Trevor was up at 4.30 am to make sure he’d not be embarrassed again when Sheila arrived. This time he took his day clothes into the small bathroom and was relieved to find a series of nails had been hammered into the back of the door which he assumed were for hanging clothes. He shaved, showered and dressed emerging at 5.30 am to find Sheila busy preparing breakfast over the wood stove. She ignored him as he made his way to the bedroom mumbling a greeting as he went. The bed was neatly made as he entered. Perhaps he could get used to this.
Soon Sheila was standing at the doorway. “Breakfast ready!” She turned back to the kitchen and waited for him to be seated then hovered over him watching his face for signs of approval or disapproval of the food. Trevor glanced at his plate uncertainly. There was a slab of flat bread buttered on his plate with two fried eggs and a jar of jam. He learned later that the flat bread was called damper in the outback. He gingerly tasted the bread. It was good! He nodded his head in approval and Sheila smiled happily.
“I clean house and leave 8am. Come back 12 O’clock with lunch. Night time you eat or go to the pub to eat? You tell me! You want washing, you leave on floor!”
Sheila busied herself around the house quickly then returned to clear the table before rushing home at 7.30 am.
Trevor locked the door carefully and headed for the school house next door for inspection. It was open and classic 1930’s construction building and furnishings. He noted the large hall could be divided into three sections. He’d have to call for a list of potential students for the coming year with their age and educational advancement before deciding how to divide age groups appropriately. There appeared to be no records. He was not sure who’d have those records so that would be one of the questions he’d ask Paddy after his school inspection. There was a locked door which could solve that problem. He walked around the school to try and gauge dimensions of that locked room but as the school was raised high like his house he was not able to peer into windows to satisfy his curiosity.
He glanced at this watch, 9.30 am. Good! Paddy would have dealt with his opening work for the day and have time for him now. He walked down the main street looking for the Police Station and eventually found it opposite the hotel. The door was locked.
Lookin fer Paddy?
Trevor turned to look at the man walking over from the hotel where five camels had been tethered. He was brown skinned and obviously not aboriginal. The man saluted. ” Police Station opens at 10 am.”
By the late 1860s, most Australian states were importing camels and cameleers from abroad. Many of these camels came from the Asian sub-continent so this man standing in front of Trevor almost a hundred years later was of Afghan stock. While now totally Australian in speech, clothing and swagger Ahmed still followed the profession of his ancestors. Despite the fact vehicles had almost completely taken over the place of camels in the outback, there were still places requiring services of Ahmed and his camel trains. He transported mail, supplies and even household furnishings to remote desert communities not easily accessible by road. As they talked Trevor drank in these interesting discoveries mostly unknown facts in the major population areas now.
Paddy appeared with Jacko his assistant in the police Landrover. “We’re going to the school,” he said as he got out of the vehicle.
They walked together to the school where several people were waiting.
“Shire Council Meeting!” Said Paddy. “We elect people for the council but sometimes they are so far removed they send their proxies. Sullivan sent Jacko his foreman, Scott sent his Missis, Shawn you’ve already met. His wife heads the Country Women’s Association. I’ll introduce you to the rest. We don’t do things exactly as the government would approve but we record the elected Councillor names to keep politicians happy every time we meet. Everyone here in the bush is happy with the arrangement though we know it’s not the way it should operate. Shawn is Chairman and his Missis is the Shire Clerk. Our equipment is scattered around this huge area we serve to keep up roadwork. Station owners keep it serviced for us.
The meeting was informal. Trevor protested he shouldn’t be there as an unelected councillor but they waved him to be seated. In rapid order, they recorded Trevor’s name as chair of several town organizations, Chamber of Commerce, Jabourie Racing, Show Society to name a few. Then they got down to Local Council business and a proposal to open a golf course. Did Trevor have any experience in golf course management? No? That didn’t matter, his name was recorded. Trevor’s discomfort was morphing into resentment.
After the meeting was over Paddy noting Trevor’s polite anger laughed and slapped him on the back. “Take it easy Trevo, the people naturally look to an educated man to give them helpful advice. You’ll find everyone chips in to help. Here’s the key to the school office, you’ll find a large office with library and store rooms. Shawn’s Missis keeps records for you and looks after the library.”
He paused thoughtfully and went to the door to see if attendees that morning had all departed. “We forgot to appoint you Head Librarian for the town! Oh well, next time, Shawn must be getting forgetful!”
Trevor returned to the house and sat on his bed thinking. Was this a colossal joke at his expense or was this for real. He’d no experience in almost everything discussed that morning. He had a big decision to make and it would have to be made quickly.
After lunch he told Sheila he wouldn’t need her to cook for him that evening. She smiled pleasantly. He was a man, so naturally would want to go to the Pub. However, as she left something in the back of her mind suggested things were not always as they seemed to be.
That afternoon Trevor hastily packed his things and hid them in the bedroom cupboards just in case. It seemed everyone had keys to locked doors so he needed to take all precautions. Then he drove his car to town service station and pumped fuel into his Holden. Unseen eyes watched his every move.
After dark, he took his possessions down back stairs and loaded the car. Then returned to leave house key and a note of apology for townsfolk. This was all too difficult for him, after all he was just a young graduate with none of the skills this town seemed to need. True, it was a very small town but he felt inadequate.
He returned to the car and went to turn the key he’d left in ignition. He fiddled around for a while checking the floor. Then retraced his steps to check the house and see if he’d somehow mislaid those keys.
In the darkness a voice at the foot of the stairs said, “are you looking for your car keys?”
A torch was activated to reveal a black hand holding them out. It was Paddy’s assistant Jacko with Sheila by his side.
“Sheila thought ya was going to do a runner, but we’d love to have you stay and help our town. The others done a runner before you and we know it’s different for city people. If ya want to go, then go, but we want you to stay. You’ll find we’re like a family and all help each other. Maybe we’re not smart like you but that’s why you should stay to help us. Can we help you take this stuff back upstairs?”
Trevor sat on the step and thought while husband and wife waited for the answer. After a long time, Trevor sighed and stood.
“OK let’s get this stuff back upstairs.”
Jacko and Sheila laughed happily and raced to retrieve luggage while Trevor slowly went upstairs and sat at the kitchen table. Jacko sat at the table opposite while Sheila unpacked everything. Then she emerged looking satisfied and went to retrieve a hidden basket. She set the table and served food she’d prepared that afternoon for the three of them just in case. Then took a large thermos and poured tea for them all.
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