Maurice squinted. The hot breath of a stinking Australian summer was on her neck. Streams of sweat blurred her vision, making it even harder for the human stick insect to steer the stolen bike. Sweat smeared her glasses as she brushed her forearm over her brow to shift her sweat-soaked hair that was plastered over her face.
The only reason she stayed upright was because the melting bitumen gripped her tyres. Tyres squelched in gooey tar that absorbed the heatwave and dissolved into a thick, liquifying mess. A curse issued from her lips with each pump of the pedals, between angry huffs and puffs.
“So unfair!” Maurice muttered, marvelling at the disrespect. “Quite, quite unreasonable! She stealing bicycles at her age … let alone the woman’s utter disregard for her only child’s health and wellbeing.”
Maurice usually avoided any activity that required physical exercise, and her mum knew it! Her little, white legs burned; burned in the sun, burned with exhaustion. Thoughts of pink bacon blackened in a pan reduced to carbon clouded her anger. Well, just then, actually a large, fluffy, cumulus-nimbus cloud that just happened to pass overhead threw shade over her suddenly and stopped her from blowing her fuses.
A cool breeze nudged her back, reviving her senses. Instinctively, she stood up high on the pedals and free sailed, up and down hills, would you believe? Her white singlet fluttered on her back as she flew in the cool, shade of my lovely cloud. Then, in the corner of her eye, she saw something flicker in the tall, dry grass.
Squat gum trees grew at odd angles. She stopped, very conscious of being alone in the middle of nowhere. She scanned the area. Decades of extreme weather had shattered tree trunks and the long-since dead remains of their boughs rotted on the ground around them. Floods had exposed the trees’ gnarled roots, but the floods had kept them alive also. These proud gums that once towered over New England roads, now crouched low, kept their heads down, ready for an attack at any moment.
As Maurice started to recover from heat exhaustion, she realised exactly where she was. She recognised this winding road. The skinny kid touched the raw, pinkness of her sunburnt skin and winced in agony. Her mother, Bexley Darling, athletic freak, was a way-off speck in the distance. Maurice felt queasy.
“That’s it! This is war,” Maurice said, scowling.