15 Frustrating Times

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Stephen Whiteside
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15 Frustrating Times

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:41 am

15 Frustrating Times

© Stephen Whiteside 29.12.2011

John von Tongeren paced back and forth in the shoe-box at the park’s boundary that served as HQ. It was frustrating having to send a clumsy old people mover. He could have sent a jetpod. It’d have reached them in twenty minutes. They’d have all been safe back home in ninety. Tops. But rules are rules, and it wasn’t on. It made no difference if it was a ‘life or death’ situation. It was a crazy rule, but there you have it. Life made no sense at times. You just had to deal with it.

Even the ancient, creaking old people mover could get to Copperbung in three hours - a two day walk for a party on foot. So there had been no point in sending it out yesterday. It would just have meant a cold night for the driver. So von Tongeran had been forced to sit on his hands and wait until this morning. He wondered if Pocus and his group had found a way to survive the night.

Even as things stood, the people mover would probably not find anybody waiting for them at Copperbung at midday. It would be well into the afternoon before Pocus and his crew showed up, and this assuming events turned out as favourably as might be imagined. Still, it paid to get an early start. Time had a habit of getting away from you out here.

Then there was the very real chance they would not arrive at all. Dusk would fall, and it would be too dark - and too cold - to start searching. Searching for what? 13 stiffs, presumably. And if they were still up on the river somewhere, it would be a long haul to pull them out. He'd need to send out a second, larger team for a job like that.

Pocus was different. That much he knew for sure. Something of a loner, but nonetheless one of the best tour guides in the park. A hard man to get to know. Yet he knew the park backwards. It was rare for Pocus to find himself in the middle of a crisis like this. Anyone but Pocus. He seemed to have an uncanny knack for sniffing out trouble, and stepping around it. How often did the storm pass to their left? The flood reach them just as they moved to higher ground? The landslip occur on ground they had just covered?

It was an odd message, too. All their gear destroyed? By what? How did that happen? Pocus was normally a very good communicator, but this time he was holding back. Infuriating. Then last night, when he would have expected constant messaging, nothing at all. And still nothing. That could only mean one thing, surely. Pocus was dead. And if Pocus was dead, all his tour group were dead too. Pocus wasn’t much to look at. String bean of a body. But he was tough. And he knew how to survive out there. If Pocus couldn’t make it through the night, nobody could. It was a bad situation.

Well, if you’re bringing stiffs in, the people mover was better than the pod. Thirteen people in a jet-pod was pretty squishy. Thirteen live people, that is. He wasn’t sure how you’d cope with thirteen dead bodies. There was plenty of floor space in a people mover, plenty of aisle to lie them down in, side to side, end to end. That’s why he’d sent another couple of blokes with the driver. Corpse carriers. He hadn’t said so at the time, but he hadn’t had to. They weren’t stupid. They knew the deal.

So now it was just a matter of waiting. He had watched the people mover disappear down the track and round the bend. It would be at least three hours before he knew any more.

It wasn’t as though von Tongeren didn’t have other things to do. The quarterly financial reports were due, for one thing. But he couldn’t concentrate on anything else right now. He wondered if he should even have gone himself. He felt he should have, but he knew such heroics would be frowned on back in the city. So he was forced to play the role of back seat observer. It was frustrating all around.

Von Tongeren went and put the kettle on for a cup of tea. The third for the morning.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer

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