Jo swung her toolbox on to the back of her pickup truck. She hated tourists. They came out to the Outback to gawk, ask stupid questions, and to click cameras in a non-stop manner. To them, the Outback was an experience that quickly evaporated when the tourists had enough of the extreme heat, dusty red soil and the isolation of mile upon mile of road devoid of human habitation. These tourists would turn the experience into a time of suffering. They would relate how glad they were to return to the civilization of a big Australian city. For Jo, the Outback was home. Its beauty filled her soul. She and the Outback were one. She manouvered her ute carefully down the dirt track road
It was just after ‘The Wet,’ a seasonal time of monsoon rains in Northern Australia. For most of the time, roads were impassible because the rivers overflowed their banks. While this was inconvenient to travelers, this torrential downpour was a relief from the weeks of humid build up that was intolerable to humans and beasts. The cows, horses and dogs sniffed the air hoping for rain, while the land was often in a state of drought. Jo noticed the profusion of wild flowers that came out to rejoice. Birds were happy now that the rivers were full and the grasses and seeds were plentiful.
The broken down bus came into sight and noticed about eight people sheltering under a spreading mulga tree.
They rushed out to meet the truck and Jo stopped suddenly
spraying the annoying buggers with the red dust of the Outback. ‘Take this home as a souvenir,’ she heard herself say aloud.
Four Japanese tourists jumped up in unison and shook off the red dust from designer clothes. Then, Jo saw her, a woman of average height,but there was nothing average about her. The woman looked up briefly and Jo noted the book’s title, “Return to the Land.” Jo lowered her sunglasses. Her eyes started a scan. She started at the brown hiking boots and travelled up the long strong brown legs. She wondered if this aboriginal woman was an athlete from her tight stomach and firm small breasts. Her black hair was long and stylish. The woman’s mouth caused Jo to settle her gaze, perhaps, a little too long.
Then, it happened; their eyes locked with magnetic ferocity. Then, a change came over the woman. Gone was the intense interest and now an annoyance blazed from a dark pool of eyes. She returned to reading her book.
Jo walked over to the driver and asked him to pop the bonnet or hood. The driver wiped his neck and ignored her.
“Where’s the mechanic? He’s comin’ right?”
”I’m your mechanic, mate.”
“You? You wouldn’t know a battery from a steering wheel.”
“And you do?”
“No more parts of this bus than you’d ever hope to in a life time!”
Jo reached for the wallet in her shorts. “Ten dollars says I know more parts of this bus then you.”
“Who’s going to hold the money?” The driver looked confident.
The Aboriginal woman folded her book, walked over and took the money and spoke to the driver. Jo noticed that she had removed her shirt in the heat and was wearing a halter-top type garment that was very becoming. She stared at Jo without any emotion showing in her eyes. Then she spoke to the bus driver.
“Harry, have her name the purposes of each part.”
Harry laughed. “Nah, I want to give the Sheila a chance.”
Jo met his grinning red face with a cold stare.
The woman spoke again. “Harry, I’d like to place my ten bucks!”
“Smart move, Donna.”
Harry turned to Jo.
“Willing to give it a go? If she bets on me, we both have to put another ten dollars into the pot!”
“Harry, I’m betting on Jo,” said the woman. “I can spot a winner when I see one.”