I like setting up remote mining camps. Inland Western Australia is one of the few places in the world where you can drive out of civilisation in the morning and know you’re in the middle of nowhere when you stop at the end of the day.
I’d arrive at a cleared site, where the carpenters were just putting together the construction camp buildings we called dongas, and when I left it was almost ready for the mining crew to live in. We were creating civilisation where there had been nothing, just plants, animals and red dust. And when the mining crew left, we’d pull the camps apart like Lego and pack them up to be shifted somewhere else on the back of a truck. The plants and animals would move back in around and under the buildings while we were there and they’d reclaim it completely when we left. The red dust was ever-present. You never got rid of it, because it got everywhere and into everything.
The bad part was that the camps weren’t inhabitable until we finished. So, while we worked, we lived rough. We were the last people who actually camped there. We slept in swags and cooked outside, in the beam of the spotlights on the top of the car, which was a ute. There was one ute to two men, and I shared mine with Dean the plumber. Dean was full of shit, so it seemed natural that he was a plumber. Still, he was a better cook than me and a good mate, too.
Our supplies were packed into the tray on the back of the ute and the trailer behind it. We had enough for the job and a bit over, but never enough water for much more than drinking and cooking. After a week, we were all dreaming about hot showers.
Like all the other mine construction crews, we had to go back to town eventually and we got to stay in a hotel for the night, before they flew us all home. It was a ritual by now. I checked into the hotel with all the other blokes who were covered in red dust. I got my room and I got to shut the door to everyone else. Then I took a shower.
After endless weeks of basic camps, where sometimes the best wash you got was a swim in the river, the hotel shower was heaven. I used up all the hot water and all the liquid soap, just to get the gritty feeling of red dust off every bit of my skin. Shit, it felt good. Almost better than sex.
Which I haven’t had for longer than I’ve been without a hot shower. I tried not to think about it. Now I was going to have some holidays in civilisation, who knew what would happen?
I slept in silence and darkness. When I opened my eyes, the sun was up.
I got dressed quickly, my legs feeling bare in shorts after so long in site pants that kept out the sun and the snakes. Even a short-sleeved t-shirt felt weird. My feet felt like they’d been freed from prison in my rubber thongs, after weeks of thick socks and work boots.
I crossed the car park from my room to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. I wasn’t the only one dressed this casual. Most of the guys were the same, toes wiggling in relief under every table. Anywhere else, this might be strange. In a mining town, it was normal.
“Hey, morning, Joe!” Dean the plumber called from a table by the window. After working on the same crew so long, I should have been sick of him, but I was in such a good mood I’d put up with him one more morning over breakfast.
“Morning,” I responded. I went up to the breakfast buffet and grabbed a plate, loading it up with as much as I could. I dumped it on the table, in front of the seat across from Dean, and sat down.
“Coffee, sir?” A waitress came up behind me with an electronic order pad.
My mouth watered. I’m not sure if it was her or the thought of real coffee that did it. Probably the coffee, I decided. The waitress looked like she was sixteen and fresh off the farm, dark roots showing through her bleach-blonde hair. Too young for me – I’m more than ten years older than she is. Besides, she looks like my sister.
“I want a proper expresso, so thick the spoon almost stands up by itself, and after that, I want a latte,” I told her.
“Two coffees, sir?” The little waitress looked confused, which made her slightly cross-eyed.
“Ohhh, yes,” I replied. Definitely the coffee. Her boobs are too small. I like bigger boobs than that.
I started shovelling breakfast into my mouth, barely tasting it. What I did taste was good, though.
I’d finished my first plate and filled up a second by the time my expresso arrived, in a tiny cup. I savoured every sip until it was gone.
Dean was just as focused on his own breakfast, so it’s not like I was being rude. Besides, what else did we have to say, after months of having no one else to talk to?
He laughed at my expression as I enjoyed the expresso. “So, now you’ve had your coffee, what do you plan to do with your two months off?”
“I’m not sure,” I said slowly. I shoved the last half a croissant in my mouth.
“I’m going to go home, get drunk every night in a different pub and see how many hot chicks I can pull, before we’re back in the middle of nowhere again.” He looked dreamy. “How about you?”
He’ll be lucky if he manages to talk even one of them into sleeping with him, I thought. And I’ll be hearing about how hot she was for the whole of the next shift, and how she did everything in every porn movie he’s ever watched, which she won’t. When he gets sick of that, he’ll tell me the plot of every porn film he’s ever watched, in his own words. There’s nothing worse than a badly told story with no plot and nothing but descriptions of imaginary sex no one could ever have.
I swallowed the last of my croissant. “Nah, I want to go on a fishing charter, one of those boats that just go out and fish for a week. Then I guess I’ll see if I can pick up a bit more work, rewiring people’s houses and stuff to get some more money, until we head out to the next hole in the ground to set up camp.”
“You work too hard. You have no fun at all, mate. Still living at home, what are you saving your money for?”
“When I’ve got enough, I’m going to buy a house outright. Then I’ll look at settling down, maybe finding someone to spend the rest of my life with. Maybe even have a family.” Two years and I’ll have enough money to buy a house. Then I can finally move out of my parents’ place and start living. I’ll never have to spend another night listening to other men snoring, or share breakfast with fuckwits like Dean.
“You need to enjoy life, brother. Have a good time.” Dean winked.
“You’re not my brother.” Thank God for that. “And I am going to enjoy my time off. I’m going to spend at least a week fishing, once I work out how to arrange a charter,” I reminded him.
“I got a cousin who does some charter fishing out at the Abrolhos. Best fishing of your life, off the coast of Geraldton. I’ll give him a call, see if I can set you up,” he promised.
Yeah, and pigs will fly.
“Well, you know my number, mate. Give me a call if your cousin has room for one more on a fishing charter.”
I finished off the last bite of bacon, then slurped up a big mouthful of latte. After the expresso, it tasted like a warm coffee milkshake. I should have ordered two expressos instead.
“See you at the next site, mate,” I told him, getting up. Only two more years of this and I won’t have to say that. In the meantime, I had a plane to catch back home to Perth.
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Genre - Australian sea adventure,contemporary urban fantasy,paranormal romance
Rating – PG 13