One Hot Summer’s Day (Part 1)
[What do my characters get up to when they are in the hottest city in the world last Thursday? While recovering from surviving this record-breaking temperature of 47 degree Celsius (116.6 degrees Fahrenheit), without air conditioning, I came across this character-development piece from way back…]
Beach of Refuge
Minda Beach was sparsely populated that January morning 1979. Minda means “refuge” in the local Indigenous language of the Adelaide plains. And refuge it was from building development and subsequent migration of sand North. Sand dunes meant more beach, causing the sand to peak out like a miniature headland. So, you’d think such a geographical asset that existed between Somerton and Brighton Beach, would make this strip of Adelaide’s coastline, popular. But, no.
One of the reasons the beach was under-populated was that the landowners of the sand dunes, provided a refuge for the disabled and mentally challenged who then frequented the beach. Consequently, visitors were discouraged from using it. Didn’t stop us kids from going there. It was the 1970’s, after all.
Oh, and by the way, hi, I’m Minna.
My friends, Monica and Wally (Wally wasn’t really a friend; he just happened to be staying with Monica’s family, and invited himself along to the beach) would talk about the residents of Minda Home in hushed tones, afraid if they got too close, perhaps they would somehow be affected. For Monica, tall, blond with aspirations to be a model, a definite, but unfounded fear. As for Wally, let’s just say, his Goodyear blimp build and need for attention, made him the target for jokes that he’d fit right in with the locals there. The residents didn’t worry me. Much to Monica’s consternation, a summer’s day would not be complete unless I struck up a conversation with one of the “locals”.
A couple appeared on the dunes beside our bikes. I paddled in the water, unconcerned. Fish were swimming in the shallows. Monica and I chased the translucent creatures until they swam out to sea.
‘Hey, get those retards away from our bikes!’ Wally cried from beyond the sandbar.
‘Huh? Why don’t you?’ Monica spat.
‘Gor! You’re closer!’ Wally hollered.
I squinted and studied the two colourful blobs on the sandhill. ‘Er, how d’ya know they’re…you know?’ I asked Monica.
Monica splashed me. ‘Well, just look at them! It’s a hundred degrees and they’re dressed in clothes. Why aren’t they wearing bathers?’
I sighed and began to wade out the water.
‘Minna! What? You’re not going! They might be dangerous!’ Monica begged after me but did not move from her safe spot.
Advancing closer to the pair, I saw they were a boy and girl about our age, wearing clothing fashionable hundreds of years ago. My feet squeaked over the sand. Already the heat in the fine crystals, stung my soles. Poor things, they must be foreigners. Or perhaps they are from some Puritan cult. I imagined their parents forcing them to wear these stifling clothes, and somehow the children had escaped and come to the beach.
I reached our bikes. The young pair dabbed lace-edged handkerchiefs to their flushed faces, wiping away perspiration. I noted that the fellow was around, 17, my brother John’s age. I couldn’t help thinking he’d jumped out of an historical novel, like the one I was reading about the 17th Century and imagined the sultry brooding hero to be, especially with his dark wavy locks. He glanced up at me with his engaging ocean blue eyes, then returned his handkerchief to a pocket on the inside of his royal blue waistcoat. The girl was about my age, maybe 11 or 12, she was tall and flat-chested with a Latin look about her. Brother and sister, I assumed.
‘What’s with the fancy dress?’ I pointed at their layers of white puffy sleeves, his black baggy trousers and her velvet tunic dress flowing over wads of petticoats. ‘Gee, you must be hot!’
The young man gazed at me blankly, while the girl fiddled with a pendant she wore around her neck.
‘Hey, why don’t you strip off and come for a swim? It’s boiling! Must be a hundred degrees!’ I gestured to the water.
The lad smiled at me. The girl examined her medallion and spoke to the fellow in a foreign language. He pulled out of his vest pocket, what looked like to me, a small booklet, and began staring at the cover while stroking it with his thumb. A strange thing to do to a language dictionary, I thought.
I did not know many foreign languages. I knew a smattering of French and bits of German. As the girl bantered with her companion, I ascertained that the language was more German than French. My mother and grandmother had taught me German, so I took a breath and launched into that Teutonic tongue.
‘Guten tag.’ I greeted them loudly. I liked to show off how clever I was. ‘Es ist sehr heiss. Du bist heiss?’ I really had no idea what I was really saying.
The girl pointed at the “dictionary”, then burst out laughing.
‘Musse du schvimmen.’ I fumbled on in muddled pigeon-German, miming a swimming motion and pointing to the water.
Both laughed. They clutched onto each other, their eyes glistening.
‘Verstehe nicht?’ I put my hands on my hips and glared at them. ‘Du bist—du bist…’ I rummaged around my mind for the right words that Grandma would have used in the situation.
‘Crikey! You speak our lingo!’ the girl exclaimed. The young man chuckled, and uttering incomprehensible German, he nudged the girl.
‘What? But—you speak—English?’ I stammered.
They again stared at me blankly. I peered at the small book that the brother cradled as if it held magical powers. Curious, I stepped closer. ‘Sprechen Sie English? Deutsch?’ Rounding the bikes, I reached out for the book.
‘Nay! No!’ the lad cried. He drew the book to his chest and reeled away from me.
‘Was ist das?’ I pointed at the book.
‘Nothing. Only a thing! Cor! You’re a sticky-beak, aren’t-ya!’ The girl spouted forth in perfect Australian. She clutched her pendant close to her thin body.
[to be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019
Feature Painting © Somerton Beach Sunset © L.M. Kling 2017
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