Forced to Simplify
[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
In the light of the half moon, fire, and gas-lamp, Dad prepared a meal of pea and ham soup, damper, and chocolate pudding with custard for dessert. As we licked our plates clean, Dad motioned to my brother (MB). ‘How much money have you got?’
MB stopped mid-way through a swipe of plate, tongue sticking out. He shook his head, and shrugged. ‘Nothing,’ he lisped.
‘I gave my last cent to you, Dad.’
Dad patted his pocket and cleared his throat and asked my younger cousin, ‘C2?’
‘Nup, not a dime.’
Dad looked at TR, our family friend who rolled his eyes. If there were a bubble above his head it would have read: I’m on the next bus out of here!
Dad sighed and turned to older cousin, C1.
‘Well, Uncle David, here’s the thing,’ C1 held his palms open, ‘if only I had my wallet which I left in a creek in the Flinders Ranges on a stump—well—’ he sucked air in-between bared teeth and shook his head.
‘Ah, well,’ Dad announced, ‘then we only have six dollars. Rations are getting low.’
‘You mean we’re going to have to survive on dehydrated rice and vegetables?’ C1 asked.
TR gasped. ‘Oh, no!’
‘Actually—’ Dad began, ‘I’ve done a stock-take.’
As he explained, we were depleted of butter, flour, potatoes including those tainted potatoes (thank goodness!), carrots (except a packet of dried ones), custard, milo, meat, eggs, cereal, and gas for the lantern. We possessed diminishing stocks of drinking chocolate, porridge, sugar, oil, soup and dehydrated vegetable rice.
‘So, I hope we have just enough petrol to take us to Alice Springs,’ Dad said.
I buried my head in my hands and muttered a muffled “Typical!” I pushed the anger down and pretended I was tired. Dad the “noong” had not taken enough money out in Adelaide and now had to wait until we reached Alice Springs to withdraw money to replenish our supplies. The threat that we’d be stranded in the desert without food, water or transport hung above us, close and personal.
‘That’s all I need!’ TR groaned. And I concluded the seed of discontent had grown into straw-breaking-the-camel-TR’s back.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature photo: Around the campsite © C.D Trudinger 1981
***Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981, the book, to be available in print or Kindle version, coming soon, very soon to Amazon.
While you are waiting, check out my writers’ group anthology of short stories, The Butterfly’s Wing.