‘Hey Brodie, welcome back. How was the trip?’
‘Brodie! He’s back. Now you can start working on your next long service leave.’
A dark look greets the boss, I am still unsure of myself. Priorities? The bus tour changed me, it must have had some effect.
‘Yeah, hi Kaz, thanks. The trip was great, different than we expected that’s for sure. Good morning, Angus, another twenty years? We’ll see.’ I try a smile of confidence for the boss.
‘Everything all right Brodie, is Mary, okay?’ With searching eyes exploring, seeking. She senses something changed in her close workmate on his return from holiday.
I drag my thoughts and mindset to where I am.
‘Sorry. Hey, it was great, really. Mary is fine, we both are. We learnt a lot about each other,’ I know my goofy smile is there for her to see, ‘ I will tell all during lunch. We must have a pile of work to catch up on.’
‘Yes.’ Angus implores.
Other workers greet me on the way to my workstation, younger workers. They wouldn’t understand, they couldn’t.
My forty-year-old body slips into mechanical tedium, I gather thoughts of the bus trip.
‘Your car is booked in for body repairs.’ The panel beaters had kindly informed me. Finally! Great, there goes the holiday I must have. I did get moody.
‘What about a bus trip?’ Mary suggested, ‘I will organise it; you need a holiday.’
She did a great job of finding and booking us onto a coach tour of outback Queensland, a two-week package deal. I looked on the positive side and realised it can’t be too bad. I had heard others talk about bus tours, but never thought I would be caught on one.
Epic Cape York Drive, the brochure laid it all out.
The brochure didn’t say anything about runaway teenagers on the bus or a garlic-munching Italian family, but they were not our major problem.
In hindsight, I now laugh about that first day.
‘This isn’t the way, is it?’ I murmur to Mary
‘He might be picking up more people from Ravenshoe. Just relax and let someone else do the driving for once.’
We heard others voice concern, but we were all on the same bus, Get Lost Tours.
It was after some rather expletive pleas from a group of greyheads up the front that made the driver pull into a picnic area. Forty Mile Scrub a sign told us, Savannah Way it said. After the necessary toilet usage and a stretch of legs with nothing much to look at, we had relieved our symptoms of anxiety.
But could not find the bus driver.
Mary and I finally found him off the side of a track, sitting, leaning against a tree, crying.
‘I don’t remember the way,’ the old fella blabbered.
We led him back to the bus and convened a meeting with fellow travellers. Thoughts and offers came from the assembled group. Tsk came from the fellow grey tops. For real! the teenagers exclaimed. But no solution. The driver admitted to a recent diagnosis of onset dementia.
‘I didn’t trust the doctors, I’m sorry,’ he confessed, ‘I have to drive, the union, insurance all that,’ he pleaded.
As none of us had any experience driving a bus or a licence to, it was voted to let him drive and we could guide him.
After delivering my rehearsed rendition at lunchtime to Kaz, all her questions of intrigue followed the road map back up to Cape York.
‘It was only a day we lost out of the way,’ I explained. ‘Some sweet talk in Cairns to the chain of Motel owners, then it was basically all back on track.’
‘You seem different Brodie, two weeks seem to have changed you though.’
‘Changed all of us on that bus to a degree. Watching that poor bugger driving every day, not knowing his future, but still desperately hanging onto the present day, each valuable day.’
‘How did he manage overall?’
‘Pretty good. He did have lapses every now and again, just minor. But it taught us lessons, I guess, in how people can cope with adversity, not knowing what is around the corner. The teenagers soon learnt running away was not the answer.’
With peering eyes, she searches for more.
‘And you? What have you learnt out of it all?’
The hardest part, the grapple for honesty, the time to face up to it.
‘Kaz.’ I swallow hard, ‘I am going to quit.’
I see her lovely eyes cloud over, her eyelids are little doors that hold back tears, but one escapes and rolls slowly down a cheek.
© Tropical Writers Inc 2024