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I’m really looking forward to getting a new windscreen. Not that it bothers me not having one. We’ve covered our mouths and noses with a couple of towels and put on our sunglasses so we’re quite comfortable, even though the car fills with hot air and dust and insects as we drive along. We look like a couple of bandits.

It’s starting to get dark now. Soon the animals will be out on the road, squatting in front of the headlights, so there’s a bit of tension in the air and we’re alert and watchful. I’m on look-out duty, scanning the sides of the road for movement. Whenever I see something, I say ‘Cow’ or ‘Roo’ without hesitation and Kate throttles back. We don’t want any more hold-ups now.

All the time I’m thinking about the new windscreen. I know for sure there’ll be something on special. There always is and I’ll be thinking, gee, that’s lucky. When we roll onto the garage forecourt, there’ll an old bloke in blue overalls waiting for us. Maybe he ignores us for a while and I have to go up to him and say something like ‘I’m after a new windscreen’. He doesn’t say anything then but wanders over to the car, wiping his hands on a rag or the front of his overalls. He looks at us carefully, having a real good stickybeak.

Or maybe there’s an keen young bloke. He comes over to greet us before we’re out of the car. He’s pink and shiny and looks like a chubby evangelist in his black trousers and a tight white shirt. He says ‘Had a spot of windscreen trouble have we?’ in a hearty voice and I’ll be able to say:
a) Ah yeah, you could say that.
b) What makes you think that then?
c) You’re not wrong!
d) Nothing at all – just give him a goofy grin.

That’s when he tells me about the special offer they’re running this month: maybe you don’t save so much money but for that price you get a tinted sunstrip included. It’ll take about an hour to fix up so pop the car over there and I’ll get your details.

So we get to spend some time at the local mall, checking out the shops for something to buy, something useless to mark the fact that we were there and took part. When we enter through the sliding doors, the air conditioning hits us like nerve gas. It makes me want to cry.

We’re both light-hearted and jokey now because we’ve got a reason for killing time here and didn’t simply drive straight through. Maybe I get a packet of Tim Tams and a blurry postcard of the local high school. The bloke in the store asks us where we’re from and how long we’re staying, and when I tell him that we’re getting repairs done over at Mister Screen, he rolls his eyes and stares out over my head as if scanning a far-off horizon.

I’m enjoying myself in the mall so much, I barely notice when Kate slips away from my side. Later on, I catch sight of her on the far side of the food hall putting money into a red pay phone. By the time she catches up with me, I’m already looking for the exit and beginning to think there’s no way out of here.

If all goes well, I’ll pay for the windscreen with plastic. The young Christian swipes my card through the terminal and all my details are sent to some building in Chatswood or Parramatta or wherever and back again in less time than it takes to ask for directions to the highway.