The First Flight


The cold, hard all-night unforgiving concrete of the North West Australian Main Roads Department depot floor, told him more about his real condition than any guide, best friend or philosopher ever would. The previous day he had been body and mind secure, an obedient participant who could labour and build as enthusiastically as any man in the southern hemisphere. But now, once more he would be alone.
Before he left the bush camp, he had stood outside his tent and gazed upwards as if trying to find some kind of message. On the northern horizon he had located what appeared to be the Plough. But this version had been wantonly thrown upside down and was about to disappear. He ran towards it, the coarse clumps of spinifix-grass catching and tearing his legs, the stone slate sliding and pushing him headlong. He reached out, and grasped soft leafy lanes and winding narrow roads. He could touch hawthorn bushes and bluebell woods; avenues of blackberry lined his mind. But the stars irrevocably slipped away and vanished into the vast black sea of scrub.
As dawn broke it came to him that he was sorry to go. The men of the road camp were of many nations. Aussie or immigrant, they spoke only of what their hands and bodies told them. The great bush was ignored and their thoughts and feelings of what they really wanted from the world was never revealed to others, and maybe only ever sometimes to themselves. Around them, the surrounding wilderness lay untouched, indifferent to the frenzied attack on its thousands of millennia of silence; its isolation slowly eroding, its enduring iron-ore rich existence ironically being the means by which men could fashion the machines that would in turn so surely destroy that existence.
Plenty of work made the men positive, cheerful. The trucks made them rich-poor. For with the hauling came a prison-like independence - and pride and a curious sense of freedom.
But he would take the domestic flight down to Perth and from there, the intercontinental one home. And would he now become like those he had met on his voyage out? Fated, damned to some unrealised goal, they`d stand on deck staring at the horizon. Not quite managing to leave behind what they had left behind. Talking enthusiastically about the new life to come but which way the ship might be heading, to the New Country or back to the Old, it mattered not.
The personnel at what passed for an airport had seen too many fugitives come and go to bother overmuch at yet another one and waved him through without a glance. The tarmac blazed. Little remained in focus as the heat rose and he clambered up the hot aluminium steps and passed through into the dark aircraft interior. He slumped down into the nearest seat; it came to him that this was his first ever flight, but knew in that moment it would not be the last.

M Scott

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