In the middle of nowhere, on the old stomping grounds of the Ngunnawal tribe, squats our nation's capital- Canberra. It was the unwanted offspring that came as the direct result of a disagreement by perpetual rivals Sydney and Melbourne in the late 19th century during Federation when neither city wanted the other one to have the honour of being the Australian capital. A compromised was reached to avoid an outright civil war and the two cities grudgingly agreed to build the most boring place they could think of and herded our politicians there as punishment for being two-faced liars that no-one likes.
The reason I was heading to Dullsville where black-hearted villains made pacts with devils was a family commitment of the highest order- a cousin's wedding (No, not that one
). Though I'd rather swallow razor blades or be locked in a box filled with ravenous Gila monsters I did not want to face a swift and brutal excommunication from the Family by not attending the wedding.
The cousin in question-he who had to rent a tux and say vows and such- was James
, a detective in the Federal Police. He, his sister Jo (who was now working for a powerful politician) and I used to spend the summer holidays of our youth getting dressed up as superheroes and roamed around town looking for invisible creatures and Mayan treasure. How times have changed. Jo and James are now important people while I....still dress up as a superhero and roam around town looking for creatures and forgotten treasure.
Now, I can only remember going through Canberra three or four times. One of those memories involved my father and I driving from New South Wales to Victoria via the nation's capital possibly as an ill-thought out on his part of a bonding experience. By the end of our journey there was only an icy silence in the car (neither of us had spoken to the other for the last five hours of the ride), the remains of a John Denver cassette tape chewed apart by our faulty tape deck and the vow that we'd never undertake that particular trip again.
The other memory involved a younger version of Yours Truly getting invited by a schoolfriend to stay at his place during the school holidays. We were both around 13 I think. Snot-nosed and arrogant and petty as all 13 year olds are. His parents lived in a luxurious mansion and we spent most of the holidays running around, breaking expensive toys and tormenting the maid. Then one day we had some sort of an argument. I can't remember exactly what over but it must have been major ('Liege Maximo
the bestest of the Decepticons. He'd so kick Megatron's ass!', 'Would not!', 'He created them all! He can un-create whoever the hell he flippin' well wanted to!', 'Well if he's so powerful why doesn't he show himself huh? Why doesn't he?', 'That's because he's like Kaiser Soze
. Just like a robotic Kaiser Soze.', 'Soze is a myth!', 'Is not!', etc.) because I calmly decided to pack all my gear and hitchhike my way back home. I knew this could be done since I'd seen films where a cat, a dog and a Two-headed Bobtail Skink could join forces and make it home by sheer force of will and a little bit of luck.
Unbeknownst to me, my family, the school we went to and possibly even to my schoolfriend was that my school friend's father was part of the Israeli secret intelligence- the Mossad. My disappearance had sparked a swift international incident as fears of a kidnapping circulated the intelligence community. My uncle Rod received a phone call from the Feds much to his bewilderment. 'Hello? Is this Rod Heazlewood?'
'Yes. Yes it is. Who may I ask is calling?'
'This is Agent (blank) of the Federal Bureau (or whatever) calling on behalf of your nephew who has gone missing...'
'I see. Excuse me for just one moment...(starts banging head against wall).'
'That (bang) Idiot (bang) child (bang)!'
'Sir? Is this a bad time?'
My escape was short lived however. I lasted about an hour or two on the road when I foolishly assisted a mother of two with her stalled car on the proviso that she dropped me off at the state border. She agreed to this and promptly betrayed me by calling the police at the nearest service station while I waited for her to fill her petrol tank. I was vaguely surprised to see a swarm of police vehicles and helicopters arrive along with my friend's father who seemed torn between hugging me and strangling me to within an inch of my petty life.
* p.s. The title comes from Bill Bryson's 'Down Under'- a book I haven't read but possibly should.