Friday, September 25, 2020

The Lost Inscription

It's still night time.

The ravine opens onto a beach which is sandy.

On each side are high rocks.

On one side a black cave yawns open (not literally).

Arthur heads for it.

Should he do that? asks Gaius.

Why not? asks Louisa.

Might he become trapped by the tide? asks Gaius.

No, says Louisa. Let's follow him.

wersh-wersh-shoom 

Hear that? says Terence.

Yes, says the Ear. That's the sound of the sea.

blunch-blunch

Pebbles shifting.

They enter the cave.

Anyone got a torch? asks Arthur.

I have, says Louisa. 

She turns it on. 

Ooh! Rimstone and stalactites. 

Wonderful, says Gaius. Is this the one with the famous inscription?

Could be, says Louisa. No one's seen the inscription since the 1990s.

What's an inscription? asks Terence.

Writing, says Louisa. They say Captain Baudin wrote his name on the wall of the cave. You can't see it now.

Probably covered by shifting sands, says Gaius. 

Let's DIG! says Terence.

He starts digging at random.

I may be just an Ear, says the Ear, but I would dig close to the rock face.

Where's the  rock face? asks Terence.

It's all rock face, says Gaius.

Just imagine you're him, says Louisa. You walk into the cave with your men. You say: Let's leave something to show we've been here. You decide to scratch your name on the rock face. Now where would you do it?

Imagine you're lower, says Arthur.

Because I'm a lobster, says Terence. 

No, says Arthur. At the time you would've been a human sea captain. But if sand's covering it now the floor of the cave at the time must have been lower.

Good deductive reasoning, Arthur, says Gaius. Now Terence, where will you dig?

Why do I have to do it? asks Terence.

You don't, says Louisa. You'd never find it anyway. 

Let's all try and get a few hours' sleep before sunrise, says Gaius. 

I never sleep, says Terence. What will I do?

Keep watch, says Louisa. 

What for? asks Terence.

The tide coming in to drown us, says Arthur.

Night birds, says Gaius.

Ghost emus, says Louisa.

The sleepers lie down in the sand.

Terence and the Ear sit at the mouth of the cave, keeping watch for these things.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Two Wrong Persons

Is anyone thinking what I'm thinking? asks Louisa.

What are you thinking? asks Arthur.

That what we're doing is crazy, says Louisa.

What in particular? asks Arthur.

We're not meant to be here at night, says Louisa. There's no camping. And we've run out of oranges. And you ate the chocolate, and we've left Baby-Glossy with a lobster.....

That was sensible, says Gaius, cycling close behind them. 

Okay, maybe that was sensible, says Louisa. But what about the rest?

Look around you, says Arthur. 

Louisa doesn't need to.

Blackness, dripping bushes, the occasional revelatory moon glint.

That owl.

Or another one.

And rocks.

Are you SCARED? asks Terence.

Me no, says the Ear.

Not you, her, says Terence.

No, says Louisa. Just thinking. Do you think you've missed seeing Alfonse?

Wah! says Terence. Have I?

No, says Gaius. Alfonse will be here tomorrow, with his family.

And his ear, says Terence.

If it is an ear, says Louisa. What was the competition exactly?

Whose is an ear? says Terence.

That's not an Ear competition, says the Ear. I was expecting something like, you know, a whisper. Which ear can best hear it. Perhaps it gets softer. Until none of us can.

That's a great competition, says Louisa. Did we arrange where to meet them?

No, says Gaius. But they're sure to turn up at Remarkable Rocks. 

Or the lighthouse, says Arthur.

Indeed. Or the lighthouse, says Gaius. Neither of which were burnt down.

Okay, says Louisa. We should split up, so we don't miss them.

At first light, we shall, says Gaius. It's an excellent way to proceed. We can all make notes on the recovery. We can all count endangered birds. And work our way back to where we left Captain Baudin with Baby-Glossy.

But who will I go with? asks Terence. What if it's the wrong person?

In fact, says the Ear. There will be two wrong persons.

Who are they? asks Terence.

We don't know yet, says Louisa. But whoever is the right person can call you, if you're not with them.

Or, says the Ear, they could whistle, and we would come.

And we'd automatically win the competition, says Terence.

I should say so, says the Ear.

By this time they have arrived at the Ravine des Casoars, which at night is even more dreary. 


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Rarely-mont

Alors! He seems to like me, says Captain Baudin. 

I'll ask him, says Terence. Do you like Captain Bo Dan?

Squoo, says Baby-Glossy.

Terence looks at the Ear.

What? says the Ear. Am I involved in this somehow?

Yes, says Terence. You know what he means.

You certainly seem to, says Gaius. 

All right, says the orange peel Ear. He likes the Captain.

Anyone can see that, says Louisa. Why don't we leave him with the Captain, overnight.

Squoo! says Baby-Glossy. Mimic-mimic.

He wants language lessons, says the Ear.

I can do that, says Captain Baudin. French or English?

French or English? asks the Ear.

Squish, says Baby-Glossy.

English, says the Ear.

It has fortuitously stopped raining.

A few raindrops drip from the rim of the rock umbrella.

The moon appears, between non-threatening clouds.

An owl hoots.

Drip... hoot 

Time to get moving, says Gaius. Are you sure it's all right to leave Baby-Glossy?

Certainment, says Captain Baudin.

Squer-mont, says Baby Glossy.

Certain-ly, I should have said,  says Captain Baudin. It will give me a task. And alleviate my loneliness.

Squertin, says Baby Glossy. Div me a squask.

Wow! says Louisa. He's already learning!

Shall we meet at the Ravine des Casoars tomorrow? asks Gaius.

I rarely go there, says Captain Baudin.

Rarely-mont, says Baby-Glossy.

Captain Baudin gives Baby Glossy a sharp pinch on the shoulder.

Non! Rare-lee! Rare-lee!

Rare-lee, squeaks Baby-Glossy.

Arthur and Louisa are on their bikes already.

You ate the last of the chocolate, says Louisa.

There was nothing else to do, says Arthur.

Drip... hoot

Gaius lifts Terence and the competition-winning orange peel Ear into his back pack.

We'll pass by here on our way back, says Gaius. See how the lessons are going. By then we may have located some substitute parents.

If I'm not here, says Captain Baudin, I'll leave you a note.

Or a map, says Gaius. With your location.

Oui, says Captain Baudin. 

Wee, says Baby-Glossy.

Wee, says Terence. That was good English.

No one points out that it wasn't.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Benefits Of Extinction

The rain continues.

But everyone is dry under the big rock umbrella.

Captain Baudin eats one more segment of orange.

Alas, did you say? says Gaius. What happened in the Ravine des Casoars? Should we be vigilant?

Not at all, says Captain Baudin. I don't normally speak of it.

Come on, says Louisa. How bad can it be?

Bad, says Terence.

Bobber, says Baby-Glossy.

What does that mean? asks Terence.

Bad, says the orange peel Ear. Or possibly, Bad Lobster.

I am not a bad lobster, says Captain Baudin. 

Wait! I remember, says Louisa. We learned all about it in school. You saw Kangaroo Island emus and thought they were cassowaries! So you called it Ravine des Casoars.

An understandable mistake, says Gaius. I myself have made many. My cure for toothache, for example. One simply has to live with it. Or blame one's sources.

I live with it daily, says Captain Baudin. At least the Kangaroo Island emu is now extinct.

That's not a good thing! says Louisa.

It is for me, says Captain Baudin. It's a dreary place, now.

Have some chocolate, says Louisa. That will cheer you up.

She looks for the chocolate.

But the chocolate is gone,

Arthur has been silent for some time now.

There may be a connection.

Never mind, says Captain Baudin. You have all been so kind.

I haven't, says Terence. 

It doesn't matter, says Captain Baudin. You have your hands full with that Baby Glossy. I think it could benefit from remedial speech therapy. 

The orange peel Ear understands it, says Gaius.

I disagree, says Captain Baudin. Particularly with the Ear's interpretation of Bobber. What that bird needs is someone to mimic.

That's why we're looking for substitute parents, says Louisa.

Mimic, says Baby-Glossy. Mimic-mimic. Mimic-mimic-mimic-mimic.

It waddles over to Captain Baudin, and tucks itself under his dominant claw.


Monday, September 21, 2020

A Slow Transformation

The dark clouds have lowered. 

Rain drops splatter, then pour.

How annoying, says Gaius. There's no shelter. We'd better keep going.

Thunder.

Head for those rocks, says Louisa. 

Yes, on KI there are plenty of rocks. They head for them.

They throw down their bikes and crouch under an overhang.

Terence likes this. The rock is like an umbrella.

He points it out to Baby-Glossy.

Umbrella, says Terence.

Squobber, says Baby-Glossy.

No, says Terence. Um-BRELLA!

Be patient with him, says Louisa. He's scared.

Nobber, says Baby-Glossy.

The orange peel ear feels it's time for an intervention.

He's seen a lobster, says the orange peel ear. That's why he said squobber.

How can he see anything in this storm? asks Gaius.

Because, says the orange peel ear, the lobster's right here, behind you.

Louisa turns first.

Ooh! a lobster! 

The lobster is wearing a sea captain's hat, and looks gloomy.

Can it be? Gaius can't believe it.

Captain Louttit?

Non, says the lobster. I am not Captain Louttit. Do you know Captain Louttit?

Yes, says Gaius. I know Captain Louttit. But I see now that you are not he.

I am Captain Nicolas Baudin, says the lobster. Of the famous Baudin Expedition.

Pleased to meet you, says Gaius. What brings you here?

The rain, says the captain. 

Captain Baudin! says Louisa. How come you're a lobster?

It happens to us all, says Captain Baudin. When old sea captains die they slowly transform into lobsters.

True says Gaius. We know many such captains. 

Mean ones, says Terence. Are you mean?

Not at all, says Captain Baudin. Is it still raining?

Yes, says Gaius. We may as well stay and keep dry. Would you care for an orange?

I would enjoy an orange, says Captain Baudin. Oh!

He has noticed the Ear.

Would you like me to save you the peel? asks Captain Baudin.

No need, says Gaius. Terence has more than enough for his competition.

I might need some spares, says Terence. 

I'll save it, says Captain Baudin.

He peels his orange and breaks it into segments. He eats two or three.

I don't see many people here at night, says Captain Baudin. Not these days.

We have permission, says Gaius. We're heading for the Ravine des Casoars. Do you know it?

Alas! Too well! says Captain Baudin.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Dark Clouds Cross The Moon

 It's dark now.

Gaius cycles behind Arthur and Louisa, who are sharing the chocolate.

Terence is in Gaius's back pack, with Baby-Glossy.

Terence worries something bad will happen.

Squoo! agrees Baby-Glossy.

The good ear perks up.

What bad thing might happen?

Did you hear that? asks Terence.

Squoo! says Baby-Glossy.

You need to learn to talk, says Terence.

Squoo, says Baby-Glossy. 

(He thinks so too. Then he could tell Terence that the orange peel ear wants to know what bad thing might happen. He makes an effort)

Squat? asks Baby-Glossy.

Talk, says Terence.

Squalk, says Baby-Glossy.

That's good, says Terence. Now answer this question. Did you hear that?

Squat bad-squing? says Baby-Glossy.

The orange peel ear is tired of waiting for Baby-Glossy to interpret his feelings.

Next time the bike jerks, he will try something radical.

Jerk!

(This didn't happen at once, but some minutes later. The road is not bad.)

The orange peel ear's tiny hole of a mouth splits open wider.

WHAT BAD THING MIGHT HAPPEN?

It's loud. Gaius hears it.

Nothing bad will happen, says Gaius. The ranger gave us permission. Arthur arranged it. 

It wasn't me, says Terence.

I know that, says Gaius.

They are now passing the site of the Snake Lagoon campsite, which was burnt in the fires.

See that, says Louisa. 

They all see it. 

The native sedges, ghanias, yakkas, hakeas and mallees have re-sprouted.

Unlike the amenities.

It wasn't me that TALKED, says Terence.

But no one is listening.

Arthur's phone rings.

It's Sweezus. 

Hi, says Sweezus. Tour's over.

I know, says Arthur. Pogacar won.

Man! says Sweezus, I felt sorry for Roglic. His face at the end. Freakin' tragic.

I bet, says Arthur. But Richie did okay.

Yeah, says Sweezus. And he's on his way home already. So are we. 

That's good, says Arthur. When'll we see you?

Gotta quarantine for two weeks, says Sweezus. Bummer.

We're still on KI, says Arthur. We're heading for the Ravine des Casoars. It's dark and we're eating chocolate, and strange voices are coming out of Gaius's back pack.

Is it Terence? asks Sweezus.

Sounds more like orange peel, says Arthur. 

That'd be right, says Sweezus.

.....

The call ends.

They cycle onwards.

Dark clouds cross the moon.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Time For Some Kudos

Yippee! says Terence. This ear's a winner!

What about mine? asks Louisa.

A spare,  says Terence.

So you've got two ears, made of orange peel, says Arthur.

Yes, says Terence.

How will you know if they work? asks Arthur.

If they hear me, says Terence.

But how will you know if they hear you? asks Arthur.

Good question, says Gaius. The orange peel has but one property, its ears.

Two properties, says Terence.

One faculty, says Gaius. The point is, that with no other properties, such as a mouth, it can't demonstrate that it heard you.

Or legs, says Louisa. Legs could demonstrate that it heard you.

Watch this, says Terence. Orange peel up!

The orange peel with the ear made by Louisa does nothing.

The orange peel with the ear made by Baby-Glossy twists up.

See, says Terence. This one heard me.

Baby-Glossy thinks it's time for some kudos.

Squoo! says Baby-Glossy.

The orange peel with the ear made by Baby-Glossy, says softly Squoo-yu!

Where did that come from?

Does it have a mouth after all? It must be a small one.

Anyway, Baby-Glossy looks contented.

Remarkable, says Gaius. But trivial, in the circumstances.

True, says Louisa. We're in Flinders Chase and it'll soon be night time. We have to figure out what to do.

Indeed, says Gaius. We have no food but oranges, and no camping equipment. All the Glossy Black Cockatoos will be resting. What might we do that is useful?

Head west to the Ravine des Casoars, says Louisa. Then we'll get a good start in the morning. And don't worry. We also have chocolate.

This is news to Arthur.

He thought he'd finished the chocolate.

Sometimes, the unexpected happens.

As in France, at the penultimate stage of the Tour, in the Time Trials.

Primoz Roglic cracks on the gruelling climb up to La Planche des Belles Filles. He loses two minutes to his rival Tadj Pogacar, who will wear the yellow jersey in Paris.

And Richie Porte pedals himself to third place on the podium.

Which was (to be honest) not unexpected.