Written 24 July, 2020
But will we escape?
K is up by 7am, determined to leave at midday, but also determined to stop everything at each news broadcast. I had no idea there were so many news bulletins.
I’ve had hardly any sleep. I’ll be of no use to anyone.
We almost leave at the planned time, but at the last minute, I have to take a gut sample for K to the Post Office. I queue twice: the first time a sweet man behind the counter tells me I need a bigger envelope. The second time, with my larger envelope, I queue again. Behind me, almost on my heels, is a woman with sniffles so loud, they ricochet around the room. I turn around.
Would you please stand a metre and a half away from me.
I use my sweetest voice, my most winning smile. I forget that my mask hides my winning smile and muffles my sweetest voice.
I am a metre and a half.
I think a matter and a half is at that second tile.
I think it’s here.
And tense about leaving, about the low tide, about K’s luggage, about everything- suddenly into my mind rush nasties. I want to shout
Just bugger off.
Watch out, i’m wearing this because I’m infectious.
Where’s your mask with a honk like that?
All I say:
Very well then, I’ll get away from you.
And i join the end of the queue. it’s only two places lost, and she probably feels victorious, which I resent, but I say to myself: I didn’t lose my cool in the Post Office, Thank goodness I didn’t scream and shout at the Post Office. I didn’t lose my cool.
While i was away, GG has finished packing. If one of the doors swung open, we’d all burst out. The car is chock-a-block. The luggage pod is chock-a-block. The roof rack is chock-a-block with the bistro blinds.
On the way I send 2 texts. This morning, i won out of GG the agreement that we can hire the wonderful Ian Smith to put up the bistro blinds- in case they don’t go up this winter. While he’s beaten, I get him to agree that Ian Smith will be allowed at last to put up the ready-made kit toolshed, a job that I begged Ian Smith could do last summer, a job that hasn’t happened for 2 years, while they rust in the garden. In fact, Ian Smith told me stories of kit toolsheds he’s put up where the poor home renovator bashed up the kit in fury, and one where the maddened home renovator kicked a hole in the tin.
Feeling I’m on a winning streak, I send a second text in code to the wonderful DB at his boasted:
Will arrive at 4pm with K.
Hoping that DB will remember how heavily K travels.
He does. He’s rounded up two blokes at the ready, and they all unpack K’s bags from the car, the boot and the luggage pod, and load it into the boat. They work rapidly, uncomplainingly and keep joking;
You’ve gotta get a bigger boat.
And wave us off so kindly.
It’s still light when we leave Brooklyn but dark when we come into our bay. The low tide, an extremely low one, has turned by only an hour. The sickening feeling of dragging mud. But we must go on. K suddenly shouts:
Smoke’s coming out of the motor.
Once, on the old Hercules boat, the motor caught fire. We had an ABC crew on board, filming me for a series called Talking Heads. The footage was never used in the episode but it might be of use in the ABC library. The only part of the footage you can now see is me peacefully rowing and talking about creativity as if there never was a fire. Because they’d spotted the TV crew, the water police had stayed nearby. One was combing his hair. They heroically rescued us. That footage didn’t make it into the episode either.
At the smoke, GG abruptly stops. We’re about 6 metres from our jetty, marooned in mud.
The tide’s coming in. We can float in, i call.
But the boat, so heavily laden, can’t.
I’ll just give the motor a rapid pulse, GG decides.
I want to shout No, fearing another fire and no water police to rescue us, and only mud to fall into, but I say nothing. He pulses the motor while we all hold our breath, gazing at the motor, willing it not to burst into flames. It doesn’t. We’re now 2 metres from the jetty, I lean out from the bow with the boat hook, stretch as far as I can, but I can’t quite reach. GG rushes from the cabin, and with his long arms- he’s built like a giraffe, as is K – he hooks the boathook over a jetty plank, and drags us in, we’re in, tied up, home.
We all breathe with relief. If we had the energy, we’d shout hurrah. Then the plodding unloading from the boat, and the plodding loading of the flying fox. I wish we had the three kind blokes. But K makes up for them, rushing up and down the 42 steps, carrying bags that are too bulky to fit into the flying fox, even though they’re too heavy for her slight waif like frame. I count her trips. Six trips. She who’d said she’d be useless. Who thought she’d be too sick to come. In a crisis, she’s a good woman to have by your side.