Leg 12 – Cairns, Australia
I have a new mantra, diary. “One more leg. Just one. More. Leg.” I swear, if I ever get back to Hollywood, I will never again complain about jobs like Dead Teen Number 4 in Friday the Thirteenth Part 47: This time he’s really, really, dead. No really. We swear. Scout’s honour!
Once all the greeting was done from the last leg, I got my ass (looking remarkably shapely if I do say so myself) down to make-up so I could lose the surfer girl look and return to my own, ruggedly handsome, self. A quick change later, plus a brief detour to bring up another cup or three of sea water from the Fast Forward, and I was a new man. Or, actually, the same old man. Again.
They decided to extend the Pit Stop this time, due to what JB coyly referred to as “production difficulties.” Yeah, I suppose that’s one way of describing what happened. Another would be “gross negligence, willful property damage, and attempted cultural genocide,” but that is a bit of a mouthful even for the big guy. Apparently the original plan was to take the racers into what the tourist books call “the red heart” of Australia, or what the locals refer to as “that fucking hot place.” JB envisioned some cool tasks leading up to a Pit Stop right at Ayers Rock, and had sent an advance team off to scout it out.
Things were looking pretty good until the crew decided that some paint on the Rock was going to mess up the background of when the teams arrived at the mat. So, out came the scrub brushes. And, fifteen seconds later, out came one hundred and fifty angry members of the Woomera Clan, somewhat offended at the attempt to erase seven thousand years of their heritage. I gather the PA in charge tried to buy them off with an empty bottle of Coke, but the Gods weren’t that crazy. The whole team got chased off into the desert, abandoning everything – cameras, Landrovers, boom mikes, the lot. The whole production shut down for a day while they tried to track them all down.
Meanwhile, back in Mooloolaba, (Hey! I got it!) one bottle of rum became two, and then seven. Everyone was getting well lubricated – racers, crew, all of us – and the six racers left decided to start playing truth or dare. It was all pretty normal stuff at first: stories about public nudity, embarrassing toilet incidents, cow-tipping, and a sheep or three, mixed up with the odd dare that generally involved either shooters, streaking, the consumption of raw eggs, or in one memorable case, all three. (Man, that Reichen is an animal after his fifth double.)
Then Dave (or was it Jeff?) posed the question “What is the most evil thing you have ever done?” Jeff (or was it Dave?) went first with some rambling story that, when you removed all the “dudes”, boiled down to “I cut some guy off while surfing – and then I stole his girl!” Wow. What a wild man.
Then it was Jon’s turn. “Well,” he said, “I once shot a man in Memphis, just to watch him die.”
“No way, man! No way! That’s a dare, that’s definitely a dare. Hey Chip, I’ve got a good one. Go see if that aquarium has an octopus we can borrow. Or a vacuum cleaner.”
“No, no, I’m serious. It’s the truth.” Then he pulled out his wallet, removed a slip of paper, and passed it around. It was a little piece of newspaper, with a headline: “Police baffled by mystery shooting”
“Uh, okay,” said Jeff (or was it Dave?) “Um, er, Kelly. How about you?”
“The most evil thing I’ve ever done? That’s easy. Jon.”
No one challenged her on that one. And people started slowly backing away from the table.
That was pretty much it for the game. Everyone went to get some rest, because it had been made clear that we would not spend (or, as BVM put it, “waste”) too much time on the rescue mission for the missing crew (BVM: “those morons”).
(In the end, things worked out all right. Five of the guys were found within the day, and only three had heat stroke. One hitched a ride on a road train and ended up opening a chip wagon in Alice Springs. The last guy was adopted by the Woomera. He was hallucinating from the heat and dehydration when they found him, and I hear he’s now a shaman. Nice work if you can get it. The equipment was never recovered, although by odd coincidence three months later the Aboriginal Broadcast System launched its first reality show, Survivor: Perth.)
The racers all had to get up in the middle of the night, but we had been warned off that there would be some delays due to opening hours (BVM: “And we made sure to pick the least comfortable cars on the planet to sleep in! Hahahahahahah!”) so rather then being awoken by a boot to the ribs at ten p.m., I had to settle for the five o’clock air horn.
“Get your ass in gear, greeter boy! We’ve got an emergency.”
An emergency? That could mean only one thing: pain, discomfort, and humiliation. For me.
BVM briefed my in the helicopter on the way to the first route marker. “They were supposed to hide the clues, but some fucking idiot forgot one of them. So, we’ve got three teams, two clues, and a whole shitload of trouble with Standards and Practices if we don’t sort this out.”
“So, they’re at a wool farm? That’s cool. I can do a pretty good farmer.”
“We need something a little more… subtle,” said BVM.
“Not to mention quadruped,” grinned Phil.
Forty-five minutes later I was doing my best bald sheep impression, nuzzling forward with the rest of my herd into the pile of wool while six hung over, sleep-deprived racers flung it about. My instructions were clear: saunter (does a sheep actually saunter? Perhaps canter. Or trot? never mind) up to a nice deep pile of wool somewhere behind David and Jeff, drop the clue, bury it, and get out of there.
Saunter? Check. Drop? Check. Bury? Check. Out of there? Oh crap.
Blocking my way was the biggest, smelliest, horniest ram I had ever seen. And those things on top of his head were pretty big too. He was looking me up and down; I was bigger than your average sheep, and I guess he thought my pelvis was just right for big, healthy lambs.
“BAAAA!” (Translation: “How ewe doing?”)
“Baaack off. I’m not what ewe think.”
“BAAAAAAAA! (“Who’s your daaaaaady?”)
I looked around. The cameras were focused on the teams. I sidled to the left a bit, stood up into a crouch, and took off. I had cleared one fence before my wooly admirer could even react. I’ll give him points for effort; he almost got over the fence. He probably would have made it, if he weren’t already, um, engorged. I heard a loud, high-pitched, “BAA!” behind me. Wincing in sympathy, I dropped to all fours again and trotted around to where the production team was set up.
BVM was in stitches. “Fabulous! Fabulous job with the clue! And not only that, but you also got me a sure-fire winner for the next all-animals edition of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Lucky for me you’re so irresistible – at least, to some of the higher mammals. What’s your secret? Lanolin?”
I got the wool off and hopped back in the helicopter. “I was going to get you to help out with the next detour, but there are horses involved,” said BVM. “Given your animal magnetism, that might not be such a good idea. Although,” he looked at me thoughtfully, “I could probably sell that video too… hmmm…”
Memo to myself: next gig, insert “No bestiality” clause in contract.
“Never mind that. You did good work back there, so I’ve got a treat for you.”
A treat? From BVM? That could mean only one thing. Yeah, you guessed it: pain, discomfort, and humiliation. But hopefully, for someone else.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. I tried to sleep, although every time I nodded off, Phil would lean over and whisper “Be my baaaaaby” in my ear. I finally shut him up with a joke about sheep, New Zealanders, rubber boots, and Velcro gloves, that even BVM thought was funny. He sulked for the rest of the flight, but at least I got some sleep.
We eventually made our way to the off-road racing center. “I heard about your little spin at LeMans,” said BVM, “so I figured this would be just your thing. High speed, danger, a lunatic at the wheel, white-knuckled hands gripping the dashboard in terror –”
“I get to drive the racers around the bend! Cool!”
“Cool your jets, Mario. I didn’t say whose hands. This is a challenge for they racers. They just need, you know, a chaperone. A passenger. Luggage.”
David and Jeff were the first to get there. One of them decided to do it. I can’t tell, honestly I can’t, and you can’t make me care. Anyway, one of them climbed in and we were off. The controls weren’t that difficult – even for a Goat – and so I figured I’d just hang on. Fat chance.”
“So, uh, dude, which way do I go?”
“See the marked course? Follow it.”
“Okay. Uh, dude? What marked course.”
“The lines of tape and stuff that make a lane. You know – a lane? Like a pretend road?”
“Do you see two lines?”
“Good. Stay between them.”
Thirty seconds later: “Where do I go now, dude?”
“Stay in the lane. Still.”
Thirty seconds later: “Dude?”
I snapped. Pointing wildly and repeatedly down the lane, I shouted, “The lane! The fucking lane! The two parallel lines, with no intersections, gaps, or junctions, that lead us inevitably around the course from the start to the finish! It’s a fucking LANE, you moron! My God! How on earth do you get from your door to your fucking bedroom at home? How do you not die of starvation, wandering around your kitchen trying to find the refrigerator?”
“Dude! My mom tied a string from the front door. And the refrigerator… that’s the big white thing, right?”
We eventually made it to the finish line. He only got lost twice. “Enjoying yourself?” enquired BVM.
“Loads. But hey, look at the time! Gotta go to make-up; those boys are heading to the mat.”
He snorted. “Yes. And given how long it will take them to find it, you have plenty of time. Your next driver is waiting.”
Next thing I know, Chip comes storming over. His entire body is clenched. His hair is clenched. “Do you speak English?”
The hell? “Uh…”
Sigh. “No worries, mate! This is Australia. We all speak English.”
He looked at me suspiciously. “Are you sure?”
It took a bit of convincing, including a recitation of three stanzas of The Wreck of the Hesperus, but I eventually persuaded him that I was indeed fluent. We climbed in and roared off. Chip was clutching the steering wheel like he planned to wring its neck. If it, uh, had a neck.
“You might want to ease up on the grip there, Ace…”
“I’M DRIVING! STOP PESTERING ME!”
By this point his helmet was starting to smoke, so I eased off. The course was getting a little curvy and tight (Ah, Millie. How I miss her) and I thought it best to let him smoulder in peace.
Until the trees starting getting closer.
“Uh, try to stay on the road…”
“THE TREES! WHO MOVED MY TREES?”
“The trees aren’t driving, mate, you are, and-“
“Where’s the horn on this thing? GET OUT OF MY WAY, TREES! HONK! HONK!”
And then the crashing, and the screeching, and groaning of metal. And that was just Chip. Things outside the buggy were not looking too good either.
We slid to a halt and climbed out to survey the damage. Chip was in a spin; I thought he was going to just auger himself straight into the Earth. No such luck, however.
“Why is this buggy broken? You gave me a broken buggy!”
“Are you nuts? The only thing bent on this buggy was you, until you decided that ‘off-road’ actually meant ‘in forest’!”
“No. Someone broke my buggy. And I should get a new one.” Chip now passed through intense rage into a sort of eerie calm, a ‘no worries; I’ve got a backpack full of pipe bombs,’ calm. I thought it best to humour him.
“Of course, sir. We’re terribly sorry. We’ll bring you a new buggy right away, with our compliments. Would you like me to drive as well?”
“Yes, thank you. The roads here are terrible.”
Memo to myself: Tell the Race Doctor to up Chip’s dosage at the next Pit Stop.
Ah well. Two teams down, one to go. And all the way back to the finish line, I was praying. “Please take the Fast Forward. Please God, let them have taken the Fast Forward.”
“There is no Fast Forward on this leg, you idiot!”
“Wha- is that-“
“Ha! You think God is listening? You’re wearing a headset, goof,” snarled BVM. “Anyway, no Fast Forward. Get your ass back to the start line. Someone’s waiting for you.”
Sure enough, there was Jon looking like a kid in a candy store. “Gimme the keys gimme the keys gimmegimmegimme!”
He hopped and we took off. “So, let’s see what this baby can do!”
I have been thrown off a transmission tower by a psychotic game show host. I have been beaten and arrested – more than once. I have even told a director to stick his head up his own ass, if he is capable of finding it. But until that moment, I have never truly known fear.
Jon seemed intent on achieving orbit, or if that were not possible, at least getting the fiery re-entry part. The tachometer developed a new affection for the redline, and even I could no longer tell if it was the engine or me doing the screaming. Then he looked up.
“Hey, is that a roll bar? Wow! There’s a whole cage! So, how much protection does that give you?”
“Well, we’ve never really tested-“
“No time like the present, then!”
With that, he gave the wheel a sharp pull to the right. And then the sliding, and the bouncing, and the rolling, and above it all, that maniacal laughter. Even when everything else was silent, still the laughter. And maybe a bit of sobbing from me.
The rest of the circuit is a bit of a blur to me. I seem to remember hands rolling us upright, someone checking me over for obvious wounds, and a harpy-like screeching in the background, something about a “schmancy wedding” and “a million dollars.” I was just pleased to be upright with four limbs attached and settled back into a nice catatonic funk.
I was aroused by the gentle tones of BVM screeching in my headset. “Get up you lazy sack! You better not have a concussion; we paid good money for that helmet. I need your head in one piece for at least another day or so.”
Next thing I knew I was being dragged from the buggy and stuffed in the backseat of a helicopter. “We’ve got to get you to the mat,” snarled BVM. “Do you know how much these bloodsuckers charge for local colour? ‘Crikey, bloke, I’ll need four hundred dollars a minute.’ Usurious crocodile-wrestling bastard.”
I groaned in agreement. “You look like crap. That’s perfect. We were planning on someone older anyways. Here, put this hat on.”
By the time I got to the mat, the world had stopped spinning. And sure enough, I had still managed to beat David and Jeff. One of them wandered up to us. “Uh, hi dudes. Have either of you seen, like, a mat? Like, a welcome mat?”
Phil whispered through clenched teeth. “Look. Down. You. MORON.”
“Dude! It’s right here dude!”
Welcome to Cairns, David and Jeff. Next leg, might I suggest a seeing eye dog?
Reichen and Chip were next. The air was still crackling around Chip. Man, one of these days he’s just going to explode. And when he does, I want to be far, far away. Or maybe close by, as long as I’m behind safety glass. With popcorn. Anyway, yadda yadda, Team Number Two. They hugged, they kissed, they gave four Singaporean censors hives, it was all good for now.
I sensed a shift in the wind. The temperature dropped. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Overhead, a seagull circled lazily. Backwards. “Ahh,” said Phil. “Kelly and Jon are here. Get out from behind me and greet them like a man, you big girl’s blouse.”
The things I do for minimum wage plus meals. Sensing my discomfort, Phil kindly dragged the greeting out as long as he could. He even got them talking about their future.
“We’ve come to the decision that we can’t have children,” said Kelly, “because really, the form of an infant can’t hold the sort of absolute evil we would pour into it. Besides, Jon might get hungry one day, and then where would we be?”
I’m pretty sure they’re going to overdub that, though.
Oh well. One more leg, diary. One more leg.