Monthly Archives: October 2008

Mysteries

She asked me once if I was ever aware that I was alive.  This is what I told her: A long time ago we left our town about ten in the morning in an old Volkswagen to go fishing.  Within a couple of hours the Kombi was rattling and winding its way between spinifex and wattles down the red dirt track that led towards the cliffs by the ocean. Soon we could we see white spray above the pockmarked rocks and when John turned off the motor the sound of the swell surging and sucking at the ledges filled the air.  The three of us clambered out and it was then we could taste the salt in the warm air. There was this sign that said Beware of King Waves and a red box with a life buoy in it.

 

We knew about King Waves; our fathers told us how they rolled along the cliff walls behind you, treacherous and irresistible, and then rushed back into the sea taking with them the men that fished from the ledges. The Doctor who brought me into the world drowned here. In that wild country the ocean never gives back what it takes into itself.

 

Kim pulled out some cans of beer and we stood there looking out at the water where sea birds were diving on an invisible shoal of whitebait. The beer was cold and although we were really boys, we felt like men.  We unloaded fishing gear and swags, the food and guitars.

 

After lunch we fished mostly in silence and the sun burnt our skin brown and the salt dried on our arms. Sometimes Kim would get another beer and we’d smoke. Later in the afternoon I made my way few hundred metres from the others to a place where I’d noticed a gap in the ledge where I could throw my line and maybe get less snags.  I was wrong and I lost hooks and sinkers to the rocks below me and strained to snap the line which would flick up and whip my bare shoulders.

 

I was walking back towards Kim and John when it happened and it came over me without any warning and it was somehow nothing and yet it was everything at the same time.  The wind had come up off the ocean and the air had become hotter and everything was melting around me: the rocks and the sea and the hills.  Even my friends seemed to float like spirits in a shimmer of silver.  And suddenly, there it was, that mysterious moment when you know exactly where you are and that you are where you should be and the world is your friend and the sky and the clouds and the sunlight too. And you are so happy that it is like you just came and all memory is gone and all the future washed into whiteness.

 

 

That night we sat on the rocks fishing in the darkness.  Clouds had rolled in from the North West. Kim said to me, “Is that the moon up there?” I looked up to where a silver circle of light sat motionless behind the clouds.  “Yep,” I said and looked away and we didn’t say anymore.  About a half an hour later the clouds moved on and the stars appeared again. But – and I swear this is true – there was no moon.

 

That night I dreamed that a serious-faced doctor came to me with a needle and filled my veins with something like peace.

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What the doctor told me

He used to assess the medical fitness of pilots for the renewal of their commercial licenses and sometimes he suspected borderline mental illness. Not of the stark raving mad type, you understand, but just the occasional tenuous link to reality that could make passengers nervous. So, one day he discovers that patient who is the most difficult kind to assess; a pilot who is almost sane. He is articulate, logical and knows his stuff but, still, the Doctor is not so sure; something about the pilot is bothering him.  The airline company decides not to take the risk and the whole affair ends up in an industrial tribunal where the pilot answers all questions with knowledge and calm authority. The Doctor whispers to the company lawyer, “Ask him if there are any reasons he would divert the planned course of an aircraft.”  The lawyer asks the question.  The pilot says with barely a pause, “Yes, there are times when I might divert the plane’s course for any given reason.”

“And what reason might that be?” asks the lawyer.

“I avoid flying over church steeples as it interrupts the connection between God and the Earth.”

“Uh huh,” murmurs the lawyer, “And are there any other reasons?”

“Not really,” says the pilot, “except when I have to alter course to avoid impact with angels.”

(For Average Jane)

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