It Wasn't a Spielberg Surprise...

You've got to be ready for the surprise, especially when you're on a road trip, the blacktop a blur...

That right there is a pretty lame bit of foreshadowing, considering that the all-too-obvious accompanying image here is of the arse end of a huge road train. Not so threatening as Spielberg's oily monster in Dennis Weaver's rear vision mirror, but enough to be considered a possible source for instant alarm out on the highway. But really, who's ever complained about a good bit of suspense in a story. That's just the way it has to be. In these events about to unfold, it isn't going to be the sudden clout of a mad flapping sheet of blinding plastic caught slammed against the windscreen, or the determined crow—its eye on my looming approach—that won't leave its oven-hot heap of carrion on the centre line. No, the surprise I'm referring to is the other kind of surprise, the type about which it can be said that it seems to be diminishing; the kind that—on this one-person survey, at least—seems more and more to be under threat of extinction in the cities.

Out ahead through the windshield, the rear of a road train blocks the view of the open road as we crest a hill, making one vulnerable to the sudden surprise of who knows what

The book reading road trip into south west Queensland was ostensibly over and we'd pulled into Dalby late morning to see about placing The Last Promise with a book seller. Then it came—like an oncoming dodgem—the big bright smile of a surprised woman, whom I immediately recognised, and who had recognised me first, waving me down on the covered footpath. I had met her a few days before at the Mitchell Great Artesian Spa, a day after my first reading at the Mitchell Public Library. A friend of hers who'd been at the reading introduced us. Pleasantries were exchanged, all very nice, and just like that the meet was over in sixty seconds. Now, well over 300 klicks distant, out front of The Coffee Club of Dalby, she greeted me—the author guy she'd met, but who hadn't read to her, but who she was now exuberant to see again—as if an old friend. Why? Simple. She wanted to help the author guy—who she hadn't heard read, but who had inspired her friend. She just wanted to help get his book out further, offering a name and a number and email of somebody who could help. That generous, happy smile of hers was the kind surprise, a real surprise, the genuine article. This had been a most unexpected collision, and her running me over with kindness has left me grateful.

I most definitely will be going back to the country.

Thank you, Robbie. You get the Koala stamp.


Robbie and Terrence pose for a photo, standing on the covered footpath outside the Coffee Club in Dalby. Robbie is holding up 'The Last Promise' bookmark. Smiles all round.