Chapter 16

Dickson placed a carrot, a stick of celery, an onion, a couple of mushrooms and two garlic cloves on the chopping board. "It's about time you learned how to make spag bol, Mick, so get chopping, but only use half the carrot."

"Which half?"

"Jeez ... and wrap the half you don't use in alfoil--it keeps better."

"Do I peel the onion first?"

"I really don't believe this! Let me show you." Dickson painstakingly took Mick through the various processes, then showed him how to rock the knife backwards and forwards over the diced vegetables to chop them finely. "Okay, now we fry them in a pan on moderate heat with a knob of butter and a dash of olive oil. Give them a couple of minutes, then throw in the minced steak."

When that was done, Mick stood over the pan and used a wooden spoon to separate the steak and hammer the lumps into fine pieces. "You can buy ready-made bolognaise at the supermarket for just a few bucks, you know."

"It's crap. This is the genuine article. Okay, now you're ready to add the chunky tomato pasta sauce."

"You cheated! It's in a bottle!"

"Now pour it in... all of it." As he continued to follow Dickson's directions, Mick added three bay leaves, ground pepper, a few shakes of Tabasco and a pinch of salt. "Turn down the heat to simmer, put the lid on the pan and that's it for about half an hour--then we cook the pasta."

A tsunami? In Australian waters? It wasn't possible. Or was it? An earthquake near the Solomon Islands had already caused damage to the local South Pacific region.

IDN23900
TOP PRIORITY FOR IMMEDIATE BROADCAST
NSW TSUNAMI WARNING
Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
New South Wales

For people in coastal areas of New South Wales, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.

An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 8.1 occurred at 06:40 am EST this morning near the Solomon Islands, [epicentre 8.6S, 157.2E] and may have generated a tsunami.

At the time of this warning a Tsunami has been detected. Further monitoring is taking place to determine the extent and severity of the threat.
 
A series of waves associated with this tsunami may impact Australia later this morning, reaching Norfolk Island from Midday [Norfolk Island time], Lord Howe Island from 11:00 am [Lord Howe Island time] and the NSW coastline starting from between 10:15 am EST and midday. [Sydney region most likely around 11:30 am EST onwards].
 
Dangerous waves and currents may affect beaches, harbors and rivers for several hours from the time of impact and low-lying coastal areas could be flooded. The waves can be separated in time by between ten to sixty minutes and the first wave of the series may not be the largest.

The NSW State Emergency Service advises that:
People at the beach should leave the beach, and any areas exposed to surf, and move to higher ground.
People in boats in shallow water should immediately return to land, secure vessels and move to higher ground.
Boats and ships at sea should move to deep water and not return to harbor until advised that it is safe to do so.
If you see the sea go out like a very low tide then immediately go to high ground.
People should keep listening to the local media for updated information and advice and follow instructions and advice from emergency services

"Did you hear the news?" Mick asked next morning, almost breathless as he entered the kitchen. "We gotta get outta here!"

"Don't panic."

"Don't panic? This house could become a pile of flotsam, mate!"

"Bacon and poached eggs?"

"How the bloody hell can you talk about breakfast at a time like this?"

Dickson placed a number of bacon rashers in a hot pan. A moment later, the irresistibly appetizing aroma of the sizzling strips reached Mick's nostrils. He checked his watch. "Okay, bacon and poached eggs, but make it snappy!"

"I had a sign chat earlier with Paul--the tsunami warning hadn't made the morning papers, so I told him about it."

"He freaked, right?"

"Nope."

"What the bloody hell is the matter with you two? Who do we know with a truck? We need a truck--we need to move all your stuff to higher ground--like pronto! That wave will hit in about three hours from now."

"What wave? There is no wave. Besides, this house has been here for over 100 years, what makes you think it's gonna be wiped out in just a few hours?"

"You're crazy--you know that? Stark raving crazy! Well, I'm taking control here, Dickson. If you won't do it, I will!"

A friend's truck arrived at the beach house at 8am. Mick and his friend immediately began to load the vehicle with furniture and various other household items not bolted to the floor. And Dickson? He sat on the front verandah drinking coffee while he scanned the ocean horizon. By 10am the truck was loaded.

"Dickson? You're not thinking straight. You're in shock or something. It's time to get our asses outta here, dammit!"

"Have you checked the bureau of meteorology's website?"

"The computer is packed away on the truck. Now, listen, are you gonna get your dumb ass outta here or do I have to drag you?"

Dickson reluctantly agreed and the boys headed out back to their Suzukis. Both engines roared into life, but Dickson took a minute or two to gaze at the old house before he finally followed his mate along the dirt road.

Issued at 1208 on Monday the 2nd of April

A series of waves and sea level rises associated with this tsunami may further impact eastern Australia today, reaching Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and the NSW coastline starting from between now and early afternoon. Unusual waves and currents may continue for several hours after the time of initial impact.
Impact on the Sydney region could occur anytime from now through until mid afternoon.

Issued at 1353 on Monday the 2nd of April

Only small rises in sea level, [of the order of 10cm], were associated with this Tsunami on the NSW coast and it no longer poses a threat to the coastline or Islands.
 
Unusual currents may continue to affect beaches, harbors and rivers mouths over the next 24 hours.

The NSW State Emergency Service advises that people can return to normal activity with caution.

No further warnings are expected be issued for this event.

The beach house was back to normal at 3:30pm, with all furniture and fittings returned to their usual place. Dickson and Mick took a beer each to the front verandah and sat on the old canvas chairs. "What went through your mind when you hesitated on the Suzuki," Mick asked.

"My life," the shaggy blond shrugged, and took a swig of beer. "My whole life...all the images of my growing up here, my gran, the aroma of Gran's home cooking, the surfing, my room...everything. I didn't want to believe that it could all be wiped away in one fell swoop."

"Your life is more important, mate."

"Is it? What's life without a past? This house is my life, Mick. Isn't that the way you feel about your home?"

"No, not really."

"Maybe because it's safe and your folks are still there. My gran is gone and I don't think I could handle the house going as well. It would be like being robbed of all the memories--like waking up one day with amnesia and not being able to recall anything about your life."

"Is that what you'll tell Horace Fink?"

"Eventually, but I need to get to know him a little better first. Besides, he may change his mind after the tsunami thing. You know something, Mick? I've always felt safe here, this is my home, my security, it's where I belong. The tsunami may have fizzled but the idea of something like that happening has screwed my brain. I'm not sure I'll ever feel safe here again. Do you understand?"

"Maybe... If you feel the same way about losing the house as I do about losing you, then, yeah, I think I understand."

Paul arrived shortly afterward, ready for his surfing lessons. During his time in the surf, the boy sensed something different about his tutor's mood, but waited until the lesson was over before he mentioned it in sign. "Something is troubling you," his fingers said once the boards were stacked against the verandah wall. Dickson's only response was a shrug and a smile as he stood beneath the shower hose. Once the showers and toweling were completed, Paul repeated his comment.

"I'm not sure you'd understand," Dickson replied in a mix of sign and lip reading.

"Try me."

Mick was out back working on his bike, so Dickson grabbed two Cokes from the fridge and took them back to the verandah where he explained to Paul his concern about a possible tsunami and the damage it might cause to the house.

"My mom says I can't run away from my deafness, so I have no choice but to deal with it." It took Dickson a moment of puzzlement to realize the point his little mate was making. "She says if she'd known that I would be born deaf when I was still inside her, she might have decided to abort the birth."

"That's unthinkable!"

"That's what mom says--unthinkable--she says I'm the most wonderful gift from God. Do you believe in God?"

"Not in the traditional sense, no. I agree with Maureen that you're a wonderful gift--probably more than you know--but I'm not sure about some bearded bloke up there wrapping presents."

"Mom also says that worrying about something that hasn't happened or maybe won't happen doesn't do any good. So I figure if you worry about a possible tsunami, it'll spoil all the fun... and mine too!"

"You look forward to coming here, don't you."

"I told my friends at school," the auburn haired lad beamed, "and they're jealous, big time."

"Do they treat you as an equal?"

"Most do, some don't. They play practical jokes, like sneaking up behind me."

"What does Maureen say about that?"

"She says don't react--if I spoil their fun they'll stop doing it." Paul paused for a sip of his Coke. "Dickson? How come you're such a nice person?"

"That's easy, mate--because you're a nice person, and so is your mom--she's a very special lady."

"You should marry her."

"WHAT??? No offence, mate, but... well, uh, I'm kinda sorta... uh, too young or something."

"Wuss."

"Hahaha! Anyway, you're right, there's no point getting my knickers in a knot about something that may or may not happen. But I can tell you one thing, China, that tsunami warning sure brought home to me what's really important in my life, so I suppose that's a good thing."