I had a dream last night.
I was riding shotgun in an old Volkswagen Kombi. The headlights showed little of the surrounding Outback as we barreled down a narrow dirt road in the desolate wilds of Australia. There were so many stars in the clear night sky that I couldn’t pick out any familiar constellations.
The inside of the Kombi was dusty but uncluttered. It smelled faintly of the ocean. The passenger compartment held only a large canvas bag and a pile of wrinkled clothes. A small cluster of foam floats sat in the bunt of a throw net hanging along the driver’s side back window. There was no signal on the AM radio, or it was broken, I don’t remember.
The flatulent Aboriginal behind the wheel wasn’t much for conversation. He was hunched forward, forearms resting on the steering wheel. Every now and then he would brush the unkempt mop of silver streaked wavy hair out of his eyes. His bushy white beard seemed to have secrets of its own. Above the waist he was naked except for a thin rope necklace with a cluster of quills hanging low. His dark skin seemed to glisten in the dim glow of the instrument cluster.
He noticed my judgmental glance after the textbook definition of “silent but deadly” enveloped the cabin. His wide smile showed all of his remaining teeth, yellow and crooked. “Powered by Natural Gas mate.”
Without taking his eyes off of the road he reached down into a brown paper bag sitting between the front seats and came back up with half a sandwich in his hand. He looked at me, offering the wedge in my direction. Between two pale white slices were what looked to be a thick cut piece of cheddar surrounded by a foul smelling brown paste. After I declined he shrugged and bit off half of the sandwich in one go. Chewing slowly he returned to his position at the wheel.
We drove on in silence, save for the hum of the aircooled engine ticking away behind us like clockwork. The empty turtle shell hanging from the rearview mirror swayed gently back and forth as we traversed the uneven road.
At some point that could have been minutes or hours later, my nameless friend pulled the Kombi over to the side of the road and turned the ignition off. “Need a rest mate.” I asked him if we could keep going, just a little longer. “Nah mate, I’m buggered.”
With that he opened his door, jumped down to the dusty road and then wandered off into the night. I reached over and closed the open door and then sat back, defeated. Not knowing what else to do, I waited in the dark for whatever the night was going to bring.