Helen Edwards Writer in Australia short story about the Nullarbor

Long
Straight
Endless,
Black road with white lines.
Red dirt spread
out either side of us
across the wide expanse.

Ripples of grey green scrub
dotted through its gut
like tufts of icing.
To the left, the shimmering haze
that signalled the sea hung
above a craggy edged cliff.

The sun’s orange orb
climbed right out
of the earth here.
No other light
competed with her rising,
dappling her fingers
across my face.

A brown hunting bird hovered,
waiting for the right moment
to strike.
Disconnected
from the Machine,
we moved across
the never-ending Nullarbor highway,
unchartered territory
for our little family.

Sounds of my musical history
played in the background,
blending with my children’s chatter
and the steady voice
of my husband.
A forest of pink and golden wildflowers
lined the way,
defying the arid reputation.

Out here there were no rules
about time,
other than the one
about being off the road before dusk.
This was evidenced
by the many big tawny red kangaroos,
lying on their sides,
red streaks on the black.

A family of emus ran past,
faster than we could drive,
dust flying out behind them
like a red brown parachute.
Their tail feathers
looked like a shaggy bustle.
My children laughed,
fat happy laughs
filled with the joy of freedom.

Long road trains buffeted our van
with the lift up bed
like it was a little sail boat,
adrift at sea.
I felt adrift,
excitement and wild abandon in my gut.
Anything was possible.

My arms were tired
from battling the wind gusts,
created by passing road trains.
My eyes were heavy.
The roadhouses,
dropped right out of a 1970’s movie,
beckoned.

The one room with bathroom
was like a palace to us,
orange Chenille bedspreads
reminding me of my grandmother.
We squeezed past each other,
making a play space on the floor
for the little one,
using one of the bedspreads
to avoid the lost dirt.

Strange brown beetles
climbed across the wall,
seeping out of the bricks,
covering the carpet.
I stood under the hot water,
feeling the freedom coursing
through my veins.

In the diner, truckies
dressed in blue and yellow,
gobbled down their steak
and bread and butter pudding.
I eavesdropped, as they shared stories
of being out there out
on the road,
big loud voices matching their physique
(the result of all those roadhouse pies).

Life changing trip,
my middle son said to me later
– he was just 12 at the time.
The sky was bigger here,
the worries smaller,
There were no problems,
other than the immediacy of where to sleep,
what to eat.

No responsibilities,
other than my children
and getting us safely
to the next destination.
This disentanglement
had taken only a day.

Gradually,
after another day,
and another,
my part in the rest of the world
slowly faded from sight,
like the polaroid pictures
of my childhood.

There were no noises
from the factory,
no hands pulling me,
choking my neck.
Only freedom
and the rhythm of our lives,
slowly wandering across the country
together, alone.

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