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troublemag | July 19, 2024

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Greetings from Beyond the Pale: Carol

Greetings from Beyond the Pale: Carol

Ben Laycock

After fully immersing myself in the various mud-baths on offer around Derby, it is time to move on. Always time to move on. I am approaching my final destination …

I set off many moons ago from the dirty streets of St.Kilda as a wide-eyed kid. I have crossed the continent in pursuit of one woman, my old friend Carol. So you can imagine my consternation when l turn up at the door of her humble abode to find she is not in, and, furthermore, she is incommunicado and her whereabouts are not to be divulged to the uninitiated, especially wandering vagrants. She has gone bush, but – glimmer of hope – she does return to civilisation from time to time to buy food and grog for her and her cohorts. Best sit and wait under a shady tree.

I first encountered Carol on the trams in Melbourne. She was a Connie. Her bizarre and erratic behaviour was tolerated up to the point when her bag was stolen for the third time. The authorities suspected she was stealing it herself to feed a raging drug habit. Not an entirely outlandish assumption. To sum up Carol’s life in the most simplistic way, we can say that she was dogged by calamity. She was an angry person, and her anger created problems that in turn made her angrier. She left a trail of destruction wherever she went. Carol recounted endless tales of woe, a string of violations and subjugations without respite, where she was invariably the victim. A holiday overseas would become a nightmare of stolen passports and spiked drinks. She recounted in graphic detail being abducted in the souk in Fez by a group of Arabs who proceeded to have their way with her for three days. On and on it went.

Carol’s candle flickered out before she got her act together, but while she was here on earth, she certainly made her presence felt. She blotted her copybook and shat in her own nest, it was time to leave town and visit her considerable chaos-creating skills on fresh, unwitting suspects in far off lands.

So here l am in said far off land, following in her wake. Something l will come to regret, then later cherish as a valuable lesson in life.

A speck of dust appears on the horizon then mushrooms into a billowing cloud that descends on our very doorstep. Out tumble a motley crew of dishevelled individuals, indistinguishable from each other save for the one hairless face. Hugs all round then off to the shops for food and grog. The rest of the gang are still stranded in the bush, parched and hungry.

With a full load we head back into the wild. I am not told the destination but it is a 12 hour drive from the nearest town so l can assume it is quite remote. I have been grudgingly allowed to tag along on this adventure, but l must ride on the roof. The view of the approaching mountains is breathtaking. From my vantage point l cannot help but notice a wheel overtaking us down the middle of the road. I soon realise it is our wheel, which can mean only one thing; that we are speeding down the highway at 80 kays an hour on three wheels, and there are no seatbelts up here on the roof.

As luck would have it, the vehicle does not roll over but comes quietly to a halt on the side of the road. Phew! After retrieving the wheel some several hundred metres down the road and bolting it a little more securely to the axle, we continue on our merry way. Wow! l am having a real adventure.

After fording flooded rivers too numerous to mention, weaving between giant ant hills and following the faintest of wheel ruts across grassy plains, we finally arrive at camp to loud cheers all round. But the cheers are not for me. I am greeted with furrowed brows and hushed whispers. It seems that Carol’s generous and welcoming nature is not shared by all. I am grudgingly allowed to stay as there is obviously no alternative other than banishment, but the last thing they want is a stranger wandering around unsupervised in these whereabouts. Quite the opposite, I am told in no uncertain terms to stay put and not to go anywhere without a chaperone.

At this point any but a complete ingénue would be wondering what these people were up to out here in the middle of fucking nowhere. But being somewhat of a clod, l assume they are merely communing with nature just like myself.

Alas, Carol is no longer with us in her human form. Later on she did find some solace in esoteric cults of one sort or another: Catholicism, Buddhism and such like. She may well be dwelling amongst us as an ant these days, so be careful. She was at peace with herself in the end.

Tensions mount as the harvest season draws near.

Ben Laycock grew up in the country on the outskirts of Melbourne, surrounded by bush. He began drawing the natural world around him from a very early age. He has travelled extensively throughout Australia, seeking to capture the essence of this vast empty land. In between journeys he lives in a hand-made house in the bush at Barkers Creek in central Victoria –
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