The Black Stump


I’m sure the Daily Post word today (stump) will bring out all the Australian closet bushies, so here’s mine:

Miles and miles and miles – not a tree or shrub taller than a jack-wrangler, not a shady spot that wasn’t overrun with ‘roos, not a single colour that wasn’t Desert. Stuck out here, in the middle of nowhere, not just one flat tyre, but three – melted on the hot rocks and black sand, most likely – and no comms.

Black zone, no coverage; black mood, stupid to come here in the first place; black Stump? What the hell? Surely that’s just a myth. There it was, jutted up from a lower than flatscape depression, black as myrtle ink, black as a recent bushfire victim. The Black Stump.

Well, at least now he could tell them where he was – if he ever walked far enough to get reception – at The Black Stump. In his early years as a wanderer through the bush, he’d always thought it was a good name for a pub – and it was, but someone else had done it. Later, he realised it was locals poking fun at the weekend pretenders, and the directions they gave were as useless as the proverbial tracks in the shifting desert sands.

Now he was here, and the stump was so black, so distinctive, so alluring – he had to touch it, or get close enough to see what type of tree it had once been. He stepped up close – the trunk as big as a River Red (not possible, out here), little nodules pimpled up to the lip of the break-point – where was the rest of the tree?

Nowhere, not a branch or twig or root scattered anywhere. He scraped his fingernail over the black – yes, fresh! Recent fire, or storm or lightning or . . . The taint of wood-ash filtered through the dry desert air – fresh. Not a single smell until now. All the desert smells were the same – dry, dusty, debilitating; smells that sucked life. Not this – a black burn that lived in the distinctiveness of that smell – sharp, acrid, biting. It was something. Real.

The Black Stump. The myth of the Black Stump. The story told by the old farts at the pubs in the middle of nowhere.

“By the time you find it, you’ll know you’re at the end of the road.”

That’s what they said, regardless of what the name of the town was, or . . .

The end of the road. The Black Stump. He took a step – now he was here, he just had to go Beyond the Black Stump, otherwise . . .


Copyright CS Dunn 2016



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