ONE SUNDAY IN AUGUST
‘…for he (the Lord God) guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.’ Proverbs 2:8
My then fiancé (now husband) and I cruised through Melbourne enjoying the crisp and clear winter’s day. We parked in Spotswood and walked along the banks of the Yarra, admiring the scene where tankers rested in the shadow of the West Gate Bridge near the river-mouth while the city glistened under the cobalt blue sky.
In 1987, we’d been in Melbourne less than a year. I had taken a teaching position at a Catholic Secondary College in the South-Eastern suburbs of the city, and my fiancé had followed me over. At that stage, although he had graduated from university, he hadn’t found a “proper job” and was working as a groundsman/gardener. In six weeks we’d be married.
Night fell and with it that damp chill Melbourne had in August. We climbed back in the car, and with my man driving, we began the trek homewards.
‘I’m hungry,’ I said. ‘Let’s have McDonalds.’
‘Junk food?’ he who was health-conscious asked.
‘What else is there that is fast and cheap, and still open?’
‘Oh, alright, just this once.’
We began weaving through the streets of the CBD. I trained my eyes on the buildings and any neon signs. The roads seemed cast in grey concrete and black. Those golden arches appeared to have gone into hiding.
‘Well, where’s a McDonalds?’
‘I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll come across one as we head for home.’
We approached Hoddle Street.
‘Surely there’s one near here,’ he who was now getting hungry said. ‘I can’t wait till we get on Dandenong Road.’ He swung the car around and headed back to the city.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked.
‘Finding a fast-food restaurant. I’m sure there’s one close by.’
‘But it’d just be as fast to go down Dandenong Road and find one.’
‘You said you were hungry.’
You know how it is. You get so hungry you do silly things like aimlessly wander the streets of Melbourne searching for a fast-food restaurant and every place you see is not a fast-food restaurant. We scoured the roads and laneways, up and down, round and round the blocks, the landscape dark and cold, except for the colour of traffic lights. I pined for a burger with the lot. He grumbled how deserted the city was and no wonder, where were all the fast-food restaurants? No joy. We drove the Melbourne CBD twice over and found nothing to satisfy our hunger.
‘What’s the time,’ he who was conscious of the time and famished asked.
I glanced at my watch. ‘Nine-thirty.’
‘Yes, noodles it is.’
We cruised back to Clayton via St. Kilda Road, then Dandenong Road. There we shovelled down our two-minute noodles, and settled down on the couch listening to ambient music on the radio.
At 11 p.m. the familiar and warming tones of the ABC news cut through the night-time strains of ambience. Then the deep voice of the newsreader announced: ‘A gunman has shot down people in their cars in Hoddle Street this evening…’
We looked at each other.
‘We almost went down there at that time,’ my fiancé said.
‘Except I wanted McDonalds,’ I replied. ‘Must be one of the few times God’s used junk food to keep us safe.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Shot Tower at Daimaru Melbourne © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2001