Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Lining" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (02/28/08)
TITLE: Washed Out but not Washed Up
By Lyn Churchyard
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You see, I am a writer, and writers need to do research – sometimes very in-depth research – in the process of writing a book.
As I handed my ticket to the uniformed crewmember checking names on his list, I grinned at him like an idiot. He just looked at me and smiled knowingly. Apparently, he was quite used to idiots making their first trip on the Indian Pacific. Finances didn’t stretch as far as a first-class sleeper, so I opted for a Red Kangaroo Classs day/night seat that reclined – in a manner of speaking.
I was on my way to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, a three-day journey across the country from East to West, travelling on the longest, straightest patch of train track in the world. From Cook to Kalgoorlie – four hundred and seventy-eight miles.
I stowed my backpack in the overhead luggage rack and took my window seat. Butterflies were doing a demented quick step in my stomach as I drummed my fingers on the windowsill.
The train’s exit from the station was so slow and smooth that it was several minutes before I realised we had started moving. A blast of the train’s horn made me jump and I became aware that the platform had disappeared.
I looked at the clock on the wall at the end of the carriage – it was 3:30 and my stomach growled as it let me know it was time for afternoon tea.
The buffet was quiet, only two couples chatting in a four-seat booth. I took my coffee and slice of chocolate cake, and sat at the opposite end of the buffet. I wasn’t trying to appear unfriendly, but I needed peace and quiet to put the beginning of my adventure into words. I needed to feel what my MC felt. I needed to get inside her head and share her journey.
Twenty pages of feverish writing later, I became aware someone was standing beside me. I looked up; it was Sandra, one of the passenger attendants.
“Homework?” she asked.
I grinned. “Well sort of. I’m writing a book, this part that takes place on the IP.”
I had a sudden thought. “Sandra, can I pick your brains for a minute or two?”
She slid into the seat opposite me. “Fire away.”
I spent the next fifteen minutes asking and getting answers to some “what if” scenarios, which made my first real attempt at on-the-spot research a delight.
The rest of the day passed in a blur and it was nine o’clock before I realised I hadn’t even thought about dinner.
“I wondered when you were going to surface.” Sandra laughed, as I ordered and paid for my meal.
“One of the perils of writing.” I replied rolling my eyes.
I slept fairly well that night despite my less-than-comfortable bed, and woke the next morning as we were pulling in to Broken Hill. I opted to forego the tour of the town, and had breakfast instead. Nothing compares to having a traditional Aussie breakfast on Sunday morning, and the bacon, grilled tomato, mushrooms, and scrambled eggs were the best I had ever tasted.
We’d only been gone from Broken Hill an hour when I began to suspect something was wrong. The crew stood in small groups talking in hushed tones and then we were asked to assemble in the dining car where someone announcement that the train tracks had been washed away on the Nullarbor. This was the first time it had ever happened. Oh, the tracks had been flooded previously, but never washed away. Our journey ended in Adelaide, while Great Southern Railways organized free flights back to Sydney and a complimentary motel stay.
I arrived home bitterly disappointed, knowing I would probably never be able to afford another trip. Yet the train crew had been marvelous in the face of complaints and in some cases, abuse from some of the passengers. I wrote to Great Southern Railway and told them how much I appreciated all the crew had done to ease the disappointment of the aborted trip.
Two weeks later, a voucher arrived in the mail for a fifty percent discount on a first-class trip on the Indian Pacific. Next time, I would be traveling Gold Kangaroo Class.
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