The Frog and the Bunny Rabbit
An excerpt from John Summers' new book
We are 18-wheeler-to-Dargaville excited about John Summers' new book of creative non-fiction that's coming out this week. John is an editor, co-founder and regular contributor for Up Country.
The book is called The Mermaid Boy and tells stories about pre-quake Christchurch, first jobs, flats and loves, attempted adventures here and overseas, and the oddballs, loners and losers met along the way. And that's just the half of it.
The excerpt today comes from 'The Frog and the Bunny Rabbit' which is a story of hitchhiking from Christchurch to Ninety Mile Beach and back again.
We tried to travel back down the west coast of the North Island, but the rides just stopped. Everyone there was either a tourist, too scared to pick up a hitchhiker, or a local just going down the road. Late afternoon, and we were only just out of Kaikohe, still in the middle of Northland, at a turn-off next to a stand of dry and dusty trees. We were dusty too, our packs and clothes and Gareth’s dreadlocks all looking well-worn, like something you’d find under the house. Sunburnt and tired, and holding out limp thumbs. We had already discussed where we might sleep – I suggested the trees, Gareth favoured the bank near the road edge – when a car pulled up.
A middle-aged woman admitted that she didn’t usually pick up hitchhikers. Although this time the exception was made because we looked so pathetic. ‘John,’ she said, having just learnt our names. ‘You looked like you’d had enough.’
I was in the back seat, trying to balance a stack of porcelain bowls that had been shifted to the seat beside me. The woman had smiled in the rear-view mirror after saying that. Gareth eased around in his seat to grin at me too. It was as if I was the only one who thought it unpleasant to be so far from home, standing in the dust and waiting for a stranger to drive us elsewhere.
She dropped us off in Ōpononi. ‘There is a great tradition of singing and music in this area,’ she said. ‘If you’re lucky you might hear someone at the pub.’ The pub had tall and narrow windows, glowing in the dusk.
‘Over there, maybe?’ Gareth said, and we walked away, towards a park on the other side of the road. It was really just a square of grass with a picnic table. Along one edge there were trees and a steep bank down to a riverbed.
We set up our camp stove on the picnic table and silently watched our noodles boil. After dinner we carried our packs into a clump of tall grass and bunked down there for the night. A pine cone jutted up through the wall of my sleeping bag. I lay there anyway, too tired to move, imagining that I could just hear singing somewhere off in the distance, the notes of an old-fashioned ballad carried in the breeze.