Saturday, 26 March 2016


Melissa interrupted my reverie. “What are you grinning at?”
I glanced at her.
“Am I grinning?”
“Like a Cheshire cat!”
I laughed, put my arm around her and hugged her.
“I was just thinking how much I’ve missed flying. I know, after spending six months flying to Mars you would think I’d be well and truly sick of it, but I’m not. Besides, that long flight also had many memorable moments, as I recall.” Then I wiggled my eyebrows at her and said, “I’ve been grounded for two and a half months, more or less, and that is the longest time I have spent on the ground since I was nineteen years old. Now here I am, blazing through space at the helm of a hot-rod alien spacecraft on my way back to Earth to rescue six stranded astronauts and take them back to Mars, with a beautiful and sexy woman at my side, and I am loving every second of it! I’ve certainly come a long way”—I chuckled—“from being a Tasmanian sheep farmer!”
Mel laughed and hugged me,
“How did you become a sheep farmer anyway?”
“I was born as one, but I was also born to fly. My parents owned a sheep farm; it was a good farm, but it didn’t make enough for them to be able to hire farmhands to help Dad, so when I was old enough to help I was the unpaid farmhand. Every day when I got home from school, and all day on school holidays and weekends, I spent most of my time working on the farm. Then one day I went to an air show at the Sale Air Base in Victoria. My best mate and I had saved our pocket money for a very long time to pay for that trip. I had always loved the idea of flying, but after seeing the jet fighters being put through their paces that day I marched straight into the recruitment office and signed up for a three-year hitch. I’ve been flying ever since.”
“How did your parents get by without your help after you signed up?”
“I knew a couple of blokes who were two years below me at my old high school who wanted part-time work. I introduced them to Dad, and he hired them. The farm went from strength to strength after that; they loved the place and the work, and my Dad wound up employing them full time toward the end.”
“What do you mean toward the end?”
“My mother passed away six years ago, and Dad died almost five months later. I’ve been told that it isn’t that uncommon for a surviving member of a close couple to pass away within six to eight months of the other. I know Dad was devastated by Mum’s death, so much so that I extended my leave by another three weeks to keep him company and help him around the farm.”
“What happened to the farm after he passed away?”
“I sold it to the two farmhands who were working on it; they loved the place as much as Dad did, but they didn’t have the finances to pay me up front, so I gave them a mortgage over it when I went home for Dad’s funeral. That was the last time I ever went home.”
I looked down at Melissa.
“Guess I’ll never see any of that money now.”
I received an elbow strike to the ribs from her, but it was relatively gentle.
“Drew, your humor can be quite black and distasteful at times,” she said.

“We each deal with tragedy in our own personal way. Making jokes, however inappropriate they may be, is how I deal with it.”