Grass tree person
Adults or teens may not proceed any further unless accompanied by a child.
My favourite day on the school holidays was when we went to the famous Squeaky Beach. I think it’s only famous because Dad said it was. To get there, we had to drive to Wilson’s Promontory. A promontory is like a mountainous island except there is a narrow piece of land connecting it with somewhere else. That’s where the road was that we drove along to get there. It was the first time my parents finally let me be in charge of the camera. You would think ten years of age is way old enough to do such a simple thing; anyway, I was excited.
Dad stopped the car at Lilly Pilly Gully car park and my family, the four of us, got out. Dad carried a bag that he packed in the morning with tomato and cheese rolls, apples, carrots, mandarins and two drink bottles while Mum held my little sister’s hand as she is only six; and of course I carried the camera. The sign told us Squeaky Beach – 90 mins.
‘Are you sure Pieta will make it?’ Mum asked Dad.
‘Of course, ninety minutes return. No worries. I used to walk for hours at her age,’ Dad said and looked at Pieta . ‘You’re good at walking Pieta, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, Dad.’ Pieta smiled.
‘Come on,’ I said, somebody had to get walking while all the talking was going on. I took the lead on the gravel walking track. We had only walked a few minutes when a group of grasstrees surrounded us. They had been burnt recently and seemed to be wearing straw hats on their cautious faces. I took a photo even though they seemed weird. Soon after that the path became rocky with carved steps. We headed up a hill towards a boulder that looked like a giant chicken’s egg. Somehow despite the boulder being so massive it just perched above the gum trees unable to move.
‘I’m thirsty,’ Pieta said.
‘Hello thirsty, I’m hungry,’ Dad replied.
‘Dad,’ I said and just shook my head. We all had a drink and took our jumpers off for dad to carry. Just as we started walking a rustling in the bushes next to us started and stopped. It was a Blue Tongue lizard. Its tongue looked more purple than blue to me. Luckily the lizard waited until I took a photo before it slithered away.
We made our way onto the top of the huge boulder and could see our tiny car at the bottom of the hill. Mum got a little dizzy so we moved on. I lead the way out into a meadow. The walking track became sandy and there were Bull ants and small holes dug in the sand everywhere. I stooped to look at one of the Bull ants. It stood bravely like a boxer ready to fight but I left it and kept walking. Pieta found a huge hole in the sand with droppings at its entrance.
‘What’s that?’ she asked.
‘Might be a dinosaur Bull ant hole,’ Dad said.
‘Don’t be silly, it is a wombat hole,’ mum replied.
‘Wow,’ Pieta exclaimed and got so close to the hole. She then began to look down the hole but mum quickly pulled her back. I got the photograph. Pieta makes me smile sometimes. I would never put my head in a hole.
At last, a bit further along, we could see the beach.
‘Is that Squeaky Beach?’ I asked. After all, we had been walking at least 45 minutes.
Dad looked on his Prom visitor guide for quite a while and eventually said, ‘No, looks like Norman Beach. We are half way there.’
‘But you said 90 minutes return,’ Mum scoffed.’
‘Well, we better walk quicker then,’ Dad said.
He seemed so sure of himself. I had several good photos of Norman Beach already.
We then headed into a cutaway path between tea-trees only to be set upon by hundreds of insects that looked like mosquitoes. I began to panic as mosquitoes love my soft skin.
‘I want to go home,’ Pieta whined and we all stopped.
I looked at my arms and there were no bites. Nobody knew what type of insect they were.
‘They don’t buzz in my ear so they are not mosquitoes,’ Mum explained.
‘Come on, they are just annoying insects, keep walking,’ Dad coughed and swallowed one.
He made clown faces as he tried to spit it out. Mum laughed and we kept moving downhill along the track through the blankets of insects. Silly insects even got on my camera and I could not take any pictures for a while. It was funny watching dad try to flick the insects off his head as he juggled the bag and jumpers.
We approached a sign that pointed to Pillar Point, no mention of Squeaky beach. There was a path heading the other way and dad said it has to be right way.
‘I hope you are right, 45 minutes, hah,’ mum told dad.
The path became rocky again and I could hear the waves of the ocean but Squeaky beach was still not in sight. We had to be careful as the path became wet and muddy with stinky water that was dribbling down along the surrounding rocks. The smell reminded me of the sewerage treatment plant we passed in the car on the way to The Prom. Fortunately the wind off the ocean blew the smell away. I couldn’t hold my breath any longer.
‘Squeaky Beach, where nearly there,’ Dad proudly shouted and pointed towards where the rocks ended and the sand began. Ten minutes later, after getting mud all over my sneakers, the track came close to the ocean. Water sprayed over us in a misty layer from the huge waves as they crashed into the rocks next to us. There were little rock pools everywhere.
‘Look at all the flowers,’ mum said as we approached a clearing just before the beach. There were pink, purple and yellow flowers everywhere and off course – bees.
Mum looked at me,’ Go on Andrew, take some photos.’
‘Alright,’ I said but I wanted to take more exciting photos than just flowers. I managed to dodge the bees and made mum happy by taking one photo of each colour.
Just in front of Squeaky Beach we came across a small stream which seemed easy enough to cross if we just took our footwear off. There was a problem. The stream had the seweragery smell and I couldn’t hold my nose along with the camera and my sneakers at the same time. I didn’t worry for long. Just upstream, someone had placed two old rotting pieces of timber that looked like fence palings to walk across. There was even a canoe paddle for unsteady people to help keep their balance. My mum used the paddle but all the rest of us made it across without any help.
Something seemed missing at Squeaky Beach.
‘The sand doesn’t squeak,’ Pieta said.
‘Yeah, Dad, It’s just like normal sand. Good one,’ I said. It felt more like walking on concrete than anything else.
’Hey, that’s what is says in the guide, it is not my fault,’ Dad explained.
‘Don’t worry,’ mum said, it has been a good 45 minute walk, hasn’t it?’
We walked towards a dried up log that had been washed up in high seas. Then, all of a sudden, the sand started squeaking below us. We were all so happy. We had been walking on the wet sand and only when we made it to the dry sand did it start to squeak.
‘Yeah, Good one,’ Dad looked at me and laughed.
I wished he would stop acting so smart. We sat down on the log and had a drink and the food.
‘I can’t believe it,’ dad shook his head, ‘I’ve left the rolls at home.
‘I asked you if you had packed everything,’ mum said. ‘Well kids, if you do not want to be hungry, you better eat a carrot.’
Yuck, I don’t know why mum brought carrots along? I would have to be super hungry to eat a carrot. She was the only person to eat one. The rest of us settled with the fruit. The mandarins were so sweet and juicy. As I watched the waves gently crash and run up the sand, a seagull with one leg flew over to us. It began to investigate our mandarin pips but seemed confused.
‘Is that a pirate seagull?’ Pieta asked.
Dad smiled and said, ‘Maybe.’
I felt sorry for the poor seagull hopping around and gave it a piece of my apple. I didn’t take a photo.
Shortly after that, we looked for shells along the beach. We ran away from the waves as they broke and chased us up along the smooth sand until they gave up and disappeared. The shells were white with caramel coloured circles dotted all over them. The dots looked similar to how Pieta used to dollop paint in prep. After I wiped the sand off the shells, they looked polished as if dad had wiped them with his silky car rag. Pieta found so many shells that both mum and dad’s pockets were bulging with them. We had another drink and mum said we better go. Dad took a photo of us three and I took a photo of Mum, Dad and Pieta. I couldn’t believe we had to go back through the disgusting water, mud, insects and Bull ants but I didn’t care.
We safely made our way across the smelly stream to the clearing that looked back over Squeaky Beach.
‘How come I don’t get to take any photos,’ Pieta nagged.
She always nags.
‘Alright,’ Dad said. ‘Pieta, can you take one photo of us in front of that boulder that looks like a giant marble with a rusty red top. Andrew, show her how to look in the camera and which button to press.’
I showed her and she seemed so happy all of a sudden. I followed Mum and Dad to the boulder. It was slimy and slippery with a pool of mud just beside us, but Mum held my hand just in case I slipped.
‘OK Pieta, can you see us?’ Dad asked.
‘Press the button.’
Pieta did and came down excitedly to show us her first photo ever. She slipped on the slime and rode along it like a wet slide, straight into the mud next to us. She started crying. Luckily she didn’t hurt herself and still held the camera in her hand.
‘You silly duffer,’ Mum said and walked over to give Pieta a hug. Mum then took Pieta to a small rock pool and washed as much mud as she could off Pieta’s backside and said, ‘you know Pieta, when I was a little girl like you, I fell in some mud that was mixed with cow dung on a farm once. I was so stinky. Let me smell you.’ Mum sniffed Pieta and said, ’No, you don’t stink. You will be fine.’
Pieta stopped crying and asked, ‘Did your mum smell you too?’
‘Yes, and she just said, ‘Poo!’’
Pieta laughed so much; so did I.
‘Come on now, no time for slow coaches,’ Dad said.
Back on the path, Mum gave me the camera again. I wanted to take a picture of Pieta’s dirty backside but Dad said,
‘I really think we can make it back in 45 minutes if we don’t dawdle. Andrew, I think we have enough photos for now.’
‘No way,’ I said and kept the camera with me.
‘Will you give up on the 45 minutes,’ Mum said.
I hadn’t noticed the steep hill on the way down and my legs felt really tired as we walked back. I still managed to keep up with mum.
All I could hear behind me was Pieta winging, ‘I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I’m thirsty.’
And dad telling her, ‘Not long now; just, be, patient.’
Pieta’s voice disappeared though and when we made it back to the insects I turned around to see Dad and Pieta not in sight.
‘Let’s wait,’ mum said.
Finally they caught up. Dad was giving Pieta a piggy back. I was used to the insects and they didn’t bother me anymore. Everyone had a drink of water, except dad, as we looked over Norman Beach again. Mum said we did the wrong thing and I felt bad that nobody left any water for Dad. The rest of the way back went so quickly. When we passed the wombat hole Pieta was too tired to look for the wombat. The Bull ant didn’t bother to confront me and the Blue Tongue lizard was nowhere to be seen in fading sunshine. One of the grass trees looked like it smiled in the afternoon shade of a gum tree as we passed. I wondered if it was smiling at all of us or just at Pieta’s backside. I went back and took a photo just to be sure.
I was getting very hungry and glad the walk was nearly over. Back at our car someone else was also very hungry. A huge wombat waited right behind our car.
‘Can I pat it?’ Pieta asked mum.
‘No, Pieta, it is a wild creature. Look at its sharp claws and I’m sure it has strong teeth,’ Mum said.
The wombat didn’t look that wild to me; looked more like a huge ball of fluff with a shiny black nose. I took as many photos as I could before it walked away. I don’t know why I was worrying about the photos as the wombat was not in a hurry to go anywhere. Even when dad opened his car door it just stood there. We tried to call it like a dog but it did not respond.
‘Stubborn thing,’ Dad said, ‘What are we going to do?’
Pieta knew what the wombat wanted. She gave it a carrot and it wandered off.
Andrew Mansell, November 2011.
Photo by Pete Savin
Not that long ago, on an earth similar to ours, stood Windburne; a city where the wind never stopped. The city was founded near an ocean in which the waves permanently curved. Houses and buildings were built on slants with the house of bosses being the most crooked building of all. Trees naturally warped sideways and all the people of the town stood permanently bent over; occasionally scraping a big nose along the ground as they walked. The only things that appeared flat in Windburne were the ground and what lay directly upon it. Windburnians knew of the illusion though, as their history told them – the earth had always been round. For Winburnians life was normal and they knew no other way but to sit in their curved chairs and sleep in their crescent beds.
Timothy Bent was a typical Windburnian; that was until he reached the age of nine. At Timothy’s ninth birthday party, heavy raindrops shaped like mini flying saucers prevented any outdoor game or activity. Timothy was happy enough to read a borrowed copy of Bender while his elder brothers, Apollo and Eric, became restless. They started jumping on Timothy’s bed as if it were a trampoline.
Timy, Timy is a girly bee,
Doesn’t play football,
Can’t climb trees,
All he does is read fantasy,’ they teased.
‘Stop, stop, you pit-bulls,’ Timothy pleaded, holding back tears but his brothers bounced higher and higher with their heads almost touching the ceiling. Apollo put in one huge bounce in an effort to reach the ceiling but he and Eric came down with a thump. Timothy’s bed was broken. It was Timothy’s worst birthday ever. With no spare bed, Timothy was forced to sleep on the floor.
‘When can I get a new bed?’ Timothy asked his dad.
‘I’ll think about it if your behaviour improves,’ his dad barked back knowing next week’s wages were already earmarked for last month’s rent.
‘But what have I done?’ Timothy whimpered. ‘It wasn’t me.’
At first, Timothy was uncomfortable laying almost straight but as the days turned into weeks and then months, his back gradually straightened out until he was the first person in Windburnian history to walk with a straight back.