The free-fall was longer than ever. Ten, twenty or maybe thirty seconds he was in the air. Arms flailing, eating his own stomach. He hit the surface hard. This time he woke up before the wave crushed him down into the lightless depths below. Though he was awake, the sound of tumbling white-water didn’t fade. He was on a beach. One end was covered in trees and the other in houses. He got up and walked towards the houses. Feeling peckish, he went into a takeaway shop and bought an ice cream for breakfast.
Everyone who walked past looked him up and down with disapproval. Curious to find out what was wrong with him, Billy approached the most innocent and helpful looking person on the street. “Excuse me, is there something wrong with me?”
The harmless looking man took a step back and kept his distance, as you do when you spot a spider or a hideous looking monster. “Is it that bad?” Asked Billy. But the man said nothing. “You know, you look pretty funny yourself.” Even though this was true; as the man wore stripy stockings, a vest, a bow-tie, a top hat, and was covered in white face paint with large red circles painted around his eyes, he frowned and remained silent.
“What’s the matter?” Demanded Billy. “Why won’t you just tell me?”
The man shrugged. A rich looking lady and her daughter walked past. In response, he began moving his arms and legs, pushing against the air around him as if he were struck in an imaginary box. The lady discarded some spare change into his top hat, which he now held out in front of him. She let out a horrified grunt when she passed Billy.
“You’re a street performer!” Yelled Billy, pointing at the man and jumping up and down on the spot. “Do you know a Mr William B? He’s a human statue from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.” The man narrowed his eyes in suspicion, as if to say, “yeah, who’s asking?”
“Do you know how to get there?” Continued Billy, ignoring the silence and taking the man’s reaction as a yes. “I’m one of his students and I’ve come to finish my lessons.” The man stood still and stared at Billy for a long time, trying to figure him out. His expression remained wary, but he gestured Billy to follow him as he walked off down the road. Now it was Billy’s turn to hesitate. Could he trust such an odd looking stranger. But then again, he had just placed his life into the hands of a towering bunch of crackpots dressed like a fifty-foot tree, so he figured this quirky street-performer was just as safe.
Even so, Billy trailed behind the man at a reasonable distance. Every now and then, the man would signal Billy to hurry up by waving his top hat. It would have been tough for anyone to keep up, considering the vast distance they covered in a short time. It was even harder for Billy, who was exhausted from surviving a bush fire the night before and was now running off nothing but ice cream. Eventually, they arrived at a bus stop, where they waited in total silence for 10 or so minutes. Suddenly, Billy noticed how tiny the man was. Those must be shoeboxes that he pretends to escape from. This thought was interrupted by the ridiculous noise buses make when they come to a stop and air escapes from the brakes. When they got on, every passenger averted their eyes, sliding their bags over to block off the seats next to them. They were forced to stand, which was a problem, because they stayed on the bus for a good hour, holding on for dear life, white-knuckled around tight corners. At least this kind of surfing was safer than what I’m used to, thought Billy.
They arrived at a busy wharf and the tiny street performer led Billy to a machine, handed him a ticket marked “Circular Quay” and waved him goodbye at the gates.
Today’s progress: Billy arrives in the northern beaches of Sydney after surviving a bush fire on his travels from Barley Bay. The story continues to build momentum as Billy gets closer to being reunited with old man statue. Will he be able to trust those he meets on the streets of the big smoke? Or will his country boy innocence land him in the underbelly of this unforgiving city?