Aftermath - Cover


Copyright© 2010 by Pedant

Chapter 12

My flight to Darwin was comfortable and easy. Maggie met me with a CSIRO Land Rover and we drove to the Research Station, where I met too many folks. They took me to Palm City Resort and told me that someone would pick "both of you" up around 18:00. We'd be going to the Ming Court in Jingili for dinner. They left in the Rover.

Maggie said she'd be sitting on a bench reading while I "refreshed" myself. About half an hour later, I joined her. She was reading Meredith Mitchell's Native Grasses.

"It's a CSIRO book," she said. "I borrowed it from Shirl."

"How's she doing?"

"Very well."

"Can I buy you a beer? Or something?"

"Let's stroll over to Mitchell Street and see what's there."

Mitchell Street was but a block from the Esplanade. It was said to be quite lively at night, but in the mid-afternoon it was peaceful. Maggie picked an outdoor cafe and we sat and ordered coffee.

"I'm afraid you're going to be sacrificed."

"What do you mean?"

"Two of mine from the solar energy centre are here and the group is going to ask you to give a talk tomorrow. I'm not supposed to tell you."

"Well, what do they expect?"

"They want to see whether you know anything. They want to know how you'll react on your feet, without prep or notes."

I laughed. "And not about ants."


"Well, it shouldn't be that hard. No worse than Sue. I had no notes or prep time there."

"True. And you really did well."

"Thank you, fair lady. How many should I expect?"

"Me, my two blokes, maybe half a dozen from here. Let's say ten or an even dozen."

"Shouldn't be a problem. How shocked ought I be?"

"Not very. You're to be a relatively placid administrator. Not a hectoring foreman."

I laughed. "I'm not certain I'm either of those."

"Well, we'll see tomorrow. In a few hours you'll have the dinner test."

"Oh, dear! And I didn't bring my medal, nor my Navy uniform."

"Let's stroll back. You'll have two hours before they pick us up."


I thought a bit about having to do an extemporaneous song-and-dance, and decided that it really was okay. I was being parachuted in on these blokes. They needed to know who I was. I got a book from my room, Janet Turner Hospital's Due Preparations for the Plague, and sat outside to read. I was under a hundred pages in, but it was a depressing novel. I'd give it a chance, but I wasn't compulsive enough to finish everything. And I'd liked Oyster a lot. After an hour, I took it back to my room, washed up, put on a clean shirt, and went to the lobby.

Maggie was there with two chaps. We did the appropriate handshaking and one of them remarked that he'd seen me "with Sue."

I confessed.

"Is she really that good-looking?"

"I'd have to say yes. She's a good-looking woman a little older than I am. She wears only a bit of makeup for the cameras. And she's really nice."

"God! She comes across that way. Not like a movie star!"

"No. Not at all." About then our chariot arrived and four of us got into the Rover with our chauffeur, who introduced himself as "Will, cane toads."

"Bizarre last name," I said. "Do you get called 'Mr. Toad, ' as in Wind in the Willows?"

Everyone laughed.

Dinner was delicious. There were eight of us in all, and someone had ordered a true banquet. I overate. Conversation was good, too: none of the fear the academics had displayed the first time I was in Perth. Several people asked me about my medal and my lieutenancy. I told them the stories. Will asked whether he could get a medal when "dumb tourists" get poisoned by cane toads. "Only if you get rid of a lot of the tourists," I told him, and got another laugh. Most of us had beer, but no one overdid it. I was asked about a brief "presentation," and I agreed. Maggie, her "blokes," and I were back at the hotel before 2200.

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