‘Why did you call me Muttley back then?’ she asked. And
for a few moments, she forgot her fears as Mo talked about
accident prone Dick Dastardly and his sidekick Muttley, lovable
mutt and flying ace.
‘It must be terrible for you growing up without You Tube
and the tellie,’ sympathised Mo. Just about everything worth
knowing he’d picked up from the internet or the box. ‘You’ve
missed out on so much.’ But just as he was about to start on the
whole range of modern communication functions on his Ipad,
he heard a loud va-room. Then, before he had time to gather
his wits, there was a roar and black smoke billowed from the
‘Oh no, we’re going to crash,’ whispered Beth, her eyes wide
Visions of the plane bursting into flames flashed on Mo’s
inward eye. Could it be destiny? Was fate out to get him?
Not if I can help it, he thought, eying the gauges. The
airspeed indicator stood at 80 knots and the fuel gauge was
still over half full. He glanced at the trembling girl beside him.
It wasn’t fair that she should die just because he was such a
Think! There had to be some emergency landing notes
somewhere. What was that Doug had said about these kites
being safe? He forced his jittery mind to concentrate on that
half forgotten conversation. Something about not needing to
be concerned if the engine quit? That was it. Doug had said that
for every kilometre you were up you could glide for another
ten. He checked the altimeter, throttled back and hit the killengine
‘It’ll be all right. I’ll get us down safely,’ and he reached for
Beth’s arm and gave it a squeeze, making a promise, that if by
a miracle they survived, he’d never attempt anything as stupid
A 180º turn lined the plane up with the gravel track. It looked
narrow, too narrow for two vehicles to pass side by side without
one of them having to swerve off into the bush. Mo checked
the airspeed indicator. Seventy knots, too fast, he thought, his
eye on the altimeter. He felt sure it would be safer to approach
the landing at a crawl. But what did he know? ‘Now or never,’
he whispered, under his breath, and pausing only to wipe his
sweaty hands on his tee, he put the nose down.
Two hundred feet … the kite was falling at a lopsided angle,
heeling over at 45º like a sail boat in a storm. One hundred feet
… Mo worked the alerons desperately. He had to stop the list
before the plane rolled.
‘I can’t look, shrieked Beth and she covered her face with
both hands, peeping fearfully through her fingers as the track
rushed up to meet them.She won’t flip over … she won’t flip over, Mo whispered,willing the undercarriage to do its job.
Amazingly, the plane righted itself and, with tyres screeching on the loose, roughsurface, it sped down the makeshift runway much too fast.But, at least thought Mo, we’re going straight and there are
kilometres of track for her to slow down in. Pulling the brakes
on hard, he decided they were safe as long as the wheels didn’t
burst.Still trembling from the adrenalin rush of the emergency
landing, Mo took his eyes off the runway to smile at Beth and
failed to see the disaster in front.
Thud! The plane was flung into the air and landed inverted
on the road with the two stunned occupants hanging upside
down, strapped in their harnesses in the mangled aircraft.
Unhurt, the kangaroo bounded off into the scrub.
Resilient as a cockroach, Mo turned to help Beth. ‘Are you all
right?’ he asked.
‘I think so, Ace!’
'It wasn’t my fault,’ he muttered more to himself and ignoring
the unfair comment, he pushed her hands away and undid her
buckle. ‘Hurry,’ he yelled, the plane could burst into flames any
second and, grabbing her by the arm, he took off, dragging her
Ten metres from the wreck he stopped and stared fixedly at the rubble, a sheepish look on his face. The ultra lite was a write off: mast and tubing bent out of recognition, one wheel off, black smoke billowing from the engine and fuel, flowing from the cracked tank and running down the seats to puddle on the ultra lite’s smashed canary yellow wing. It didn’t take an expert to see this bird was a dead duck.
‘That black material that’s indestructible,’ he said to Beth,
trying to make a joke of it, ‘you know the stuff they make the
plane’s black box out of. Have you ever wondered why they
don’t make the whole plane out of it?’
'Very funny,’ Beth replied, without a trace of a smile. She
paused then said, ‘What now, oh, Great White Leader?’
‘We’ll have to walk,’ Mo replied indignantly. He was close
to telling her that sarcasm was the lowest form of wit but he
didn’t want to give her something else to get worked up about.
‘It’s not far. I saw the shearing shed just before…’
‘I didn’t crash. I put it down safely. It wasn’t my fault there was a kangaroo in the way.’
‘Mr. McLeod is going to kill you. He only took delivery of the ultra lite six months ago.’
‘It’s got to be insured,’ said Mo, not very confidently. From
what he’d seen and heard, he was beginning to think his boss
was a loose cannon. Well you can only die once, he thought,
remembering the truck bogged up to its axles at the bottom of
‘Come on,’ he said grimly to Beth. It’s three or four
kilometres to the homestead. The sooner we make a start the
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