’m the only one
who’s given you any hope. He’s
alive, Dhani, I know it.
Look, I have a . . . a kind of connection with your father, we spent
time together out in the bush, it happens when you live that closely with
another person during a life-and-death situation.
I don’t know the other two, this Ritchie or the pilot.
I can’t tell you anything about them.
But I know your father is alive, and he’s unhurt.
Believe me or not, it doesn’t matter, but you’ll sleep easier if
you keep your hope alive. I promise you, your father is alive. We’ll find him soon.”
Silence descended over us for quite a while as he struggled with
himself. I rested my hand on
his shoulder, wishing I could comfort him, wishing I could make him know
that his father was alive and unhurt. I
only had my words with which to convince him, I couldn’t impart the actual
knowledge, the certainty
that filled my entire being.
“When’s your baby due?” he asked unexpectedly, calm again, his
anger or fear subsiding, or more probably throttled down to tolerable
I hesitated for a moment. “They’re
due in about another month,” I admitted.
He smiled for the first time since I’d seen him in Ubbir.
It must have been some homecoming!” he said with a small chuckle as he drained his
cup of tea.
I laughed and agreed with his assessment, that was a good way to put
it, I’d have to remember that. I
checked the fire and laid the spotted dog in amongst the coals, then settled
down for a short night’s sleep.
Poor Dhani’s hope was crushed the next morning when we came across some helicopter debris in a wash on the flood plain. I shook him and then hugged him, wishing again for some way to impart the knowledge into him.
“Dhani, he’s all right. And we’re very close. Look, the water came from that direction, and I know your father knows about floods and flood plains. He’s gone to higher ground. See that escarpment over there?” I pointed, finally forcibly turning him and pointing him in the right direction to look. “That’s where he is. I don’t think he’s gone far from the top, perhaps one of them is hurt and they can’t leave him. But he’s there, and he’s safe and all we have to do is get there. Dhani, please believe me.”
He didn’t, of course, and then refused to eat our lunch when we stopped. I don’t think he slept at all during the heat of the day, but fumed silently over the enforced wait. He remained silent but dry eyed as we took up the hunt again when the cool of night began to descend upon us. The climb was . . . difficult for me as the twins became even more active. I had to face facts, I was in labour, a little bit early, and I didn’t think I had the right herbs with me to delay the process. I foraged as we climbed, but I was afraid that the small amount of wattle leaves I was able to locate wouldn’t be enough.
I think we’d been out here a week since we crashed.
Coulda been four days or nine for all I knew, time kinda runs
together after a while. The
emergency ration packets we’d scrounged from the helicopter hadn’t
lasted long. Me stomach was
making an uncomfortable acquaintance with me backbone at this point, but I
didn’t think the lack of food would kill us, not right away, anyway.
The water issue was a definite worry, though.
Tried to keep telling meself that we’d be found before long, but
after a week stuck in the bush, the reassurance kinda becomes meaningless.
It was my turn to check on Bill so I walked over just before it got
dark, wishing again that I had some sort of medical skills.
Poor man was in a lot of pain, not able to breathe very well.
I’d had some experience with a collapsed lung, and I hoped he
didn’t have that, hoped it was ‘just’ a couple of broken ribs or
something. He was pretty stoic,
though, just asked for a bit of water and lay back with a grimace, trying to
find a comfortable position. Wasn’t
much else I could do, so I wandered back over beside Ritchie and lay down on
the rapidly chilling sand.
Thought a bit about the crash and how we’d got here.
I think Bill was the only reason we’d survived when the chopper had
been hit with some sort of electrical failure.
Once we’d lost the power, we’d come down like a rock, and it had
been a really hard landing but he’d got us down pretty much in one piece.
After we’d got ourselves sorted out, I’d known we had to get off
the flood plain immediately, all I could think about were the clouds on the
mountains and the unexpected rain we’d had earlier in the day.
Couldn’t help but remember the damned flood I’d seen with Lucy,
and I was terrified of being swept away.
Ritch hadn’t really recognized the urgency, but, bless the man, he
hadn’t argued with me. We’d
grabbed what we could from the wreck, got the injured pilot up on his feet
and nearly dragged him up the escarpment, which I’m sure hadn’t helped
his ribs any. We’d been about
halfway up when the flash flood hit. Don’t
think I’d breathed easy until we made it to the top.
Don’t think I’d ever seen Ritchie that deep in awe, I’d kinda
felt the same way eight months earlier when I’d seen it for the first
And so here we’d been since then, stuck up on top of the cliff
for somewhere around a week now, it wasn’t really wise to take off on our
own, and we damned well weren’t gonna leave Bill behind. Didn’t have a clue where we were, anyway, and settlements
are few and far between in the outback, could wander for weeks and not see
anyone. But it was bloody
difficult just sitting here and waiting for a rescue that might not come. The euphoria of surviving the crash and escaping the flood
had long since passed, and the tedium and fear were taking a toll on all of
I’d found some fruits and stuff that looked somewhat familiar,
tried to remember what Lucy’d cooked for us before, but my knowledge was
terribly limited and Bill admitted to very little bush knowledge, couldn’t
really give me any pointers. Kinda
had to eat everything raw, anyway, didn’t have the water to cook anything
in. Or a pot.
Or a fire. Coulda used
some fire, although the days were miserably hot, the nights turned bloody
cold out here.
I’d about reached the conclusion that we were gonna die in
another couple of days, and I think I was feeling ok about it.
Just wished I’d had the chance to say goodbye to the wife and son,
hadn’t even spoken to Dhan before we’d left the house, didn’t remember
if I’d told him I loved him lately. That
was really bothering me. Ever
since the incident at Friar Park, I’ve tried to make sure to say the
things I wanna say to the people who mean the most to me.
And now I was gonna die without the chance to tell Livvy and Dhan,
just one last time, that I loved them.
Maybe ‘one last time’ is never realized, ya know?
Like, even if you get the chance, maybe ya want another ‘one last
time’. And after that last time, ya want another.
I took a breath and tried to stop that train of thought.
It was getting too deep for me.
Yeah, it was probably going to be the lack of water that got us.
Funny how there’d been so much water just a short time ago, and now
it was so dry that the very earth cracked.
I’d walked around the area a bit, looking for one of those ponds,
but hadn’t found anything. We’d
been pretty careful in rationing, but rationing only lasts so long.
Opened me eyes and looked up at the stars, picked out the Southern
Cross, the constellation you see so easily in Oz. It was nearly pitch black out, and the multitude of stars
made me feel insignificant. The
sky glowed with them, diamonds sparkling against the velvety blackness of
space. I guess there are worse
places to die.
“Hey, Ritch, you awake?” I asked softly.
“Yeah,” the reply came from the darkness to me right.
“We’re outta water, man, gave the last to Bill a bit
earlier,” I told him apologetically, and he merely grunted in reply.
Guess this was a ‘one last time’, wasn’t it?
I wanted to tell him what a good friend he was, wanted to tell him I
was sorry for bringing him out here. Wanted
to tell him I wished I’d never teased him ‘bout his nose and the way he
snored. Wanted to tell him I
loved him. I was feeling a bit
choked up and had to clear me throat before I could even say a word.
I sat up so fast I got lightheaded, was I hallucinating the voice
from the darkness? Couldn’t
say a word, I was stunned into silence.
It couldn’t be . . . . !
“That’s Dad, I know it! I’d
know that sound from across the room at a Hollywood party, where are you?
A woman’s voice followed his, scolding. “Don’t go rushing off, Dhani, it’s too dark, wait a
moment, we’ll be there shortly, but it won’t do any of us any good if
you fall off a cliff or something. George,
stay there, we’ll come to you.”
Oh, God, I didn’t care if I was hallucinating or not.
“Dad, keep talking!”
I talked till I was hoarse, then Ritch took over.
Nearly punched him when he started singing Yellow Submarine, then we
got a fit of giggles that nearly doubled both of us over.
It was just the relief, ya know.
We had to wait for them to find us, and I paced in a circle until
Ritch made me sit down. Their
voices had carried a ways in the emptiness and it took a while for them to
get to us, guess they’d come up the escarpment some ways distant from
where we’d climbed.
Don’t really wanna go into the reunion scene, it was a bit
emotional, to say the least. Dhan
and I finally stopped laughing and crying long enough to let go of each
other, but I had to keep him nearby for the rest of the night. When I hugged Lucy, a dark shadow in the dark night, I got a big
surprise, she was preggers, nearly big as a house, poor girl!
Had to tease her about it, and I could feel her shrug, said something
about having had a nice homecoming from her last walkabout, and that set me
off into another fit of giggles as she lit a small fire and looked around.
“Quit laughing, it’s not that funny, you’re just relieved
someone has finally come for you. And
I could tease you quite a bit about how you’re a trouble magnet, always
needing to be rescued, so don’t be teasing me about being pregnant. But at least you were smart enough to get to high ground and
stay in one place! We saw some
debris from your helicopter. Is
everyone all right?”
Could have kicked meself, poor Bill! I took the girl over to him and she looked him over
carefully, checked his eyes and listened to his chest whilst muttering a few
things about stupid whites without a shred of medical training. Pretended not to hear her, but thought if I ever got out of
this, I might try me hand at a first aid course one of these days.
When she straightened up from looking Bill over, I introduced her
to Ritchie, and they shook hands quickly.
He’d been surprisingly quiet, and I hoped he was feeling all right.
As for me, I was flying higher than in a long time, but high with the
euphoria of having been found. It’s
easy to look forward to the next step, but as much as I’ve read and
studied, it’s still a step into the unknown, and there’s no sense in
hurrying it if you don’t have to. I mean, I really wanna see ya, Lord, but lemme tell the wife
and son that I love ‘em, first. About
that point, I wondered if maybe I
was feeling all right meself, had to sit down for a few minutes, and when
Dhan sat beside me and put his arm around me, I felt better.
Lucy fixed some tea with some stuff she had in packets in her
backpack, then somehow roused Bill enough to drink it.
He fell into a deep sleep after that, none of the tossing and turning
he’d been doing for the past day or two.
He seemed to be breathing easier, too.
“Are you hungry?” Lucy asked, unpacking some things and pouring
some water into a pot.
“Yeah, and a bit thirsty from all that talking ta lead ya
here,” I replied.
“What? You don’t
have any water? With a
billabong only half a kilometer to the west?
Oh, wait, don’t tell me, you didn’t know it was there?”
Billabong? What that
one of those ponds we’d come across during our last walkabout?
Hell, so close and yet so far! I
guess me silence damned me, ‘cause she started laughing.
“I’m sorry, I forgot you don’t have any Earth Sense.
Well, I guess we got here at the right time, the sun and heat’s
going to be bad tomorrow. Dhani,
can you take a torch and go back to refill the containers?”
Ritch volunteered to go with Dhan, he’d been so quiet I’d
nearly forgotten he was there.
“Why don’t ya stay here, Ritch, I’ll go with Dhan.
C’mon, son, you can show me where this water hole is that the
stupid white man couldn’t find.”
Lucy laughed at my weak joke and Dhan grabbed a stick from the
fire. We headed out into the
bush, laughing when Lucy told us to call out if we ran into trouble.
I kept me arm around him, couldn’t believe he’d come after the
old man like this, nearly started crying again just thinking ‘bout it, had
to smack meself in the head to stop from getting all emotional again,
thought I must be getting soft in me old age. Dhani filled me in on everything as we made our way through
the dark, and we both worried ‘bout Livvy, she’d be terrified she’d
lost us both. We had to get
back to Ubbir as soon as possible. Not
quite sure how we’d get Bill out of here, but felt certain Lucy would
I’d known we were close, very close to finding them, and to come upon them so easily brought me a great deal of happiness. Without the Earth Sense, they could very well have died in another day, and with water so near, it was almost inconceivable, a frightening reminder of how harsh life was out here when one was unprepared for it!
Their joy at the reunion had very nearly poured off them in waves as they’d held each other in sheer relief. And then there was the other presence at their side, standing back to await his part in the reunion. When George had introduced us, we’d shaken hands quickly and stepped back warily. I needed some time to think about this, so I set about making dinner to keep my hands busy.
I quickly peeled some sandpaper figs and added them to some yams and bush tomatoes, along with a big portion of sago palm kernels and water. It would be an odd stew, almost like a sweet barley soup, but it should taste all right, especially if they were hungry.
I sighed and wished my contractions would ease a bit. I’d downed a cup of tea chock full of thistle and wattle leaves to try and keep them down to a dull roar, but I think it was already too late; I didn’t know how much longer I could hold back the inevitable. It would be three to four days back to Ubbir with an injured man, and I knew the twins wouldn’t wait that long. The idea of giving birth out in the bush wasn’t frightening to me, but having four white handicaps along was a little daunting. In the immortal words of that movie I’d seen so many years ago whilst living in Darwin, they probably didn’t know nothing ‘bout birthing no babies. This was a fairly decent camp, it might be better to just get it over with now whilst we were at a stopping point. But I didn’t think I’d have much choice in the matter anyway, my children were becoming fairly insistent! I shifted in discomfort as I finished with the grating and slicing and put the pot on to boil. In the meantime, I had a puzzle to work on, some thinking to do.
The moment I’d touched his hand in greeting, I’d known who this
Ritchie was; it could be no other. The
shock of electricity that had passed between us had shaken me to the core.
How was it possible? But
there was no mistake, this was The Gallah.
My father. Another
member of the tribe, and his was
the presence I’d felt beside the Grey Falcon during the searching.
I couldn’t understand how it was possible that he was here, and with
the Falcon? The world was a
small place, and this was the strangest coincidence I’d ever run across.
“Dinner will be ready shortly,” I commented, trying to keep my
voice level. I needn’t have
worried, we’re ‘inscrutable Aboriginals’, we can keep it all inside,
the whites need never know what we’re thinking or feeling.
“How do you and George know each other?” I asked after several
moments of silence.
“We used ta work together,” he replied. Somehow, he seemed as reticent as I, almost as if he wasn’t
sure what to say.
“Oh?” I remembered
the record on the wall at George’s Hamilton Island home, remembered what
Mary had said. “Were you a
musician, too? I saw a gold
record on the wall at George’s home, for a band called Beatle or
He laughed, and it was a beautiful sound. In the light of the fire, I found myself admiring his nose
when I chanced to look at him. He
was beautiful, but no chattering gallah.
Perhaps it would take him a while to warm up to me.
I checked on the pilot, I think George had called him Bill.
He was sleeping quietly from the influence of the mild narcotic I’d
given him. I thought he’d be
all right, if we could keep from injuring him further whilst getting him
back to Ubbir. He needed more
medical attention than I could give him, but I didn’t think he was
critically injured. When I
returned to the fire, Ritchie answered my question.
“Yeah, we were in th’ band together. We were over ‘ere in Australia back in June of 1964.
That was me last trip ‘ere. Errrr
. . . . ‘ow old are ya, Lucy?”
So. He had his own
suspicions. This wasn’t good.
He didn’t need to know, it would simply be an obligation to him,
and the whites and The People were worlds apart.
I tried to think quickly, but I couldn’t lie to him.
Well, there were a few years when we didn’t have a wet season, just
a dry season that stretched from one year to the next.
“I was born thirty-four dry seasons ago,” I said precisely, but
not accurately. It was actually
thirty-seven years, but only
thirty-four dry seasons. He
nodded as a strong contraction gripped me and I bit the inside of my lip.
No, the twins weren’t going to wait much longer, no matter how many
wattle leaves I brewed into my tea.
“Are ya all right?” he asked in concern.
“What do you mean?” I asked suspiciously. Aside from biting my lip, I’m certain I hadn’t given any
evidence of the pain. I paused
to consider, if I had a connection with him and with the Falcon, could he
possibly have a connection to me and to his unborn grandchildren? Well, unborn for not very
much longer, I thought as another contraction hit me. Once it passed, I realized he’d been waiting to answer me.
“Yer eyes give ya ‘way, Lucy.
How long ya been in labour?” he asked quietly. “Can I do anything?”
There was no sense in denying it.
“Since nightfall. And
I suppose you could boil water, but that would just be something to keep you
busy, and it would be a waste of water,” I replied, stoic as another
contraction approached. Oh, it
was going to be very soon at this
rate! “What do you know about
He laughed, that low musical laugh of his that I already loved.
“Not much firsthand, but I was in th’ delivery room when me
granddaughter Tatia was born. It
was a long time ago. I won’
faint, I promise, but I’m not sure ‘ow much help I’ll be.”
“Not fainting is a good start,” I replied.
I got up and pulled my blankets from the backpack, walked back near
the fire and set them down, took a breath as an even stronger contraction
hit me. “I can do this by
myself, but it’s a little more pleasant for me if I have someone nearby
for moral support. Do you think
you can handle that?” I challenged him.
“Yeah,” he replied. That’s
all, just a simple statement of fact. No
boasting, no bragging, no dithering about anything, just a simple ‘yes’.
“Right, then, let’s get started,” I told him, moving the
dinner pot off the fire to a position designed to keep it warm.
Having my father with me as moral support at the birth of his
grandchildren was nearly overwhelming, but that knowledge, as well as the
fact that his grandchildren were his friend’s children, would remain very
quietly within my heart and mind. I
had him set George and Dhani to gathering firewood when they returned, just
to keep them busy, but they were shortly back and wanted to know what was
going on. I didn’t think I
knew that whites could turn that pale; they were nearly translucent, and if
I hadn’t been fighting contractions at the time, I think I’d have
laughed at their expressions. They
surprised me, though, they both sort of shook themselves mentally and then
asked if they could do anything to help.
I had a veritable plethora of moral support.
It wasn’t long before I realized I was going to need some physical
help, not just moral support. I
took a breath and tried to keep from pushing.
“Ummm, Ritchie? Remember
when I said I could do this by myself?
Well, I think I need a hand or two.
The baby’s not turned quite right and I need some help with this
part, it’s nearly impossible for me to do it.”
I could almost see him by the light of the fire, and he looked
“Didn’t you say you assisted with the delivery of your first
grandchild?” I asked suspiciously, panting a little.
“Well, not ‘assisted’ really.
I was in th’ room, but I stayed up at th’ head of th’ table,
didn’t really see anythin’ or have ta do anythin’.”
Dhani’s voice replied from the darkness. “Nah, Dad’s not gonna be able to help. He faints at the sight of blood.
Passed out cold one time when he had his blood drawn.
Scared the crap out of me and Mum, the lab technician started crying.
. . .”
“Dhan!” George hissed.
I nearly started laughing, but the contractions were too strong to
find the breath. I was in labor
in the bush with the Three Stooges and one injured man.
“What about you, then, can you give me a hand?”
“Yeah, what d’ya want me to do?”
again, but this time in surprise.
“I took that pre-med course at the university, Dad, and we got to
watch a birth. I kinda know
what to expect. Kinda.”
I instructed him to wash up, and then the young man came over to my
side as Ritchie gave up his place to him and gratefully disappeared into the
darkness on the other side of the fire.
I sighed irritably.
“You can’t do anything from here, Dhani. It’s kind of ‘down there’ that I need you,” I said
through gritted teeth.
He was pretty pale as he moved from my side, and I hoped he didn’t
have his father’s problem with blood.
I listened to him draw in a shaky breath.
“OK, uhhh, what should I do?”
“The baby needs to be turned a little bit, and I can’t reach,
I explained the process a little bit further, panting for air, it
was so hard to keep from doing what came naturally. I heard him swallow, but he hesitated. This was becoming decidedly uncomfortable!
“Dhani, just do it! Nothing’s
going to bite you!” I snapped.
He took another shaky breath and I felt a bit of movement, but he
jumped back, startled.
“It . . . it m-m-m-moved!”
“Of course it moved, it’s a baby,
it’s alive in there, what did you think, it didn’t come to life until it
comes out? Hurry up, Dhani!
I’m having a rough time here, and this needs to be done quickly.”
“I-I-I-I don’t want to hurt you,” he stuttered.
I rolled my eyes in exasperation, but I didn’t want the poor boy
frightened to death. I’d be
in a lot of trouble if he fainted. I
started to laugh, the idea of me being in labor out here and three (or four)
white men all in dead faints and littering the landscape around me was just
too funny. The spurt of humor
relaxed me a little, and I was able to gentle my tone.
“Look, Dhani, a baby comes out of there, you can pretty easily
shift it even though it’s a bit crowded, just work gently, it’s not so
hard, really. It’s not as if
it’s breech or anything, it’s just turned at a bad angle, I think, and
it won’t take very much, you can do this!
Please, Dhani, there’s a reason for everything, and this must be
why you’re here, why you came out here with me.
The Ancient Ones knew I’d need some help and it looks like you’re
the only one here with the knowledge to help me.
Please, Dhani. I need
you to be strong, I need your help.”
About that point and with the next contraction, I started asking the
Ancient Ones for some help as well. Dhani
wasn’t merely the only one with the knowledge to help me, he was also the
only one who could help me at this
point. At least without
The young man took another breath and audibly swallowed.
“Right, okay, I can do this,” he muttered.
“I know you can, Dhani,” I replied encouragingly.
I was very glad to learn that he could follow directions quite well.
God, this was awful, it’s not as if we could take Lucy ‘round to
hospital or ring up the local witch doctor or something.
Wait, do the Aboriginals have witch doctors? Oh, Christ, oh, Krishna, oh, shit!
you think we ought to send a smoke signal or something?” Ritchie asked me
quietly as we hovered nearby. He
apparently wasn’t quiet enough, because Lucy started laughing in the midst
of what was going on.
Firstly, that’s American natives you’re thinking of, not
Australian natives, and secondly, it’s night, how far do you think a smoke signal would be seen?
Perhaps five feet above us and no more?
‘oh’ was probably another contraction, that was about the loudest she
got throughout the entire process. Had
to admire me son, he seemed like he was doing a pretty good job, as far as I
could tell. I’d been
embarrassed when Dhan said I faint at the sight of blood, but the really
embarrassing part was that he hadn’t been exaggerating.
I’m afraid I didn’t want to get anywhere near the . . . . errrr .
. . . business end of things at this point.
I’d be really embarrassed
if I passed out, so I kinda paced on the other side of the fire, chanting a
few Hare Krishnas, figured they couldn’t hurt.
Swear I felt like an expectant father.
Ritch was pacing, too, until Lucy told us we were kicking up too much
dust and to sit down and eat some dinner.
Didn’t seem quite right to be eating whilst she was in labour, but
she laughed at us and told us to save some for Bill, but to eat it before it
burnt to a crisp. Dunno what it
was, but it tasted great, Lucy was a fantastic cook.
sky was just starting to show a bit of colour breaking through the inky
velvet black of the night when everything came to a quick end.
And there wasn’t one baby, there were two!
Couldn’t believe she’d had twins again, wonder what the odds were
against that? Good lungs, too,
they set up quite a wail as she and Dhan cleaned them up and took care of
some other stuff that I didn’t want to inquire ‘bout too closely.
knew I was having twins, but I’m surprised they’re both male, I was
expecting a boy and a girl again,” she remarked with a tender smile.
looked surprisingly chipper for all the work she’d been through.
Dhan looked good too; proud, like, an’ I couldn’t blame him,
he’d done a good job helping. Gave me son a high five and then took one of the babies from
Lucy, showed him off to Ritchie, we couldn’t tell the little fellows
apart, but they were really cute, not quite as dark as Lucy and with a bit
of silky black hair. Couldn’t
tell if they’d have blue eyes or not, but Lucy said they’d be as dark
eyed as their father. Dhan was
holding the other baby and it was a decidedly weird feeling, seeing my boy
with a newborn baby like that. Wondered
if and when Livvy and I would become grandparents, wasn’t even sure he had
a steady girlfriend at this point. Oh, God, Livvy, she’d be frantic about
now. But I didn’t think
we’d be able to travel for a while, so I tried to put it out of me mind.
are ya gonna name ‘em?” I asked Lucy.
smiled, a bright white flash of teeth in that dark face, the startling blue
eyes now visible as the sun peeked out.
It was so empty here in the outback that you could almost see the
curvature of the earth on the horizon.
the tribal names will have to wait until my grandfather names them.
But for their white names, I think I’ll call them Daniel and
Richard George. Sorry, Dhani,
it’s the best I can do,” she said with an apologetic smile towards Dhan
before continuing with a sly glance towards me an’ Ritch.
“Dhani was the biggest help, so he gets one named just for him.
But you two were good moral support, so you’ll have to settle for
the dual name.”
a bit overwhelmed by that, and I think Ritch and Dhan felt the same way.
But Lucy had to tease us, then.
maybe it wan’t moral support you provided, so much as comic relief.”
at her a bit, but only a bit. She
said she was going to take it easy for the day and directed us in our
chores, a bit of gathering and cooking.
Was surprised at how much there was to eat so close by, wouldn’t
have ever known all the possibilities.
Bill looked better for a good night’s sleep, and I gotta say it was
a pretty festive breakfast of johnny cake and tea, with a pot already
bubbling on the fire, filled with everything Lucy’d ok’d from our
foraging. She got us to working
on a kind of travois for Bill, and that kept us busy for most of the day.
Kept worrying ‘bout Livvy, but there wasn’t much we could do
about it now.
We set out for Ubbir the next day.
We’d have to take the long way around, it would add days onto the
trek, but there was really no way we could climb down the escarpment with
the injured man, at least without injuring him further.
I spent part of each night in Dreamtime, working to contact my mate
and let him know what was happening. It’s
not as if we can communicate mind-to-mind, we’re no telepaths.
It’s more a sense of impressions that we can pass through the
Ancient Ones and Spirits, through the Earth, if all conditions are right and
the Spirits are willing. So I
couldn’t send him a message wherein I told him we were at such-and-such a
place and to send someone to pick us up.
But I could send him the
image of two healthy boy babies, and another image of us traveling slowly
west, back to Ubbir. I also
tried to send an image of Mary, hoping he’d understand it and try to get
in touch with her. I was taking
a chance working to send so many impressions, but I knew that the older men
were greatly worried about their mates, and Dhani was equally worried about
his mother. I tried to keep the
impressions as clear and detailed as possible, and was rewarded with a clear
impression in return on the third night of our journey.
Oh, wonderful! I slept
much easier that night, and let the men sleep late the next morning.
“They’ll be searching for us in the right area now,” I told
them over breakfast. I have to
admit to being very tired of my own cooking by now and was looking forward
to going home. “We can wait
here today, it’s pretty open and they’ll find us shortly.”
I took another bite of the porridge and looked up when the silence
fell over them.
“Yeah?” George asked. He
didn’t sound skeptical at all, that surprised me.
I nodded. The silence
grew again. Dhani finally broke
it with a hushed question.
“Can you get a message to Mum and Barbara, let them know we’re
I couldn’t help it, I started laughing, they were all looking at
me with those huge round eyes full of awe, as if I was larger than life, a
demi-goddess or something. The
unknown is always a little frightening, I suppose, but this was comical.
Little Ric G. and Dan started crying in hunger, so I put them to my
breasts before I replied, noticed that the men looked away in discomfort and
shook my head in amusement. These
whites were so funny, but I draped a blanket over us as the babies fed,
allowing the men to retain a degree of modesty, or whatever it was they
required, and they relaxed as soon as I’d done that.
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work quite like that, Dhani.
I’m not the Northern Australian Telephone Company, or even a Morse
code relay. But if I know my
mate, he’s gotten word to Mary, and if Mary knows something, then the
whole world knows it! Believing
it is another matter, I’m afraid. But we’ll find out shortly.”
Several vehicles came upon us late in the afternoon, and Bill was
quickly whisked away by bush ambulance and knowledgeable paramedics who
assured us he’d be fine; their sturdy vehicle was fully equipped for the
rigors of night travel in the outback and they’d probably reach Darwin
before morning. We had quite a
reunion in Ubbir late that evening, what with Mary and my mate Felix and the
twins anxious to see the babies, as well as the Falcon’s and Gallah’s
mates there to greet us. Not to
mention all the die hard search and rescue crews.
We were all tired, though, so after a quick hello, how are ya, mate,
we broke into small family groups and drifted apart to get some rest. Felix and the twins were excited and awed by their contact
with the two men out of legend, but were nearly as
excited about Little Ric G. and Dan. I
wanted to get an early start towards home and we all settled down quickly.
too happy about being shaken awake early the next morning, had stayed up far
too late talking with an’ reassuring Livvy, but when Dhani told me that
Lucy and her people were getting ready to leave, I was out of bed in a
flash. Threw me clothes on and
was out the door before the wife even woke.
Was still buttoning me shirt when I got outside, Ritch was right
behind me and similarly half dressed, Dhan must have knocked on his door,
too. He looked about as wide
awake as me, had the feeling he’d gotten an earful from Barbara last
night, just as I’d gotten from Livvy.
girl, don’ be sneaking off like this,” I called and stopped them in
older kids each carried one of the babies, and it was quite the picture of a
little family. Hadn’t seen
much of ‘em last night besides to shake hands and say hullo, Lucy’s mate
was a little taller than she was, and quite dark with typical Aboriginal
features, but the twins had more of their mother in them, with those
startling blue eyes and lighter skin. Realized
that the babies looked even less like their father, although it’s a little
hard to tell with newborns.
shook hands all ‘round again; the twins seemed even shyer and Felix was
quieter than when we’d met him last night.
Never did get the twins names. Tried
to talk them all into coming out to Hamilton Island; they were polite but
adamant in their refusal. Asked
if we could take some pictures with them and had a laugh at meself, I hate
pictures, not even sure where I could find a camera, but I was asking
anyway. They politely refused
that as well, and I thought I remembered that the Aboriginals didn’t like
having their photos taken, so I apologized.
hard to say goodbye, nearly as hard as it is to thank someone for saving
your life. Again. Wasn’t really sure what to say.
Ritch was being awfully damned quiet, but I was the one who knew Lucy
better, having been a thorn in her side twice now. Apologized for that, too, and she started laughing.
don’t worry about it. It was
good to see you again. Unexpected,
hugged me tight, then Ritch, then Dhan, who’d kinda hung back a bit, too.
She turned around and the whole family started to walk away.
a minute! That’s it?” I
asked, and Lucy turned back to face us whilst the rest of her family marched
on. “No ‘see you later’,
no ‘goodbye’, nothing? Not
even ‘have a good life’ or anything?”
she replied simply, then smiled that brilliant white smile with those
sparkling blue eyes. “The
People and you whites are worlds apart, and we can’t live in each others
world.” Didn’t quite
understand what she was saying, but didn’t have time to think about it
either, because she continued. “We’re
connected, you know, all four of us, in one way or another, and that
connection will carry from this life into the next plane.
I dunno if we’ll meet again in this lifetime or not, mates, but
there’s no need for a goodbye. Oh,
here, this is for you, George.”
reached into her pack and pulled out a feather, another gray feather, like
the one she’d left for me last time.
I took it from her and watched as she dug back in her pack and pulled
out a black feather with red on it and gave it to Dhani before kissing him
on the cheek, looking at him closely and smiling.
were a great help. Thank you,
Dhani, for not fainting.”
and I kinda shuffled our feet in embarrassment whilst she and Dhan laughed.
She gave Ritchie a kiss and two feathers, but they were white with
some pink and gray. She gave me
a kiss as well, then turned and walked away.
stood there watching the family depart and I thought about the significance
of having two gray feathers now.
Two gray feathers, two little silky haired babies who didn’t look a
thing like Felix.
Thought about those weird dreams I’d had on my previous trip in the
bush with Lucy, really vivid dreams ‘bout flying, and about the girl.
Looked at the two feathers that Ritch held and thought about how
Lucy’d pointed out some gallah birds to me on that first trip, little
white and pink and gray birds, and her fable about the Gallah joining with
her tribe, the Red Winged Blackbird. Thought
about the fact that she had a twin, as blue eyed as she.
I had a lot to think about.
wandered back inside, and Ritch and I stood watching long after the family
was out of sight. They never
turned around or waved, just . . . walked off.
ya get any questions answered?” I asked diffidently.
answered me with his own question after a long silence.
“’ow long’s a dry season?”
. . . ‘bout a year, I’d guess. But
some years they don’t have a wet season, when there’s a drought, ya
. . . ‘ow long d’ya think thirty-four dry seasons is?”
thought about it for a few minutes. Thought
about what Lucy’d said about being connected and how we were worlds apart
and couldn’t live in each other’s world. Thought about everything she hadn’t
said, and that maybe she had a reason for wanting it left unsaid.
Thought p’rhaps this was a mystery that needed to remain a mystery.
Took a breath and let it out slowly.
guess it’s about thirty-four years,” I replied.
nodded. “Yeah, that’s what
I thought, too.”
We walked back inside to have breakfast. It was time to go home, time to go back to our world.
Cheryl Mortensen has been a Beatle fanatic since the 1960s, but somehow went on to other things in the late 1960s, only rediscovering her passion for "all things Beatle" in the late 1990s (and on into the new century). She is a computer programmer and an avid photographer. (Concert photos of bands and performers is her favorite area -- ask her about her Ringo pictures!!) Cheryl lives with her husband of 18 years (Mike), her German Shepherd (Sorsha), and a bunch of fish in the tank and the pond that they've never bothered to name.
Return to Rooftop Sessions Archive