Against one of the rules of writing/keeping interest I've heard people say from the fifth grade (the second being to watch out for the said bookism, the third being 'if I ever catching you call eyes 'orbs' again, I'm going to have to gut you.'), I am going to start this log with an infodump. Have some geography.

The lobby to the church Learning Center is small, as far as lobbies go. It's almost more like a really wide entry hall.

When you first walk in through the doors, there is an enclave to your right. The enclave is the only way to get into the glass-walled office immediately beside you, an on the opposite side of the small rectangle, and as storage closes on the far end. Immediately to your left is the side of a roughly U shaped staircase (except that from your point of view, the U is on its side, with the empty end facing towards the wall opposite you. On the wall opposite you, and the first thing you see when you go inside, is the window to the information desk. The the left of the window are two hallways that look complicated until you realize that they both are part of one big loop, and that if you go down one, a few right turns later and you'll be back at the start. (That's where all the two year olds-kindergarten classes are held). There are four electronic check-in kiosks around the room, two against the wall to your left, four on the right. The two on the right and one of the ones on the right have people working at them, the other three are automatic so regulars can check themselves in.

Exactly opposite the hallway, to the right of the window, right next to the one manual kiosk and tucked against the corner of the right wall is the door to the multipurpose room.

Normally, I get the kiosk next to the stairs. Partly so I can help Delia when her machine inexplicably freezes/won't allow her into the system/checks in kids as adults, adults as special needs, volunteers as staff and staff as ravenous wombats. Partly because I can keep an eye on the doors and the hall and know if anyone tries to sneak in without signing their kid in properly (which is a safety risk, a dick move to the teachers and a dick move to everyone else who actually checked in.

This time, though, Terri (Tom's mom) and me switched, so I was by the multipurpose room.

After the 8:30 crowd had come to pick up their kids, but before the 10:00 crowd had come into drop their kids off, I noticed a little girl named Athena was standing in the doorway, looking sad.

Zeph: What's wrong, honey?
Athena: I'm waiting for my mom. She-she's gonna pick me up.
Zeph: *points to the tags on Athena's chest* Hon, you've got two tags. One for the last service, one for the next. You gotta stay for another hour.
Athena: *starts playing with her second tag* But- but my mom only checks me in for one.
Zeph: I'm sorry, 'Thena, you'll just have to wait for her.

She nodded and went back into the room.

About a half hour later, she came back. This time missing her second tag.

Zeph: You okay, 'Thena?
Athena: I miss my dad.
Zeph: Well it'll only be another hour, then he'll come pick you up. Okay?

She starts to cry. Not the sobbing sort of crying, but the kind that happen almost by surprise when your eyes just kind of fill up on you.

Athena: I can't see my dad. He's dead.
Zeph: . . . Oh. Do. . . d'you want me to put your name up? You want to go home?

She nods and I take her hand and we go into the office. A call is made, and her name is put up on the discreet overhead-thingumy-screen in the big church so her parent can see it.

I leave her in the well qualified care of Rita and go find Terri.

Zeph: Terri, the saddest thing just happened with Athena. When did her dad die, do you know? I thought I saw him not to long ago-
Terri: Her dad?
Zeph: Yeah. She said she missed her dad and she started crying and now she's in there waiting for her mom.
Terri: Oh no. Her mom is dead.
Zeph: Bwuh?
Terri: Her mom is dead, her dad dropped her off. It happened recently, I don't think it's quite registered yet. On Wednesday night she asked if she can use the phone to call her.
Zeph: . . . Oh.

And that's it. Just, oh.

Eight years from now, she'll have been alive longer without her than with. Ten years- maybe less, she won't remember what she looked like without a photograph. She almost certainly won't remember getting out of class and trying to call her mom's cell number.

Just. . . Oh.

Whiskey and speed in Aldinga.

The journey is not a destination

Sleep deprived - a night of seizures, lost large-breasted woman, and saviour-Nazi's - we got up to prods and threats. A random corner of the room was chosen, swept up, and stuffed into duffle bags. We were as ready for Adelaide as we'd ever be. Into the car; rushing back inside to collect the ever-necessary rum.

Since the day of Moses and the Israelites through the desert, all road trips follow the same inevitable form: tired vitality, tedium, and finally desperation. So too with us, and as with the Israelites, Adelaide was no promised land.

On the march

A couple of days later, leaning against a store front, eating McDonald's, waiting for a taxi, searching in jest and in vain for any passer-bys not-white, a man walked along carrying only two packets of freshly bought B&H. "That man," Holly explained, "He's on the march." Two packets of B&H, that's 50 heavy-duty rolls; that's intent and dedication.

There are no signposts on the march. There are no benches on the side for you to rest or lamps to show the way. There is no warning sign telling you to turn around or beware of the cliffs. There is one simple rule: keep marching. Choose a path and keep marching, and so long as you never stop you'll never be lost. When you reach the end keep walking, because you made that decision long ago, and if you lose the path it doesn't matter, because the path follows your feet, even should you fall.

Strange days have found us, have tracked us down

At a certain point in time, in Adelaide, Holly and I stopped caring. We stopped caring about the people around us, about what we were doing, and about consequences. Our short time became a trivial exercise, looped, getting kicked out from one place into another, leaving behind annoyed friends, family, and acquaintances. Thus it was that on day five of our Adelaide escapade we found ourselves bored in a refurbished post-office, at the very southern edge of greater  Adelaide. We were in the sticks, and we knew it.

Now here's the scene you have to picture: two young adults splayed out on the couch. The young woman intones, repeatedly, "Whiskey and speed... whiskey and speed." What are your choices? Suicidal tedium or go out for a faith inspired walk? At eleven o'clock in the evening we walked out of a stranger's house, leaving the deadlock door open in case we needed re-entry, and walked out into the stupefying night. We turned right at the end of the driveway merely because it was one of two random choices and kept walking; hit the round-a-bout and followed the cars, reasoning that wherever there are cars there are people, and wherever  there are people there is whiskey and speed. We stayed on the march, kept walking, knowing that it didn't matter, that the only choices were to continue or stop, and that the latter had no meaning, which is to say, no benefit to ourselves. 

Half an hour later, or so, we found ourselves on god's forsaken road, no street lamps ahead, only empty country and a straight unpromising road. "This is it," we told ourselves, "This is the road we've chosen, this is the march we cannot stop." We kept walking into the darkness, expecting nothing beyond itself.

And then, after several self-aware useless attempts at hitch-hiking towards humanity we met Cass. We crossed the road to talk to a strange woman, pushing a baby underneath a dog in a pram. "Do you know where we can get something to drink?," we innocently asked. She herded us towards the pub at the end of the road, talking to us about her dead neo-Nazi husband and lost 14 year old sons. She was hoping I was her son. I was not.

We walked on towards the pub, talking about the travesty that is outer Adelaide and the follies of the youth. We found the pub and the drink we so desperately wanted. It was five minutes before closing time, and the room had all the ambience expected from the last drinking hole at the end of the world: fat middle-aged men spilling their drinks at the barkeep and arguing about nothing; a drunk bogan struggling to start a fight with a silent Aboriginal man while others watched and stayed incomprehensively mute; and muffled, from another room, the hollow ring of slot machines.

Aquatic ascension (sans pilot whales)

Cass invited us to her house - a small apartment quagmired in an eco-village - and we dutifully, expectedly, and appreciatively accepted. As we sat on Cass' couch she turned the conversation towards auras and energy, and then finally said, "Here, look at this," offering us a new-age decorated magazine, "I don't know what to make of it. It doesn't sound true, but I'm not really sure." The magazine prostelyzingly described reptile overlords, subdermal implants that controlled thoughts, levels of energy and alien gods, and finally ascension. In the end, it explained, all marine creatures except pilot whales will ascend. Apparently everything from molluscs to dolphins are worthy of ascending, but not pilot whales. No explanation was forthcoming.

The night continued, drinks where mixed, herb was incinerated, and drug dealers were called. We'd found what we wanted.

Conversation parodied itself, as our hosts engaged us in talk: we were told of the hotel where the husband had died, of favourite scissors (a new one had been found that day), records that don't exist, and perpetual motion machines that draw electricity out of the ground. 

Corrupting the youth; and, Away

We escaped, our heads buzzing, disbelieving the consistency of reality. 

Another day and another night, and having annoyed one more person in Adelaide, we returned to our last remaining sancturary. Time echoed, as the cumulative effect of stimulants, downers, sleep and food deprivation, all combined to form a sick welt at the back of our thoughts. And so it was that we found ourselves in a room with a couple of 15 year old boys who looked up to us as models of entertainment. 

These were not proud times, our only goal being to pass the time until we should return to the car that had brought us to this trying town, to reverse the journey back home. One of the adolescents - Jim - assured us  that he was inhabited (not possessed, he insisted) by a demon. Biblical quotations convinced him to writhe in discomfort, and irresponsible discussions of the possibility of molestation and murder alternatively frightened and excited him. He did not want the demon gone, he explained, for there was always the possibility of gaining some extraordinary powers. It seems that we all, no matter how broken, live in hope.

We sat by the open window, making a token effort to send the green smoke outside, passing the shorterning joints to the naive youngsters. Perhaps we hoped that their corruption would ameliorate our own. More likely we just didn't give a fuck. Cartoons and the malleability of unformed minds kept us distracted as the hours passed.

The next day, after a modicum of unfulfilling sleep, we got into the car, and nothing was quite right.

Looking back, months later now, I can't help but be impressed by the feeling of invincible fate; we walked down nowhere's lane in search of whiskey and speed, and the universe provided. Now, more than ever, I need to believe that that fate still exists.

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