Thursday, May 27, 2010

27. Road Trip: the Fountains in Orange

Goanna in the centre of the road — a snake shifting suddenly, long, long coils of snake — birds swooping overheard — and, ‘Look!’ I kept saying. ‘Look, Charlie!’ until I stopped saying it, because each time he would miss it. 'What? What? Where is the bird?!' – getting angrier – 'Where?'

Signs with pictures of kangaroos and wombats, 'Look out for kangaroos!' I told him, and he said, 'Where? Where?' and I said, 'Well, we just have to look out for them — they’re not —' then he noticed one of the signs himself, and said,
'That’s not a kangaroo' — withering — 'that’s just a a picture of a kangaroo.'

Once, he tried to point something out to me — a colourful playground with a lime green helicopter — but then the lights changed, and I drove on through that town. He didn’t believe that I’d seen it. 'Look, LOOK!' he said, and I said, 'I know! I saw!' And he said, 'No, you didn’t, you were looking ahead!' I said, 'No, really, I saw it. In my peripheral vision.'

We were back on the highway by now, and he was saying, ‘Turn around! Turn around so you can see it!’ But I wouldn’t. Eventually, he sighed and said, ‘Never mind, I will show it to you on the way home,’ which was unexpected - I didn't even know he understood the concept of the way home.

The journey home would be three days from now, and he was likely to have forgotten by then, and even if he hadn't, he would probably miss it, and all that was setting aside the fact that I was planning on taking a different route home.

'Okay. Good idea,' I said.


The drive to Dubbo is about five hours, but it took us eight because we stopped in parks, and for milkshakes. Charlie was in a mood, to do with me having brought the suitcases along on his holiday.

Every time we stopped, he would climb out of the car, sleepily, moodily, and ask, ‘Is this my holiday?’

There was confusion at a park in Orange, where they had fountains, and a couple of birds in cages. ‘This is my holiday,’ he informed me. ‘See, that’s the zoo.’ He was furious when I told him it wasn’t. I asked a man in a suit, with a pleasant face, if there was a café nearby.

At once, the man exclaimed, ‘Yes! Yes, as a matter of fact there is a café near here, and it’s a very lovely one, too! It’s in a nursery, it’s called Anything Grows, and it’s just half a block from here!’

It was exactly as if he’d been wandering the paths of these gardens, this tranquil park, by the cages of parrots and the fountains, waiting and wandering, waiting for somebody to ask for a café. I wondered if he knew, or loved, or was the owner of the Anything Grows Café.

In the last hours of the trip, I saw dead kangaroos, eight or nine of them, on the side of the road. I didn’t point these out to Charlie.

But, 'Look at the beautiful sunset!' I said, and he said, 'That’s not a sunset, that’s a sky. That’s just the sky.'

'Do you kow what a sunset is?' I said, and he became very quiet. After a moment, he said, 'What’s a sunset?'

I explained, I tried to explain, but he lost interest


Then we arrived at the motel, and friends were waiting for us, a barbecue already laid out on the picnic table, their children dark shadows in the darkening playground.

I said, 'this is your holiday,' and 'look, there’s a frog' – a green frog in the stairwell — and he said, where? where? where? and I stopped him, crouched him down, turned his head, pointed it out, and he said, ‘Oh, yeah. It’s a frog.’