A Reluctant Traveller

She said she didn’t want to go. Said it didn’t feel right and what if the conference was cancelled anyway. There wouldn’t be any point in going then, would there? Travel all that way in a little aeroplane, and find the hotel, and check in and set yourself up in Fernhill Bend, and then the thing gets cancelled and you have to come home. You’re so far away. A whole day’s drive, but you don’t drive, and you have to come back home, again, in that little aeroplane from the dusty little airport, which is really just a glorified waiting room. And that takes all day too, except it doesn’t, not really, but there’s the waiting, and the getting on and off and doing airport things and waiting for your luggage, and with all the hassle, well, it might as well be all day, too.

Her assistant told her not to worry. That it would be on. She spoke soothingly. She had checked, she said. The senior indexers conference would be on. There would be people there, there would be an audience, she said. “And they’ll all be interested in the paper you deliver. Don’t worry, Suse.” Susan’s assistant called her Suse. Susan didn’t allow anyone else to call her Suse, but her assistant was allowed to call her that name because she was so well organised and always made sure that the little things were done and there was nothing to worry about and nothing ever got forgotten. Hardly anyone even called Susan Susan. Not at work, anyway.

“But I keep feeling paranoid,” Susan said. “I have no idea why. As if something is going to go wrong.”

The assistant told her nothing would go wrong. Nothing ever had gone wrong. There was nothing to worry about. She checked the motel booking. The room – the Shady Stump’s best room, with a spa bath – was definitely booked.

Susan said she didn’t like country towns. She said she was worried about what she would get to eat and drink. She was thinking about dinner. She wondered if there would be anywhere good to eat out. Her assistant was from the country originally. She was reassuring. “There will be a Chinese restaurant. There’s always one of those. You can get a wonton soup.” This seemed to calm Susan, and she did like prawn crackers, but she was worried about the opening times of shops too. The assistant said that if you remember most things close early, you’ll be alright. Arriving at a restaurant at 9pm wasn’t a good idea, she said. Susan asked where she could get breakfast, and her assistant told her that the fish and chip shop will always be open early. “Tradies start at 7 in the morning, so the fish shop will open at 7. You’ll be able to get a bacon and egg roll there.”

Armed with this knowledge, Susan was more confident but she was nowhere near assured and certainly not calm. She believed now that the conference of senior indexers would indeed go ahead, that there would be colleagues of hers to hear her paper, and that they would enjoy hearing it, and she would make contacts during the course of the day; she believed that her motel room would be as good as Fernhill Bend had to offer, and the spa wold be working and the bed would be soft, and she would sleep well, and eat well, if a little basically and a little early in the night, and there would be a reasonable selection of bottles of red wine in the bottle shop in the supermarket over the road from the motel, and she would take one back to her room and have a drink and watch TV shows with celebrities or brides or mums shouting at their kids, and she would enjoy the time alone, and she would be back in her office in a couple of days. These things would happen. They had to. Her assistant said they would. But Susan still felt uneasy.

When Susan tripped on a stray cord which ran from the back of her assistant’s computer along the floor to a power point the sound of her scream could be heard in the park outside the library where she worked. She had twisted her ankle, and hit her head, and knocked out some teeth when she impacted with the carpet. She had said goodbye, said she was leaving for the conference, and started walking, but as it happens she hadn’t even made it out of the room. She lay on the floor, moaning a little, blood smeared across her face. “It’s alright, Suse. I’ll organise an ambulance for you. Take it easy,” her assistant said.

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Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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