Rated: ASR · Short Story · Family · #1300751
Based on the true story of my honeymoon with my first husband.
** Images For Use By Upgraded+ Only **
The true story of my outback honeymoon
"You have got to be kidding," I said, standing beside Greg, my husband of 48 hours. We were staring in bewilderment at our 'honeymoon cottage'. "The brochure said it was a 'charming country cottage with tennis courts and a swimming pool.'"
The charming country cottage turned out to be a shack in the middle of a sheep paddock in outback Coonabarabran, New South Wales. We had driven for six hours from Sydney to get to this place, navigating treacherous back-country roads barely wide enough for two cars to pass. Several times we'd had to pull off the road to allow one of the massive road trains to trundle by. Road trains being a truck towing four or more trailers, they're not something you bicker about when it comes to sharing the road. You get the hell out of their way.
I'm still amazed we were able to find the place. In rolling scrubland one gate looks like any other. We'd stumbled onto the right one just before sunset.
"Well I don't see any tennis courts, or a pool," said Greg.
The house of the property owner stood a few hundred yards inside the gate, so we drove down slowly, greeted by a handful of yapping farm dogs. As we reached the main house, Greg pointed and said, "There's the tennis court."
Barely visible beneath weeds and grass, the tennis court lay a short distance from the main house. The 'cottage' we had rented for a week stood perhaps five hundred yards from it. Roughly halfway between the two was the remains of a swimming pool. It was so choked with reeds that, like the tennis court, it was difficult to see. The water in this miniature swamp was a thick green soup twitching with insect life.
The property owner, Madge, was a widow in her fifties with four adult sons. As we approached the main house, she came out onto the front porch wearing a mangy blue dressing gown and a pair of old rubber thongs. I stayed in the car while Greg spoke to her and obtained the keys to our, er, love nest.
With keys in hand, we drove slowly across the paddock, scattering sheep as we went, and parked beside the picket fence enclosing the cottage. Its rusty corrugated roof complemented the torn screens on the enclosed patio, giving the place a distinct air of peaceful dilapidation. I suspected it may once have been the main dwelling, but now it gazed forlornly across fields of dry grass at the newer house, which was a larger version of the same sorry architecture.
You may be asking why we did not turn around and drive away. Because we had, stupidly, paid in advance for this charming spot and had no extra money to find a hotel. We were out in the middle of the bush, the sun was about to set, and we had no intention of driving around at night in unfamiliar country to locate somewhere more pleasant to stay.
Perhaps, I thought, the interior might have beauties not visible from outside. Yeah, right. We trudged morosely from room to room, dragging our luggage behind us as we investigated the place. There were three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and a sizeable bathroom with separate toilet. The beds were all army cots, and were so narrow that laying on your back meant your arms slipped off the sides. There was no phone, and the old 1960's television had only one local channel. We decided to make the best of it and settled in for the night.
I no longer recall what prompted me to go outside after dark, but in doing so I made a breathtaking discovery. To this day I have never seen a night sky like it, blistering with stars so brilliant it almost hurt to look at them. There was no moon and, with only the dim light from the houses, the landscape was pitch black. There is an observatory called Siding Springs somewhere in that vicinity, and after seeing the night sky I was determined we would pay a visit.
I went back inside, heading for the bathroom and found a dozen or so fat green frogs in the bath tub and on the floor. There were spiders in almost every corner of the house, the water in the bathroom taps was brown, and there were cockroaches in some of the kitchen cupboards. I was not a happy bride.
Next morning, still determined to make the best of things, we drove to a local market to buy food. We had brought a few of our wedding gifts with us, including a large electric frying pan. That afternoon Greg drove back to the store for something we had forgotten, and I set about cooking dinner in the frying pan. There came a knock at the front screen door. It was Madge. Dressed in shorts which revealed lumpy, vein-riddled legs, carrying a bottle of Jim Beam that was two-thirds empty, she slurred, "The boys're gunna killa sheep. Ya's wanna come an' watch?"
I smiled sweetly. "Oh, no thanks, I just put a chook* on to cook."
Eyeing me with barely disguised contempt, she staggered off.
That night we were subjected to a monstrous thunderstorm. Sleep was impossible, the entire house seemed ready to collapse in on us. The following morning we packed up and drove across to the main house. Greg confronted Madge and told her we had decided to leave early, because we were moving into a new home when we returned to Sydney. Surprisingly, she refunded half our money, though we were prepared to just leave and forget about it.
I do regret missing the observatory. Looking back now I can laugh, but at the time it was an appalling few days that we were embarrassed to discuss with family and friends. Experiences like this add colour and shape to the tapestry of life, even if we do come away with some fraying around the edges.
(Word count = 994)
*Australian slang for chicken.