Friday 4 November 2022

In need

The aftermath of the flood

"You can take more if you'd like."

I lowered my gaze and continued to stuff my new-to-me purchase and packet of day-old rolls into the plastic supermarket shopping bag that I had just been given. 

My soulful tone was in tune with my sincerity.

"That is really kind of you, but I'm OK, thank you." 

Donald Bradman's birthplace

Ten minutes before, I had walked into the Red Cross Op Shop in Cootamundra and folded down my umbrella, which was acting more as a prop than anything vaguely useful, having cut short my six-kilometre walking tour of the town. It had never been anything more than an optimistic venture and I should have paid due respect to the solid black clouds that were readying to tip their warning buckets on me as I closed the front door of my camping cabin. Half-way around, I had not even stopped to go through Donald Bradman's birth house. No, 'Miss-just-do-the miles-me' had charged on, squinting through dark sunglasses at the directions on the paper brochure from the Tourist Office. Uh-huh, I see your quizzically contorted expression. Trust me, I couldn't wear my reading glasses without trip-trapping as I walked, so sunglasses it was to keep my hair from blowing in the wind and rendering me completely disoriented.

They, the sunglasses, however, were completely ineffective when it had come to re-routing the gale and keeping the rain⎯when it inevitably pelted down⎯from pressing my hair to my scalp, glueing my shirt collar to my neck and soaking silently through the unsealed seams of my boots. Did I look bedraggled? In need of care? Hungry? All of the previous? 

"Can I help you?" 

I was taken aback. Was it pity or suspicion that I detected in the voice of the lady behind the counter as I walked into the Red Cross store?

"Oh. Am I able to have a look around?" Perhaps, this was not a place for sales but a donations drop-off point.


I took that as a sign of warm welcome and headed deep into the store, spying a warm duffle coat from the eighties that had to be trendy again. 

"Am I able to pay with my credit card?"

"No. I'm sorry."

"Is there an ATM nearby?"

"Yes. At the IGA a couple of doors down."

Brandishing the one twenty dollar note that I had withdrawn, I re-positioned myself at the counter.

"How funny, each of my last few sales has been for fifteen dollars. I'm not sure that I can fit your jacket in a plastic bag, but would you like some bread?"

Mid shoving - yes, this jacket would fit - I worked my way slowly through the logic of her words and turned to survey the wrapped baguettes, packets of rolls and loaves of bread that were along the bench from me.

My hesitation lasted long enough to avoid the need to reply.

"It's free."

How could I say 'no'? I picked up the packet closest to me, pushing it in with my jacket and turned to go, refusing the offer of more.

Hours later, in an unfamiliar bed and through the haziness of my freshly found sleep, I detected movement and sound nearby.

The knock on our door came next.

"The river has burst its banks and the campground is flooding. You will need to evacuate." The voice was that of a local policeman.

"Now?" my husband enquired.

"Strongly recommended."

I jack-in-the-boxed up, pulled boots on over my sockless feet and threw as much as I could grab into the car with water lapping dangerously at its doors.

The sun taunted us the next morning as it revealed a damaged town in desperate need of every small financial contribution.  I'd happily wear second-hand every day as a choice, but I'm so glad that I put my discomfort aside and went deep into the Red Cross store.

Before the rain

Australian cricket captain walk

Map of NSW and Vic showing flooded areas in blue