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The Australian Writers Centre’s monthly competition drew over 1000 entries. The challenge was to write a story of no more than 500 words in 55 hours, which had to include each of the following.

The name of at least ONE element from the periodic table.

The first and last words had to begin with S.

The words TRAFFIC, JOWLS, HIDDEN, and something that BUZZES.

This was my submission.

Scared? I don’t scare easily … but, there was one time.

I’ve lived in the bush all me life. Well, one foot in Alice an’ the other in the bush. I’m more at home alone in the mulga, red sand hills an’ rocky gorges that look like gold in the sun, than bein’ stuck in stuffy suburbia. Tourists generally play safe. Travel in groups with mobile phones and sat navs. A few ‘ill go-it-alone off the beaten track.

The bush can be ya friend or ya foe. For me it’s me life. Give me, any day, sparring with a big Ol’ Red roo, or facin’ a wild boar with salvia drippin’ off its jowls; sitting alone by the campfire with eyes peerin’ outa the darkness, to livin’ in town. And the heat an’ the blowies give it a bit o’ atmosphere.

I travel all over, buildin’ sheds, herding cattle, fencing – you name it, I’ve done it. Me years as a jackaroo ‘ave taught me jest about everythin’ I needs to know. I knows where to look for hidden bush tucker, where to dig in a dry creek bed for water. When I hit an emu and damaged me old ute, there’s nothin’ that can’t be fixed with a length of fencin’ wire and a pair o’ pliers!

Folks say, “a

ren’t you scared o’ being bitten by a snake an’ dyin’ in the wild?” I says, “no better place to leave the planet than from under an old ghost gum. I’m more likely to kick-the-bucket from a car accident in the traffic in Alice than a snake bite.”

As I was sayin’, nothin’ really scares me, but …

I was alone, bouncin’ me way back to Alice on a rough sandy track, miles from nowhere. Ya don’t get any tourists out there. It was just on dusk. Suddenly – a loud thump. I thought, What the hell was that? I gets out a me ute, the red bulldust hangin’ in the air an’ I looks around me vehicle. Could see nothin’ unusual. I was squattin’ down lookin’ at me front tyre. I hears a very cultured voice – like a newsreader on the ABC. “Can you please give me a lift?” The blood in my veins froze. I couldn’t look up. Me eyes caught sight of a pair of highly polished black shoes an’ expensive black trousers. Next to the shoes, a black cane with a fancy silver tip. Am I seein’ things? Then the well educated voice again, “can you please give me a lift?”

I didn’t look up. I was terrified. My heart – racin’. I leaps into me ute and without lookin’ back, floors it all the way to Alice.

A week later I was talkin’ about it to me old mate Joey in the pub. He puts down his beer and looks at me wide-eyed and says, “you’re kiddin’ me. That eccentric old Englishman was killed out on that track, yeah … how many years ago … at least seven.”

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