Extract from The Silent Kookaburra, Chapter 2...
While my father wrangled with the tent pegs, amidst foraging currawongs and crimson rosellas, Mum and I kindled up a campfire and roasted the snags.
‘Look at him.’ I pointed to a large flat rock. Behind it, a shy wallaby peeked out at us, rubbing its forepaws together as if clapping at our show.
‘Aw, what a sweetie,’ Mum said, handing me a sausage sandwich smothered in tomato sauce.
A magpie swooped over us, clacking her bill. ‘Quardle, oodle, ardle, wardle, doodle.’
‘Defending her nest,’ Mum said as we toasted the marshmallows.
Dad smiled, gave her leg a pat. ‘Like all good mothers.’
And in the falling darkness of the coastal breeze we followed the scents of the night creatures: long-nosed bandicoots, brush-tailed possums, sugar gliders and many others whose names I didn’t know.
The shriek of a sulphur-crested cockatoo woke me on the Saturday morning. I struggled from my sleeping bag, stepped outside the tent, walked towards the smouldering campfire and almost trod on a snake. Its slimy scales gleamed in the pearly dawn light.
I almost peed myself, but held it in, not daring to cross my legs; afraid to budge an inch. A blob of sweat dribbled into my eye.
|Australia's majestic Kookaburra|
My father lurched from the tent as the black snake reared up, its thick underbelly a streak of fire. Head pointed, forked tongue out, it fixed one dark eye on me and hissed.
My throat seized up, crazy moths flapped about in my heart. I wanted to run, to scarper from the snake as fast as I could, but Dad was holding up a warning hand.
‘No quick movements, Tanya. Just wait, it’ll slither away if you don’t scare it.’
Tears pricked at my eyes. ‘No, no, it’s going to bite me … to kill me. Get rid of it, Dad!’
Mum clutched Dad’s arm, a hand flying to her cowlick. ‘Do something, Dobson … just stay very still, Tanya.’
My schoolteacher’s voice clanged through my mind. Blackies can be dangerous … can hurt you badly but they likely won’t kill you.
The red-bellied black snake sure looked deadly to me. My bladder was about to burst; my legs wobbled –– jelly left out of the fridge in a heatwave.
Go snake. Just please go away, please.