It came flooding back

This is a reblog of a post dating back to January 2011. Thanks to the National Library of Australia and the awesome Trove database, I finally found some actual newspaper evidence to support my show and tell story!
Indian Pacific train derailed
I see now that I got the month of derailment wrong (’twas January, not March), the train was going in the opposite direction to how I remembered it, and there is thus an undisclosed gap of a school year between the ‘last service centre’ and the Red Rattler back to Sydney. I wonder how many of my other distant memories are travelling in the wrong direction.

From what I can piece back together, it must be March Jan of ’78. The Indian Pacific Express from Broken Hill to Sydney Sydney to Broken Hill has been delayed at Parkes. Major flooding is threatening the stability of the main line between Parkes and Orange.

The driver probably announces that he is taking an alternate line to Sydney Broken Hill. It’s not the only explanation I can imagine for the story that develops later, but it makes sense.

The Indian Pacific Express is pushing through floodwaters. A 9 year old boy has dozed off with a can of soft drink cradled in his lap. The excitement hasn’t worn off, but it’s worn him out.

The boy is jolted awake. He is leaning into the window, or perhaps he is leaning into his mother’s shoulder. He can’t remember all of the details. He remembers the soft drink soaking his front.

The luggage has been thrown out from the overhead compartments and is strewn throughout the cabin. No one has been clobbered by it. Mum’s solid-steel make-up case has landed in an empty seat.

Water is rushing past the window on my side. The other side is pointing at the sky. People must be feeling safe enough. I can hear them laughing and chatting.

“I just moved from that seat to play cards with my mates back here,” the man from the empty seat tells my Mother.

“A woman was just walking through to the next carriage when we went over,” says another. “I hope she wasn’t still out there.”

I think it must be getting dark. We are staying where we are. I don’t know what’s happening outside the train. I don’t think anyone has come to rescue us.

We sleep on our sides through the night. Buses come in the morning to pick us up.

It is a long walk through the water to the buses up on the hill. It is a long drive through the water. Cattle are drowned and floating in the water outside the bus. I think maybe one bumps against the bus. I remember the dead cows. They are mostly black and white, and they are dead.

We have left the last service centre. I think it was an Oaks. I had a milkshake while I was there and now I am vomiting into a plastic bag on the bus. The bus stops and I am let outside to vomit in the mud.

Now we are on a train again. It is a Red Rattler and it is taking us to Sydney Central. It is very hot inside and the seats are hard and everything is rattling. I can see Dad there now on the train. I can’t see him until then. Maybe he came to meet us? I don’t know, but he is not very happy. He is annoyed and uncomfortable, and none of us are talking.

I am back at school. It is my turn for show and tell. I explain how the water washed under the tracks and lifted the sleepers. I explain how the line buckled and twisted and threw the train onto its side. I explain how the driver was given a choice to stay at Parkes or to go ahead and that he chose to go ahead on the other line. I explain how if we had gone on the main line, we probably would have been worse off.

Some of the boys and the girls in the class start laughing and telling me I am lying. Train tracks can’t buckle or twist! Sleepers can’t get washed out of the ground!

I start to get teary and angry. The teacher tells me I am lying and tells me to sit down. I demand that it is true. The teacher is annoyed now and is making me sit down.

“Your turn is over, Brad. It is a good story but that is not what show and tell is for.”

14 responses

  1. great story, action, scenery, details, perspective, reflective, really fine and a new experience to read. good stuff bird. very original and timely too.

  2. I knew it you know. I knew you were supposed to write a book. No, you are supposed to write a few. Some novellas too. A shit load of short stories also. Do it. :) HUGS

  3. There’s a flow from the boy to the me, as if the memory is still too distant to quite get a hold of. I know that I have many memories of school day blushes and worse… it really is the bestworst of times, eh? I always enjoy your prose.

    • I think it was that teacher who gave me my first imperfect spelling test score for spelling gaol as jail, and centre as center, etc. And topped it off by performing my ‘American mistakes’ on the blackboard for all the class to see. It didn’t help my cause when I explained the difference between America and Canada!

    • It’s interesting, in terms of mileposts, now that the context of that memory has been corrected, I have rediscovered memories of our time in Broken Hill and the return to Sydney that might otherwise have remained in the dark.

      For example, I had forgotten that my Great Grandparents, whose home was the first we lived in after arriving in Australia, owned a large desert property. I used to ride my bicycle there and sift through the dirt on that property for hours every weekend searching for mica and garnet rocks. It was a kind of graduation from picking wild asparagus in the fields of Kamloops, I suppose.

      Odd… that seems like an indication or a metaphor now for how my mind continues to work these days, except now it’s mostly information and memories that I spend my hours looking for.

      • It is interesting, lately i’m doing a similar thing, culling through memories and discovering things about them i hadn’t realized before. and also, noticing behaviors that have been typical throughout, for me, it’s a search for magic i think, something natural somehow that i didn’t “see” as being anything at all except like “it must be just normal” so i assumed and then came to understand it’s not really as universal as i thought, threw me back on myself and then i could really see some things, wow things, important things.
        central core things etc. it’s a journey isn’t it? you are right.
        about what? you might ask. about everything. just accept it it’s the plain godshonest truth. right time, right place, right everything, woohoo! and yipes too

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