Authors: Lynnette Lounsbury
WE ATE THE ROAD LIKE VULTURES
WE ATE THE ROAD LIKE VULTURES
Inkerman & Blunt Publishers Pty Ltd
P.O. Box 310
Â© Lynnette Lounsbury 2016
The moral rights of the author have been asserted
This book is copyright. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, and apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior consent of the publisher
Edited by Irma Gold
Book design by Sandy Cull, gogoGingko
Cover image based on the photograph by John Little/Flickr,
Boojum Reaching to the Sky.
Typeset in 13/16pt Perpetua by Mike Kuszla, J & M Typesetting
Printed in Australia by Book Production Solutions
National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry
Creator: Lounsbury, Lynnette, author
Title: We Ate the Road like Vultures / Lynnette Lounsbury
ISBN: 9780992498566 (paperback)
Subjects: Adventure stories
Dewey Number: A823.4
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
â John 20:29
Somewhere north of February, 2001 and south of the border.
KNEW IT WAS THE RIGHT PLACE AS SOON AS I
saw the giant bull-moose up to its hairy, antique carpet haunches in a semi-inflated children's swimming pool. Water was sneaking over the side to run for its life into the firebrand sand that hissed and rolled in waves all around the sprawled sunburnt house. The pool was under two of those trees, the type that stagger across the whole of Mexico and cast about as much shade as a Masai warriorâBooja trees? Boojum? I'd heard the driver of the rattle-tin bus say the word at least a hundred times during the six-hour dustbowl drive, but he had so few teeth and so much tobacco in his gums I could scarcely figure a word of what he said, except when he told me I owed him another ten bucks just to get off the bus, off a
bus that had only the merest suggestion there had ever been vinyl over its rusted spring seats which sang their own tuneless song as we jounced over stray dogs, rocks and children, to finally stop there, at the right house.
The moose looked at me with the clear bright gaze of a being that wished me dead, or was, angry at God and the world for allowing it to be so fucking hot. He leaned forward a little in what may have been an attempt to rise, leap and charge me, trampling my thin, shrimp-taco-poisoned frame into the landscape, but the turning of his head caused such a rush of water to make its escape that he turned carefully back to his position facing the trees and left me to my business. My business seemed suddenly a lot more like stalkings of the âHe does love me back, I know it!' kind, than the intelligent discovery that I had been convincing myself it was. For the first time in the six weeks it had taken me to get from my big cool home in Chillingham, Australia to the Baja frypan in Mexico, I was hesitant about my next course of action.
I made the pretence of examining the house for more props for my conclusions when all I wanted and, at that scattered point, needed, was some time to think on what I would say when the door opened. The house was ancient and huge, the type you hear called âhacienda' in the movies, but without all the care that would ever allow it to be cinematic. It was faded and bits were falling off, not bits of paint though, that was happening as well, actual bits of the house, which led me to believe it must be made of mud. I was right and, when I found myself with a chunk of it in my hand, I wrapped it in the first thing I pulled from my pack, my last pair of clean underwear. I kept it, not for money, which it might be worth if I could prove my suspicions, but for the fact that it meant something to me. There were archways all over the place, some of them leading only to other archways and I expected Zorro to ride through on his stallion at any moment, past the scratched guitar that leaned against the wall and the whole lot of nothing hanging on the unstrung washing line.
And I knew from the nothing and the everything that this was the perfect place to hideâwith no trees and just the big old sun to keep your secret, where everyone could see you in plain sight and look straight past. No one would ever look for you there, not really, in the clichÃ© and the obviousness of it all.
It was so quiet out there that you could hear the sand shifting, like sitting in a beanbag when you are trying to read a book and all you can hear are the beans moving around and it seems like the sounds are coming from inside your head rather than half an inch away. The sand was the same, though with the amount of it stuck in my ears I wondered if it wasn't really in my brain and this whole scheme was just thatâbrain sand. I took a few more hesitant steps and heard my rotten sandshoe scuff on something metal, like a piece of spaceship was buried out there in that alien place, and without thinking of danger I reached down and brushed off the grit in my curiosity to see what was stuck under the sand. It will be hard to convince anyone of what I found down there but the God honest truth was that an anti-tank
landmine was lurking beneath my foot. A huge thing, the size of my backpack, and I wondered who would have planted such a dangerous stupid piece of metal in the ground. I knew about these things because my grandfather was at Long Tan and collected all sorts of weapons to hang on his wall in a strange twisted shrine and one of those pieces was a decommissioned tank mine just like the one I was standing on. Whoever had put it there either didn't know much about it or was hoping only to keep away creatures of quite extraordinary size, cos someone of my weight or even quite a few kilos heavier was never going to set off such a powerful piece of machinery, and its proximity to the house showed an equal ignorance, cos there was a good chance of some heavy-arse shrapnel peppering those stucco walls if it did go off. I was feeling remarkably unwanted after that little discovery, so it was with trepidation that I began to think about my next move, be it going ahead to the house or hightailing back to the bus stop to catch the next set of worn wheels out of there.
I was still in a state of self-doubt when the thing I hadn't expected to happen occurred and
set me on the back foot with no advantage of surprise. A man walked around the side of the house, through several of the arches, leaning heavily on them, being as he was ancient as the hills, and pissed into the sand not more than ten metres from where I was standing. He didn't seem to see me and I froze, not wanting to move and be seen, or stand and stare, and he talked soothingly to his Johnson asking it to please fucking work this time and if it gave him any trouble there'd be no more Monica Morello for the rest of its goddamn short limp life. He peed slowly a few drops at a time, the sand eating each before the next worked up the courage to leave, and while he waited impatiently I watched and stared at his face wondering who he was, this eighty-year-old grandpa who lived in this house. If he was a friend of the man I had come to find then he must certainly know the truth of his identity and his American accent told me he was at least a compatriot.
He didn't bother to zip up his pants because he was wearing what amounted to a sarong of faded earthy colours wrapped around him like
a skirt, loose enough that half of his naked sweat- and gravity-soaked buttocks were exposed out of the hang-down at the back, and I tried not to watch as he wandered back into recesses of the courtyard. I was all setback with hesitation working its way into my brain and making it impossible to get myself going again until I heard the moose breathing a dry and disgusted breath in my direction and I decided it was only a matter of time and the rising temperature of that water before he bothered to get up and get me the hell off his land. I walked to the door, a huge wooden number with a crusted brass ring from Spain or Portugal that was meant for softer weather and had grown spines and a jagged, angry skin in the heat of its new home. I reached for it but had to take another step and my foot pulled on a worn piece of string tied tight across the front step. It hit the sand and pulled a rusted bell hidden in the cacti at the side of the house, some sort of mad alarm system, which hardly creaked out a sound but let me know without a doubt that the inhabitants of this place didn't want to be crept up on.
I didn't think the noise from the bell would awaken the spider that resided on its crumbling handle, let alone anyone within the house, but before I could even turn to the door it was open and a man the colour and texture of beef jerky was looking down at me with the stare of someone who considered this an interruption he could most certainly do without. I stammered and stuttered out my name, Lulu, which I hate because I will sound like a child or a Hawaiian dancer till the day I die, but my parents named me for a great-grandmother who discovered some sort of plant back in Wales and who is famous in the world of botany. He yelled back over his shoulder, âWe got ourselves a hot little baby out here, Chicco, a right gorgeous one,' and there was a holler from inside, like someone stricken with emphysema was glad to hear this news, and then he turned to me and said with a kind of edgy friendliness that told me he might set his moose on me if I didn't turn tail, âWhat can I do for you, young lady, Lulu?' He was straight to the point and so I thought I should be too, even though I had hoped to bluff through a conversation with
him, or the one inside, to see if I was up the garden or if I had actually stumbled onto a state secret.
âI'm looking for Jack, does he live here?'
That was when the moose charged me, leaping like a stag out of the pool and spraying water and fur into the air as its legs tangled around themselves in the sand and it snorted towards me with head down and broken dagger antlers aimed for my chest. I should have moved the hell out of there but being charged by a two-tonne moose in Mexico was a thought so much out of my head at the time that I did the clichÃ©d thing and froze on the spot waiting for some kind of end to my story. I needn't have worried one scrap about the dripping snarling creature because it landed its remarkable body weight on the mine and the thing went off with a boom that woke the Mexican dead and sent sand and bits of moose a hundred metres in the air and all over the whitewashed walls, myself and my host. A pair of splintered and evil sharp antlers whirred through the sand cloud past my shoulder cutting a bit of my skin with a zipping noise, lodging in the door and sproinging from side to side. I must
have been a cause for laughter and fear cos I was first soaked with moose innards and then stuck with sand from head to foot. I stared up at the man expecting some sort of energetic reaction to such a tragic loss of his pet but he simply shook his head.
âWell, it's his own fault. We told him it was there.' He flicked a smattering of brain off his shoulder and watched me with no sort of emotion at all. âYou'd better come in.'
I took off my pack to find a hoof the size of my arse had ripped through the fabric and was wedged in amongst my stuff dripping thick blood all over the last of my clothes and, since many of them were stuck between the toes of the thing, I decided I might be in my jeans and Jeff Buckley shirt a few days longer, so I left the torn pack outside the front door. The place was dark and smelt like beer and farts, the way any place with old men and no women to fill the place with potpourri would smell, and I tried to wrinkle my nose hard enough not to sneeze as I followed the guy past a gallery of cobwebs to the lounge room which was kind of clean and had two of those huge
expensive chairs that recline and have cup holders and tip you up out of them when you can't get your tired bones upright. A man, thin with saggy ancient skin, sat in one that was a different shade of leather to the one beside me.