Friday, September 30, 2005

Just fer fun

©DJH 1994 (first published in "Australasian Post" Oct 1994)

I am God, said the stranger, poking at the campfire with a stick.

“Yeah,” sneered Bert, lifting the bottle of rum with his knotty fist and taking a swig. Dark liquid trickled down his stubbled chin. “And I’m the Queen of Sheba.” Harry, sitting on the log next to him, snickered and said nothing.

The stranger had come into the camp at sundown just as the two stockmen finished unloading their truck. Hadn’t said much, just asked if he could share their fire. They agreed because he looked a decent sort of bloke. Average build, nondescript, with dark hair, rucksack and dusty boots.

They hadn’t seen him coming, and only noticed his arrival when the cattle dog pricked up its ears, scrambled out from under the truck, and trotted up to the stranger with ears erect and eyes bright. The stranger patted the dog and it was all so normal and natural that nobody thought much about it - except Harry, later.

“D’ya do miracles?” said Bert, suddenly. “Knew a bloke once. Regular pisspot. He thought he was Jesus Christ. The only miracle ‘e ever did was to turn wine into water.”

They all laughed at that. Bert dug Harry in the ribs with his elbow and Harry fell on the ground, still laughing. “If you reckon you’re God,” said Bert, “show us a miracle.”

The stranger looked at them across the campfire, the flames flickering deep in his eyes.

There was a long silence, then, “All right. Meet me on that hillside over there at four thirty tomorrow morning. I’ll see what I can do.”

Bert grunted. “Yer, well, better get ter bed, then.”

The desert night closed over them with its speckle of tiny noises and spangle of brilliant stars.

Bert began packing the truck in the icy, opalescent early light, and Harry huffed the fire into life for the billy of tea.

The dog barked twice, then ran across to the stranger standing on the hillside. The two men glanced at each other, remembering, then followed the dog.

“This’d better be quick,” said Bert, grumpy and hungover, “we hafta get ter six-mile camp before dark.”

“Only take a minute.” The stranger watched them, waiting. Bert impatient. Harry, curious.

“Are you goin’ ter wave yer arms about and say some magic words?” said Bert.

The stranger smiled. “If you like.” Then he turned and faced away, looking out across the vast open plain. He raised his hand high above his head and said “Abracadabra”. Monotone, as if he had said it a million times before

At that instant a great gout of fire burst from the horizon. A golden flood sped across the plain toward them. Magpies chortled. Kookaburras chuckled. A huge red kangaroo scrambled from under a bush, stood erect. Sniffed, surveyed, scratched, then bounded away. A lizard scuttled on to a rock at their feet then, startled, scurried off. A harem of wrens chittered through the bushes, and the men’s faces glowed, grew warm.

The stranger turned. “Well?” he said.

“Well what?” replied Bert.

The stranger waved his hand across the horizon. “That”, he said.

“That! That’s not a miracle. That’s just the bloody dawn!”

A slight smile shimmered at the corners of the stranger’s mouth. Without a word, he picked up his pack and walked off down the hillside.

“Bloody nutcase!” scoffed Bert.

Harry wasn’t quite so sure.


1 comment:

Liquidplastic said...

Oh my goodness David .. this is a beautiful story ... how wonderful! I can't think of a better way to begin my day. Thank you!