In which I make excuses

I’m sorry but no brain at home. Barbs is off for her follow-up on last year’s little Alarum (And PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT HER TO WISH HER WELL, etc etc. I said this here, trusting my audience, and am likely to react with extreme prejudice, and ask my various friends to do likewise, if you do. If she wanted to talk about it she would, She doesn’t and neither do I. Wednesday I’ll be less stressed out.)

So: Here is a piece of CHANGELING’S ISLAND. Quite a few Australianisms, I hope you get it all :-).

The wind flurry brought angry drops of rain hissing down the blue-grey wall of the surging swell. It roared up the boat-ramp in a seething ravel of white water and rolling stones. The inky blackness across the water devoured the outer islands, and the horizon vanished into the rain haze. Suddenly it was back-lit by a tracery of jagged lightnings, showing every black billow of the vast, stark, roiling mountains of cloud above the white-capped grey sea.

“It looks a bit ordinary out there,” said Tim, zipping up the red life-jacket. “I’m going to a little get wet.”

Molly said nothing. She just looked at the small RIB as Tim checked bungs and hooked up the fuel line. She took a deep breath. Hauled out the life-jacket out from behind the seat of the ute, and buckled it up. She looked at the sea and pulled the buckles tighter.

His eyes widened as he looked up at her, while he freed the bow-shackle, but he didn’t try to argue. He just said ‘Take your shoes off too.’

She did. He didn’t need to explain that shoes and swimming didn’t go well.

“Can you back her down?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I don’t know how to reverse with a trailer,” she answered. “I tried. My Dad had to take over.”

“I’m not too crash hot at it myself, but we have to. Ok. Look. I’ll take down the curve and then if you take her in, I can get the boat off.” Tim edged the ute slowly down the rock toward the water. Molly watched from the back pointing the holes to him. A wave surged up and hit her feet, spraying up her legs and wetting her. Tim stopped. “Your turn,” he said. Don’t go too far or we’ll lose the ute into the sea too.”

Hands damp and white-knuckle on the steering wheel, Molly eased her foot off the clutch. A wave crested up the ramp, and the sea plucked at the rear wheels of the ute, jerking and bouncing on the trailer. For an awful moment the rear end swayed. Cold sweat beaded her forehead as she thought that the sea could pull the ute, her, the trailer in to the deep. She’d never get out. She cracked the door open. Tim was yelling above the wind ‘More! Quick!” She bit her lip and pushed back into the next wave. The ute and trailer bucked.

‘Take her out!” shouted Tim, frantically pushing the boat’s bow around to meet the next wave. She clashed and ground the ute into first in desperate haste… and stalled. Started again as a wave came racing along pulling the trailer and her sideways with casual brute force. The tires spun and bit and she bounced and humped, and desperately straightened. Something metal screeched on stone and the ute bounded higher, away from the hungry water.

Now she could look back, and to her horror, Tim was clinging onto the side of the boat, already out on the swells. She shouldn’t have looked away, as the front wheel went over the edge of the ramp and the ute came down with a sickening bump. She scrambled out, rain stinging her face, screaming at the sea. He hauled up onto the boat, and… to her relief was at the outboard. The boat nose reared, there was a welter of foam at its tail, and he swung it back to the shore as she pelted down the slippery water-polished granite and towards the boat. A wave nearly pulled her feet from under her as Tim swung the boat around.

“Jump!” he yelled as the next wave mounted, and she did, grabbing the bow-line and slithering over the pontoon as Tim opened the throttle. The boat hit the crest and whacked down, motor roaring as it cavitated in the foam, before it bit water and kicked them onwards out into open water as she lay on deck, gasping. Water sluiced down the deck around her.

“Get a hold of something and get your weight up front,” said Tim, urgently “Hold the bow-line and stand, legs apart, bend your knees.”
Molly did as she’d been told. Suddenly, in the bow wave, scything through the water like a black oiled flexible torpedo, the black seal made slight of the might of the sea.

“Maeve! Is she still there?” yelled Tim.

“Indeed,” said the seal “But the waves splash her and she cries.”


  1. Now that is a hook.

    Wasn’t Maeve the originally-a-lost-at-sea-baby in the Dragon books?

  2. Going to a little get wet? Or going to get a little wet?
    Prose got a little purple in the beginning when you were setting the stage; other than that, fair dinkum, moite.
    OK, OK; I picked that last up from Aussies on my Facebook group. I’d have spelled it “myte”, but I’ll not argue with the natives!

  3. Non-specific wishes of general well-bing waft their way Flinderswards.

    Like the oter commeters say, that’s quite the dtormy hook. And as someone who has struggled beach-launching sailing dinghies the description rings oh so true. About the only thing you missed was having the boat crash down on your hand as you try to pull off the trailer.

  4. Squeeeek! You used “ordinary” in the “ornery” sense! I’m so excited! I’ve never seen that before in real life, and they were just talking about that on Language Log!

Comments are closed.