Saturday, May 29, 2010

29. Road Trip: The Way Back Home

My friends and I rode bikes around the Western Plains Zoo, the children strapped into seats behind us. I was deeply moved by the field of rhinoceroses. Charlie liked it for a while, especially the meerkats, but he had a cold, his crankiness had manifested itself into a cold. He just wanted to be in the motel room really — you could open cupboards, drawers and curtains, fill glasses at the sink, jump on the beds – it was a giant playhouse. ‘I want to go back to my holiday,’ he said, every time we left the motel.


By the time we drove home three days later, his cold had gone to his chest, he was feverish and slept almost all the way. He was sleeping while I filled the car with petrol, sleeping while I pulled over to check the map, while I changed the music, stopped the music for quiet, saw another snake, more dead kangaroos, sleeping while I drove around trucks. He slept while I collected towns and villages for the Kingdom of Cello, and while I thought about how ostriches bury their heads in the sand but apparently they don’t.

In a busy town, I stopped at an intersection, and glanced left. There was the colourful playground with the lime green helicopter — the one he had wanted me to turn back for on the way to the holiday. The one he had promised to show me on the way home. I had taken the main highway after all so I could get him home faster. It seemed sad for a moment: that here we were beside that playground, stopped at a long red light, and he was asleep.

I looked in the rear view mirror at his sleeping face, the high pink in his cheeks, and he twitched suddenly, opened his eyes, blinked hard, yawned, turned left and said with quiet satisfaction: ‘There.’

So I pulled over, and he played in the colourful playground for an hour, and he seemed much brighter after his long sleep, and then we drove home.