By Tina Cartwright
We drove down desolate roads for an eternity in a Mini Moke. Low to the ground, teeth-rattling, spine jolting, it allowed torrents of red dust to gush in the doorless sides. The moke’s black, vinyl roof concentrated the sun into one searing beam, frying all the moisture out of the air. I was a fly death-spinning in a pool of red dust.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
A sharp discussion fused into yelling, and finally the Mini Moke lurched to a gritty holt. I leapt out and screamed over the flat orange plains.
We had been searching for Mildura’s new botanic gardens for two hours; two hours of black-haired, hatless, roofless desert sun. My entire body was a freckle. Surely, only spiny, poisonous melons and straight-backed, no nonsense cacti grew out here. There was no space for anything else, the sky had taken it all.
He had sworn he knew where it was… “Let’s go to the new botanic gardens,” he said. It had sounded like a good idea.
We never found the botanic gardens. They are out there somewhere, miraged and wilting.
Instead we found something else entirely: Gol Gol fisheries. They offered a tour of Murray cod breeding cycles, but we were too late in the day for that.
Outside the fish farm he said, “I take you on the best dates.”
I huffed hot air out my nostrils.
We paid 15 dollars apiece to wander through hot brown dust, staring into square concrete ponds gluggy with muck.
I went from pond to pond looking hard into that dark slick as though trying to decipher something. I got a little desperate and found a stick to poke into one.
A man in tiny shorts and thongs appeared out of nowhere and cleared his throat loudly. I dropped my stick.
“There’s no fish.” My voice slid along the ground.
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