THE OUTBACK, AUSTRALIA
Billy has been wandering for three weeks, so far beyond just being plain-old lost that he had forgotten where he was going, where he came from, and most of his baseball trivia. There was no more water, and he had eaten Benjy Eisen. (He’ll probably come back, don’t worry.)
Then he heard it: a strange, but beguiling rhythm bristling past the scrubby trees and gnarly, mean root-plants. Ya-BADDA-badda-bey, Ya-badda-BEY. Over and over, only the subtlest of variation, but recognizable to Billy.
“Billy, can you hear me? Billy, can you hear me?”
“Mickey! Oh, Mickey, thank god you saved me. This place is fucking awful! Who the fuck would live here? Gotta be a complete reta–”
There were many Aboriginal men standing around and over Billy, who was weakened from his journey, so he reconsidered the rest of his sentence.
“–ahh, um. G’day, mates! Throw a shrimp on the barbie!”
The Aboriginal men muttered the Aboriginal word for “asshole” and walked away.
“Hey, Mick. Thanks for saving my life: I was all out of Benjy.”
“Nothing. What are you doing here?”
“I came to this magical place to learn the Songlines, and to drum my way into the Dreamtime.”
“Uh-huh. What does that mean?”
“Long and politically correct version, or short and just-plain-correct?”
“It’s bullshit. Every group of savages has some bullshit. Savages in Rome thought up a lot of bullshit. Greeks had some. Chinese got bullshit we never even heard of. Africa: different bullshit every ten miles. Ton of bullshit in Africa.”
“Lucky America is better than that.”
“Sure: we believe in capitalism and democracy. Not bullshit.”
“Silly savages and their bullshit.”
“So: Dreamtime is kinda animism mixed with choosing a mascot, but the thing is that the term “dreamtime” is some Oxford professor’s interpretation of the Aboriginal term and I’m getting a feeling their whole relationship with reality is untranslatable.”
“Do you have any idea what these folks are talking about?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Do you have any idea what you’re talking about?”
“”I’m getting the crew back together. There’s a job.”
“A heist! We’re back in the heisting business!?!”
“Please don’t yell that.”
“We’re in the Outback surrounded by Arborigines.”
“It’s just a bad habit to get into, dontcha think?
“Okay. Can we leave?”
“I have a plane.”
Billy and Mickey thanked the Aborigines for their hospitality, which had mainly consisted of offering them fried witchetty grubs and not stabbing them. They exited the structure. Maybe a Hogan? Longhouse? One of those tiny houses?
(I did not do the reading.)
The plane taxied down the blasted flat they were using as a runway. It turned around and came back; Billy got out, and ran back inside; punched all the dicks; back in and takeoff.
“When did you learn how to fly a plane?”
“the Aborigines taught me.”
“The ones that ate the grubs?”
Billy pointed at a spot on the map.