= Bloody Good Mates =

‘Yes! We found the river!’
Dave staggered out on to the bluff above the drop to the sluggish brown water.

‘Barry mate we’ve made it to the river we’ll be right mate! Stay with me I’ll get you down and into it.’
Barry groaned in response; draped across Dave’s shoulders his back red from the flames lick, he felt drained and exhausted from breathing in so much smoke.
‘Hang on mate we’ll be right!’

Dave could feel the warmth of Barry across his back, making his skin sweat in the heat. But still, here in front of the fire, it wasn’t as bad as it had been back there at the front.

They could hear the roaring following them up the hill. Dave had taken them sideways away from the main fire-path, but in this tinderbox of bush fire would go every-which-way as easy as pie.
Getting Barry down would prove difficult. There was no track from where he stood and the track back would take them too dangerously close to the flames for Barry to get through. Alone Dave could run it and make it but half carrying his bigger mate he’d play devils advocate with him and his own life.

But he couldn’t leave him; to do that would be unthinkable! They’d gone through school and ‘Nam together; they’d fought drought and floods and fire before and he knew they’d do it again.

’C’mon mate just sit here a sec while I take a squiz.’

Dave propped Barry, groaning in agony, against the half dead rotted trunk of what once had been a mighty redgum. He crawled half sideways to look over the edge. It was a drop of about ten feet but for Barry it may as well be twenty! At the bottom were rocks and mud left by the water and no longer washed away due to the receding waters.

He hissed through the back of his teeth. How the hell would they get down?

Looking back at his mate he saw the bush silhouetted by the approaching red and orange flames. They had no time to go anywhere else and up here they were ducks waiting for roasting. He looked down again. Perhaps he could climb down with Barry holding onto him.

‘Ok Baz me old mate, you gotta hang on!’

He scuttled back and squatted in front of his mate and pulled him to his knees. Twisting round he undid Barry’s belt and threaded one end through his own belt at the back then did it back up again. Then pulling his mates burnt arms over his shoulders he rocked forward onto his feet.
‘Come on mate find your feet you gotta give me a hand here or we’ll be roast pork in no time flat.’
Dave waited a few precious moments for Barry to find his feet, hissing and groaning at the effort, and then they moved like an obscure crab towards the edge.

Dave dropped them to the ground on his stomach and then turned them around so their feet shot out over the edge of the small cliff. Then cautiously he edged them over the lip and dug his boots about in the clay cliff face for toe holds.

His left foot held but the right kept slipping. He tried for a lower spot and found a rock and then he was being pulled by his mate’s weight to descend faster than he’d expected. He scrabbled for hand holds clawed at the clay with his boots and nails; knowing that if they just dropped they’d land sprawled on the cumbersome rocks.

‘Just a few more feet mate we’re nearly there.’ he told Barry feeling his mate’s weight pulling on the linked belts and his big arms slipping off his shoulders.

But then Dave realised he’d have an issue in the water.

They’d jumped in here when they were lads there’d been a rope from that old redgum’s limb to give them a bit of a thrill and to get them out far enough from the rocks. Back in those days the water was up and lapped the hill only about five or so feet below the roots to the old redgum. They had known the bend was deep but they had never found the bottom to find out just how deep! If it were deep and he couldn’t Touch bottom he’d have to swim for it and with Barry now attached to his back that was going to make things a bit difficult.

He felt the water with one ankle as it lapped over his boot and sock just as he heard the roar of the fire reach them and felt the first dropped burning twigs coming down the fire licking the bush at the cliff top above them. Smoke swirled trying to get him, tendrils seeking his nose and lungs as he felt for his last foot hold. He needed to push off into the depths and try in the water to unlock their belts in order to keep them both up.

There was a crack and he looked up. The old limb that once held the rope was alight and looked like dropping down upon them.

He had a toe hold. It had to be enough! He turned and pushed off taking them both into the water.
Struggling with the current, the water dragging him, the rubbish in the bed catching at him, he managed to open his belt and pull it from his waist; enough to feel Barry drop off him. Taking a precious moment to do it back up again as he kicked for the surface for air. He then turned to reach down and grab hold of Barry by the hair. Never again would he bag good old Barry for his thick unruly mop of grey hair he swore watching as the man surfaced slowly rolling over onto his burnt back in the soothing water and took a breath.

Above them the fire roared and licked sending down burning branches and other debris. Helping his floating mate Dave kicked out for the other bank. He wouldn’t take them out , fires were known to jump a gap this close, but at least on the slow side of the bend the water wouldn’t be wanting to drag them down and away from where the rest of the CFA crew or indeed the strike team would come look for them.

‘Steady mate we’ll rest a bit in the shallows over here and wait for the blokes to come fish us out.’ Dave decided finding a submerged rock to sit on and hold his mate to him still floating in the water only his head resting on Dave’s shoulder.

’You’re a bloody good mate Davo.’ Barry croaked out
‘No more than what you’d do mate, no more’n what you’d do.’ Dave replied patting his mate’s chest and smiling in relief.

~ adgray © 2008

= Bloody Good Mates =

adgray

Frankston, Australia

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Artist's Description

Unlike my usual inspirations I saw this Picture
from my dear friend Noelene and this story hit me full on like a bloke telling me to tell the tale.
So Tell it I have.
Thanks Noelene and I’d like to thank all the blokes and Lasses who give up their time and put their lives on the line every day to man the CFA and help where they can! They’re the best blokes and bloody good mates!
THANKS GUYS & GALS! xx ♥ xx

Enjoy! :O)

Coose this one for my pledge to the “PHOENIX APPEAL”
6 poems hand signed + 200% of your donated proceeds to the Victorian Black Saturday 2009 Fire Victims
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