Unalienable Right, or ‘My Very Aussie Short Story – with Roos’ has been out (right on schedule) over at Sci Phi Journal, illustrated by the extremely talented Cat Leonard.
And being in a very writerly mode, I thought you might want know just how a trip Down Under morphed into a story about the unalien…
Back in 2013/2014, I had huge expectations about my holiday in Aus. I’d spent an entire long weekend in 2012 listening to ten people rave on and on about the delights of Aussie life, Aussie food (which few people mention, and is truly excellent!) and Aussie’s natural beauty. So I spent the whole of 2013 saving and prepping for it all – the kangaroos that hopped just down the road, the kangaroos you could feed with milk bottles, the cutest kangaroos you just wanted to hug and take home, the gorgeous beaches – occasionally harboring jellyfish, sharks and the odd dugite (snake) – that you absolutely had to swim in…
You should know now that Aus lived up to all expectations, save one. Kangaroos didn’t bound around boundlessly, not in Perth anyway. That is the number one myth Aussies (and family) told me…
There were no kangaroos on the way back from the airport although it was the end of Morning Kangaroo Time (MKT), and there were no kangaroos around the house come Evening Kangaroo Time either (EKT). A whole eighteen hours in Aus and no kangaroo! The closest creature to a kangaroo I saw in Perth was this.
‘You’ll definitely see kangaroos around Boddington’ they reassured me.
Thirty-six hours or so later, I saw what might have been a kangaroo. It was on the Perth-Armadale-Boddington road through the occasional wheatfield and huge forests.
Kleinsus had just told me of her puzzlement that we hadn’t spotted a kangaroo yet so close to E KT.
‘They are always around by now, hopping in the trees and across the road…look in the trees. They might still be under the trees.’
I didn’t quite believe her and was beginning to think this whole kangaroo thing was going two ways simultaneously:
— the way of the otter in the Isle of Skye where I was told ‘Aye, there’s alwis otters doon by the quay’, but never (ever!) when I was around
— the way of the false tongues using cuddly kangaroos to draw me into the dangerous land of poisonous everything (except really good food and drinking water)
Nevertheless, I indulged Kleinsus and watched the forest roll by. What would kangaroos be doing in a forest anyway? Wouldn’t they knock themselves out cold on the lower branches when hopping?
And then we saw what might have been a kangaroo.
Kleinsus spotted it first and went, ‘There! At the side of the road!’ adding almost immediately, ‘Though not the best way to see one, I think…’
I peered anxiously as we swept past. I was glad I couldn’t see it more clearly. I don’t like looking at roadkill.
It took almost a week (a week!) to see kangaroos in the wild…or rather in a wheatfield in Margaret River; happily thumping strange symbols into the wheatfield, or so it seemed…
With my eyes so opened, it quickly became a case of ‘once seen, cannot be unseen’. Now that they had revealed themselves to me, I started to spot them everywhere, and hear the strangest stories about them too, like the family of kangaroos who’d gotten into a vineyard…
Walpole – wondrous, magical place of trees and inspiration for another of my stories – introduced me to my first close up of the marsupials with this guy, one of the famed six-footers. Naturally, I didn’t dare approach too close. I’d heard all about how dangerous they could be, you know, with the kicking people and stuff.
He postured, he posed, he feigned fright and retreat when my dad thundered around the cabin in some freak runners ritual.
About a month later, having crossed the country continent (does that make it a continental country?), I had a close encounter with this clearly teenaged kangaroo.
He was almost as tall as me, and looked me right in the eye, then dismissed me. Teenage rebellious/superiority or something else, I couldn’t tell at first. And then it hit me: the disdain, the lack of affection, the lack of…empathy!
Clearly, all that cuddly cuteness they projected to the rest of my family and friends was a ruse.
A bald-faced ruse. But what? Why?
It the task of the writer to reveal such falsehoods.
And so I do, in Unalienable Right.
PS. Want to know more about my adventures in the Land of Oz? Let me know in the comments 😀