After I got back from Hawaii, there were fireworks
for New Year, then the cricket, not that I’m complaining,
it’s always a busy time of year – a family time.
I was having a look at the business pages one evening
when the wife said look outside at that will ya?
To be honest I couldn’t see anything much.
The horizon was a lovely pink colour, or perhaps maroon
or red. The sun was a ball of fire sinking into it.
How good is this? I said to her. But she was
on the iPad, frowning. Uh-oh I thought.
I went into the kitchen and turned up the air con.
I can read a room! Sure enough she followed me through
and said what about this fire then? Haven’t heard anything
I said, looking at my phone – of course it was flat.
But then her iPad rang. It was Gladys on Skype.
Where the bloody hell are ya? I heard her crackle.
We’ve all got to get out of town!
I’ve just got back I shouted, people will start talking if I head off again.
But Gladys told me to look out the window and sure enough
there were these big flames coming over the back fence.
Fuck, said the wife, the joint is going up!
I didn’t say anything but I really can’t bear it
when a woman uses language like that. I’m old fashioned
at heart. But she was off like the clappers so I went down
after her, and the security bloke who sits at the gate
was waiting for us in the SUV, in fact he was already
off down the drive but the wife waved him down
(the poor bugger nearly ran her over.)
I got in the front and gave him a wink
and said brakes a bit sticky on her mate?
You’ve got to use a bit of humour to break the ice.
So we were all in snug and I was fiddling around
with the door when this little compartment opened
and a can of lemonade popped out. Cold as.
I said how good is this! but the wife was still on the iPad.
There was this smell, it was pretty disgusting actually,
and I said to the driver someone’s burned the prawns
but he said nothing, just turned on the lights and sped up.
I knew then he was a quiet Australian – one of my people.
Anyway we ended up down at Bondi. How good is that?
Everyone was down there. Gladys was waving a torch
and came up with a couple of special branch on either side.
Afternoon boys! I said. For God’s sake what are you doing here
she hissed at me. I don’t like the Lord’s name taken in vain
but she was upset and I didn’t take it personally.
I could see a few of the punters pointing to me,
they were waving and yelling G’day I think.
But I couldn’t see much with all the smoke.
They must have put on more fireworks because
there were all these bangs – very loud actually,
some of the ladies screamed a bit – then a big cloud
of burning stuff went flying overhead.
I thought it might be a good time to call it a night
but that bloody driver had gone off.
It all got a bit confused after that. We ended up going
for a bit of a paddle and more people started arriving.
I said, is that Kylie Minogue over there?
But the wife was in a lather and had started crying
so I tried to give her a cuddle to cheer her up,
but she was being difficult about it to be honest,
so I had to really try hard to get my arms around her
to give her a big squeeze. Women can be a bit like that.
God, get us out of here, I thought to myself.
Then just like that the waters opened.
I mean the ocean went out like the plug had been pulled
and I thought someone up there likes you, fella.
I yelled out come on everyone, follow me!
So we walked over the sand and the rock and the mud
where the sea had been, and to be honest
it wasn’t that pleasant since there were all the plastic bags
and an oil platform lying on its side and the dead fish,
although not as many as you might think.
At one point all these kangaroos went racing past.
But the flames kept following us, it was like
the fire knew where we were going. Then all the
grey dead coral sitting on the mud went up like kindling
and it was quite hot so I started running
and when I stopped I was on my own. What to do?
I’m a simple man of faith. So I stood there
and raised my hands to the burning clouds far above
and beseeched O Lord give your humble servant a hand
in his hour of need. Sure enough when I opened my eyes
this big crack in the ground had appeared before me.
I thought to myself, twice in one day! How good is this?
So I clambered down into the black crevice
but it was warm and quiet so I kept on
and felt my way and finally came around a corner
and there spreading out in front of me
was an endless plain of fire.
It was the whole world burning.
I turned around because it would have been good
to talk to someone else or get a hug, or just even
shake someone’s hand, but there was no one there:
just the darkness and the fire.