Sunday, July 4, 2010

No Big Deal

No Big Deal appears in Issue 90 of Shift Miner Magazine. This is the first of my Shift Miner stories that isn't directly mining-related. I think most people who have travelled long-distance with their family should be able to relate to this. This especially includes those of us working in residential remote-area mining jobs.

"It's not such a big deal to drive to Brisbane," said Susie.

Bruce wasn't so sure. They'd done long distances before, but never with the two kids. "Okay," he agreed. They had to go to Susie's father's seventieth birthday part. Susie thought flying was too expensive, so they took the people-mover. Bruce decided to take the inland road. "Less cars, cops and other problems," he said.

Bruce had bought a portable DVD player with two screens. "That'll keep 'em busy," he said. It kept Bruce busy for a about an hour while he worked out how to set it up. Once they were out of town, Susie told the kids they could play their movie.

Dylan said, "Mum, it doesn't work."

"What do you mean?"

"The DVD player doesn't work."

"What's it doing?"

"It's not playing."

Discussion became yelling as Susie tried to diagnose the problem from the front-seat. Bruce pulled over. "Let's see what the matter is."

Bruce took out the DVD and looked at it. It had some kind of muck on the shiny side. "What's all this on the DVD?" he asked the kids. Dylan and Peter put on their confused faces and shrugged their shoulders. Susie found Bruce a tissue and he used some spit and polish to clean up the disc.

The DVD player kept the kids quiet, as planned. The movie itself wasn't so quiet. Yelling, laughter, crying and music poured out off from the two screens. "Turn it down," they called out from the front, a few times.

"Good little speakers," said Bruce, quietly.

Susie said, "Maybe we can get some headphones in Brisbane."

"Good idea."

After an hour on the road, they came to some road-works. The speed limit dropped to 80, then 60, then 40. "We'll be parked up soon, if this keeps up," said Bruce. He saw a lollipop-man sign saying "Prepare to Stop" and swore very quietly to himself.

"Settle down, dear," said Susie.

"I'm settled." Bruce looked in the rear-view. A few cars were banking up, then a new blue ute came around the outside. "What's this idiot doing? There's a truck coming the other way."

The ute overtook the cars behind Bruce. The driver must have seen the truck, his brake lights flashed on. The cars ahead were bunched close together now. There wasn't any space for the blue ute. Bruce hit his own brakes, hard. Peter shouted from the back seat. The truck driver flashed his lights. The ute pulled in front of Bruce. Bruce muttered to himself.

"What was that dear?"

"I said, 'Tanker'. The truck that almost took out that idiot is a fuel tanker."

Amazing, thought Bruce. We stare death in the face, and she ups me about my language.

It wasn't long after the road-works that Dylan said he felt sick. Bruce asked how sick, and did he need to throw up? Before he could answer, Dylan threw up.

Bruce and Susie used an old pack of baby-wipes to clean the worst of it. Susie did most of the cleaning, while Bruce tried to stop their children from suiciding on the highway, or throwing rocks at each other or passing cars. "Throw them out there at a tree, or something," he said. Evidently, trees were boring.

They hit the roo about half-way to Brisbane. "I didn't think roos came out in the middle of the day," said Bruce as he pulled over and turned off the engine.

"It would seem that they do," said Susie.

Very helpful dear, thank you, thought Bruce.

The roo had only glanced off the bumper. Bruce took his small axe out of the back of the car and went hunting for the roo to give it some euthanasia. He gave up looking after ten minutes. Susie didn't ask why he kept an axe in the car, which was a pity because he'd thought of a great come-back for that.

Bruce tried to make up some time. He got a speeding ticket just outside of Miles. Susie didn't say anything, which was good, thought Bruce.

Not far from Toowoomba it started raining. The window-wipers worked, but only just. The Central Highlands sun had toasted the wiper blades. Bruce thought that Susie might want to criticise his lack of maintenance and preparation, so he said, "Wiper blades are pretty expensive. And I checked the weather, and it said it'd be all fine."

"I didn't say anything," said Susie.

They arrived, finally, at Susie's parent's place. Susie's dad gave Bruce a hearty handshake. "I'm glad you guys could come," he said. "Susie said you might fly, but I suppose it's no big deal to just jump in the car and drive, is it?"


Dee Martin said...

you had me laughing out loud and remembering road trips when the kids were small. We learned to travel with a gallon ice cream bucket and lid and a roll of paper towels at all times LOL

Bernard S. Jansen said...

@Dee: I'm glad you enjoyed it. I didn't have to remember very far back for some of those things - only a few weeks! I've got three kids, seven years and younger - and we live 3 hours from the nearest regional city - so this is my life. Well, not every time: this story is a very condensed nightmare.