This story was written in September 2020 when I was in the the thick of writing a series of connected stories for the Australian Writers Centre’s Furious Fiction Competition. This competition provides prompts for 500 word stories. Originally held monthly, it is now presented every quarter.
I had trouble fitting this story to the prompts (see below) and ended up writing and publishing a non-Frankie story. Next month (April 13, 2022) you’ll find a new installment for Frankie’s story in response to March 2022’s prompts. You can find other Frankie stories in my archive. If you wait till April 13 there will be links to all the stories. The first episode was posted in February 2020.
Broome or Bust
“Should. not. have. opened. that. second. bottle…” Frankie croaked as he held his pounding head between his hands. His wiry frame, even thinner and spikier than it had been yesterday.
“I do recall mentioning that at the time.” George quipped. They’d been sitting on the side of the highway for hours. The razor-sharp rays of the sun slicing its way through their clothes, sucking out the last bits of moisture.
Hitch-hiking used to be a reliable way to get around out here in the outback, but it was getting harder and harder. Frankie’s stupid antics had cost them one ride already. They couldn’t afford to lose another. The time ticked past and Frankie went quiet. Too quiet. Scary quiet.
George stamped his boot against the hard, corrugated dirt road frustrated by their rapidly impending demise. Dying on the edge of nowhere had not been part of George’s game plan. His ears pricked up when he heard the low rumble of a truck approaching. At first, it was only a sound mirage but soon a red and chrome saviour was arising from the dust.
Frankie tried to push himself up off the ground.
“Lay down!” George barked at Frankie. “Lay down, play dead and say nothing till we’re in the cab!”
Frankie needed little convincing and did what he was told as the truck pulled up to a stop. The driver jumped out of the cabin, a couple of water bottles in his hand. He knelt beside Frankie gently slopping water into his parched mouth. George guzzled the second bottle.
“Mate! Are we glad to see you!”
“I’ll take you to Broome,” the driver said, “that’s where I’m heading.”
“That’ll do!” George said slinging his and Frankie’s bags into the back of the cab. They struggled together to lift the dead weight of Frankie who was playing dead a little too convincingly.
As they drove into the sun the driver switched between radio, podcasts and silence. According to his licence photo his name was Tim. He asked them no questions and offered no conversation. He sprinkled the silence with the occasional expletive when a ‘roo bounced off the bull bar.
Just as the sun was dipping into the emerald ocean, Broome loomed ahead. Tim dropped them near the passenger terminal and without a goodbye, he rumbled up the road to the cargo dock.
Frankie and George stood there dishevelled, smelly and dirty and watched as scores of squeaky clean tourists scuttled along the white jetty back to a massive white cruise ship.
“See that Frankie? That’s our ticket out of here.”
Somehow in the 48 hours they had known each other, Frankie and George had become a team.