A Outback Afternoon

by Barry Louis

The sun was now shining brightly as I reached for my sunglasses, it had rained heavy for the last hour, but I was on a tar road & the old 4 wheel drive was behaving well, 4klms to Walkabout said the road sign. It seemed a minute & I was applying my brakes, Walkabout General Store, Post Office, Fuel Depot. Newsagent, Lottery Office, Take-away Food & Tavern, an oasis. As I open the door the humidity hit me, for I was back in the outback, were I wanted to be, I think. These are not self serve stations & well the service is a bit slow, so I cranked up the old diesel pump, the price rolled up, can't complain, no other service station in town. The laziness of the day & the town had already gripped me, & I jumped back to reality when a call from behind "Good day mate, how are you going"

"Good thanks, can you fill her up"

"Sure can"

" I'll be inside, having some lunch"

A wave from the attendant & I moved inside. Air conditioning, no way, just a couple a fans and the occasional whiff of cold air from the freezer as the attendant went in & out. I again drifted away as I stared at the blackboard menu, nailed to the wall, again awaken by a voice from the counter, "Good afternoon Sir, what can we get you" my response seemed to take for ever "I'll have the Walkabout king burger & a VB please"

"Yes Sir"

Pleased with my lunch decision I walked to a stool near the end of the counter, looking around two blokes sat in the corner listening to the horse races, the rest of the bar was empty, shame I do like to sit & talk with the locals, usually a bit of a laugh & always a bit of history. "Your VB Sir"

"Thank you"

"Your burger won't be long", I nodded my head and asked,

"Do you know Theneed station?"

"Yes, the Fuller's place, straight up the mountain road"

"Would you say about 4 hours north"?

"On a good day, yes it is, but with this rain, and you'll need to beat the creek rising, you've got to cross it twice"

"Has it rained that much?"

"Not coming from the south, but it started here yesterday morning"

"Well I'll make this a quick lunch and be off"

"Your in luck, the road is in good shape, they graded it last week"

"Thanks for the information"

Just as my lunch arrived in came the attendant, "Here's your keys, both tanks are full, oil & water look okay, had to put some air in the right hand rear & your spare and I washed the windows, the bill comes to $93.60"

"Thank you", I reached for my wallet, hand over $100.00, "Keep the change",

"Thanks mate", good service I thought to myself.

With no one to talk to, lunch was over beauty quick, paid my bill, started up the old 4 wheel drive and headed north, crossing the river bridge going out of town, I never thought to check the water level, then it started to drizzle rain, & within a few kilometres I was on dirt road.

Now mid afternoon, mud & heavy rain, the smell of diesel fumes & the roar of the old 4 wheel drive as the wheels spun in the mud, Iam not sure how much time had past, concentrating on keeping the vehicle straight had consumed my thoughts, but now I had arrived at the first creek crossing & by now it was pouring rain, thunder & lightening, dark skies, my first thought was returning to Walkabout, checked my watch 3pm, a hour & a half to Theneed or two & a half back to Walkabout, thought over, get out & check the creek.

The depth board shows a half a meter, but the water was running quick, I had come prepared, my raincoat & hat were on the passenger seat, no trouble getting them on, out of the truck, around to the back door, on with my waist high waterproof pants, untied my faithful walking stick, the Bungarrabee Stick, as I called it, fearsome snake & lizard scarer, sword against spider webs, we had walked many a mile together, even the day I fell climbing Ayers Rock, yes my trusty stick, actually a old broom handle.

Down to the creek, check for dangerous wild life, use the walking stick to check for solid ground, yep alls well, but my third step in the creek was to end with me in the creek, damn, the crossing was alright, I just slipped and my waist high waterproof pants were now waist high full of water.

I got to my feet, I was soaking wet, the rain stopped & the sun now shined brightly as if the sun was the only creature who had seen my fall & was now smiling with laughter, back to the truck, secured the Bungarrabee Stick, removed the waist high waterproof pants, drained them of water, tried to dry myself with some towels, back to the drivers seat. I had declared this water crossing safe, for vehicles only.

Across the creek & moving along, I was probably doing my usual day dreaming, when, Thud, I hit some sort of ditch, this woke me up, & as I readjusted my mind back to driving, I noticed a set of tyre makes that had ploughed through the new pile of sand marking the edge of the road, this is the outback, you don't just drive past. Iam 50 meters past the mark by the time I stop, and the first thing I hear is dogs barking, I reverse back, I don't remember what I was thinking, more a state of confusion, the barking had stopped, had I heard barking, was I now hearing crying, what have I stumbled into, were people hurt, should I get on the radio, do I need a first aid kit, I can't stand the sight of blood, Iam looking down the road, please someone help, snap out of this stupid, you don't know what's happen yet, I can hear crying, I grab the water bottle and the Bungarrabee stick, slipping in the mud as I make my way towards the tyre marks, I can hear crying, it's a vehicle on it's side, I remember again looking both ways along the road hoping for help, nothing, but the crying, slowly down the small embankment, how can I help these people, "IS THERE ANYONE IN THE BUS?" I yelled, a voice, "WATCH OUT FOR THE DOGS", dogs, what dogs, the barking I heard from the road, my heart is now thumping & now Iam scanning the area like a lighthouse beam on a stormy night "Help us before the dogs come back" I hear a window slide open, a head pops up "Please help us",

Iam so confused, and I see what looks like blood, a splatter of blood streaked by the washing rain on the roof of the bus & drag marks, something has been dragged away, past those bushes, down into the little creek bed, that's the ditch I hit, what's going on, what about the dogs,

"Don't stand their dummy, what should we do?" then the sound of growling dogs,

"THEIR COMING BACK" I panicked, ran to the bus, I can't get up, throwing my stick & water bottle away, I don't dare look behind, there's nothing to grab, I can't get up,

I ran to the other side, step on the wheel which rotates under my foot, Iam sitting down in the mud, I jump to my feet, something feels hot, the growls seem horribly close, I grab what ever I can & climb to the top of the over turned bus, the windows & door are closed, my hand is throbbing, I must have grabbed the exhaust system, I can't see inside the bus because of the reflection of sunlight & water on the windows, Iam panicking, the growling has now become distinctive barking, I look to the creek bed, four dogs, four large dogs now at the bushes, coming quicker than a freight train, the door opens, I grab the handles & jump, it's a ugly & painful landing as I bash my shins & knees against the drivers seat, but the sound of the door closing behind me is a moment of relief.

"They took Miss Fuller" screams through my ear, Iam in pain but look up to were the scream came from, then the horrible sounds of scratching & barking, the dogs are above us.

"Now we're all trapped you dickhead" screamed through my ears, even louder than the scratching & barking, a girl about 10 kneeling beside a teenage girl who looked unconscious & was bleeding from a head wound.

"Did you see Miss Fuller" a quiet but frighted voice, it came from behind me, a boy, maybe 12 or so, his trembling hand still clutching the door opening handle,

"It's been at least an hour since she went out there" his eyes were watery, but he tried to look brave,

"No" it's all I could say, I can't believe were I am, the scratching & barking next grabbed my attention, I looked up, an ugly sight as the dogs snarled & barked, looking straight into my eyes, their drool smeared across the windows, I couldn't see through the windows when I was up their, but they could, they were staring right at us, I looked back at the boy, he seems to have his eyes fixed on only one dog, the girl was crying, she was more concerned with the teenage girl laying between the seats, there was hoses & fencing wire, buckets of nails, a mailbag, the bus was carrying freight as well as the children,

"Is there anyone else" I asked, the girl looked & screamed "YES Miss Fuller" her scream must have frightened the dogs away, it all went silent.

"Is she alright" what a stupid question, the answer was at least five decibels above her previous reply,

"Do I look like a doctor dickhead.......... are you totally stupid......... we're all trapped in here, the radio is not working, the bus is on it's side, our teacher was dragged away by the dogs......... she took the rifle with her, and my sister hasn't spoke since the bus rolled over".

Iam glad she got that off her chest.

"Do you think Miss Fuller could survive" came from the quiet voice behind me,

"I don't know mate, I didn't see anyone out there......... all I saw was blood on the bus & some marks were something had been dragged away," then that voice

"Well of course Mathew, they just dragged her away for a game of fetch, she's dead Mathew & that's how we'll be, if someone with common sense doesn't come along"

Yes I was a bit insulted, but as an adult I hadn't done anything right yet.

"You're a bit a mess, your hand & legs are bleeding"

"Yeah Mathew, I ah" then that voice

"What about Elizabeth" I choose not to look in her direction, I had visions of her rotating her head 360 degrees, with laser beams shooting from her eyes.

"Mathew my name is Gary......... how are you?"

"Iam not bleeding, but I do feel like Iam going to throw up"

"Do you know if there is a medical kit onboard?"

"Yeah, strapped here above the door"

"Would you pass it here please" I tried to open the kit, but struggled with my burnt, swollen bleeding hand, Mathew helped me.

"Do we have a water bottle"?

"Yes" Mathew answered, "It's in the esky under the back seat" then the voice of a angel,

"I'll get it"

"Thanks Ally" said Mathew, one of the great moments of pain now entered my life as I unwrapped my legs from the drivers seat, but not a murmur past my lips, I was going to be strong, Ally past me the water & I set about cleaning & bandaging my wounds.

"It looks like you know how to treat a injured human being," said Ally

"Thanks" I said as I though you bitch to myself.

"So the accident was a little over a hour ago" I asked

"No" said Ally "It's been longer"

"And Elizabeth hasn't moved since" I asked, Ally shook her head, silence as I moved towards Ally, here I was within a arms length of the original she devil, Elizabeth's arm was laid out on the floor, I thought, ah! I'll check for a pulse, that'll show I do know something, but instead of watching what I was doing, as I was still expecting Ally's head to rotate, instead of grabbing Elizabeth's arm I grabbed a piece of hose laying next to her arm, it was cold, leathery & absolutely no pulse, my face went into horror mode, guess who's eyes came into contact with mine, the voice had returned "You dickhead"

I looked down to see my hand, gently holding a piece of hose, I gave a gentle laugh

"Just kidding" I squeezed between my teeth, then grabbed Elizabeth's arm, there was a pulse. We then lifted her up into a sitting position, as we stretched her out, she took a large gulp of air, she started breathing heavier, I could only hope, these are good signs, I think I saw Ally smile, for no real reason I filled a eye dropper with water & squeezed it into Elizabeth's mouth, a cough & spit, slight movement of the head & Elizabeth's eyes began to open, a moment of joy & Ally was smiling.

"Lizzy Lizzy" as she cuddled Elizabeth,

"Lizzy are you hurt.........can you hear me", Elizabeth shook her head,

"We'll let her catch her breath", I said, as I wipe the small blood trickle from her forehead,

A good time for a man to move away, we could hear the dogs growling again, but we ignored them as Elizabeth started asking questions.

"I remember seeing the dogs," said Elizabeth

"Yeah Miss Fuller should have run over them instead of trying to swerve" said Ally

"Where is Miss Fuller? And who are you?" asked Elizabeth,

I couldn't remember my name, silence for a few moments, broken by the growling of the dogs

"Don't worry, they come, they bark, they go away" the quiet voice of Mathew but the growls got louder, then the barking, then they were on top again, snarling barking scratching at the windows, biting & tearing at the rubber seals around the windows, the frenzy went on for a few minutes & I again noticed Mathew never took his eyes of the one dog & as quick as the frenzy had started, silence, they were gone.

"How long between attacks" I asked,

"How long have you been in the bus?" Mathew asked, about 15 minutes I thought to myself, "So who are you? Do you have a vehicle? Has anyone used the radio to get help?" Elizabeth asked,

"My name is Gary, my truck is back on the road, were the tyre marks are," I answered,

"One of us should make a run for it, your radio works doesn't it" asked Ally,

"Yes, but what's wrong with this one" I asked,

"Miss Fuller was trying to call for help when we hit the little creek bed, we were going to fast, trying to out run the dogs, she lost control of the steering wheel, & pulled the microphone out of the radio, by the time she grabbed the wheel, we were heading off the road, & rolling over" said Mathew, the voice returned "Dickhead should have run over the dogs",

"Mum would not let you talk that that Ally" said Elizabeth, you should of heard want she said to me, I thought to myself, then I thought, yeah what a dickhead not to slow down for the creek crossing............ hang on......... that's what I hit it.

"So what happened to Miss Fuller?" Elizabeth asked again,

"She went out to, scare the dogs away, we heard a shot, then a thud on the roof, dogs growling, Miss Fuller screaming, another thud on the roof, then sort of silence, I waited a few minutes, opened the door & looked out, I couldn't see anything, then when Gary got in, he said there's blood out there"

"Yep, there is"

"You've got to go out there, she's injured"

"Lizzy she's more than injured"

"But Ally, someone's got to check"

"Well Gary" a moment of silence, three sets of eyes were now fixed on me, three pair of ears searching like radar for a sound, Iam the adult here I've got to do something,

"How come your out this way Gary"

"Well Mathew Iam heading for Theneed, I've been hired to do some fencing"

"That's Miss Fuller's home, she lives there with her parents, this fencing equipment must be for you"

"Yeah, they lost some sheep to the dogs lately" said Elizabeth,

"Looks like they've lost a lot more now" said Ally,

"I live at the next station along, Comeacross, then there's Asfaras, that's Ally & Elizabeth's home, Theneed is the last station on this road"

"Yeah we travel this way every day to & from school, this is the first time the dogs have come after the bus"

"You said she had a rifle"

"Yes it's for moments like this, & incase we come across a dickhead" that's my Ally

"Ally stop talking like that" punch her in the head please Elizabeth, just a thought. I really was rattling my brain to make a good decision, heavy rain now fell, it was loud enough to cover the girl's conversation, but Mathew's voice broke the noise of the rain,

"They'll break through soon"

"Break through, how?" I asked,

"If they come back, watch the window behind Elizabeth, the dog with the brown sock he's been tearing at the rubber seal on that window, I watched him jump on it last time & it moved, their getting through" we'd have no chance of fighting them off inside the bus, we need to get out,

"I need to get out and see if I can find the rifle"

"Are you up for that Gary?" no I thought to myself, but it sounds like a positive action,

"Will you operate the door for me Mathew?"

"Yeah & I'll keep a eye out for the dogs"

"Good", shaking I lifted myself up though the door, always looking to the bushes, as I edged to the back of the bus, I stepped on the window were the dogs had ripped at the rubber seal & I felt the window moved under my foot, one eye on the bushes, the other scorching the landscape for clues, the rifle it's just there, I lay on the bus, thrusting out my arm, believing Iam a Jedi Knight & my weapon with find my hand, but the meter & a half was to great a distance for my brain, growling, I knew what that meant, the dogs must have seen me, back to the door, carefully lowering myself back in the bus, & that wonderful sound of the door closing, softened the sound of the new frenzy, but couldn't drown out Ally,

"Well Yoda, what do you think", I didn't answer, but thought to myself, the story is not complete, Darth Vader had another daughter, a real bitch.

I just looked at the dogs, again this dog was tearing at the rubber around the window, there's blood on it's teeth, but I also noticed it's eyes & Mathew's were locked together, & I saw the window move as the dog jumped up & down, barking, we can't stay here.

A clamp of thunder bellowed through the bus & rain, heavy rain & again the dogs retreated, "Was there water in the little creek?" asked Elizabeth,

"There's water everywhere, it's raining"

"Is there water running in the little creek?"

"I couldn't see"

"Not now, when you crossed it?" what was I to say, I just bounced through it,

"Ah no, but why do you ask?"

"Well if there's water in the little creek, then Moreonover Creek would be flooded, it would make it hard for them to rescue us, were between the two creek crossings"

"Yeah Elizabeth were in the low land, we've got to get out of here" always good news Ally, "Ally were over a hour late, mum would have rang the cops by now"

"Yeah, but they've got to come from Donebar".

I've got to get us out of here, the rifle first, I know the dogs are watching, I can't make it to the rifle & get back, I need a fence, fencing wire twenty rolls just what I need, there's not much space in the bus, but it will have to do,

"Are there any tools on the bus?"

"Yeah, see that box with blood & skin on it, under the drivers seat, there's some in there" "Gary do you have an idea?"

"Yep, protect us with a fence"

"The dogs will have you before you put up the first post"

"Correct, so I need a mobile fence", not quite the tools I wanted, but. Mathew & surprisingly Ally wanted to help, I think Elizabeth was a bit shaken about what had happen, & with the rain continuing to bucket down she would really want to know, was the water flowing in the little creek & is it possible Miss Fuller got away, although being a teacher I don't think she would abandon the kids, we started to unravel the fencing wire, I had no blueprint to work from, I was making it up as I went, I started talking to Mathew,

"You watch the dog with the brown front sock very closely"

"I haven't seen him for over a year"

"Was he with a pack last year?"

"No, his name is Buster, he was my pup, but he always got in trouble, one day he pulled the screen off the fly screen door so he could get in, dad beat him for it, then he was seen chewing the tyres on the tractor, dad beat him for that, then we found a dead lamb in the top paddock, it's throat torn, dad said it was Buster, & he beat him hard, I took Buster to the old chook pen, nursed his wounds, but when ever a human came near him he hid, only two days later we found another lamb, couldn't be Buster, he couldn't walk this far, or chase a lamb, then about two weeks went past, I went down to feed him, he was gone, but he's back today"

"I remember Buster," said Ally, & we went back to our task,

"Well that's the first bit"

"Will that be enough to stop them" asked Ally,

"It's a circle of wire, a shield" I boosted,

"Well they could just jump over it & you'd be suck in there with them, & if you raise it up to stop them, they'll just walk in under it, this is not a good idea Gary"

"Well Ally, I said this was the first bit, now we make another one to go on top, but we pull the top in, so the dogs can't jump in"

"And how do we put the top on in here"

"We lay it on the seats Ally", Elizabeth had been quiet & deep in her thoughts, but asked "How will you get it out the door?"

"We will cross that bridge when we come to it"; actually I had no idea,

"And how are you going to climb out the door, if you're inside it", good question Elizabeth, someone give her a answer, in silence I continued to complete my shield, I need to get the rifle but the Bungarrabee stick is out there, I would feel safer with it.

It's been raining solid for a good ten to fifteen minutes, we were getting wet from the water splashing through the door & the window the dogs had loosen,

"Okay, finished"

"You're really going out there with the cone of silence"

"Funny Ally, I think it might be a bit safer to go out in the rain"

"What do you think the dogs have gone home to get out of the rain, they're waiting for us to do something stupid"?

"Ally we have to do something" says Elizabeth moving to the next window

"I'll keep a lookout while you & Mathew open the door"

"Just a minute", I had no real reason to wait, I was scared, and again I felt like the world was awaiting my next move,

"Mathew, you open the door & guide the top out the door, I'll take the weight of the middle section & Ally would you push the bottom towards me"

"Which way do you want it to go?"

"Straight up then let it fall to the back of the bus"

Elizabeth slid open the window, pooped out her head & gracefully rotated

"All's clear" Mathew opened the door, out went the cone of silence, I scrabbled out as quick as I could, Elizabeth screamed, I nearly hit her as the shield fell down on the bus, and I heard the window close as I said "sorry",

I picked up my shield & was standing on top of the bus, how am I going to get down with this thing on, no sight or sound of the dogs, I lowered the shield to the ground, as I stepped closer to the edge of the bus & I felt the window give under my weight, I think I tore it more, I jumped down & lifted my shield over my head, safe, well I felt safe, then the sound of the door closing, I was out here again, I could see the rifle, about two meters away, I stepped forward, kicked my toe on the shield & nearly fell over, the rain stopped & the sun came out, small steps, small steps, I reached the rifle, this time the rifle leapt to my hand, the force be with me, I scanned the area, no sound no movement, I could see past the bushes, I could see a human leg, the shoe still on, I felt ill, it's a good 6 to 7 meters away, should I go check, I look further, there is water in the little creek, it's about to burst it's banks, growling, I turned back to the bus, I can't see them, small steps, small steps, two dogs come from behind the bus, they charge towards me, bashing their heads against the shield as if it didn't exist denting the shield in, one dog bites my fingers & as I pull my hand back, I pull the shield in, Iam not dropping this rifle, I've got to get back in the bus, then a push from behind pushes me into the floor of the bus, crash, I've costeaned the shield even more, I can feel one of the dogs squeezing it's head under the shield, another bite on the hand, I stomp my foot down as hard as I can, in the direction of the wiggling head, luck, I hit the dog & it pulls back it's head, but my leg is now hard against the outer shield & one dog bites my leg, the teeth ripping at the muscle, the entire leg goes rock solid fighting the piercing teeth, I point the rifle in the direction of the dog & pull the trigger, click, again click, no bullets, the other dogs are now crashing into the shield, pushing it closer & closer to my body, the dogs are again in a frenzy of barking, I swing the rifle as hard as I could at the jaw that was ripping into my leg, wack, I had hit hard, I felt the impact come up the barrel & through my arm, silent, I look down my leg, torn material, blood oozing, the dog was now staggering backward slowly moving it's head, badly bleeding, one eye shut, whining, like as if it was trying to bark, but couldn't move its jaw, blood now pouring from it's mouth, were are the dogs, retreated again to the bushes or awaiting me on the other side of the bus, I can hear crying, it's the girls, I gently knock on the floor "Iam okay" what a lie, I hear Ally "It's Gary" the crying stops.

I look for something to support myself, I just can't put pressure on my leg, I look back to the injured dog, now laying on the ground, with one eye staring at me, if this dog recovers it's strength before me, it will come after me, hop, okay I can hop, hop, hop, keep going Gary the dogs aren't far away, I move around to the front of the bus, no dogs, but Mathew can see me through the windshield, I see the girls move to the front of the bus, the cone of silence once a arms length around me, now less than half that space, my fingers ripped & bleeding, my leg a real mess, I could hear Elizabeth "Help him", but I would rather they couldn't see me this way, I look to Mathew, he understands my look and grabs the door handle, I turn back, hop around the front wheel, back to the gearbox to use as a ladder, no dogs in sight, were are they, I hear the door open, "Gary, Gary", I didn't have the strength to answer, I tried to lift my arm to signal, but the cone of silence restricted my movements, I could hear Mathew & Elizabeth "Come on a few more steps" "Come on move, move" I looked up, they were on top of the bus "The dogs" I said , both quickly rotating their heads to all points of the compass, "Can't see them, hurry come on" they started pulling on the shield, but it got stuck on my clothing, then it scratched my arm, finally over my head, someone grabbed the rifle, I started to climb, this time looking to keep my bleeding hands away from anything hot, thankfully the three eased me into the bus, Elizabeth started to wash my wounds, I was dizzy & my heart rate was high, Mathew & Elizabeth both saying "Don't pass out, don't go to sleep" I heard the door close, I felt some strength return as the two continued the chant.

I was able to stop my head from wobbling, the watering in my eyes started to clear, I didn't what to say I saw a leg in the bushes, just the positives, "The gun didn't fire" that's a positive, "And there's water in the little creek" and there you go, another positive, I was the bearer of good news, the three were silent.

Elizabeth asked Mathew to hold my leg while she cut the material away from my wound, "Yuck" said Elizabeth

"Did you check the dog for rabies"?

"Thanks Ally"

"Every time you come in you look worse" then Mathew said, "You didn't cock the rifle" followed by the sound of a rifle being cocked.

"Dickhead strikes again"

"Ally he tried"

"You heard him there's water in the creek" I could feel Elizabeth pull the bandage tight around my leg.

"We've got to get you to a doctor"

"Just give me a few minutes, Iam feeling better"

"Your leg wont stop bleeding it needs stitches, & your hands aren't much better" once again I had not done all the things an adult in charge should do,

Elizabeth had now finished bandaging my hands, & my head was clear, I stood up shakily, it felt good to stand on two legs, I reached out & took the rifle from Mathew,

"Is it ready to fire"

"Yes"

"Would you open the door please Mathew"

"And just what are you going to do"

"Your not stupid enough to go out again, are you?"

"No, I need to check something, any hints on shooting"

"Press the trigger the moment the target in your sights"

"You can hardly move"

"Please, I need to check something" Mathew moved back and prepared to open the door Elizabeth put out her hand, as if ready to grab me when I fell,

"Okay"

"Okay Mathew" the door swung open & as quick as I could I lent over the steps, the dog had moved, it was dragging itself towards the bushes, I took aim, bang, one shot right in the back of the head,

"Cock the rifle their coming" shouted Mathew, one dog actually jumped the dog I had just shot, it was in my sights, bang, right in the head, the other two retreated to the bushes,

"Wow Daniel Boone" called Ally, a quick smile to each other & we moved back from the door, "I just want to check the creek" said Mathew, he jumped out the door & before I sat down was back in & closed the door, "It's about to spill over"

"We have to think this out" Elizabeth paused "We know mum has reported us missing, she'd be driving back towards us, reporting to the police her position & road conditions, she wouldn't cross the creek in the station wagon",

"Why isn't dad with her"?

"You should listen at breakfast, dad took the four wheel drive with Mathew's dad to Donebar to pick up the new season seeds... mum would have contacted dad & he would have went to the police station to check with them.........the police & our dad's would be on their way, they'd have the rescue equipment to get across the creek......... but it's three hours from here to Donebar, & mum would have only waited one hour before she raised the alarm......... I remember dropping Todd & Colin of at their place at just on three o'clock, it's just on five o'clock, so on a good day they'd be here at seven o'clock......... that wont help us"

"They could send a helicopter"

"From where?", Elizabeth's calculations sent us all into silence, my first thought was three o'clock, I was at the creek crossing, thinking should I go on or go back, a real turning point in my life,

"Gary I think we need to make a run for your car"

"Yeah we out number them now" said Mathew,

"We could make two more cone of silence, only larger, to suit two people" said Ally,

"Yes that way we could defend ourselves front & back," said Elizabeth,

"Gary & I could take the rifle, we stop & shoot the dogs while you girls get to Gary's truck" "Yeah come on lets' do that" I sat looking at my wounded hands, I don't think I could cut the wire with the old pliers from the tool kit, last time only one hand was damaged & I struggled then, this time two badly damaged hands & a lot more cutting,

"Gary come on we've got a plan, come on"

"No, it's very awkward to move inside, two people are likely to trip on each other, or run the wrong way, we need hand protection, look at my hands, we need time to get under the shield, & then when we get to my truck we need time to get out, & get in the truck one at a time, the drivers door is the only one unlocked"

"Well at least we have a chance out there, we just can't sit here, let's do something" Elizabeth screamed, the pressure was now getting to her,

"If we can get to your truck, it's about 15 mins to Humpty Hill, we'd be safe there, I heard that in the last flood, local cattle & sheep all stayed on the hill till the water went away" said Mathew, if we made a run for the truck I'd be the problem, I'd slow everyone up, if I stay here at the bus hoping to shoot the dogs, & the dogs are waiting at my truck, I couldn't get there to help, if I went half way, let the kids come to me, then the climb over the sand at the edge of the road that would slow me down, I then felt a warm sensation on my leg, and when I looked, blood had oozed through the bandage, Elizabeth saw it to,

"There's no more bandages", there's some in the truck, and it's our only chance,

"Iam going to my truck"

"And what happens to us"

"I'll check to see if the dogs are there, I'll come back to the back of the bus, one of you will jump out and come with me to the truck, once your safe, I'll come back for the next"

"With your leg you'll be lucky to make the first trip, how will you get down, & what if the dogs are out there waiting" all good points Elizabeth, I was sweating, this can't be right, I sat down & asked Ally to pass the water, I took a large swallow, then poured some over my head so the kids couldn't tell I was sweating, I felt heat all over my body, I was struggling not to pass out, I was going to get these kids out of here,

"Mathew would you open the door"

"Yes, but let be have a quick look around & come back before you go, Elizabeth you stand ready to shut the door incase"

"I'll stand there, but that door does close till your back in here"

"Alright", Mathew opened the door & quickly jumped out, Elizabeth moved to the door, it was all silent, then Mathew slid back in, his face white, he was speechless & he had the Bungarrabee Stick, Ally got impatient,

"Well speak up Mathew, what's wrong?"

"It's, am, it's...clear as I could see", he must of seen the leg, & if he did he would know if it was Miss Fuller,

"Well you don't seem so sure"

"Iam sure Ally, I just don't feel good", I moved over to Mathew, to whisper in his ear,

"Is it Miss Fuller"?

"Yes,.......... do you think she might be just be hurt?"

"It's to dangerous to go that close"

"So we're going to leave her"

"What are you two whispering about?" screams Ally, Mathew replies

"We don't know how many bullets are left in the rifle"

"Well find out, we need the rifle, that stick isn't going to scare those dogs" screams Ally, at first she was sarcastic, now like Elizabeth she was scared, my only fear was not getting these kids out, although my wounds were throbbing......... Mathew's colour had come back, he seems as calm as when I first meet him, & his story of Buster was replaying in my mind, for Buster was still alive, & his little story of how many bullets, now rushed through my thoughts, it was a story to put the girls of what we were really talking about, but how many bullets were in the rifle, I feel myself sweating again,

"Ally could you pass the water please?" as she past the water bottle she looked really down & asked,

"Have you ever been in a situation like this before?"

"Yes, back in 1980, I was on Dreamday Island when a cyclone hit, it had all the same fears, & it could have taken a few lives, but I think, we kept calm & helped each other, that's what got us through"

"That & the fact the storm past over"

"Thanks Ally"

"Well there's still two large dogs that could kill us"

"Okay pass me some of those bolts in that tin please Elizabeth" taking a handful into my pocket Ally asked

"Is this your weapon, if you run out of bullets"

"No,.......... I'll throw one bolt at the bus if it's clear, a second one go back"

"And if you miss the bus"

"I'll throw another one" she's back to her best, although I think her fear is growing,

"Ally can you use a radio"

"Yes"

"Then your first, Elizabeth, then Mathew, when your given the signal don't look back, get to the truck, get in, if you see the dogs at the truck blow the horn twice, Ally you get the radio going as soon as you get in, don't panic Elizabeth won't be far behind, lest do it" my first step I staggered, didn't put much confidence in everyone, then I couldn't straighten my leg against the seat so I pulled myself up to the door, nearly dropped the rifle, dragged myself though the door with the kids help, then when I tried to stand, my foot pushed through the damaged window & my knee crashed into the side of the bus, "Ouch!" Elizabeth screamed but "Dickhead" echoed through the bus, I had badly damaged my knee & blood now flowed down my leg, get on with it is all I allowed myself to think, I leapt from the bus like Superman, but landed like a plate of jelly, I spun around like a figure skater on ice, no sign of the dogs, I sort of stumbled, tripped & slide to the road side, then launch my self out onto the road, like a cowboy in a gunfight, I couldn't leap to my feet, my legs were in to much pain, no dogs, covered in mud I rolled back over the pile of sand, using it's slope to help roll me to my feet, gun aimed at the bushes, still no sign of dogs, out with a bolt, bang against the back window, Ally must have been ready, cause she was already on the ground & running, I stumbled back to the roadside & like a rugby player scoring a try , dived over the pile of sand, swivelling in the mud, no dogs, slam of the truck door, Ally's safe, I rolled back over the sand pile again using the sand pile slope to recover my feet, rifle cocked, locked to my shoulder, mud, mud on the sights, I lower the rifle to my hip, scan the bushes, swivel to the bus, it's Elizabeth, on the ground & coming fast, what happen to the signal, I turn & dive over the sand pile, my shoulder hits the ground, a photo finish with Elizabeth's foot, I can't see much because of the mud, I struggle to my feet, like Iam trying to stand on soap, I still can't see any dogs, the truck door slams, Elizabeth is safe, I slip back towards the sand pile, loosing my footing & falling over the sand pile, sliding in the mud, the momentum gets me to my feet, gun to my hip, nothing at the bushes, turn to the bus, it's Mathew & the dogs coming straight for me, bang, I shoot but I miss, a dog is right behind Mathew, "Use the stick Mathew ", I don't know what to do, click, I forgot to cock the rifle, Buster who now jumps on the other dog, rolls it over & tears at it's throat, it's dead, Mathew stands next to me breathing heavy, takes the rifle from my hand, and gives me Bungarrabee, Iam thankful for my third leg, Buster still slowly walks towards us, his head hung down, as though apologising, BANG, Mathew shoots Buster, no tears, not a word, just starts to walk back towards me, why did he shoot Buster, he had just saved us, the sound of crying & the screaming of our names, the girls couldn't see what had happened, Mathew rans to the roadside & waved the rifle, Iam still standing there in amazement, what had just happened & the rain started again, the girls where now at the side of the road jumping & laughing, hugging Mathew......... Mathew said something to them, their joy went to sorrow, Mathew gave the rifle to Elizabeth, I could see tears, the girls turned back to the truck, Mathew came to me "I need your help Gary" & he held my arm as we walked to the bushes,

"We can't leave her here, if the flood waters come, she'll be washed down stream", I didn't want to see what the dogs had done to her but Mathew shouldn't either,

"Mathew get the blanket I was sitting on out of the bus" he let my arm go & did as I asked, I was really dizzy & by the time I had staggered to the bushes Mathew was back, I stopped "Mathew I'll put the blanket on & give you a call"

"Okay" I took a deep breath & stumbled & slid till I was around the bushes, a few more steps & a sight I didn't want to see, her throat area mauled & bloody, all up & down her arms torn, bleeding, I couldn't look anymore, I throw the blanket over her & tucked the edges in as quick as possible, the rain stopped & the sun came out in all it's brilliant glow, & although my clothes were wet & muddy, I felt the warmth of it's glow, I had to stop, I was dizzy, I felt as if I was going to vomit, hold on Gary hold on,

"Okay Mathew" Mathew sprang around the bushes, grabbed her feet, I grabbed her shoulders but couldn't stand, Mathew grabbed my shirt & pulled me to my feet, were did he get his strength, I was holding Miss Fuller but he was pulling us along, my leg was thumping with pain, my knee wouldn't bend & the head spinning was getting worse, I wanted to say stop, I don't want the girls to see Miss Fuller, then I felt Mathew lift her legs "Lift Gary, come on lift" I lifted as hard as I could, thud, I stumbled into the floor of the bus, Mathew must of lowered her in, I was not strong enough to help him, but I did hear his little prayer, & joined him in amen, Mathew grabbed my arm "Come on Gary, let's go home" what a wonderful idea, it seemed like a 5 kilometre walk back to the girls, who were in joyous conversation with their mum,

"Say hello Gary, it's my mum, mum this is Gary, he saved as"

"Thank you, thank you," blared from the radio,

"Hello"

"God bless you Gary, thank you" followed by emotional crying,

"Girls you bring Gary home with you, we'll thank him in person......... & you'll stay for dinner Gary won't you.......... no stay the night, you can have a few beers with Ben & our friends, we'll have a party"

"Ben is my dad," said Ally

"You will stay won't you Gary"

"Yes I will, thank you"

"Yes, that's great, I'll see all of you soon, tell Mathew Iam going to get his mum, we'll meet you all at home" Mathew then took the radio,

"Mrs Moss, has anyone talked to Miss Fuller's family yet"

"Mathew it's so good to hear your voice, the girls told me, & as far as I know Father Jeff from the church has spoken to them on the radio, & after the helicopter picks you guys up, it will fly him out to them" silence, a very sad moment for all of us,

"Rodger over & out Mrs Moss" moments past as we stood in silence then Elizabeth screamed, I looked up she was pointing to my leg, the rain had washed the mud off, & to my astonishment, I was standing in a puddle of my own blood,

"Get him in the truck" said Elizabeth

"Iam not able to drive"

"Don't worry dad has been teaching Elizabeth to drive, she'll get us there" Ally & Mathew grabbed my arms & got me to the back were Elizabeth was holding the door

"Ally lay out those blankets, Gary have you got towels in the truck" I think I said yes, I was so weak, the kids wrapped the blankets over me, Elizabeth was wrapping my leg, their voices were blurry, I heard the truck start, Mathew giving Elizabeth all sorts of advise, and Elizabeth saying "Shut up" but I was content, I felt the children were safe, & the words Ally had spoke "Mum this is Gary, he saved us" I never made it to the hill.

Author Barry Louis

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