How good does it get?

Short Stories Feb 17, 2019

Wozza Johnson peered closely through squinted eyes at the trail of small black ants scurrying industriously up the loungeroom wall behind the leather sofa in room 207 at Opal Cove Resort. Dozens, probably hundreds, carried eggs as their tiny legs busily thrust them upwards towards a small crack between the ceiling cornice and the void beyond. Their motion was only briefly halted when they bumped into other members of the colony on the downward journey.

“Could be a big rain event comin’, Darl,” droned Wozza.

“What makes ya think that, Nostradamus?” replied Shirl.

“Well, they reckon ants know when there’s gunna be an event, Darl. Might be a big storm this arvo.”

“Well I don’t give a toss, Woz. The planets can collide, the sky can come crashin’ down if it wants, but I’m sittin’ on the beach this mornin’. We’ve worked bloody hard through the drought, and we’ve earned this week in Coffs Harbour. Can’t wait to send a selfie back to Gunnedah. Me and you on the beach. Sucking on a tequila..… Ketut, Ketut, two more tequilas please.”

Scampering gingerly across the hot golden sand of Kororo Beach, both the Johnsons made mental notes – must wear thongs tomorrow.   Throwing a tartaned picnic rug over the sand, they disturbed several nearby gulls, which wheeled away squawking indignantly. Far overhead a lone osprey glided effortlessly northwards along the coastline. The brilliance of the sunlight shattered into thousands of tiny shards of reflected light on the choppy water. Kororo is an indigenous word meaning ‘place of rough waters’, and the slap of small hollow waves meeting the shoreline fleshed out the ambience of the day. Yep, Kororo Beach had been a perfect choice for a coastal escape. While Wozza was setting up a sun shelter, Shirl rummaged busily in a floral tote bag and extracted a tube of sunscreen.

“Here Woz, rub some 35+ onto me back,” Shirl purred using her sultriest tones. They sniggered in chorus. It was an adolescent snigger of excitement and expectation. Despite 31 years of the rigours of marriage and family, a farm, a horrendous mortgage, boom times and bust, they still loved each other.

A small fishing boat churned by, just beyond the waves, as Woz and Shirl snapped open their $5 Bunnings folding chairs. They settled in to survey their new kingdom. Verdant green rainforests and banana plantations created a patchwork on the hillsides; valleys gently extended downwards to the beach and kissed the Pacific Ocean.

“How good does it get Shirl?  Wouldn’t be dead for quids. How could anything stuff up today? ”

Asteroids are, by nature, the juggernauts of the universe. They’re the B double trucks on the cosmic highway. Undetected by those scientists whose job is to monitor the trajectory of Near Earth Objects, a remnant of an ancient protoplanet was on a path which could collide with Earth, causing much more than orbital wobbles, or the extinction of life. This whole 750 km diameter of unnamed rock and ice was an existential threat that could render Earth into oblivion in a nanosecond. Wozza’s ant colony had sensed it earlier, and relocated its eggs 4 metres higher in an innate but futile effort to preserve its DNA.

Lulled into sleep by the lapping sound of the waves, the warmth of the sea-breeze and the soothing glow of the sunshine, Woz and Shirl were blithely unaware of the approach and possible pending impact with an asteroid. They were also blissfully ignorant when moments later it passed by. While Shirl snored gently and Woz drooled from the corner of his mouth, the mega rock missed entering the Earth’s atmosphere by less than half a million kilometres; a mere whisker in space dimensions.

The high pitched screech of a pair of seagulls fighting over the remains of Wozza’s packet of potato crisps rudely awakened the Johnsons three hours later.

“Oi! Git away from here ya feathery thieves!” yelled Woz.

Through eyes ringed with newly acquired sunburn, Shirl surveyed the heavens above her and remarked drily, “Hey no sign of that storm yet, Nostradamus.”

Then, giggling like a schoolkid, Shirl gave Wozza an almighty sideways shove and his folding chair collapsed. Crumpling onto the beach, with grains of sand sticking to the drool on the corner of his mouth, Wozza snorted with belly laughter.

“Yeah. How good does it get Shirl?”


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