Brisk evening turns to chilled night, and the brilliant hues of sunset are lost in ink black. The haze and clouds from the power stations mingle with the heavy fog, and settle close to the ground. Steam rises from the ponds that collect the water spewed from the coal plants. All is quiet but for the rattling logging trucks turning onto the dirt track that wind behind the towns.
We don our warmest hats, pull on woollen gloves. The baby is wrapped in layers of blankets, until only a small face peers from the pram. We step out the front door, leaving the pale orange of the porch light glowing in the darkness. It sends shadows out behind the tall weeds that insist on sprouting from the unkempt garden.
Pushing the pram quickly to warm our bodies in the freezing cold winter night, we set off down the quiet streets towards the service station. It is dark in the poorly lit streets, where utes and caravans decorate front lawns and a lonely cat meows at the windows.
There, at the bottom of the next block, on a street mostly consisting of empty blocks of overgrown grassland, is the comforting sight of the fluorescent lighting and busy car park of the service station. Even at ten o’clock at night this place is busy. We head in through the automatic doors where the late night shoppers stock up on bags of chips and emergency toiletries.
Here, in the cold winter’s night, we wander to the ice cream refrigerator by the front door. I still don’t know why, but there seems to be something comforting about an ice cream on a freezing night. That, or we were just crazy.
Copyright 2009, F. Lokot, Melbourne.
A prose piece based on collected memories from the four years in which I resided in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia. We were lonely and not particularly well-off, but took pleasure in the simple things – like packing the baby in a pram and visiting the local petrol station, where we would buy a bag of chips or an ice cream.