Once he sat crouched inside the cardboard washing machine box, the boy entered another world. A place where characters from the books that he borrowed from the library came to life. In his imagination, he accompanied them on all sorts of adventures. He could be setting sail as a famous explorer to unknown lands one moment and ranging the prairie with cowboys the next, or doing battle with knights, or tracking down a horse thief as a Canadian Mountie on his dog sled.
In his box, the boy lost all track of time. Not that time really mattered to him as a six-year-old. His mum would call him when his dinner was ready or when it was time for his swimming lessons at the Dolphin Swim School. Right now, encouraged by the chattering sounds made by the rainbow lorikeets in the bottle brush, he returned to his fantasy world on a tropical island where he was a dashing young swashbuckler who fought to protect his lady and treasure from bloodthirsty pirates.
Still, it would only be a matter of minutes before he returned to the ‘real world’ under the stilt house, where the box stood nearby the washing machine, the canvas sandbox and the arts and crafts table. The boy opened his eyes and looked around in his box, wondering if the tree frog that his dad had spotted the other day had returned. He had a fascination for nature and for animals in particular. Of all the places he had lived in, this country town had by far the most animals.
There were more animals than you could poke a stick at. Kookaburras and currawongs that woke him each morning. Galahs, cockatoos, lorikeets and other parrots in the trees of next-door’s tree nursery, which was run by a family called ‘Tree’. Dried-out and flattened cane toads out in the road, snakes in unmown yards, a snake that the principal had beaten to death under one of the buildings at Frenchville State School, feral dogs, Christmas beetles, praying mantises, spiders in the bath, a variety of lizards, a blue-tongued skink that had clamped on to the leg of a friend of the family’s, and last but not least Sally the beagle.
Now the family dog crossed his mind, the boy looked forward to joining his dad again on one of his work trips to the outback, and hoped they could take Sally along with them. Last time, they had driven through cattle country and he vividly remembered being stared at by lots of big, friendly, brown eyes as his dad carefully steered the Land Cruiser through a herd of brahmans. Anyway, in the meantime, he would have to make do with playing backyard cricket with his two younger brothers. He was very glad with the white bat his dad had bought them. It beat that piece of wood he had improvised with before.
As he sat a little longer in his box, he made a mental note to take his mum’s advice and have something different on his sandwiches to school the next day. Although his peanut butter sangas would be dried out by lunch time, he was always tempted to ask for peanut butter every day, as it was his all-time favourite. Luckily, the Aboriginal classmate who had shown him the ropes when he was a newcomer at school, and her mates, often had delicious Lady Finger bananas that they shared with him as they walked home together from the bus stop.
They were very kind to him, as were most people he knew. He liked being in other people’s company, but also regularly felt the need to spend time alone. That is what he loved about his box. It gave him the chance to forget everything for a while and imagine what he was going to be when he grew up. Up till now, there were only two things on his list: an American cowboy and an explorer. However, when he used to browse through the atlas, he would feel a bit sad because most of the world had already been discovered and explored. Then he would console himself with the thought that he could be and do anything he imagined. He knew his imagination would take him anywhere he wanted, but right now, he simply enjoyed his own company as he sat in his box. Little did he know, that many years later as a man, he would often return to the box in his imagination and feel happy being alone once more.
Little River Band – Cool Change
‘Outback Australia’ by Jimity Cricket on Freeimages.com
‘Rainbow Lorikeets’ by Michelle Roberts on Freeimages.com
‘Country Road‘ by Andrew Jabs on Freeimages.com
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