This was written before "Along the Finke." I hope this vignette in third person works. - Pedant
Professor Gordy Hollister was sitting in his office. It was a warm, March day. He was staring at an enlarged photo of Myrmecia brevinoda, the giant bulldog ant of the Western Australian desert. Together with some egg cases, this specimen had been found in Kelmscott, a southern suburb of Perth. Right next door, you might say. It looked just like the ones he'd seen in Brisbane. The phone rang.
"Hello, sir. We're fine, thanks. Yes, settled in nicely. Oh. Oh. Yes, I met her in the Alice. She did! Oh. Yes, Labour Day. No, I don't think Weena's got anything planned. Yes, sir. Of course, sir. OK. Just fax everything to the office here. Yes, I will. I'll tell her, sir. Right." Gordy put down the receiver. Weena wasn't going to be happy.
He looked at the ant again. Sighed. Picked up the phone. He put it down again. If he called her at the hospital and had her paged, she'd think it was a crisis. Best wait till they were at home.
The phone rang again.
"Oh. OK. I'll be right down. Thanks." He got up, went down the hall and took the elevator to the ground floor. Retrieving several pages, he went back to his office. The cover sheet was all that was important:
There's some sort of hysteria about "bugs" in Shark Bay. The nitwits went straight to the minister because it's a UNESCO-listed site . So he's demanded an investigation.
Please fly up to Carnarvon, rent a car, and try to straighten everything out. It shouldn't take long. Do it over the holiday weekend.
The other sheets were pure guff. A telegram from some moron at Monkey Mia worried about the impact on tourism. An incoherent note to him from someone running a cat in the Bay. No description of the "bugs," no photo. Gordy sighed. And why fly to Carnarvon, instead of directly to Monkey Mia?
Of course! Kevin had never been to the west. And Carnarvon had nearly 10,000 folks, unlike the barely 1000 in the whole Shark Bay region.
He put the papers in a folder and brought up Skywest on his screen. Well, about two hours from Perth to Monkey Mia. A bit more by way of Geraldton. He could fly up on Friday and back on Sunday. It looked like there was no Monday service. He'd call for reservations after talking to Weena. And call Monkey Mia for a room, too.
He drove home, thinking about just what "bugs" might mean.
"Sweetie!" called Weena, as she came in.
"We're not scheduled for anything over the holiday, are we?"
"No. I wanted to talk about that."
"Well, the hospital's in a bind because so many girls want the three days. If I work two doubles, they'll give me a week off in the winter."
Gordy laughed. "Curiouser and curiouser ... Kevin wants me to fly north on a problem."
"Oh! I went there when I was around 12. I fed a dolphin and we looked at bunches of dugongs. It wasn't really a lot of fun. They wouldn't let us go swimming 'cept in a pool."
"Right. So, if you're going to work, I could fly up on Friday and come back on Sunday or Tuesday."
"OK. What's the problem?"
"Kevin didn't know. They're complaining about bugs."
"I could complain about not getting a kiss." And that ended the conversation.
In the morning, Gordy phoned Canberra and told Janice his plan. Then he called Monkey Mia and asked for the name on the telegram. He told the bloke who he was, that he'd be flying in on Friday, and that he'd need a room for two or four nights.
"Two or four?"
"In case there really is a problem."
"Very well. We'll see you on Friday."
Then he called Skywest.
Friday morning he drove south to the airport, parked, checked in. All he had was his old backpack with clothes, his collection kit, and an Upfield to read -- Widows of Broome -- not close to Monkey Mia, but at least along the northwest coast.
It was an uneventful non-stop. Even with the upcoming long weekend, there were only a few on board. When Gordy got to the terminal, he saw a van labelled "Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort," walked over and asked the driver: "Goin' to the Resort?"
He looked at his clipboard. "Dr. Hollister?"
"Just hop in, you're the only one this flight."
We were there in under 15 minutes. The landscape was uninteresting. The conversation non-existent.
At the resort, there was a tubby chap in a knit shirt and shorts waiting under the awning.
"Oh, Dr. Hollister," he began. "I'm so glad to meet you, this has been so distressing." And he extended a moist palm.
"Well. Let me dump my stuff in my room and you can tell me all about the 'bugs'."
"Right, right. Unh. Jonny, could you take Dr. Hollister to number 4?"
Jonny, who was my silent chauffeur, walked into the lobby, took a key from a hook, turned, and said: "This way."
The room was ... well ... a room. Gordy put his pack on the bed, opened it, got out his collection kit, and turned to Jonny. "I guess we can go back to ... what do you call him?"
A glimmer appeared in Jonny's eyes. "Bossman, when I have to."
"Popular with the staff, eh?"
"Acts like one. Walks like one. Just no business here."
"Thanks. Not my type, either."
He was pacing in the lobby, wringing his damp hands, when Gordy and Jonny got there.
"Now, why don't you take me to those bugs?" Gordy said.
"Certainly. It's not far. Right by the beach. Near the treeline." The boss was really nervous. There wasn't a tree in sight; but there was some brush. "Over there, you can see those worms."
Gordy walked over and forced himself not to laugh. The "worms" were larvae. And there were what looked like egg cases, too. He opened his case and took out two sample jars and a pair of tweezers. He put several larvae/grubs in one and sealed it. He opened the second and put the fragments of egg cases into it. Stowing the jars, he asked: "And the 'bugs, ' see any around?"
"Well, what did they look like?"
"Small. Black. Horrid."
"About how big?"
He held his thumb and forefinger about 5mm. apart.
"Sort of the size of a large apple seed? Or an orange pip?"
"Yes. Yes. Exactly."
"OK. Let's go back. Is there a room with very bright light I could use for a while?"
"Yes. There's a meeting room. There's nothing scheduled there this week."
"Wonderful. And perhaps a clean white plate?"
They were back and bossman fired instructions to Jonny, who nodded, picked up another key, and signalled Gordy to follow. He opened a door and there was a meeting room with a long table and a shorter one forming a 'T.' He flicked a switch by the door, and flourescent lights came on.
"And you need a white plate?"
"Two, if you can manage it. And is there a restroom?"
"Gent's is there," he pointed.
When Gordy got back, having washed his hands and swiped a few paper towels, Jonny was there, too.
"I know what they are," said Gordy. "But I'll tell him tomorrow, so he doesn't think it was too easy. Is there a place I can get a bite?"
"Kitchen's open. I can bring you somethin'."
"You get yabbies here?"
"How about a plate o'yabbies an' some sauce?"
Gordy got out the two jars and his tweezers and magnifier. He shook the cases onto the plate, picked one up and examined it. It was pretty clear. But how had they gotten here? Jonny might have a clue.
Jonny reappeared with a heaping plate, a small bowl and a bottle of beer.
"You're a lifesaver. I was perishing for a brew."
"It's sorta local."
"Near Geraldton, I think."
"Mmm. Can I ask you a few questions?"
"Sit down. I'm not the boss."
"Dam' right. He's not said this much to me in six months."
"I saw a cat in the water."
"Yep. We get two- an' three-hulls with tourists. Down from Carnarvon, sometimes further."
"Any other boats?"
"Oh, yeah. Yachts. Sometimes a fishin' boat, but we wave them away 'cause o' the UN."
"Anything strange recently?"
True Story /