We left Brisbane at nine o’clock in the morning laden with the necessities of the trip and about two cartons of beer. The landscape that zoomed past us out the window went pretty much unnoticed by everyone, because we were more interested in telling jokes and stories and singing karaoke style to the music that blasted from the van’s many speakers. I was given the task as navigator, which I quickly relinquished, to Devlin after I had managed to get us lost without even leaving Brisbane. We had to make several urgent pit stops for Batty’s sake as well as Giles’, who seemed to have the weakest bladder of anybody I had ever met.
It was dusk as we neared Rockhampton, and Devlin had begun counting down the distance to our overnight destination with relish and enthusiasm, squealing with delight every time he saw a small green sign on the road, with the letter ‘R’, announcing the town being 10 kilometres closer. Suddenly a large roundabout loomed into view.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God!” Giles whispered in awe as he decelerated, it seemed, out of respect for the giant statue of the white bull which commanded our attention from the middle of the roundabout.
“Christ that’s realistic,” Devlin stated, his wide eyes glued to the scene in front of him.
“Yeah, he’s even got balls.”
“Corey!” we all shouted in protest, stunned that she even had the gall to look there.
“What? I’m just saying…..”
“No,” I begged cutting her off. “Just don’t go there.”
“Babies” she giggled, delighted that she had thrown even Giles with her remark.
“So we turn right and then what?” Giles asked trying to get off the subject.
“We’ll have to find somewhere we can pitch the tent,” Devlin replied taking control of the situation. “There’s supposed to be a caravan park somewhere on this road that allows tents.”
“There it is,” Corey announced pointing across the road to a sign that advertised for caravans, tents and cabins.
“We could get a cabin,” I exclaimed delighted in the idea of not having to sleep on the floor that night. “It would be less than $10 each.”
“Excellent!” exclaimed the twins in front.
“But this is supposed to be a camping trip,” Devlin whined from his seat, “We’re supposed to be communing with nature.”
“I ain’t no Hippy,” Giles stated forcefully as he swung the car into the driveway and headed for the reception area. He braked, jumped out of the car and flew to the welcoming door before Devlin managed to get his seatbelt off.
“Commune?” Corey teased from the passenger seat.
“Oh shut up!” Devlin grouched as he folded his arms on his chest.
Giles appeared then, whistling and swinging an odd shaped key in his hand as he bounded back to the car. “Cabin number 13 guys, I asked for it especially,” he jovially announced as he climbed back into the drivers seat.
Beside me I felt Devlin stiffen, gasp, and watched as the blood drained out of his face in fright, and I wondered if Giles knew about Devlin’s secret phobia. Ever since he had watched that Disney cartoon movie ‘The Rescuers’ when he was three years old, he developed a phobia about the number 13 from a paranoid mouse in the movie, and had never been able to ever shake his fear of it.
Corey reached over and took the key from Giles’ hand. “That’s Cabin B, stupid,” she admonished.
Devlin let out a slow sigh of relief.
“Yeah, but look at it, the Capital B is nothing but a downward stroke, followed by the symbol of the number three. So technically one could say it is just the number 13 squished together,” Giles disclosed much to Devlin’s terror.
“I never thought about it that way,” I admitted intrigued with Giles’ analysis, not paying any attention to Devlin’s whimper beside me.
“Yeah, you just have to learn to see things in a different way,” Giles divulged, swinging the van into the space available at our cabin.
As I opened my door to embark, I felt a cold and clammy hand reach out to grasp my arm. Sighing I turned around and smiled reassuringly at my somewhat horrified friend.
“Sean,” Devlin whined, glaring at our abode with distaste and distrust.
“Dev, this is Giles we are talking about. The guy’s a freak show, don’t listen to him.”
“Yeah,” Devlin breathed relaxing slightly as he took my words in. “Sure, you’re right, ok.” He agreed cautiously, his eyes darting around him as if expecting a mass murderer to suddenly appear from the bushes wielding some sort of sharp implement.
“Come on, before Giles eats all the food,” I beckoned as I hastened out of our vehicle.
“What’s up with him?” Corey asked pulling me aside in confidence as she handed me my bag and practically dragged me to the door of the cabin to get us out of ear shot.
“Christ I think that’s the fastest I have ever seen you move,” I declared trying to avoid the discussion about a topic I had been sworn to secrecy about.
“Sean!” Corey growled.
“He’s not feeling well that’s all,” I announced in alarm.
“Um yeah, sure.” I agreed, too delighted in myself for my quick thinking to even pay attention to what she was concerned about.
“Get a move on Dev!” Giles exclaimed from behind us as he practically rammed my uneasy friend through the door.
Devlin flinched in horror and squinted his eyes closed, prepared for the worst.
“Do you want a tablet Dev?” Corey inquired.
“What? Why?” He asked the terror not completely concealed in his eyes.
“You know for your condition, Sean told me,” Corey explained as she set about the task of finding the pills she spoke of in her knapsack.
“They make pills for that?” Devlin asked bewildered, before catching on to exactly what she had said. “Sean told you!”
“Yeah you get carsick right? Nothing to be embarrassed about, it happens all the time to me when I’m not driving,” Corey revealed as she handed Devlin a small brown tablet.
“Um, gee, thanks,” Devlin stumbled as he looked at me apologetically.
“I’ll get you a drink to go with that if you like,” Corey offered, heading off before Devlin could reply.
“I’m, ah, sorry, I should have known.” Devlin admitted with redness creeping into his face.
“That’s cool mate, no worries,” I smiled as I swung my bag up onto the top bunk with a resounding thud.
“Yeah, right, no worries,” Devlin muttered looking at the pill in his hand clearly unsure what he should do with it.
We went to bed early that night, and got up before 6 o’clock to continue our journey. This time, silence reined in the car, and I was able to really study the landscape of farms and bushland in heavy drought. Until this time I had never seen Australia as a barren land, and I remembered poems about Australia that we had read in high school, and I realised that not much had changed in a hundred years. Giles commented that everything was too isolated and he’d give a great cheer when we’d glimpse a town, Devlin was too busy sulking after he had called Kaeli from his mobile and been lectured at, and Corey was busy worrying about where we’d find the cheapest petrol. I took Devlin’s camera from his bag and began filming the landscape and engaged Corey, Giles and finally Devlin into an interview. We reached Townsville before nighttime; it had taken us so long because of the many long breaks during the day, but instead of stopping we pushed forward because Devlin had convinced us to continue the three-hour drive to our destination.
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