The storm seemed to come up out of nowhere. The weather forecast had been for a warm temperature and a calm sea. The forecast had been wrong about the calm sea.
Mother and I had taken the small boat on a one day fishing trip and had gone out some considerable distance. We had been fishing for about a couple of hours when the black clouds began to pile up on the horizon. I started the engine and headed back to land and then the wind came in ahead of the clouds. The sea came up and soon we were being tossed about as if we were a piece of driftwood.
The boat was only a fishing runabout and the engine was not all that powerful and I had a struggle to maintain a heading. I was cursing that we hadn’t used dad’s bigger professional fishing boat.
Then it got so bad I had to try some tricky manoeuvres to stop us being swamped or even turned over. I’d filled the petrol tank before we left but what with the wind, waves, the distance out we’d gone and my manoeuvres, the petrol gave out and the engine spluttered to a stop.
We were caught helpless in the storm and just drifting, if you can call being flung all over the place drifting. We had a couple of paddles on board but we could forget those. Any attempt to paddle in that sea would have been like a kid trying to lift a ten ton boulder.
Mother had been bailing like fury and so all that was left for me to do was join her. How we didn’t sink I’ll never know and all the time I pictured us being flung into the sea with only our life jackets to keep us afloat.
We were out of sight of the mainland and I’d just resorted to prayer when through the now teaming rain I saw we were approaching some land. I knew it had to be one of the coastal islands but I gave us little chance of actually being carried there.
For all my pessimism we did drift closer and closer to the island, and as the storm began to abate we were able to use the paddles to get us ashore. As we drew close I could see that we were heading for a small cove but it was guarded by two arms of jagged rocks and the mood I was in I didn’t see how we could avoid them.
It was mother, more stoical than me, who yelled out, “Paddle you silly bugger…paddle or we’ll be wrecked.”
We both paddled like fury and thank God we got into the cove, running aground about ten metres from the sandy beach. I got out and tried to drag the boat a bit further towards the shore, then mother threw out the anchor and together we waded ashore and flopped down on the beach.
We said nothing for a while, and then I complained, “I’ve no idea where we are.”
Mother said, “Bundoogle Island.”
That she knew didn’t altogether surprise me because mother was part aboriginal and until she married my father – a non-aboriginal – she had lived with her people. They were a coastal group and they knew a fair bit about the islands that were dotted along this part of the coast.
I asked how she was so certain it was Bundoogle.
She grinned at me showing her sparkling white teeth appearing even more sparkly against her skin that always looked as if she had a deep suntan.
“This is the cove we came into when I was a kid,” she said, “it’s about the only place you can get onto the island; it’s all rocks and cliffs everywhere else.”
So for the moment we were safe but I knew we were in a real fix. Our house was fairly isolated; dad, who was a professional fisherman had gone down south, something to do with the contract with the mob that bought his fish; on top of that he intended to spend a couple of weeks catching up with grandma and grandpa and some other relatives.
Mum and I would have gone with him, but grandpa was one of the old chauvinistic sort and there’d been a hell of a row when dad said he was going to marry a half-cast woman. The bitterness had lasted so mum wasn’t welcome at my grandparents place. In fact they had never met mum. I’ve always felt that it was their loss because mum is a great person and in looks she seemed to have got the best of both worlds. No wonder dad was attracted to her.
I might add that I had never seen my grandparents either since I wasn’t welcome, being the offspring of a “mixed marriage.” But dad felt he had to keep in touch whenever he went south, and I suppose that’s to his credit.
So, our immediate problem was, our house being remote, dad away down south, we might not be missed for days or even weeks, so who would come looking for us, and when?
“We’re marooned, aren’t we?” I said, stating the obvious.
“Yes, said mother,” seemingly unruffled.
“What the hell are we going to do, well starve or die of thirst?”
“First thing we do is get the fishing gear and other stuff out of the boat,” mum said placidly, “there are some sandwiches and a bottle of water as well.”
She rose and started to wade out to the boat. I followed her, and while I retrieved the fishing gear mum dug out the sandwiches and water.
We took it back to the beach and as I dumped the gear on the sand I pointed to nişantaşı escort the food and water and said, “That’ll last about half a day; what do we do after that, die?”
Mum looked at me for a few moments then said, “I knew I should have taken you to spend some time with my people; if I had you wouldn’t be so helpless. There’s always food and water if you know how and where to look for it. That’s the trouble with you whities, you look but don’t see.”
That’s what she called me when I was annoying her or being helpless, “Whitie.” Not that I was really white because I had inherited some of mum’s skin colour, only not so deep and rich looking as hers.
Just stepping aside from our predicament for the moment, years ago bloody psychologists and anthropologists had come from the cities down south and started to test the aboriginal people.
The IQ tests were a real hoot because the people they tested didn’t know what the questions meant so they ended up being graded as morons.
When you consider that the aboriginal people had survived in the environment for thousands of years I often wonder how, if the aboriginal people had tested the testers by letting them loose to survive in the same environment, how well they would have stacked up? My guess is that they would have been rated as morons, and probably dead morons.
So, one piece of leverage we had was that mum knew how to survive in all sorts of conditions. She knew what was safe to eat and what would send you to heaven or hell in seconds. If there was water to be found she’d find it; I sometimes thought she could actually smell water before you ever saw it.
Mum spoke up saying, “There are plants and some fruits on the island we can eat; that’s what we did when I came here as a kid. There’s water as well, it drips out of a rock crevice and after that storm it should be doing more than drip in a couple of days. There used to be some goat running wild as well…”
“Goat’s?” I queried.
“Yes, a lot of the islands have got goats on them. Some of the white fellas brought them here with some crazy idea that they could breed up a herd, God knows what for, but they soon gave up and abandoned the place, too isolated. Some of them went mad.
“The goats or the people?”
“Since we may be here for a while I hope I’m not going to have to put up with too many of your smart remarks,” she said. Then going on she said, “There’s fish and crabs we can catch, and plenty of shell fish on and around the rocks; we won’t starve.
“How are we going to cook them, we’ve got nothing to light a fire with, do we rub two stick together?”
She raised her eyebrows to heaven, sighed, and said, “That would be how you’d do it, wouldn’t it. Yes, you rub two sticks together, but not the way you think. Did you bring the filleting knives from the boat?”
“No,” I said, feeling a bit sulky.
“Then go and get them now. It isn’t likely the boat will drag its anchor in this cove, even if there is a storm, but you never know, so go and get anything that might be useful.
“Bloody Roberta Crusoe,” I muttered as I went back to the boat, my macho self-image in tatters.
I got the three filleting knives, some pieces of rope and chord, plus a couple of warm jumpers that were usually kept stowed up in the bow. Our wet weather gear we had already put on when the storm blew up; in fact we were still wearing it.
I carted the stuff back to the beach and saw mother had removed her wet weather gear; I took mine off as well. That left the pair of us clad only in shorts and skivvies, and knowing how cold it could get on the mainland, even after a hot day, I gave thanks for the jumpers, because it was likely to get a bloody sight colder out here on the island.
I stood around not knowing what to do next and feeling helpless. “Well come on,” said mum, “the sandwiches and water will do us for today, so the first thing we do is find some shelter.”
“Going to build a house are we?” I asked.
Mum didn’t reply but began to carry our limited goods further up the beach. I followed suit and we put the stuff well above the high tide mark.
“Now we look,” mum said.
The beach was backed by a slight rise and then came the scrub, but beyond the cove and on either side of it the cliffs began. I had no idea what to look for, but mum seemed to know so I simply followed her.
I thought she would head into the island but instead she made for one of the cliffs. It didn’t take her long to find what she was looking for. It was about two or three metres up the cliff but wasn’t exactly a cave, but more like someone had taken a giant spoon and scooped out the rocks a few times.
“Yes,” said mum, “we used this the time I came here as a kid. It’s out of the prevailing wind and we can look out to sea from it. You never know, they might come looking for us sometime, or a fisherman may happen to pass.
“Sometime!” I exploded, “Hell mum, how long do you think sometime will ortaköy escort be?”
She shrugged and said laconically, “No idea, but they might not even know we’re missing until your dad gets back from down south, and even then it may take them days or weeks to look at every island.”
“They’ll use a helicopter, won’t they?” I asked dejectedly.
“They may, but we have to be prepared to wait for as long as it takes, so, while I bring our stuff up here from the beach, you can get up to the top of the cliff, find plenty of dry and wet wood, and build a bonfire. If we see a helicopter or a boat out to sea, we light the fire.
“Why dry and wet wood, I think we’ll only need dry wood.”
“Sweetheart,” mum said in a patient but despairing tone of voice, as if she was putting hyphens between the words. “You build the bonfire with dry wood, and lay the sappy wood alongside it. If we see something we light the dry wood; when it’s well alight we put the sappy wood on; that way we make a lot of smoke, and that is more easily seen than just a fire, except at night, but at night we won’t see anything will we?”
“I haven’t got an axe.”
“Then you’ll have to use what we have got, a knife. Now just go and bloody well do it.”
I went to the gap between the cliffs behind the beach, went inland a little then followed a slope that led to the top of the cliff. There would be no trouble with the dry wood because even though the trees were stunted there were heaps of branches that had fallen off, no doubt over many decades.
I hauled dead branches to the top of the cliff and built up the bonfire. I started to cut some of the thinner living branches from adjacent trees, but then noticed a low tree or shrub with extremely broad and long green leaves. This looked easier to cut through, and so it proved to be. I put about a dozen of these leaves or fronds beside the bonfire and then made my way back down to the beach.
Mother had moved all our gear up to the cave so I went up there. When I arrived there she said, “Now you can go and get some more wood for a fire. You can build it just down there on the beach.”
She was looking a bit perplexed and she muttered, “I need a block of wood, but where do I get one here?”
“In the boat,” I said triumphantly, glad to be ahead of her for once. “There’s the block we use to prop open the fish box lid when we’re not using it.” The idea was to let the air circulate in the box to keep the smell down. “What are you going to do with it?”
“I didn’t bother to ask.”
“And bring a really dry stick about ten or twelve millimetres thick and some very dry bits of bark back with you.”
Again I didn’t bother to ask. I went to the boat and brought back the block of wood, then set out to get the firewood. I brought the wood back together with the dry stick and bark. Mother had started to scoop out a sort of little hollow in the block with the point of a knife; she took the stick and said, get more dry bark and some dry grass.
Off I went again. When I got back mother had made a point on the end of the stick and a thing that looked a bit like a bow as if was going to be a bow and arrow. She wound the cord of the bow round the pointed stick, and then she put some of the dry grass and broken up pieces of bark into the little hollow she’d made in the block. I watched for a couple of minutes and then said, “You’ll never make fire like that.”
She said nothing but began to saw the bow rapidly back and forth, and then sure enough, there was a spark and a tendril of smoke. Mother started to blow on the dry grass that caught alight, and then she put on small pieces of bark. She had made fire.
The burning materials were transferred to the main fire that had more but larger pieces of bark under it, and after more blowing the whole damned thing was alight.
“She looked up at me triumphantly and said, “That’s how you get fire by rubbing two sticks together”
“You mean rubbing a stick and block together.”
“Well if I hadn’t known how we’d be eating raw fish. Now this fire must never go out, so go and get more wood, heaps of it, I don’t want to have to start all over again. And see to it that there’s always a lot of wood handy.”
There’s one thing you haven’t thought of,” I crowed.
“Oh, what’s that?”
“The bonfire on top of the cliff; are you going to do that twirling thing every time we need to light it, because if you do whatever it is will be gone by the time its alight.”
She put on her patient look again. “We light a torch and you or I run up there with it and light the bonfire – oh never mind, just go and get some more wood… then we can eat the sandwiches.”
I went back into the scrub and started to cart armfuls of dry wood back. I thought, “If we’re here long enough I’ll end up walking to the other side of the island for dry wood.”
Mum sat on the beach doing something with lots of twigs and some sort of creeper. By the time pendik escort I’d finished she was waving the result of her labours at me. “A torch,” she said truculently.
It was my turn to say nothing.
We ate most of the sandwiches, but left enough for the morning, as mother pointed out, we’ll need something to eat before we start seriously looking for food.
“What about water?” I asked.
“Ah, yes, now that’s a bit of a problem. If I remember correctly we’ve got a bit of a walk to get to the crevice and we’ve only got this bottle to carry water in.”
“What about a bucket,” I asked.
“We haven’t got a…yes we have…Frank, I told you to bring everything that might be useful from the boat, did you bring the bucket? No, of course you didn’t.”
I crept off back to the boat with mother’s eyes drilling into the back of my head.
Not only did I return with the bucket, but I also brought a large cotton sheet that we used to cover things up in the boat when we weren’t using it, just to keep the sun off.
We’d just about used the day up and I was feeling very tired. Mother was yawning as well so after she’d banked up the fire we climbed up to the cave.
It was already getting cool so we put on our jumpers, and in the hope of getting some warmth from it, we lay side by side with the cotton sheet over us. The ground was bloody hard, but being so tired I soon fell asleep.
I must have slept like the proverbial log because when I woke up mother was at the fire that she must have revived.
I went down to her and we ate the last of the sandwiches and drank the remaining water from the bottle. I only hoped mum was right about there being water on the island.
When we had finished I said, “We’d better go and find that water.”
“Not yet we won’t,” said mother. “We’re not animals, we wash first.”
I certainly must admit that after our previous days work we’d got pretty grubby and I smelt sweaty, but I felt it necessary to point out that until we got the water we couldn’t wash.
“The sea, darling…the sea…we go for a swim. We won’t be able to use precious fresh water for washing.” With that she began to take off her clothes.
I was shocked; I had never seen mum without clothes on, so I turned my back.
“Don’t be so silly, Frank,” mother said, “you don’t think we’re going to be able to exist here without seeing each other naked, do you? So get your things off and get into the sea.”
She finished stripping and then walked down to the sea. I stood staring after her in amazement; it was like watching some water nymph, her slim figure and golden skin, high firm buttocks, and as she turned to beckon me to join her, the small firm breasts.
Certainly a mother naked, especially my mother, is a very different prospect from a mother fully dressed, even if fully dressed means only shorts and a skivvy. It was in a sense not mother I was looking at, but a woman I found it hard to recognise as mother.
Looking at her, nature took its course, and I started to get an erection. I hastily stripped, trying to get into the water before I was completely hard, but I wasn’t very successful.
Mother was doing her share of looking and I realised she hadn’t seen me naked since I was a kid. By the time I got to the water my penis was standing up like a lighthouse, and I saw a quirky sort of smile come over mother’s face, and while I struggled not to look at her, she was quite blatant about her staring at me. I got chest high in the water as quickly as I could.
After we’d swum and splashed around a bit we went back to the beach and our clothes. Mother seemed in no hurry to dress and she continued to look at me in a speculative sort of way. I got into my shorts as soon as I could, but I don’t think they hid very much.
Mother said, pointing “Off those rocks over there, we had good fishing that time I came here, you go and try and I’ll go inland a see what I can pick up in the way of fruits and vegetables and I’ll get the water.
Mother was still naked as we went back to the cave and even when we got there she still didn’t dress. She picked up the bucket and taking her skivvy she headed out of the cove. I got some fishing tackle together, and after digging around on the beach for some sand worms I went to the rocky ledge she had pointed out.
She was right about the fishing being good. I started to haul in fish almost as soon as the line hit the water. I’d never known anything like it before and was tempted to keep on fishing, but then realised how ridiculous that was. We had no refrigerator or ice box to keep surplus fish in, and presumably they’d still be there for the catching next day, so I stopped at four fish.
I went back to the beach and filleted them there. Mother still hadn’t returned so I took the fish up to the cave and then went looking over some rocks that looked as if they were covered by the water at high tide. I was hunting for any shell fish that might be edible, and found some clusters of mussels. I got a few of these and returned once more to the cave.
Mother was back and still naked. She had brought a bucket of water and had used her skivvy to carry some vegetable matter and some round berries. I’d seen this stuff on the mainland but never thought of it as being edible.