Chapter 4: Another Wedding
Copyright© 2010 by Pedant
Saturday tea was fun. Sunday, David, Sandra and the kids came for Sunday dinner. My nephew cleverly informed me that Patrick was "real little." Sandra and Weena stayed as far from one another as feasible. I thought Sandra was going to explode when Patrick fussed and Weena hauled out a breast for him. I went into the kitchen briefly to snicker. David followed me.
"That was funny!"
"Yeah. Didn't she know where milk comes from?"
"It was the nonchalance," said my brother. "When she nursed it was a real production, going into another room and that sort of stuff."
"Weena nursed Patrick on the flight from Perth to Adelaide and on the one to Brisbane. I'm not sure anyone noticed except a flight attendant."
"Well, you and Sandra never got along when we were kids. And Weena really handed it to her the last time you were here. So I guess they won't be good friends."
"Guess not. By the way, are you guys coming to the wedding?"
"I am. Sandra will stay home with the kids."
"Ah, yes. They might catch aboriginity. I understand it's catching. You'd better go back. I'll wait another minute or two."
Twenty-four hours! Just a day ago we were having a great time with Jacky and Alice. And mum and dad were mum and dad. And the three of us. It was Sandra. I hoped the kids would grow away from her style. I'd talked to Alice about being of two races and now of two tribes.
"Well," she'd said. "Everything I learned leads me to think that exogamy is a good thing. So I'm busy enriching the band as well as the gene pool."
Endogamy is when one marries someone within one's own group. Exogamy is when one marries someone outside one's own group.
"True. Darwin would agree. You know Jimmy?" I had asked.
"Oh, yes. He's Kullilli. They were the favoured of the damn Native Title lottery!"
"I hadn't realized. Do you get along with him?"
"Of course. He's a year or so older than I am. We didn't have anything to do with it. As near as I can tell, the Tribunal relied on an anthropologist in Brisbane. And I'm looking forward to meeting the nungungi and seeing what goes on next Wednesday night."
"You don't know?"
"Not exactly. I might get a thesis or a dissertation out of it."
"You want to continue studying?"
Alice was so different from Sandra. And from Weena. I went back to the sitting room. It was like one of those experimental movies from the 60s with a split screen – Sandra and mum and two kids; David and dad and Weena with Patrick. Becky was telling about some game at school; Weena was telling about Charlie and Maddy selling the two stations. I was trying to wrap my mind around all of it when my mobile rang.
"We just passed a sign that said Wyandra. Now what?"
"Willy. She's got a lead foot."
"She must have."
"Okay. In about 100 klicks you'll intersect highway 54. Turn right and drive east. Call me when you hit Mungallalla. It's real small. About 50 people."
Everyone was looking at me. "Mum. Two more for dinner, Okay?"
"Of course. Who are they?"
"The newlyweds: Captain and Mrs. Evans."
"Oh. Isn't that nice! We'll get to meet them. Will they stay here?"
"Tonight and maybe one more. They'll want to drive out to Quilpie."
"I'll call him right now," said dad. "You think... ?"
"What is it? Two or three hours?"
"Three, I guess."
"Tell him around noon at the airfield."
"What's all this about?" asked David.
I let Weena handle it – mentioning that Evans had gotten me my medal and that Willy had been "wounded in action" and that I'd been best man "near Adelaide" and that Willy wanted an airplane -- "and so here they are!" It was quite a performance.
"So she's the one who was shot down by smugglers a few months ago?" asked Sandra.
"You know the strangest people, Gordy. You always did."
"Is there something strange about the Australian navy, Sandra? They don't impress sailors any more. In fact, I'm not certain we ever did. The English did, but only till 1814, I think."
"That's not what I meant!"
"Well, what did you mean? Evans is a Captain in the Royal Australian Navy. He's retiring after more than 20 years of service. Willy is a Lieutenant with over five years of service defending our country, and is being invalided out after have been wounded in that service. I think they're pretty honourable – not strange."
"I don't think it's appropriate to discuss this in front of the children."
"Why not? Because they'd realize that their mother is a bigoted twit?"
"David, children, it's time to go. Sorry we couldn't stay for tea." And she swooshed out in a cloud of eau de something-or-other.
We heard the SUV and Weena started to laugh. "That's the funniest thing I've ever seen! And you were angrier than with Watkins or the chairman."
"Well, Gordy, I never thought you'd be friends, but that's not the way to treat your sister-in-law," said mum.
"Why not? At least we're not orthodox Jews. If David died, I'd have to marry her."
"I don't think they do that any more, dear," said Weena.
"Well, it's in the Bible."
"I think you're both right," said dad, he'd been laughing so hard he had to wipe his eyes. "Anyway, she insulted Jacky and Jimmy the last time you were here. I think you damn your friends, Gordy – but she married the brother she wanted."
"I never understood why David wanted her. I think she gets more sanctimonious as time passes. Oh, well."
We all had more tea. Patrick woke and re-animated his grandparents' conversation. About an hour after that my mobile rang.
"Hollister. Great! Okay. I'll set out to meet you. I'll be driving a ... dad? ... a blue ute. About 10 minutes. What are you driving? Right. White Range Rover. See you." I looked around. "Sounds like they're nearly at Womallila. Keys in the kitchen, dad?"
I got out on the Warrego Highway going west. There was no traffic at all. Sunday afternoon. I stopped well on the berm and got out. Ten minutes and I saw dust. Five more and a white Rover stopped, a blonde head turned and I heard "Hey, sailor, need a ride?" I walked over, exchanged greetings, and said I was going to turn around and that they should follow me. We were home again in a few minutes, and introductions were made.
"I thought your brother was here," Willy remarked.
Weena laughed. "Gordy had a tussle with his sister-in-law. They went off in a huff."
"Oh. Well, I've got another question. Isn't there an airfield down the road?"
My dad jumped in. "Yep. Mitchell. I think it's no longer registered. Used to be UMIT, when the insecticides were banned, the crop dusters stopped using it. Oh, I called the fella and said we'd meet him at the Quilpie field at noon."
"Hmmm. Gives me ideas."
"Oh, no!" said Evans.
"Let me show you your room," said mum.
We chatted, had dinner, chatted a bit more, and went to bed. At breakfast, I told the Evanses that we'd go in one of our vehicles. Dad told one of the men to fill up the Rover and to check both tires and coolant. Willy was wearing jeans and shirt and carrying a leather jacket and gloves. We got going by nine and I drove with the couple behind me. Dad launched into a narrative history of the various towns and settlements. Willy actually seemed interested.
It was only 11:30 when we got to Quilpie airfield. We all visited the facilities and then walked onto the field. "There they are!" said Willy, pointing at two airplanes. She led us over. "This is the J and this is the K," she said. "Do you think I could climb in?"
"I'd wait," said dad. "Walk around them, kick the tires, what ever you do with a plane."
"The J really looks good," said Evans, looking at the 2-bladed prop and the engine vents.
"Yes. Less use than the K, I'd guess. I wonder what the range is."
"Bit over 2000 klicks," a strange voice said. "Tank holds 93 US gallons."
"350 litres," said Evans.
"Does she start?"
"Did last week."
"I'm Willy Evans. You're... ?"
"Simson. Harry Simson. You licensed?"
Willy pulled out her wallet and handed Simson a laminated card.
"Looks like you, too. Why don't you take 'er up?" he handed her a key.