Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Tag: south east queensland

Duel 2 : Me versus Truck

Up ahead, in the twilight, two traffic lights turned green. The first traffic light meant that the two cars ahead of me moved forward. Towards the bridge : now single lane as it was under repair. The second traffic light was across that bridge. Waiting to go across was a semi-trailer. I can still hear the sound as it blew its horn. I can still see its searchlights switched on. I can still remember it start to cross the bridge. Against the lights.

I was tired. I had worked back. I had taken the long route home. I had forgotten that the narrow bridge at Maclean, north of Jimboomba in South-East Queensland was being extended. With the only one lane open filled with an oncoming truck.

The two cars ahead quickly pulled off to the side. The cars banked up behind me stopped. The truck sped up towards me. I had perhaps fifteen seconds left.

I couldn’t go forward. I couldn’t move to the side, the two cars had left no room. I couldn’t reverse, the cars behind me were too close. I was in the only space left. I had ten seconds until the truck either went around me or through me.  And he was speeding up. It was me versus truck. I briefly thought of abandoning the car like the movie Duel. Except Dennis Weaver didn’t have an LPG tank in the trunk.

I did the only thing left. I clunked the Holden HQ’s gear into reverse. I remember the whine of the engine. I looked forward for the truck. And backward along the road. I was reversing the car around the queue. On the truck’s side of the road. But that’s where I was now anyway. But I did know that not far behind me, the road widened. Hopefully there would be a space for me. I didn’t know how many seconds I had left.

I can remember thinking, I don’t know why at the time, the word “Angels!” But by then the truck had roared past me. I had found a space.

I had to wait an extra fifteen minutes as I was now at queue’s end. It didn’t bother me. I sang instead. I rather enjoyed it.

Post Script : I wrote about the incident in a letter to the editor to two of the local newspapers. Both published me. I also took the other way home.

My Brisbane Storm

Much like the other day in Brisbane, and  2008 storms in South-Eastern Queensland happen fast. Perhaps faster now. This one from over a decade ago didn’t leave me much time.
Thie storm began with a small white grey cloud. It seem to tumble and twist like flying cotton candy.  I watched it for a while fascinated and distracted. Then a stray thought occurred to me. Why was it moving so fast?
It was still sunny, hot and humid. There was no wind at that stage, not a breeze, not a whisper. Being a typical Queensland day we had all the doors and windows open, hoping to catch a touch of cool.
I then looked behind the little cloud.  As we were then living on top of a small hill, I had a good view south-west. Usually I could see the mountains. As I looked from west to east the sky was a moving grey tsunami. The mountains were swamped, enveloped in a moving morph of black grey cloud. As I looked more closely, I could see that the clouds weren’t entirely grey. They were changing colour in front of me. I had the distracted thought that they looked like bruises. Green, purple and even yellow shades swirling and rotating.
Then another stray thought occurred to me.  These are snow clouds. The last time I had seen clouds like this I was living in Canberra. My mind started to wander again.  But it doesn’t snow in sunny south-east Queensland.
This was a serious storm. It’s speed left me little time to prepare.
I grabbed the first thing near to me.  I snatched up my youngest son and ran inside. I plopped him near the door and shut it. I just hoped he didn’t sense my rising panic.
Quickly, I upended the outside tables and put the chairs inside. Once inside I closed all the windows. I was running now.
I ran to the front of the house. I shut and locked the front screen and slammed the front door. I sprinted through the house to the main bedroom to do the same. Now I was in a rapid routine. I had done this battening down routine quite a few times before.
By the time I got to the bedroom it was too late. The storm had arrived. The rain was like sea-spray. The wind started to howl and rise in volume. I thought for a second I was on a sailing ship rounding Cape Horn and would be swept away.
I shut the bedroom door and screen. The next thing I knew I had thrown myself full length on the bedroom floor. There had been an explosion. I looked outside and saw flotsam and jetsam. Piles of mulched leaves and branches had already filled the porch. I couldn’t see the front yard trees at all for the sheets of rain.
Then the sky roared at me and the house. I found my children and ushered them into the hallway which was the perfect centre of the house. I  huddled them together to ensure they felt safe but felt that at any moment they wouldn’t be. The sky roared even louder. I still don’t know how long we waited. Then it stopped silent.
Once disaster has been averted, I had a sense of relief. That was followed by the false belief that nothing really happened. In that state of mind, I went out the backyard. The first thing I saw were silver grey sheets on our back fence about 50metres from the house. It was the remnants of our next door neighbour’s shed in pieces in our back yard. My distracted thought was why can I see the back fence at all. We now had no trees. We had a yard of twisted limbs, twigs and branches. That would be tomorrow’s problem : a cleanup for me while I watched the birds that normally visited try to find a place.
Then I went out the front. Apart from a mulch heap of leaves and branches the trees at the front were intact. Except for one.  The largest tree was split in two. Half the trunk had twisted and fallen and was suspended by a remaining branch. I still have no idea if it was lightning or wind.
It was only when our neighbours arrived to retrieve their shed, I realised the storm’s full effect. They had been extremely lucky too. Much like the people from Brisbane the other day.

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