The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2018 Results

Kinetic Energy Unleashed

Copyright © Victor Kirwan 2018

Grandpa and Grandma lived on a five acre property on the edge of town. It was too far out of town to be connected to the town sewerage service. This wasn't really a problem. Well it was to Grandma. She wanted one of those septic tanks installed if she couldn't have town sewerage. Grandpa wouldn't hear of it. “My father and his father before him never had sewerage or septic systems. A hole in the ground, a long drop, was good enough for them and it's good enough for us. And it costs nothin'." Grandma was resigned to the situation and it kept the silly old bugger busy digging holes all over the property like a wombat.

Part of the reason for Grandpa's obstinance was the existing dunny. He had built it from scratch and regarded it as a work of art, right up there with the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He had carved an intricate design in the top of the door to facilitate air flow. Grandma thought it looked like the Turkish flag. He had cut the roof from corrugated iron, put a peak on it and painted it high gloss Brunswick green. The paint was the same colour that the state government used on all their infrastructures. Grandpa thought he better tint it with a bit of white paint to avoid confusion. But it was still classy! The piece de resistance was the seat. The seat was truly a work of art. It was precisely fitted, wall to wall. The hole wasn't just round. It was elliptical with the edge chamfered for comfort. Now that's elegant. It was stained Rosewood and finished with three coats of marine varnish. It practically glowed when touched by the moonlight. This radiance was emphasised by the whitewashed walls.

Beautiful, Ay? Even the town council chamber's WCs paled into insignificance when compared with this dunny. Some of Grandma's lady friends dropped in for a cuppa and used the facility just so they could boast to their friends of their good fortune.

And that's the problem. Grandpa was worried that if a septic system was installed he would have to have a whole new-fangled dunny and seat. Grandpa told Grandma that the status was quo-ed.

Another problem with a long-drop dunny is a new hole has to be dug and the super-stucture part of the dunny has to be moved over the new hole. This has not been a problem to date. Grandpa had built the dunny on two skids. He'd even shaped the ends of the skids to look like skis thus facilitating the sliding of the dunny over the terrain. Grandpa would hitch it to his old Ford ute and tow it to the new site. Piece of cake! Till his old Ford failed all forward motion.

Grandpa told Grandma to hold everything, he would be back shortly. He strode to Danny's Workshop on the edge of town. Danny had been retired for a few years, he had been an agricultural irrigation engineer and only did the odd job for a bit of cash in hand. Grandpa accused him of fixing his own built-in foul-ups and getting paid twice for the job.

“Yer a nasty minded old bastard, Grandpa,” Danny told him.

“Don't call me Grandpa. I'm not yer Grandpa. I'd a drowned you at birth.”

“Well yer old enough to be me grandfather."

“Yer a lyin' bastard. I'm only a couple of years older'n you.”

While this was going on they were pushing an old sofa out of the workshop into the sun. Danny's dog was sitting on the sofa appreciating the ride. It liked the sun but was too lazy to walk outside. They sat on the sofa, flanking the dog and absorbed the winter sunshine. Danny had made a small trolley that his esky sat on so he could pull it around his workshop as required. Or in this case out to the front of the workshop. He explained that this was an efficient time-saving device that permitted him to spend more time on the job.

“Bloody rubbish! Yer an old toss-pot and you spend most of your time sleeping amongst this accumulation of crap. It's a wonder the council haven't charged you with running a festering health hazard,” Grandpa explained to him. “Gimme a stubby. Talking about an accumulation of crap, have you accumulated four sturdy little wheels of no value that you can kindly give me? Me dunny's too heavy to move easily. It's buggered me old Ford ute.”

“I've got a couple of old welding barrows with lovely sturdy wheels that I couldn't possibly bear to part with. Old family heirlooms!”

“You probably stole them from me in the first place,” Grandpa claimed.

“Nah. I gave Grandma a kiss and she gave them to me,” Danny replied.

“What! Bloody what? I thought the poor old thing was getting potty. There's the proof. In spades. Givin' away me really good stuff and letting an animal like you kiss her. She's gotta go!”

They reached an agreement half-way through their second beer. Danny said he'd come and watch and make sure Grandpa did the job properly. They loaded the wheels and tools into Danny's truck and headed off to save Grandma any further discomfort.

Danny suggested a steering axle like a billy cart.

“Not bloody necessary. Where do you start and where do you finish. How about I mount an outboard motor on the back and go fishing with it?” Grandpa asked him.

“Now yer bein' silly. But we could enter it in the annual dunny races in Queensland.”

“Yeah, right! What do you think Grandma's gunna do without her dunny for a few days?” They thought about this for a while. “Have you got a spare bucket?” Danny suggested. They reluctantly decided the idea was not a goer.

They jacked the dunny up, fitted the wheels and dragged it over the new hole. The land was on a slight slope and being a technically aware pair they decided, for safety's sake, they'd make a couple of chocks. Danny had a power saw and a lump of wood at home so as it was his tucker time, he'd head off and come back with the chocks later. Grandpa kicked a rock under one wheel just as Grandma called him for lunch.

After lunch they had a little power nap. Grandma awoke to the call of nature and traipsed off to the newly positioned dunny, grumbling that the blasted thing was getting further away from the house all the time. Next year the damned thing would probably be over the hill and out of sight. She'd need a cut lunch and a map to find it. She entered and plonked her substantial self down.

Now this part of the story is largely conjecture based on sound principals of physics. The substantial plonking of Grandma rocked the edifice and pushed the temporary chock into the earth. Thus effectively de-chocking the aforementioned edifice which took off with a stately grace then gathered speed at a frightening rate. Grandma opened the door and looked out realising two things: one, she couldn't jump clear, the juggernaut would run over her. And two, it was aimed like a missile for the house. She closed the door and her eyes, hung on and screamed. The dashing dunny hit the concrete step up to the back verandah and stopped. Dead! Later, clever people in the pub would try to work out the G-forces that Grandma's substantial being was subjected to and the amount of kinetic energy released at the point of impact, but this was not possible without knowing Grandma's weight. She was asked, just as a matter of scientific interest, but got extremely unfriendly.

Grandpa told everybody his side of the story: He was astir, heard Grandma screaming and stuck his out of the bedroom door, looked up the passage and saw the actual collision with the concrete step, the dunny door explode off the hinges and skid across the verandah with Grandma prone on it. The door hit the doorstep of the house and stopped. Grandma didn't. Fortunately the back door was open. She continued, skidding face down along the polished wood in the hall-way, past an amazed Grandpa and stopped just short of the front door. The thought passed his mind that if Grandma was fitted with wheels she could have made it out to the front gate.

He went over and helped her up. She seemed OK. Maybe a little puzzled. “Are you all right? What do you think you're doin'? You nearly wrecked the dunny. Are you aware I've gotta go and get more hinges, all because you want to play silly buggers at your age. Bloody near an indoor dunny, thanks to you.” Grandma, now standing, took stock of the situation, and belted Grandpa.

“C'mon, you poor old thing, I'll give all your sore bits a rub-down with the horse liniment. I'll even rub-down your bits that aren't sore,” Grandpa offered.

“You're just a dirty old man. But then again, when I married you, you were a dirty young man, so I've had no surprises.”

“All your fault, my love. You were inspirational. Still are.” Grandma thought for a second. “True,” she said and hugged him.

At that moment Danny put his head around the back door. “I love it! You don't go to the dunny any more. The dunny comes to you. Then I find you doing that! I'll just go and sit on the verandah until you finish, or more likely, Grandpa has a heart-attack."

“Another dirty old man!” Grandma sighed.

“I heard that!” Danny said. “It's not me doin' that. And probably not Grandpa either.”

“Grandpa, please go and fix everything and kill him, too,” Grandma begged.

“OK my love and I'll hurry back. Just remember where we're up to.”

Danny chained his truck to the dunny and while they dragged it back to the new position Grandpa told him, “You're timing's lousy. I was about to get lucky and you stuck your ugly mug in the back door.”

Danny laughed. “Mate, I just saved you from an afternoon of failure, shame and humiliation.” He then made that little finger gesture that lesser men hate.

The situation was resolved when the dunny was re-situated, chocked and chained to a tree. Grandma still didn't trust it. She took a bit of rope in, threaded it around the two rear corner posts and took to lashing herself in during her residence.

And that, boys and girls, was the birth of the seat belt.