The water was calm and the unexpected winter sunlight, shimmered on the mirror-like surface of the estuary. Occasionally, speed boats interrupted the peaceful scene. Silently, a large black fin pierced the surface and glided along for twenty meters or so, before diving back into the deep.
Chapter 1 – Happy travels
Bobbie and Paul had planned this holiday right down to the last detail. They were taking more and more caravan holidays away, joining the “grey nomads” on their travels to warmer climates during winter. Usually, they made their way up north to Broome, or Darwin if the weather was favourable but there were so many other places to explore, which required only a few days leave from work.
They had each taken two weeks vacation time and were exploring parts of the country they hadn’t yet seen. Their destination was Lakes Entrance and specifically, Metung in Victoria. It was quite a drive from Strathalbyn in South Australia, about 1,000 kilometres, but the distance would be worth it according to friends who had enjoyed memorable holidays there in the past. Their description of the location was as beautiful as the brochures and travel information that they had collected.
As Emergency Services Officers it was expected that they would do everything by the book. What is it about people who think that they are invincible? Bad things happen to good people too. They were to learn that lesson in a big way.
Bobby beamed at Paul, exhausted but happy that the van was finally packed.
“I’ve set the alarm for six in the morning. We can be up, showered and dressed and on our way by eight thirty.”
“Yes, well I’ve heard that before.” Chortled Paul. “I just have to put my face on and blow dry my hair.” He mimicked cheekily.
“I am so excited,” she replied. “I promise that I will be ready on time, we’ve been planning this day for ages and I don’t care if I don’t have my makeup on or my hair blow dried, I just want to be on the road before the truck drivers start their day.”
Paul raised his eyebrows but said nothing. The proof would be in the pudding! Donning his favourite blue boxer shorts, he sat down on the side of the bed, removed his glasses, and snuggled down beside his adorable wife. He was as excited as she was but didn’t show his emotions as readily as the effervescent Bobbie.
It was their twentieth wedding anniversary next week and they were looking forward to celebrating with a candle-lit dinner for two, in the privacy of their caravan at Metung. Unbeknown to Bobbie, Paul had engaged the local jeweller to create a gorgeous pair of diamond earrings for Bobbie, as a gift to mark the occasion. He was terrified of losing them, so stored them, wrapped in cotton wool, safely in the zip compartment of his wallet. It was the most secure spot he could think of as his wallet went everywhere with him.
Bobbie rolled over for a cuddle before they drifted off.
Hmmm thought Paul. She is so sexy in that red halter neck negligee…
“I recognise that gleam in your eye, Paul.” Bobbie smiled sleepily.
“Off to sleep or we will never get up in the morning.”
“Okay,” Paul reluctantly agreed, kissing her passionately. “I can wait until tomorrow night.”
They drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms, enjoying their own visions of their holiday destination.
The caravan had been packed over the past few weeks and there was just the pre-packed
fridge to connect up before they left home. It was very exciting. Bella their old faithful Labradoodle was already snuggled down in her bed on the back seat.
Paul pulled the tinny onto the top of the off road vehicle, that they used to tow the caravan. He secured it well so that it wouldn’t blow off at high speed. The outboard motor was stored in the caravan, to be connected when they arrived in Lakes Entrance.
The trip took a planned detour through Melbourne, so they took the opportunity to catch up with Bobbie’s BFF Janet. It was a good catch up but as usual never long enough to cover everything that was going on in their lives just at that time. After a promise to visit Bobbie soon and mutual entries into diaries, they were soon back on the road.
They arrived in Lakes Entrance after almost two days of driving, which was pretty good progress.
Pulling into Metung, Bobbie exclaimed. “Oh wow, this place is gorgeous!”
They were blown away by how beautiful the scene before them was. The sky was cloudless and clear. It may have been winter but it was a gloriously warm day and the sun danced on the water, beckoning to them.
Not wanting to waste any time Paul suggested that after setting up the van at the caravan park, they should take advantage of the weather. After attaching the outboard motor, they backed the boat down the boat ramp and into the water. Loaded with their fishing gear, they headed off into the estuary to settle down for a few hours of their favourite pastime
“I’ve got a nibble.” Bobbie sat up and gave the line a tug. “I’ve got him,” she nodded to Paul excitedly. She had scored the first catch of the day, a beautiful King George whiting.
“A few more of them will mean a nice supper.” Paul commented as he felt his line tugging also. He snagged the next two, which were decent sized garfish.
No problem with undersized fish today. Paul thought to himself.
At that very moment, Bobbie started a fight with what appeared to be a huge snapper who did not want to end up stuffed and baked in their oven that night. As she did so, Paul stood up.
“Can I help?” He enquired.
At that very moment however, a 35 foot power-boat surged through the water catching their tinny in its wake.
Bobbie and Paul looked at each other with horrified expressions, seconds before their boat overturned and commenced its capsize into the estuary. It all seemed to happen in slow motion.
Chapter – 2 – Man overboard
“Jeez Paul.” Yelled Bobbie. “You’ve tipped the frigging boat up, what the hell were you thinking?”
She coughed and spluttered as they both tried desperately to ignore the freezing cold water and keep afloat. Of course they were great swimmers so they didn’t need life jackets. Hah! That was their first mistake.
Everything they needed was at the bottom of the bay, car and van keys, mobile phones, wallets, emergency flares… everything!
“We need to swim ashore.” Paul stated the obvious. “It’s going to take us an hour or more. We’d better get a wriggle on, or it will be dark before we reach land.”
Bobbie was unable to speak. She was so cold that she felt sure she’d die of hypothermia before they reached safety. It was the middle of winter and she was shivering already; it was a distinct possibility.
They set of at a steady pace towards the shore. It was indeed fortunate that both were good swimmers and they would no doubt reach dry land without too much trouble. The biggest fear was of sharks. Bobbie had seen them herself and knew that they hung around the boats whilst people were fishing. Miraculously, Bobbie hadn’t seen any that day but that didn’t mean that they weren’t underneath them right at that moment!
“Oh God, save us.” She muttered loudly and put a fresh spurt on her freestyle.
Paul stopped for a breather after about twenty minutes.
“What are you doing?” Bobbie demanded. “You can’t stop, there are sharks out here you know.”
Paul was treading water and trying to rest for a few moments.
Why couldn’t that damned cruiser come past us now and rescue us? Typical, tips our boat over then it’s never seen again.
Angrily he launched into a fresh swim for shore.
Bobbie was the next to stop. They were trying to stay together, each keeping a watchful eye on how the other was faring. Both realised it would have been a hell of a lot easier if they had worn their life jackets. Glancing back she realised that the bow of the boat was just visible but the rest was under water.
There must be air in the cabin. she thought.
I feel like the shore is getting further away rather than closer.
Bobbie was tired and wasn’t sure if she could make it any further.
Paul was exhausted and his lips had a blue tinge to them.
“Are you okay?” Bobbie enquired.
Stupid question. She thought as soon as soon as the words had left her mouth.
Paul rolled his eyes. He didn’t have the energy to respond. Even treading water even was becoming difficult.
Resuming their quest for shore, Bobbie and Paul were ever mindful of the beasts that they had seen below the surface before today. Settling into a reasonable pace, pretty soon the shoreline was in sight. Looking back, there was nothing to be seen of their boat which had disappeared from view and they assumed it had finally sunk to the bottom of the estuary.
Summoning their last reserves of energy, they realised that their feet could finally touch the sea bed. Literally dragging themselves the last few meters they collapsed in utter exhaustion on the sandy shore.
They both lay like that, unable to move for a good five minutes, before Bobbie started to laugh, and once she’d started, she couldn’t stop. Paul became infected and started laughing himself. It was a nervous, yet triumphant laugh which finally led to tears on both parts and they grabbed hold of one another and shuddered, tears pouring down their faces, salty tears mingled in with salty sea water.
“Why are you crying?” Bobby enquired?
“I don’t know, why are you crying?” Paul replied.
“I think we are in shock, It’s getting dark and we need to find some shelter.”
They looked back over the dark water and shuddered. They knew that four meter long sharks were not uncommon in the estuary, and they were quite aware that they had dodged a bullet this time.
Dragging themselves upright with jelly-like legs, they headed off to the nearest beach house to look for help.
Chapter 3 – Bloody winter
It was the middle of winter and all of the beach shacks and holiday homes looked deserted. There weren’t even any row boats on the shore.
Being about thirty kilometres from the nearest town meant that they either had to find a car and “borrow” it, or find shelter for the night. Deciding not to break the law by stealing a car, they would instead be guilty of breaking and entering one of the shacks before the day was out.
The temperature dropped even further as the sun disappeared for the day. It was so cold that their clothing clung to them, and they were freezing. Teeth chattering, they approached the first holiday shack. It was quite obviously deserted, their owners no doubt tucked up in front of a roaring fire at home in Melbourne somewhere
No one came down this way in winter. It was far too cold to attract holidaymakers and it wasn’t school holiday period either.
What on earth are we doing here? Thought Paul
“Damn it, why did we have to be the only idiots who travelled hundreds of kilometres just to go fishing?” Bobbie grumbled.
Fortunately it was a full moon and visibility was increasing gradually as as they trudged slowly up the driveway to the next shack.
“I wonder why our boat’s transponder didn’t go off, someone should surely be looking for us by now. We told the kids where we were going and if it was one of them in this situation we would have people worrying about them by now.” Paul pondered aloud.
Bobbie was devoid of energy and simply nodded.
The next shack was fenced off and the gate to the picket fence was locked.
Paul would usually be able to vault the gate but was so exhausted he could barely climb over it. Once on the other side he gestured for Bobbie to follow him and he helped her over.
“Jeez, I’ve never felt so tired in my life.” Paul exclaimed. Taking a deep breath, he led Bobbie up the garden path toward the shack.
It was dark now and they knocked on the front door, knowing somehow that no-one was at home. Creeping around to the back of the shack, they found it to be locked and shuttered. It was so dark they could barely see two feet in front of them, but as they rounded the corner to repeat their check on the front of the shack, something caught Bobbie’s eye.
“Hey Paul, what’s this?” she called over her shoulder “it’s a sign post of some sort..” but it was so dark that they couldn’t read it.
Just then it started to drizzle and a flash of lightening lit up the night sky, which also lit up the noticeboard. Their hearts sank. It was a notice from the State Trustees for sale of a property for a deceased estate.
“Damn!” Muttered Paul, “this place will be empty should we keep walking or just break a window and go inside? God knows how far the next shack will be. Its not exactly Bondi Beach down here is it?”
Visibility was about twelve inches, so searching by hand alone, Paul located a fist sized rock. He made his way back to the front door and smashed the rock into the glass panel beside the door. As he had hoped, the lock was easily accessible through the broken window pane. Warm fluid trickled down his arm and he realised that he had cut himself.
I hope there a first aid kit inside. He thought
He pushed the front door open. It creaked and as it opened further, there was a distinctly musty odour emanating from somewhere in the house.
As paramedics, they were acquainted with the smell of death and glancing at one another both Bobbie and Paul shuddered before common sense prevailed.
If there was a sign in the front of the house advertising the Deceased Estate Sale, the deceased person was long gone from the property.
However, the odour that lingered told them just where the person had expired. They both shuddered again, they had encountered death too many times in their careers as paramedics.
Entering the kitchen, they both drank thirstily from the tap. Thoroughly dehydrated they were pleased that at least the water supply was still connected to the house.
Bobbie tried the light switch. “Damn, it was too much to expect there would be electricity too!”
Paul went off to explore.
“Hey, don’t leave me here alone!” Bobbie quickly followed in his wake.
The electricity box was locked and with no tools it was impossible to gain access.
“Do you think you could cope with a cold shower?” Bobbie joked.
One look from Paul gave her the answer she had expected.
“Well we’d better get out of these wet clothes at least. Have you seen any clothes in the wardrobes?”
Bobbie was right, they needed to find dry clothing quickly or succumb to exposure. It had been hours since they fell into the sea. Their need for warm clothing was a matter of urgency.
After checking all of the bedrooms, they eventually came across a room with a beautifully carved antique wardrobe. Opening the huge doors revealed two racks of jackets, shorts and trousers. In the drawer they found singlets and underpants but only one pair of socks and a single pair of dress shoes. However there was a pair of men’s slippers in the corner which happened to fit Paul.
They were so lucky, if they hadn’t found dry clothes they would have probably frozen to death.
Suddenly Bobbie screamed… “Rats!…” and they both jumped back a couple of meters.
From where they were standing they could see that all of the contents of the drawers had rat’s droppings and an old nest in one corner. A large grey beast stared at them with fiery red eyes as the lightening struck again outside. Bobby screamed again and Paul pulled her to his chest to calm her down.
“Bobbie we have to keep calm, it’s just expending energy that we need if we are going to survive.” Paul soothed her with his calm voice. “I’ll grab the clothes and we will block off this room, okay.”
Bobbie nodded. “Be quick okay and don’t let it bite you.”
Paul shook his head. “I’ll try,”he thought sarcastically.
He pulled all of the clothes off the hangers and gave them a good shake before passing them over to Bobbie. Next, he grabbed singlets and underpants and footwear, ignoring the rats nest in the corner which fortunately had no babies in it. Arms full of potentially warm clothing, he shook it all individually and they retreated to the kitchen to check out their bounty.
Fortunately they were both able to rid themselves of their wet clothing, before drying themselves off with a tea towel they found at the sink. There was enough of everything to clothe themselves from underclothes to ski jackets. They finally felt warm for the first time that afternoon.
Paul realised that he hadn’t attended to the cut on his hand from breaking the glass to enter the shack. He rinsed it under the tap in the kitchen and wiped it over with some kitchen paper he had found. It wasn’t a deep cut and the bleeding had stopped anyway.
They removed curtains from the windows and blocked off the bottom of the bedroom door. Hopefully this would keep the rat family in the bedroom.
“Oh my God” exclaimed Bobbie.
“What?” Enquired Paul.
“There’s rats poop all over these clothes and we stink.”
Paul stared at her incredulously… “We’ve got warm clothes on. Focus on that.”
Shaking his head. Rat’s poop. He thought. Who cares… we’re alive!
Chapter 4 – Food
As soon as they were warm, they explored the rest of the shack. It was pretty basic and had obviously been stripped of anything of any value.
There was a bare mattress in the lounge room which was stained and not terribly inviting but it was a bed of sorts. They dumped all of the clothing that they weren’t wearing next to it.
The kitchen was next, often people left non perishables in their cupboards rather than carting them back home with them. They were in luck, there was a tin of corned beef in the corner cupboard and two tins of baked beans. Fortunately the corned beef had a self opening winding key, so they quickly opened it and devoured it between them. They could save the baked beans for breakfast… if they could find a can opener.
A little treasure trove, the kitchen also provided them with a box of matches and two candles. There was a gas stove which must have operated on gas and fortunately hadn’t been turned off.
It must be bottled gas, thought Paul, lighting a candle.
The cavernous cupboards provided them with a saucepan and some cups, so they boiled some water on the stove and drank it. There may not have been tea or coffee available but there were some sugar cubes in a plastic box and the rats hadn’t penetrated it. A little sugar in the boiled water gave them warmth and a bit of sugar replenished their energy levels slightly.
There were some empty bottles with lids and they were able to fill them up with hot water to warm the filthy mattress up and made it a little more appealing. There were also two piles of newspapers tied up with string. They untied the string of one pile and lay the newspaper over the mattress so it didn’t seem so dirty. Paul grabbed the string on the second pile only to find it had been hollowed out by the rats looking for nesting material. Bobbie screamed again and Paul threw the paper into the bedroom, then replaced the curtain at the bottom of the door to keep the rats inside the room.
That’s what he told Bobbie anyway. He thought that if the rats wanted to get out they would. They probably had a tunnel or two in the cavities in the walls. Bobbie probably already knew this but he didn’t see any advantage in bringing it to her attention. She wouldn’t be able to sleep if she thought about rats running over them as they slept. Paul shuddered…!
Bobbie and Paul decided that they had better get some sleep. It was a long walk back to their car and caravan, about thirty kilometres.
They would need to walk that distance tomorrow unless by some strange coincidence, one of the shack owners decided to come down here during winter. It was freezing that night and they estimated the temperature even inside the shack to be below zero.There were no blankets but there was carpet in the bedroom. They dragged the mattress onto the carpet and piled the clothing they had found in the wardrobe over the top of them.
They had passed, on the opportunity to have a cold shower but they dipped an old towel that they found in the bathroom into the warm water from the saucepan and washed the salty water off their faces. Still shivering, they clung to each other and tried to get some sleep.
Bobbie was exhausted and had the uncanny ability to be able to sleep anywhere. Within half an hour, she drifted into a restless slumber. Paul, however, even though he was more tired than he could remember being in his entire life, was struggling to sustain sleep. He would nod off only to have his head jerk up at the slightest noise. His first waking moments were always… Rat’s!
The sky started to lighten up and Paul assumed that it was about six o’clock. He dragged himself out from under the pile of clothes, trying not to disturb Bobbie. It was difficult, they were intertwined around each other’s legs and arms, so he had to slowly extricate himself.
When he had succeeded in separating their bodies, he sat on the edge of the mattress for a moment and reflected on the previous day.
They could have drowned!
They could have been eaten by sharks! Shudders…
Hypothermia was definitely on the cards, but they managed to dodge that bullet too!
They were so lucky to be alive.
Tears welled up in his eyes as he realised how close they came to losing their lives. He brushed the tears away quickly before Bobbie woke up and saw him crying.
What on earth is wrong with me? I’m not a teary sort of person.
We’re alive! He shouted inside his mind!
Chapter – 5 – FRED
Whilst Bobbie slept on, Paul quietly searched through the rest of the house to see if there was anything useful to them. He couldn’t find a can opener anywhere so the baked beans wouldn’t fill their empty stomachs.
There was however a car in the garage.
Why didn’t they think to look there last night? Though Paul.
He knew he would have to wait for Bobbie to wake up before he explored further. She would panic if she woke up and found him gone. Usually a fearless explorer, the previous days near death experience had Bobbie feeling quite vulnerable.
Paul sat and watched his wife drift into consciousness and a huge wave of emotions washed over him. He could have lost her yesterday. What on earth would he do without her? His eyes started to well up again and a single tear drop ran over his bristly cheek.
Oh my God I’m turning into a Sheila he thought…what’s with all the tears? He wondered.
Yesterdays ordeal had affected him more than he realised… and it wasn’t over yet!
“Good morning darling” Bobbie stretched, smiled… then realised where they were.
“I was dreaming that we were “glamping” in Queensland.” Bobbie declared, looking around her and realising that no place in Queensland that she had visited resembled this place at all.
The shabbiness of the shack was even more evident in the light of day.
“Good morning my love.” Replied Paul, “nope definitely not “ glamping” in Queensland.”
“Shall we try the baked beans?” Bobbie was always ravenously hungry when she woke up and today was no different.
“Sorry love,” Paul replied “ I can’t find a can opener anywhere.”
Bobbie pouted. Jumping up from the mattress, she decided that a girlie search was in order.
“Have you checked the garage.”
“No, I was waiting for you to wake up,” replied Paul.
They exited through the door with the broken window, not wanting to cause any further damage and strolled over to the garage. It was bolted by a padlock on the front doors but a side door offered no resistance.
Beaming from ear to ear Bobbie squealed “A car! I hope it has petrol.”
Paul glanced around the room taking in the fuel cans on the shelves. He lifted one and was pleased to find it was full. They began a search for car keys.
“Now where would I hide car keys if I was a devious person?” He mused.
They tried all the drawers, boxes of spare parts, cupboards… nothing.
“Hmmm… I wonder.” Paul ran his hand over the top of the rear tyres… nothing. Then the drivers side tyre… “Bingo…!” He exclaimed, tossing the keys in the air and catching them again.
Opening the car door, it smelt as though the rats had found another place to nest. Gingerly he sat in the drivers seat, ever mindful that there would probably be dozens of red-back spiders inhabiting this space and possibly even a brown snake or two. There was plenty of room under the garage doors for snakes to get in. His skin prickled with goosebumps and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
Fingers crossed he turned the key in the ignition… Nothing… He tried again… Zero…
“Damn, I think that the battery is dead.” Paul lifted the bonnet and secured it in place. “Well I’ve solved this mystery.” He pointed to the empty space where the battery should be.
“Well it looks like we are walking after all.”
Bobbie jumped up and down and squealed, “look what I found” holding up a queer little piece of metal. “It’s a FRED!” She exclaimed.
“A what?” Paul had no idea what she was talking about.
“A FRED!” She was very excited.
Running into the kitchen she grasped one of the cans of beans and commenced doing damage to the lid.
“How… ? What… ?”
“When I was younger, I was an army cadet. We would do manoeuvres in the bush on weekends and we’d eat army rations. Most things were in tins and this little beauty not only opened cans but the curved bit on the other end,” holding it up to show him “is a spoon to eat with!”
“But why is it called a FRED?” Queried Paul.
“Well” said Bobbie “no one knew its real name, so it was nicknamed FRED… F—king Ridiculous Eating Device!” She laughed and Paul joined her, realising that they hadn’t had much to laugh about over the past few days.
“Here” she gave Paul a can of beans, and proceeded to open the other can. They both ate them straight from the can and couldn’t remember baked beans ever tasting so good.
After washing the evidence from their face and hands, they had a cup of sugared boiled water and headed off to find help.
Chapter – 6 – Crossroads
They hadn’t gone very far from the shack when they realised their problems had just begun. At the end of the driveway to the shack, was a road. It passed by the shack and if they took the left turn it led to an intersection of three roads, if they took the right turn it led to an intersection of five roads.
Which way should they go?
They racked their brains to remember which direction the sun went down last night and where it rose from this morning. The sky was overcast and there wasn’t a sign of the sun for guidance.
Then they found an additional problem. From which side of the estuary did they exit? There was a spit of land which separated the estuary from the sea. From where they were standing, they couldn’t make out whether they were on the spit of land or the mainland. The spit was five kilometres across. It was a long way to walk only to find that they were heading in the wrong direction completely.
They decided to take the left turn as it gave then more options and had walked as far as the five road intersection when suddenly the sun came out and shone brightly in the east.
“Fantastic…” shouted Paul
“The sun is rising in the east and that means that we are on the mainland not the spit! Phew!”
“It also means that we need to travel south to get back to our car and caravan, so we are heading in the right direction. Now which road do we choose?”
It all boiled down to a guess in the end and they took the middle road, which looked as though it had recently been used. There were deep gouges in the road which meant a car or vehicle of some description had used the road after heavy rain.
They had each thought to bring a bottle of tap water each fortunately. Even though it was winter, dehydration could occur after a long walk such as this.
They had walked for about half an hour, sometimes chatting and at other times being alone with their thoughts.
“Let’s have a rest break.” Groaned Bobbie, as she plonked herself down on a fallen tree which made a perfect seat. Paul followed suit, stretching out his legs and gazing down at his daggy old slippers. Dead man’s shoes – Geez these are definitely not a fashion statement he thought.
“How far do you think we’ve walked?” she asked.
Screwing up bis face thoughtfully, Paul responded “About five kilometers and we are making good time…….” He trailed off, making good time to where? he thought we don’t even know where we are walking to!
They hadn’t passed any dwellings at all and were a lot worried that they had chosen the wrong path after all.
Neither made a comment on the lack of dwellings and resumed their walk hoping to come across something inhabited very soon.
No sooner had they entertained that thought, they received a welcome surprise. Rounding the next bend in the road, they came across a Forest Rangers Van. It was empty but they knew the driver wouldn’t be too far away, he had left the keys in the ignition and the drivers window was wound down.
Paul reached into the car and pressed the horn.The noise made them both jump and they laughed, as a flock of galahs winged off into the sky. They had obviously become accustomed to the silence of the forest.
After pressing the horn half a dozen times, a man in a khaki uniform and a base ball cap emerged from the trees.
“Howdy folks” he beamed… “I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone out here are you lost?”
Bobbie was speechless for the first time in her life. Paul started to share their story and burst into tears again. “Oh my God” he cried “I really am turning into a Sheila, what’s wrong with me? Why do I still keep crying?” He looked at Bobbie beseechingly.
They clung to each other, both had tears rolling down their cheeks, as the Ranger looked on in bemusement.
“I’m Dave Merit the local Forest Ranger.” Shaking hands with Paul and Bobby. “I also keep an eye on the shacks that are uninhabited during winter.”
“Ummm… are you guys okay.” He was starting become concerned. He’d also realised that they were dressed oddly and they smelt like… rats! How odd. He thought.
Paul and Bobbie had settled down somewhat and then both found their tongues and started talking at the same time, making it difficult for the Ranger to make any sense of what they were saying. He held up both hands and they stopped rambling. Bobbie nodded at Paul, encouraging him to tell their tale.
“We’re from South Australia,” explained Paul. “We set up camp in Metung and took our tinny out yesterday to do a spot of fishing.”
He recounted the story of catching a few decent fish before their boat was capsized, (omitting the part about him standing up and making the boat less stable as the cruiser sailed past) and how their boat sank with all of their possessions and now lay at the bottom of the estuary.
“Wow” Ranger Merit was in awe. “You made it ashore without becoming a meal for the sharks and without perishing from hypothermia! I’m impressed!”
“Where did you spend the night?”
“Well, we tried a couple of shacks but of course they were locked up for winter. Then we found an old shack which is advertised as an estate sale by State Trustees…”
“Ah the old Taylor place. I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen apart by now. He must be dead 6 years or more.” The Ranger nodded sagely. How did you get inside?
Paul looked sheepish. “Look, we were desperate and we’ll pay for the damaged window.”
“You haven’t met out local Police officer have you?” It was a rhetorical question. “You’ll have fun with him… A real stickler for the books,” chortled the Ranger. “Well I guess I should take you into town so you can get some help.”
They all piled into the Rangers Jeep and he drove them back to Metung, where their car and caravan were parked. He must have been familiar with this rutted road because he flew into town avoiding all the potholes and getting them into town in one piece, despite driving at about eighty five kilometers per hour!. Bobbie and Paul alighted the vehicle still dizzy from his erratic driving.
Ranger Merit waved goodbye as he headed off to the Local Constabulary to let them know that Bobbie and Paul needed to make a statement.
They had no keys and had to enlist the help of a locksmith to open the caravan. Inside the van Paul had fortunately stowed away the spare van and car keys underneath the mattress. He was hoping to find his wallet in the caravan even though he knew deep down that it had sunk to the bottom of the estuary along with the boat.
He slapped his forehead “Oh bloody hell!” he exclaimed.
“What’s wrong.” Bobby enquired.
Paul was furious with himself and was in two minds as to tell her or not.
“I had diamond earrings in my wallet.”
“You had what? Who were they for?”
“You, of course!” Paul’s eyes reflected the sadness he felt at losing the diamond earrings.
“They were for our anniversary” he replied. “I was going to take them out of my wallet, then… Well – time got away from me.”
“It’s ok sweetheart, it’s the thought that counts.” Bobby gave Paul a big hug to make him feel better.
“Besides our insurance will cover them.”
Paul brightened yes, of course they had travel insurance. He hadn’t taken out specific insurance for two thousand dollars worth of diamonds but he’d let Bobbie down gently when they arrived home,
Home… At that point in time Paul had had enough of this disastrous holiday and all he could think of was home.. – Dry warm clothes that didn’t stink of rats, his own comfy bed and a decent meal. Suddenly he was ravenously hungry.
“I’m starving” they both chorused together, then laughed because they had both thought of their belly at the same time.
“There’s a slight problem”
Paul pointed out that & his wallet and credit cards and a wad of cash for their holiday, had gone down with the boat.
He suddenly felt really angry with himself… “If only I hadn’t stood up in the boat…
“If fishes were wishes, we’d all have a fry.” Chirped Bobbie. A favourite saying from her late father.
“Don’t worry, it will all be okay”
“And just how do you think we are going to get home? Last time I checked fuel was $1.59 per litre, food actually had to be paid for and we owe the locksmith two hundred and fifty dollars for breaking the look on the caravan!”
“Ta da… “Beamed Bobbie, “You may have lost your wallet but look what I left behind… ”
Holding up her trusty brown leather Guess handbag and then opening it to reveal her purse, keys and spare mobile phone.
They could call the kids if they needed anything else.
Bobbie opened her purse and it revealed $300 in cash and all of their credit cards. They both heaved a sigh of relief.
“Lets have a shower Bobbie suggested and then we can get out of these disgusting clothes and find somewhere decent for lunch.
They zipped up the annex, locked the caravan door, shutting out the world and headed for the shower.
They often showered together and today, more than ever, each craved the safety of feeling the other’s arms wrapped around them.
The next twenty minutes were spent lovingly lathering each other’s body and then sponging off the soap gently and erotically. It was twenty minutes of foreplay culminating in a heated lovemaking session which managed to blot out the events of of the past two days.
They had pushed the memories to the furthest recesses of their minds and yet the passion built from their brush with death.
Freezing cold water, fear of sharks – the predators of the sea.
Their arrival on terra firma and all of the emotions that came with it, bursting forth in a quiet yet tumultuous climax, It left them catching their breath; bodies tingling and tears running down their cheeks. They were lucky to be alive and they knew it.
They slowly quietened and their breathing returned to normal, as they reached for each other once again.
This time their love making was slower and more relaxed, as they gazed into each other’s moist eyes and travelled once again towards climax- This time more focused and less desperate, collapsing into a warm embrace, they dozed off mumbling terms of endearment.
“Thanks for getting us home safely darling.” murmured Bobbie sleepily.
Paul raised his eyebrows and smiled. He knew that they were a team. Each covering the other’s back. Alone in the same situation they would probably have perished.
Together they had urged each other on and survived. He shuddered as he thought of how badly this whole episode could have ended. Then he too drifted off to a restless sleep.
Some time later, they awoke to a pounding noise. Someone was thumping on the caravan. Bobbie and Paul were exhausted. They sat up together, eyes locked on one another. Who on earth could it be?
“Open up folks, it’s Sheriff Tibbs here and I need to talk to you both.”
“Can it wait? ” called Paul. “We were asleep.”
“I’m afraid not” came the reply. “Open up NOW folks.”
Bobby and Paul grabbed what clean clothes they could lay their hands on and emerged from the quiet of the van.
“Okay, stop thumping on the van, we’re coming.” Paul decreed.
They emerged two minutes later, shading their eyes from the bright sunlight. The interior of the van had been in darkness.
“What can we do for you Sheriff?” Paul enquired.
Sheriff Tibbs was about five feet four inches tall with a gut that was as round as he was tall. His hat was pulled down over his eyes which were shielded by dark aviator sunglasses. Thick white sideburns and moustache adorned his chubby face. His cheeks and bulbous nose were bright-red. Sheriff Tibbs looked as though he was fond of the bottle.
Paul held out his hand to introduce himself, a gesture which was ignored.
Uh oh thought Paul, I smell trouble brewing.
“Names” Demanded Sheriff Tibbs.
“I’m Paul West and this is my wife Bobbie… Roberta.” He explained.
The sheriff was writing their details in a little notebook: “Address?”
“28 Cloud Street, Strathalbyn, South Australia.” Paul responded.
“So you’re over here on holiday?” Stating the obvious.
“Yes, we were going to stay for a week or so.”
The Sheriff peered over his sunglasses.
“So have you changed your minds about staying?” Bobbie and Paul glanced up at each other and both shrugged their shoulders. Right now they’d like to be anywhere but here, but they thought it better to say as little as possible.
Sheriff Tibbs divulged that the Ranger had informed him about the breaking and entering of the beach shack.
“But we would have died of hypothermia, our boat sank… We were freezing cold and soaking wet.” Paul and Bobby were talking over each other at a rate of knots.
Sheriff Tibbs reminded them of the damage they had caused whilst entering the shack. He had driven out there himself to take a look.
Bobby looked miserable whilst Paul was growing red in the face with anger.
“We would have died and you know it, if we hadn’t broken the window and, entered the property.”
Sherriff Tibbs raised his eyebrows.
“Well the owners would have every right to charge you charged with breaking and entering and criminal damage …”
Paul began to interrupt when the Sherriff held his hand up for silence.
“But the owners in this case are deceased, so I don’t think that there will be any complaints as long as you agree to pay for any damage caused.”
“Agreed, of course.” Paul and Bobbie chorused.
‘Well folks, I’ll leave you to enjoy your holiday, or what’s left of it. An account for the damage to the shack will be sent to the address you provided.” With that he departed as quickly as he had arrived.
“Grumpy old buzzard” Paul grumbled.
Bobbie raised her eyebrows winked and said nothing; another bullet dodged!
“What are we going to do?” Bobbie asked Paul. “Shall we stay on, or go home?”
“Well we’ve lost our tinny and all of our fishing gear, so fishing is out” he replied.
“We could both do with some rest and relaxation, how about we stay for a few days. If we get bored we can head home.” Paul suggested.
Bobbie smiled. “I’m happy to be anywhere you are babe … just ditch the dead man’s shoes. They are a real turn off.” She chuckled.
“Done,” agreed Paul, as he pitched the dirty, smelly old shoes into the nearest bin. “Now where were before we were so rudely interrupted?” He grinned, wiggling his eyebrows and motioning towards the van.
“Only too happy to oblige.” Bobbie smiled and, taking Paul’s hand, she led him back to the sanctity of their van.