This short story of mine recently won second prize in the 2016 Reconciliation Writing Competition judged by Jane Harrison, indigenous Australian playwright and novelist, and run by the Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation. It appears in their publication Building Bridges. The story comes from a moment on the Binns Track in the Northern Territory during our 9 month trip around Australia that my family and I did in 2010. Enjoy.
Me, Aunty Jacko and my second prize for ‘On the Binns’
On the Binns by Meg Dunley
We haven’t seen a soul for days. On these roads, it’s rare to pass another car, and even more rare to see someone walking around. It’s over thirty degrees out there and the sun is bearing down on the earth highlighting the redness of the soil, the blue sky and the grey green trees. The road is soft, dusty. Behind us we leave a cloud of red that lingers in the air longer than the sound of our car and trailer rumbling along. As we turn one of the many curves through the central Australian desert we see him. He’s standing by the side of the road, the way someone stands waiting for a bus. But here there’s no bus-stop and it could be days between cars driving through. Matt pulls up next to him and I wind down the window. He wanders over.
It’s an incredible time for me right now that feels like a beginning, more than an ending. I’ve just submitted my final piece of assessment of my Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT. I should feel relieved, excited. I do, but there is a sense of sadness, and a great deal of reflection. There is also a nervous excitement about the time ahead of me, the unknown.
My last four years have been tremendous in all senses of the word. My life has changed in so many aspects, and lives around me have changed. Mum died, throwing my and my offspring’s worlds into chaos. My kids transitioned from children to teenagers, jumping normal adolescent hurdles, and fumbling through more tricky ones. I wrote a tonne of words and found a stable part-time job in the communications world.
Since you’ve been gone there are so many things I see and need to tell you.
Today we climbed the lookout (‘Look out!’) at Ocean Shores. What a view! I took a panoramic photo for you before I remembered you were gone; I know you loved views.
I could see the whales breaching and I was in awe. I know you would have been so excited to get my text with the photos. And to hear that there were dolphins swimming just near the boys today.
You would have asked me all about the place we are staying, and probably sent me a list of things to do while we’re here.
For the last two days Matt and I took an early morning swim. I thought of how you lived across from the water and could wander over at any time for a swim.
Then I wondered whether you had ever been here and I wish I had asked you.
So much unasked, so much unsaid since you’ve been gone.
It’s been a while. A long time since I last wrote. I haven’t dropped off the planet, haven’t stopped writing. But life has been busy, and I’ve found it difficult to find something interesting to write about here.
One of the hard things about writing when you’re a student, a chronic migraine sufferer and a mum with three teens, is that there is only so much time. And when it comes down to it, I do only what I have to so that I still feel like I’m a writer. I write my daily pages, and work on my second manuscript (oh the joy in an unformed thing) and edit my first manuscript (read: beat it into shape).