“Ya wear me out,” he said with a satisfied sigh, rolling off her body toward the open window. The breeze blowing in from Darwin Harbor cooled their sweat-drenched bodies.
“Don’t you fall sleep, jackeroo!” She gave him a shove. “You promised we’d talk.”
“Buggers. Why do sheilas always wanna talk?” He curled his body away from her. “Thirty winks. All I need. Then I’ll be good to go again.” She swooped up his dusty bush hat from the floor and began beating him about his shoulders and torso. She pushed him down and straddled his bum as she lashed the hat back and forth.
“All right, all right, all right!” He lifted his hands above his head in surrender. “Don’t chuck a spaz. I’ll talk. I’ll talk.” Her fury subsided. She threw the sun-beaten hat back onto the floor, but remained atop him. She folded her arms under her breasts as her perspiration dripped onto his naked back.
“You’d better talk, whitefella, or we’re done.”
He sighed in full surrender. “I’ll talk.”
Only then did she stand and let him up. He rolled over toward her as she drew a chair beside the bed. He took her all in, angry kinky hair, dark eyes, small breasts, and tiny feet—his aboriginal goddess—his bushranger’s dream.
He sat up and hung his legs over the bed. “What do you wanna to talk about?”
“My kids, Albert and Rene. You need to meet them.”
“Bloody hell, why now?” They’d had this argument before.
“You’re the bloke who said we have to think about our future.” She rested her hands on his hairy legs. “You’ve got roos loose in your paddock if you think you can have me without my kids.”
“Balls, I know that. But some things gotta happen first.”
“You need to meet my mum.”
“I’m free for tea on Tuesday,” she said firmly.
“It’s not that easy, and you know it.” He brushed her hands off his legs, but didn’t move away. “You’re a prossie. How can I bring home a prossie to my mum?”
“Your mum won’t know I’m a prossie if you don’t tell her.” She pulled free of him. “Besides, I’m quitting once I get my diploma.”
“Ya, that’s what all the prossies say. You’re all ‘university girls.’”
She looked at him in disgust. “Except you know it’s true for me.” She stood up and scanned the room for her clothing. She spotted her dress by the doorway and walked over to retrieve it. “Being a prossie didn’t trouble you when you were paying for the ride.” She slipped the paisley summer dress over her head. “And it’s sure never bothered you enough to pick up a tab at the pub.”
“You make more in a weekend than I make in a week driving road trains.”
She reached down and grabbed her lace bra and stuffed it in her dress pocket. “And I work a bloody lot harder, too.” She took out a Victoria Bitters from the fridge and threw him. “I don’t know how you drink this piss. She grabbed a James Squire Pale Ale from the six-pack she’d brought with her and uncapped it. “I suppose you don’t have a clean glass.”
“You’re welcome to do the crockery any time you want clean ones.”
“Oh, you’d like that wouldn’t you? Want a little bush maid, don’t you? Not bloody likely. Not in your lifetime.” She sat down on a corner of the kitchen table and pressed the cold bottle against her neck. “You could buy a fan, you know. Just because you like the heat doesn’t mean your guests do.”
He grabbed his traveler’s shirt and put it on, but didn’t button it. “So you’re a guest now, are ya?”
“I should say I am.”
“A hundred years ago, I would have grabbed you from the bush by your hair, took what I wanted, and then passed you around to my mates before I threw you to the crocs.” When he popped the cap off, the beer sputtered and foamed out of the bottle and splashed on the floor.
“Two hundred years ago, my brothers would have snatched you from your chain gang and fed your cods to the dingoes.” She drank deeply from the James Squire. “All I’m asking is that you meet my kids. Every Sunday morning I pick them up at my mum’s. We walk to the market together, and then we go out for pancakes. Join us. Bring your mother if you want.”
He snorted. “I’m making a special run on Saturday night. Won’t be back until late Sunday.”
“Piss. At least what I do for a living is legal. You and your special runs.”
“It’s not like I’m running drugs.”
“You may as well be. At least cocaine is quieter than your damned birds.”
“My bird money is how we met. You think I could’ve afforded your price if all I was doing was driving road trains four days a week?”
“Then maybe next Friday, after you get off work, we take the kids to Lollypop Land before I take them to Mum’s.”
“I’m not going to any frigging Lollypop Land.”
She laughed. When she laughed her whole body laughed, her eyes and the tips of her fingers, her nipples, thighs, her toes. “And you call yourself a bushranger. You’re just a garbo in a bush hat is what I’m thinking.”
“I’ve been injured.”
“You didn’t act injured a couple minutes ago. No disabilities then, jackeroo.” She saw his penis beginning to rise between the tails of his traveler’s shirt. She picked up his jeans and threw them to him. “Better button up, Tommy Boy, you’re done for the afternoon. I need to save something for the paying customers.”
“Maybe I’ll hire you for the night.”
“Not bloody likely.”
She stood defiantly over him while he put on his jeans. “I’m a tougher bushranger than you will ever be.”
“There weren’t any girlie rangers.”
“There were. You’d know that if you ever opened a book. If you read a little Australian history, you might appreciate me more.”
“I don’t need no university girlie to tell me about my country. Born and bred in the Northern Territories. That taught me all I need to know.”
“Well, maybe if you’d finished year 12, you’d have a better appreciation.” He started to object. “Maybe you’d learn how to keep me.” And there it was. That was what this discussion had been all about from the beginning.”
“What if I don’t want to keep you?”
“Then you’re a bushranger and a fool.” She looked around his barren flat until she found her sandals. She slipped her tiny feet into them. She set down the unfinished bottle of beer and faced him.
“Here it is jackeroo. Lollypop Land next Friday at five. You buy my kids ice cream and me a long black. If you can’t make it, don’t bother to call again. We’re done.” She left before Tommy could think to reply.
Paul Lewellan taught high school speech and debate for 33 years in Bettendorf, Iowa. For the last eight years he’s been an Adjunct Professor of Speech Communication and Business Administration at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. He just finished his third novel, Twenty-seven Unreasonable Demands, about a covert ops assassin who takes a sabbatical on a college campus while trying not to kill anyone. Paul’s publications include over sixty short stories in magazines such as South Dakota Review, Big Muddy, Timber Creek Review and Porcupine.