Storm of Regrets
[Chapter 5 of a spin-off from my novels The Hitch-hiker and
Mission of the Unwilling.]
As the Captain cried all aboard and the ferry’s horn reverberated throughout the cove, I scampered over to the ticket office. ‘One fare to Sarah Island.’ I offered my credit card.
‘Sorry, love.’ The stout man with jolly red cheeks shook his head. ‘We’re all sold out.’
‘But I lost my ticket.’ I clasped my hands together in begging pose. ‘I need to get on that boat—I must get to Sarah Island—isn’t there…?’
The man swayed his head full of grey curls. ‘I’m afraid you’ve missed the boat.’
I looked in his weathered face, tempted to comment, You realise that the survival of this planet depends on me landing on Sarah Island by two o’clock Australian eastern standard time? But held my quick tongue. Had made enough mistakes in the last day. I spun on my heel and stalked out of the shop.
A patch of blue sky graced Macquarie Harbour and the rabid winds had run out of puff. For that moment in the morning, the sun shone, and the waters sparkled in the calm. Deceptive. I dug my hands in my ticket-empty pockets and sauntered to the jetty. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the mad bag lady. I strode towards the caravan park.
Joggers thumped along the path towards me. Two men, middle-aged but fit. A current of shock coursed through me. Johann and, who’s that with him? Daniel Hooper, my sister Kate’s husband. I spun 180 degrees to walk the other way. Bag lady. Adrenalin pumped through my chest. Sandwiched between adversaries, I darted to the wall by the water.
A tinny, what Aussies call a dinghy, bobbed below. The pounding on the path increased in intensity. Bag lady whooped. Just like a ballistic baboon, I thought. I jumped in the tinny, ripped the rope loose from its moorings. I dared not look up. Sweat rolled off my temples and cheeks and plopped onto the paint peeled plywood. Okay, no choice, I reasoned. So tugged the motor cord. The engine turned and puttered to a stop.
Pounding escalated, the yelling volume increased.
‘Hey! What’re you doing?’ A boy about twelve shook his fishing rod at me.
‘Is that your’s?’ A smaller lad placed his hands on his hips. ‘Where’re you going?’
I yanked the motor cord. The engine roared and the boat rocketed away from those pesky boys. Away from mad bag lady. Away from Johann, and Dan. Pity, would’ve liked to catch up with Dan.
Ignoring the commotion on the wharf, I hunched over the steering rod thingy, a tiller I think. My cousin John, Minna’s brother, who was into water-skiing on the Murray River called it a tiller, I remember. Only went out water-skiing with him a few times. Lots of fun. He allowed me to operate the speed boat while he skied barefoot. Said it was easy until I nearly crashed into the cliffs. Poor John. Came to a nasty end out there in space, thanks to Boris.
Sped towards Sarah Island. Hoped I wouldn’t crash. After all, I was only “borrowing” the boat. Out in the middle of the harbour the breeze accelerated to stiff and the sea shifted to choppy. I hammered over the bumps of waves, scudding towards the island.
So far so good. The harbour is big. The tinny small. Well, small enough; about two metres in length, comfortable enough for two blokes fishing but out there in the open waters of Macquarie Harbour, I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the harbour and the teeny-weeny size of the tinny. Would I make it?
Hours skipped by and still the island seemed distant. Passed a couple of salmon farms, huge wire nets breeding the fish for market. Dodged notice of the men in trawlers feeding the salmon; the frenzy of leaping fish, splash and foam shielding my passing tinny from view. From the salmon farm point of view, I was glad the tinny was tiny.
Just past a rocky outcrop, I observed the cruiser docked in the bay of the convict island and tourists milling on the wooden walkway by the sunken wharf. Not too far to go now. Time 12.45pm. Dark clouds sped in from the West. Behind me, the coast and sea remained clear of police patrol boats. I steered the tinny towards the quiet waters of the wharf that once was, just one hundred metres away.
Putt-putt-putter-splat! The engine died. I pulled the chord. Nothing. Not even a splutter. Waves rocked me sideways. Great! I’m stranded and only ten minutes to go. A fork of lightening dashed the rocks. Crash! Boom! Thunder rumbled and echoed through the harbour. I grabbed the oars and rowed like I’d never rowed before. I never had rowed in my life, except in the gym.
Lightning bolts zapped left, right and in front of me. The tinny seemed to be stationary, at the mercy of the rising waves. Icy drops of rain hit my cheeks. The shower gathered strength and volume. Sarah Island blurred in the mist—an enigma, out of reach. My hands wet with rain, sweat and sea water slipped on the smooth pine oars. Wind drove sideways, east into the expanse of Macquarie Harbour, making me fight every metre to reach the shore.
Time slipped with the storm. The minute-hand of my watch jerked past the hour and fell rapidly towards the half hour. One o’clock passed into two, then three before I straggled close enough to the historic wharf, hands blistered, my clothes drenched and my body bone-weary. There, I abandoned the tinny in a tangle of tree branches, waded to the walkway and pulled myself up onto the wooden planks.
The island greeted me, empty, barren and with only the ghosts of convicts to keep me company. Damn! I had missed the Star ship! The one that would spirit me into Space and my cause to fight in the War against Boris. My lip trembled. One night of pleasure and now look where it’d got me. Was it worth it? Not sure about that. Not now. Laden with guilt and shame and reeling with the consequences, I regretted my rash actions, so temporary, so transient and my future washed away.
Hugging my soaked rain jacket, I limped to the rendezvous place at the Western tip of the island. I muttered, ‘What’s the point? Sure it’s a waste of time. They won’t be there. I’ve missed it. And for what? Why didn’t I just stay in the cabin like I was supposed to?’
Shivering I slumped on the sea wall gazing out to the heads. The storm had passed but my raging over regrets was just beginning.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Photo: Frenchman’s Cap through Sarah Island Tree-Tangle © M.E. Trudinger 2011
Curious to find out how this war with Boris began? How this alien cockroach Boris wheedled his smelly way onto Earth…threatening humankind’s very existence?
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