14 January 2016

Dateline: Canberra, Christmas 2035 (Part 08)

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Continuing on from part seven, this is Dateline by Craig Cormick

They made their way stealthily over London Circuit and crept down towards the remains of the shipping container village there. It was now the home of homeless town-planners who had been made redundant by Canberra’s new approach to collaborative planning.

“Not too close,” Angie warned them. “You don’t want to get caught in a debate on the merits of the third Gungahlin Freeway versus the Queanbeyan bypass. That way leads to madness.”

“Where are we going to?” asked Cook. “Can we cut overland to reach the museum?”

“No,” said Angie. “Since the final collapse of the Acton Tunnel, after being hit by over-tall trucks too many times, it is all just rubble and asbestos waste. We’re going to go across the water.”

Santa raised an eyebrow. “We’re going to walk across the water?” he asked. “I hadn’t picked you for that kind of a believer.”

She stopped and gave him a sharp stare. “I thought you said we should put our faith in the miraculous?”

“Well, there is the miraculous, and there are miracles. It is quite a quantum of difference.”

“Quantum theory from a man who claims to travel with flying reindeer?” she asked.

“That’s simply a matter of belief,” he said.

“Well I believe you’ll see what I’m talking about in a moment.” She led them down to the lake’s edge where they found half a dozen paddle boats covered in rust and weeds. “Which are the most sea-worthy?” she asked Cook.

He looked quite pained as he examined each of them and then said, “None actually.”

“Which looks the least unseaworthy then?” she asked.

“Perhaps this one,” he said.

“All aboard,” said Angie.

It was a tight squeeze to get them all on board the paddle-boat. Ned Kelly and James Cook were seated at the pedals, and Santa was perched between them, trying not to upset the boat by leaning too far one way or the other.

“Please keep your feet and hands inside the vehicle at all times,” Angie said.

“Aren’t you coming with us?” Santa asked.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” she said. “On that?”

Suddenly there was a shout behind them and torch beams stabbed the darkness around them.

“Is it the town-planners?” asked Santa.

“No, the security guards,” said Angie. “Looks like I’m going to be joining you after all.” She pushed the boat off from the shore and said, “Go! Paddle like your existence depends on it!”

“It does!” said Cook.

It took them some moments to coordinate their paddling properly, but soon they were churning across the lake in a flurry of splashes, while the security guards cursed them from the shore, not willing to risk taking one of the other paddle boats.

“Ha-ha!” said Cook. “We shall rename this sturdy vessel the Endeavour.”

“Is that a wise idea?” asked Angie.

“Why not?”

“Didn’t you crash the Endeavour on a reef, starting the chain of eco-vandalism there?”

“It was not deliberate,” he said. “And anyway, what are our chances of hitting a reef here? I was not the world’s greatest navigator for nothing, you know!” The words had barely been said when the paddle boat came to a shuddering halt.

“What is it?” asked Santa.

“I fear we have hit something,” said Cook sheepishly.

“And we’re sinking,” said Ned Kelly.

Craig Cormick is an award-winning Canberra author who has published over twenty book of fiction, non-fiction and short-fiction. His awards include the ACT Book of the Year, a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and a Victorian Community History Award. His most recent book Uncle Adolf won a 2015 ACT Publishing Award. For more information on Craig and his work check out his website at www.craigcormick.com

Part nine will be published on the site tomorrow.

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