The sky was a severe grey and black, its undersides lit with the red glow from the heaving fiery monstrosity that we had been chasing for hours in our little convoy. Young Dylan was sitting next to me, his bum fluff beard a sad testimony to his child like state. He was on edge, jittering around on his seat like some crazed teenage lunatic at a boy band concert. He was even holding up his mobile phone to record the event as well. It all fit. The entire thing. The play. The scandal. We would have him where we wanted him. Teach that bastard to win an election that was never his to win in the first place.
Scott “Fatty” Morrison. Oh, we’d have the bastard now. Here he was after scurrying home from his ill-fated holiday, prancing around the fire swept country like the demented and hypocritical climate denier that he is. Oh yes, we had him big time.
Neils was monitoring the police radio so he could get updates on Morrison’s position. Meanwhile we had old Vera, that mad cow from the teacher’s union, whom we had managed to convince to don some rural firefighter’s gear that we had sourced off the back of a truck, so to speak.
Yeah, man; we were doing something. We were gonna make a difference. But everything had to come together. And above all we had to make it look spontaneous. That’s what it’s all about, you see. And every burnt out town that the bastard stopped in, we’d be there to send in someone new to get under his gherkin. We had the uniforms, we had a truck, we’d even stopped at a point where the fire had passed long ago, and then we’d rolled around in the ash and soot so as to really look the part.
Dylan had run around in large circles, at times vaulting into the air at irrational moments. He made “whoop-whoop! noises and he took giant gasps of air through his inflamed nostrils and then he’d suddenly stop and paw the earth like a nag about to thrash itself to death in the Melbourne Cup. There was something wrong with that fella, which was saying something for the company that I was keeping. But we had to take what we could get with the cash that they’d given us. It only goes so far when you’re trying to put on a show of this magnitude. And besides, Steve had asked to stop to buy a carton of Winnie Blues and those darn things are expensive these days. It didn’t help that the stupid idiot get throwing his used butts out the window.
“Helping the cause,” he declared with a look that challenged anyone to fight him. The only one that met his demented gaze was Vera but even Steve wouldn’t cross that crazy bitch. Rumor had it that she’d once worked as a bouncer at Cold Chisel shows on the Nullabor back in the 70s. She certainly had the arms for it, if not the Neanderthal forehead.
“We haf to make sure zhat zee news crews are there as vhell,” Neils said in his thick Norwegian accent. “Overwise zis is alls a time waste.”
“Don’t you worry about that,” Steve said as he lit another fag. “I’ve got it all covered. Me and Vera have our lines all worked out.”
“What are you gonna say?” I asked.
“I’m gonna declare that the prime minister is fucked and needs to resign. What are you gonna say, Vera?”
“I’m gonna say that the prime minister is fucked and needs to resign, of course. What, do I look like a fucking moron? I knows that you lot think a woman shouldn’t be out here, but us women have been at the forefront of setting up right wing pollies for generations, so don’t you fucking forget it!”
She stared around at us, one by one, her eyes bulging out of her head like those of the dead goanna we had seen a few clicks back, fried to a crisp on the side of the road. I sucked in my breath and tried to think of the cause. The cause was everything.
I turned to Steve. “What if you roll around on the side of the road a bit when the truck stops?”
“What do ya mean?”
“Like, the truck stops, you fall out, stagger to the side of the road; make sure you pick a nice grassy bit, and then you roll around a bit. At that point we all run to you with lots of concern on our faces; hey Dylan, maybe you could put your hands on your head and look horrified; I reckon you’d be good at that …”
” … and then you kind of prop yourself up on your side, make sure to let the camera crew get right in your face for this one, and then say something like we’ve already lost a bunch of houses or koalas or whatever the hell you think we’ve lost, and then go back to moaning for a bit about the humanity of it all. What do ya reckon?”
There was a tangible period of silence in the truck. As we bounced along the blackened highway, the only sounds were the commands emanating from the police scanner.
“I reckon that’s a ripper,” Steve said, and everyone relaxed back into their seats. “But what about Vera?”
“Don’t you worry about me, pet,” she said as she dug some filth out from underneath a jagged red fingernail. “I’ll just keep unloading on Fats Morrison. The bastard won’t know what hit him.”
“Just remember,” I instructed them all. “This is your big shot. At the next town we have to have other people doing the show. We can’t let those fuckers on the internet do any sleuthing and ruin our game. Too much work has gone into all this. Think of all the years just letting the undergrowth build up for starters.”
“And the chem-trails! Don’t you forget the fucking chem-trails!” Dylan had his index finger pointed at the roof of the truck, his mouth set in a thin and hostile line.
I waved a placating hand. “Of course, the chem-trails. Those too. But the point is that we have to keep this spontaneous. If we can do that then we might have a shot at getting the fucker to fall on his sword.”
“Scanner says zhat the Morrison is stopping in fronts of us. I think zhat zee tee vee crews are there too.”
“Thanks, Neils. Okay guys are we ready to do this?”
A resounding chorus came back at me. I signaled to the truck following us and then we went into the town. What the town’s name was I’ll never know. But as the smoke lifted we saw our quarry straight in front of us. I gunned the engine and pulled the truck up alongside the media pack, the fuckers scurrying out of the way as the tire clipped a curb and then Steve was tumbling out of the door for real and it was all on and it was glorious.