Village of the Wends
[Central Australia, 2016…well, that’s where this chapter begins.]
Friedrich sat up and rubbed his eyes.
This thin silhouette raged at him. ‘So, there you are!’
‘Aber—aber,’ he stammered.
‘You idiot! Why did you desert me like that! I’ve been looking for you for hours!’ The skinny girl stomped her feet on the stone, emphasizing her incomprehensible babble with a splat.
‘What? Are you thick or something?’ Her arm swooped over his head. ‘I got myself half-drowned because of you!’
Friedrich’s hands clung to his head and he cowered. ‘Es tut—es tut.’ Through his fingers, he could see the dark-haired girl bellowing at him and her face turning as red as beetroot. Her skinny arms flailed around her.
‘Hello! Do you hear me? Adam? Are you there? Look you moron! Stop ignoring me! I’ve had it with you!’
Friedrich scuttled backwards. He fumbled for his shirt. He hunted for the support of his friend. He patted the damp boulder, his hand shaking in the vacant space where his friend once was.
This skinny girl lunged towards him. Friedrich ducked and shivered. He hugged his knees while his teeth chattered. ‘Please—do—not—hurt—me. I—do—not —understand—English.’
Amie wiped her eyes and blinked. ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Oh, woops! Oh, my goodness! Gee, I’m sorry! I thought you were my brother.’ She blinked again. ‘I fell into the water and I don’t know, everything’s blurry.’ She squinted. ‘You’re not Joseph, he had dreadlocks—oh, unless you had a haircut.’
‘He speaks German only, Amie.’ Joseph, dreadlocks in place like always, appeared by a river gum. ‘He doesn’t understand English. You’ll have to use that German you learnt at school.’
She stared at Joseph and then said, ‘So here you are.’ She twisted a damp curl around her finger and sniffed. Shading the sinking sun from her eyes, she studied the two. ‘So, I have to speak German, do I? I can do that. Easy!’ She scratched her forehead and extended a hand to Friedrich and in halting German said, ‘Guten Abend. Ich heisse Amie. Und Sie?’ (Good afternoon. My name is Amie. What is yours?)
Friedrich glanced over at his friend before accepting the hand that greeted him. The friend nodded. ‘Friedrich Biar.’ His fingers touched hers and slipped away.
Amie nodded at Joseph. ‘Was that okay?’
‘Hey, come on! He understood me and answered. My German is not that bad. Besides, I got an “A” for it in the trial exams.’
‘It’s textbook, and Friedrich’s isn’t. But I guess we’ll get by, what with my experience enduring a year in Germany with my mum and dad…’
‘What? Germany? Or your mum and dad?’
‘What do you think?’
‘I thought so,’ Amie said. ‘Talk about helicopter parents.’
‘You’re not kidding—my father’s a control freak.’
‘So, you ran away?’ Amie stepped from one boulder to the next towards Joseph. ‘Everybody is looking for you.’
‘Yes. They all are. We had helicopters, police, and all the television crews.’
‘Yes, even the indigenous trackers are looking for you.’
He shook his matted hair. ‘Typical! Just like my parents to over-react.’
‘But you’re missing!’
‘So? I don’t care.’ Joseph picked up a stone and then skimmed it across the waterhole.
‘But they’re your parents.’
‘You don’t know my parents.’
‘Well, I saw them and they were very upset.’
‘They’ll get over it. They’ll have more room in that stupid van, now.’
‘You mean, that you left them on purpose?’
‘Yeah, didn’t I make that clear?’ Joseph skimmed another pebble making it go plop, plop, plop over the surface.
‘I thought you were kidding,’ Amie said. ‘Well, that’s not very nice of you.’ Amie yanked leaves from an overhanging branch and flicked them at Joseph.
Joseph grimaced. ‘You don’t know what it was like. With them. Drive and hike. Hike and drive. And Dad made me wear these dumb yellow skivvies. So I wouldn’t get lost. It’s not like the Swiss Alps, you know. Blind Freddy could find his way round this desert.’
‘Hey!’ Friedrich threw a stick at Joseph. ‘I am not blind.’
Joseph fended off the projectile and spoke in German. ‘Sorry, friend. I forgot you speak a little English.’ He shrugged. ‘Anyway, I’m free now. I can do what I like. Besides, they, my parents are embarrassing and cramp my style. You heard Dad go on about my hair at Emily Gap. That’s only the half of it. In Alice Springs I decided to move creatively, you know, do some Parkour, and Dad just couldn’t help himself telling me off. Told me I was a danger to myself and others. As if I don’t know what I’m doing.’
‘Parkour. The art of creative movement from one point to another.’ In one fluid action, Joseph bounded from one bounder to the next and then with a somersault plunged into the waterhole.
Amie looked on. ‘Right.’ She could see Joseph’s father’s point if Joseph performed such feats down Todd Mall leaping over rails and stationary locals.
‘I must get home now, my father and mother are waiting,’ Friedrich said in his native tongue. He scrambled to be with the older two. ‘We go through the cave.’
Friedrich knew his father would be so angry if he was late. Angry like “donner und blitzen”. Friedrich gazed at the setting sun. He had to hurry. This was not his land—not the land where his Wend villagers had settled. The hues of pink, purple with hints of sunrays played on the pond, making diamonds of droplets in the waterfall. ‘We must go.’ He beckoned Amie and Joseph to follow him.
As twilight encroached, they trailed him over the ridge and into the hidden valley, and up the side. At the cave, Friedrich waited for the two in strange attire to catch up.
‘Come!’ He gestured. ‘Come and see my home.’
Joseph tipped his head and spoke in what these new friends called “German”. ‘Why not? It’ll be an adventure.’ He was quite fluent using his words.
‘Are you sure we should?’ Amie asked with a frown on her oval face. She sounded stilted, unsure.
‘Where’s your sense of adventure, Amie?’ Joseph nudged Amie to crawl into the cave.
Joseph and Friedrich followed.
A thin red ray quivered at the far end of the cave. Amie stopped just short of it.
‘Go through,’ Friedrich said.
‘I don’t know,’ Amie wrung her hands.
‘Where’s your sense of adventure?’ Joseph challenged.
‘But, we might get lost.’
‘It’s alright, I go in and out from my world to your world all the time,’ Friedrich said. ‘Sometimes I use the outhouse underneath, sometimes the cave in the mountains. You can always come back.’
His two new friends looked at him, and frowned.
‘It is safe,’ Friedrich said.
‘Alright,’ Amie took and deep breath, ‘I will try.’ She stepped forward through the light.
In no time at all, Friedrich led Amie and Joseph down the hillside by the goat path. Dark had enveloped them. Feeble gas lights from the village sped them onwards.
‘We’re here.’ Friedrich galloped down the grassy slope and raced to the end of the gravel road where a hall was decorated with lamps.
At the steps leading to the entrance of the wooden structure, Amie inhaled. ‘That smells like roast something. Oh, my tummy is grumbling! I could eat a horse!’
‘Be careful what you wish for, Amie,’ Joseph said, ‘might be just that.’
‘Roast horse, had it in a beer house in Cologne.’
‘Rather tasty, actually,’ Joseph said with a nudge.
Friedrich ushered his friends into the dining hall. The congregation stopped supping and in unison turned. His father rose like a monolith from the midst and glared.
Friedrich took a deep breath and said, ‘Papa, these are my new friends from Australia, the real Australia.’
[To be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Painting, Watercolour: Village of the Wends © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017