Written 13 July, 2020.
In Melbourne city, the virus is rife, and someone’s brought it back to NSW, to a pub in Casula. There are 7 cases confirmed. We decide to go back to the river- where we were longing to be anyway. We’ll be the advance party and bring K if it gets worse. But we’re putting it off because she’s doing well- she has her sweet carer Eseta 4 days a week now, and she’s getting independent.
So we run away from the city, but without K for now. We use gas for cooking, and GG drives into Bunnings, where we always get at least 3 bottles filled. But a young assistant appears and declares it’s unsafe to have more than two bottles in one car. GG explains that we’re going all the way up the Hawkesbury River and need it to cook on. Why are two bottles safe? he asks. It’s the law, she says.
She produces a piece of paper which she wants us to read.
It’s the law.
The way bottles leak under our house, 2 bottles won’t last long. There’s something wrong with the pipe. We keep swabbing the pipe with a soapy rag to find out where the leak is. But the leak seems to move.
I have a brainwave. I turn to GG and say : That’s ok, I’ll buy one and you buy two.
GG, never a liar, looks at me blankly.
But she sees through me.
Which one is your car?
I’m on foot.
You’re walking to the Hawkesbury River?
I burst out laughing. We’re beaten. She says nothing. Could she have me arrested? It doesn’t say anything about this on her paper. We talk between ourselves softly, decide to buy the third bottle up the road.
At DB’s boasted, no one’s around and we load up alone. it takes an hour.
Are you coming? texts Dy.
Billy’s still laid up with an infected ankle that the doctors don’t understand- always ominous – but the good-hearted DB suddenly appears and speeds up the loading, hoisting a crate of beer onto his broad shoulders, loading the gas bottles onto a trolley. Just on dusk, we leave Brooklyn, waving goodbye to DB and the pelicans on his pylons.
But it’s dark when we turn into our bay. Three houses have lights- N’s, T and S and Dy.
It’s almost impossible to see where we are. I lean out the prow with the boat spotlight.
Beam it on the jetty, yells GG.
But I’ve lost my bearings because in the place of our jetty, there’s an industrial wharf with a structure on top.
We’ve gone too far upriver, I call. I imagine we’ re at Wiseman’s Ferry but there hasn’t been time.
What? In horror.
Slowly I work it out.
The shape in front of me is the new pontoon attached to the usual one, with solar panels mounted, that’s all.
All good, I call sheepishly.
Since I was a child, I’ve had only a shakey belief in what’s real. the novels of John Whyndam added to it- that one day you’d wake up and the world would’ve changed and everything would be different. There was another story too, further back, of shops up the street that disappeared and returned. It must’ve fitted in to what i believed about the world. Who was that writer? J.M. Barrie? I loved that story.
GG slides into the jetty, smooth as butter. We tie up and clamber off.
That you Sue?
I feel a leap of joy.
It’s our community.
Yes, I shout exultantly.
Dy’s been worried that you weren’t coming, he calls. T’s a voice in the dark, no body, no face, but a friendly voice.
But S said “They always come in the dark.”
We all laugh.
It always takes all day to get here, I explain.
But we’re home.
Before I load up the flying fox, I climb up the 40 steps with GG and as we gaze through the glass into our house, we cry out with joy. Our sofa, our floorboards, our new workbench, our battered cane dining room table and chairs with unravelling legs, and beyond, our bedroom neatly made with a quilt pulled up as if we’re snug inside. This mad, crazy, impossible place is home.