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    Wombat Bill
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May contain graphic sexual content

Catering With Benefits (3) - An Appetite for More - 56. A New Year

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Overnight the smoke lifted slightly, providing some reprieve for those sheltering on the shores of Mallacoota. Suddenly, for the first time in days there was some daylight, because there had been a wind change and the fire had bypassed the town centre. However, help was still not at hand and the situation was about to become a health issue, with about 5000 people needing access to toilets. Food was also limited.

The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, went on national television and announced ‘The Federal Government, especially our defence forces, are working together with the Victorian Government to respond to the bushfires. The Premier and I are in regular contact. Reports of persons unaccounted for are very distressing. There is still an active fire in the area and the town of Mallacoota remains isolated.’

The Minister for Defence announced ‘I have authorised the ADF to deploy assets to the Victorian fires, including helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and naval vessels will sail to East Gippsland with supplies and eventually evacuation.’

On radio, the local member of parliament advised ‘There are at least four people missing in Victoria and dozens of homes have likely been lost in Mallacoota. We will have to find a way to get some of those people out as quick as we possibly can. The full assessment of damage at Mallacoota hasn't been done. The agencies haven't been able to get there safely yet, to go through street by street. My mate on the ground tells me dozens of homes have been destroyed. People will need help to get through the next few months and years.’

As Desmond wandered around talking to people he listened to their stories. Geoff Belmore told him “I’ve lost two houses. Been holidaying in Mallacoota for 25 years and lived there for the last four. I have been working on the units for the last couple of years. Finally got them finished and suddenly it’s totally gone. The whole structure has collapsed.”

Another told of his losses “I have a 1977 Corvette, a 1964 Holden ute, a 1942 Dodge that I was turning into a hot rod, a beautiful Harley Davidson, a boat that I loved with a couple of brand-new motors on it and now they're molten aluminium."

Musican Justin Brady also lost his home. “I was able to save my instruments, including a fiddle, harmonica and mandolin - but my home on Karbeethong Hill did not survive. I lost everything pretty much. I built the house 25 years ago but only just recently, the last three months, I decided to live here as my base."

<>

As well as army reservists, the federal government also sent in the Navy. HMAS Adelaide sailed from Sydney to be located offshore from fire-affected areas near the border of Victoria and New South Wales. The ship, fully equipped for disaster relief and humanitarian aid, can carry 400 crew, including medical staff, as well as 300 tonnes of emergency relief supplies.

HMAS Choules, an amphibious landing ship with a dock for helicopters and the capacity to carry 700 troops also left Sydney Harbour to help Mallacoota. It will be joined by MV Sycamore - a patrol vessel that can carry a helicopter.

Private Gas company Esso also helped with the rescue and recovery effort in Mallacoota by offering two ships and helicopters to help emergency services and assist in evacuations.

Food and petrol supplies were heading for Mallacoota and helicopters were also assisting in the delivery of the supplies and to facilitate a shift change for the firefighters on the ground.

A barge containing 30,000 litres of fuel and a two-week supply of food and water was also on its way from Melbourne. Upon arrival the locals formed a human chain to carry cases of food and bottled water from the barge to a waiting trailer.

A large helicopter flew from Bairnsdale Airport, carrying 20 firefighters, sent in to relieve some of the exhausted and injured firemen on the ground.

Tap water was re-connected in Mallacoota and is safe to drink again but people were urged to restrict their water usage to conserve supplies.

HMAS Choules is capable of carrying about 1,000 passengers, but about 5,000 people remained stranded around the town's beach area, including about 1000 locals. The ship will make two to three trips over the coming days, with a view to evacuating all of those stranded before conditions worsen on Saturday. The vessel will also deliver water, food and medical supplies.

Virginia and Desmond lined up to register for Friday's evacuation. The commander of HMAS Choules said the registration is to gauge how many of the 4000 people stranded want to be evacuated. If the number is greater than 1000, then there will need to be a second load. It is 16-17 hours to the closest boat port, then it would return for a further evacuation trip.

***

Finally the HMAS Choules evacuation mission began. Authorities advised, the journey will be complex and has been restricted to the able-bodied and those above the age of four, as it may involve climbing up rope ladders and boarding smaller ferry boats.

“I don’t know if I can do that Des. I’ve never climbed up a ladder since I was a child playing on the slide, let alone a rope ladder.”

“You’ll manage, I’ll help you and there will be naval staff to assist also.”

Others wanting to leave will be offered flights out while conditions are still relatively clear.

Priority for evacuation by air was given to young children and their families, the sick and the elderly who would not be allowed on HMAS Choules.

***

Two days later, Desmond and Virginia were among the first 900 people to board vessels at Bastion Point to be ferried out to HMAS Choules under a thick cloud of smoke. Their rescue from Mallacoota will be a 20-hour journey to Melbourne.

There were a number of teary faces as people left the much-loved area, again shrouded in a blanket of deep, heavy smoke.

Virginia overheard a sombre conversation between a little boy and his mother lining up to board. "I never want to come here again," the boy said before his mother tried to reassure him: "But we'll go back next year. Everything would have grown back."

As the weary Mallacoota evacuees and their pets boarded HMAS Choules for the journey to safety they were provided with a little comic relief when the ship’s commander greeted the displaced with an instruction to think of the impressive navy vessel as ‘a cruise ship without the pina coladas’.

After days of life-threatening fire, black skies, oppressive smoke, caring for a sick child and repeated disappointments about evacuation, Megan, a visitor from Montreal, told Virginia "I have had enough of Mallacoota. I don't cry much but it definitely came out last night.”

Nineteen-year-old Jackie Stefanopoulous, who was on board HMAS Choules, had been holidaying in Mallacoota with her boyfriend and his family."All of a sudden we heard about the incoming bushfires. I was petrified, a lot of people were petrified," she told Virginia.

"The sense of uncertainty was frightening, like not knowing whether we will be OK, understanding that there were bushfires surrounding us only a couple of metres away. I feared for my life, it was really scary."

***

The following day, HMAS Choules docked at Hastings where the evacuees were transferred onto buses. About 700 people headed to Somerville, relief centre with a further 200 going straight to Melbourne. Those headed to Melbourne were put up at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre or at Crown Casino Hotel.

Virginia and Desmond opted to go straight to Melbourne so they could rest for one night then fly back to Sydney on the first available flight the following day.

***

Diesel was dropped into Mallacoota to power generators with priority given to relief centres, hospitals, airport, communications and essential services. Petrol supplies also arrived in Mallacoota with four 200 litre drums of unleaded fuel for the public to access until the power is restored to the town.

Fresh milk and produce was delivered to the supermarkets of Mallacoota by the Australian Defence Force.

***

A few days later, two vets from Healesville Sanctuary arrived in Mallacoota to treat injured wildlife. “Despite their injuries and trauma, the bravery shown by the koalas and wildlife at Mallacoota is inspiring,” Dr Leanne Wicker said.

Zoos Victoria chief executive Jenny Grey estimated 500 million animals had been killed in bushfires this fire season but believed the full impact was impossible to determine.

Everyone who registered their desire to leave Mallacoota was evacuated, and the residents who chose to remain appeared to be in great spirits as they went about returning their town to as close to normal as they could achieve. However, outside observers felt they had not really taken in and comprehended the enormity of the devastation. With army convoys arriving in town, locals were confident they could start the rebuild.

Over 300 homes were lost in Mallacoota.

***

Desmond and Virginia slept soundly at the hotel that night. It was their first night in a bed after spending two nights huddled together on the beach and one night on the navy ship.

They secured a flight out of Melbourne mid afternoon and were back in their Potts Point apartment by 7.00pm. As they flopped into the lounge, Virginia said “Des, I was thinking on the flight what we’ve been through in the last week and honestly don’t know how we coped. In fact it seems like a bad dream, as if it wasn’t real. I was so far out of my comfort zone I find it hard to believe.”

“But you did cope Virginia, and you should be proud of how you managed.”

“I suppose so, but we really got off easily compared to some of those folk I spoke to on the beach. We come home to a clean comfortable safe home, but many of them don’t have a home to return to. I don’t know how they find the strength to carry on.”

“The instinct to survive and move forward is strong when people are faced with adversity.”

“This whole experience has made me realise how out of touch I have been with people who have to work hard and worry about their homes, their jobs and their families. I’ve led a somewhat privileged life, with none of those worries, not even children.”

“But you’re a good person who has led the life you were dealt.”

“Maybe, but I want more, I want to do more. I want to be involved in the lives of real people.”

“Am I not real to you?”

“You know that’s not what I mean.”

“Well you donated to those firefighter’s families. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.”

“It’s not just about money Des. Sure I could give away lots, and I will when I get my head around this. But I want to be personally involved in helping people less fortunate.”

“What’s the name of that friend who runs a hospital charity? Remember we went to her fundraiser.”

“You mean Cynthia Broderick?”

“Yeah, that’s her. Why don’t you speak to her and see if you can help there.”

“Brilliant idea Des, and one more thing. As our house survived the fire I want to make it available for a homeless family to use. Apart from being the right thing to do, I don’t think I will want to go back there anytime soon.”

“We’ll have to go back some time to collect the car.”

“Can you organise that, I couldn’t go back so soon.”

“Sure, I’ll get onto the local police and see what they suggest.”

“Oh damn, I just remembered, I must call Jonathan and let him know we’re safely at home.”

<>

Her call went to voicemail as Jonathan was busy and could not hear his phone from the bedroom.

A naked Lachlan rolled towards Jonathan and asked “How long have we been lovers?”

“About a year now, why do we have an anniversary coming up?”

“I don’t mean since we became partners. I mean since we first met at the club and started having sex on an irregular basis.”

“It must be ten years or so, why?”

“I was thinking about our sex life and what we’ve done together. Do you remember you fucked my on that first night?”

“And every time since, that we’ve been together.”

“Exactly, that’s what I mean.”

“I’m not following this conversation Lachlan.”

“Every time we have sex, you fuck me.”

“That’s right, that’s our roles.”

“But why does it have to always be like that.”

“Well sometimes I jerk off over you. I thought you liked that.”

“I do, but that’s not what I mean.”

“Then tell me for fuck’s sake.”

Lachlan sat up, looked Jonathan in the eyes and said “I want to fuck you.”

“But...but...what. But I’m the man and you’re the...”

“Go on Jonathan, what am I?”

“How do I put this? I’m the fucker and you’re the fuckee. Is that how you say it?”

“No it’s not how you say it. We’re lovers and is should be equal.”

“But I thought that’s how you like it.”

“I do like that, but I’d also like to try it the other way around sometimes.”

“I’ve never given it any thought really.”

“Have you never been the bottom?”

“No.”

“Well, then it’s about time, don’t you think?”

“Um...I’m not sure.”

“I’d really like to try, you might like it.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then I’ll stop and we can discuss it.”

“Will it hurt?”

“Might the first time, but you’ll get used to it. Do you love me?”

“Of course I do and do you love me.”

“Yes and that’s why I want to be inside you; to share equally in our love making.”

“Then I’d be honoured to have you be the first to violate my body.”

“You could have put it more romantically, but I’ll take what I can get.”

“On the contrary, I will be taking what you can give.”

“Jonathan, roll over.”

This story has featured just one town, Mallacoota, but many towns in four states, had fire emergencies. The facts and quotes used are research from news reports, Government notices and social media.

Virginia and Desmond, although fictional characters, were confronted with actual events and circumstances.

Copyright © 2021 Wombat Bill; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Well done, @Wombat Bill.  You made the happenings to Desmond and Virginia seem real.  It will be interesting to see how Virginia continues to grow and expand her caring for people.

Virginia is learning care for people faster than Jonathan, it would seem.

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Everything that happened to Desmond and Virginia felt so real. You really feel for the Australians that have to go through this on a regular basis.

Jonathan has a way with words.

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Glad to see so many people including Desmond & Virginia get out ok though sadly I’m sure not everyone did. Virginia has always seemed like a good soul so I’m not really surprised she felt inspired to get involved with charity work, though it is of course nice to see. As far as Jonathan & Lachlan go… Lachlan more power to you.

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Brilliantly researched chapter @Wombat Bill. The sheer enormity of the rescue effort for one small town was mind-boggling; not something I had given much thought to or seen articulated so well.

Over 300 homes lost in Mallacoota is very sad, but I would think at least some of those would have the capacity to rebuild, if not in Mallacoota, somewhere else. 500 million animal lives lost (I remember reading at the time an estimate of 1 billion animal lives lost) is a catastrophe, a tragedy I cannot comprehend. Koala colonies in many parts of the Eastern states are unlikely to ever recover from the fires, and many more which survived are threatened by the relentless destruction of their habitat by greedy developers satisfying the real estate lust of the human population. The human population has not learnt very much from these fires with regard to the protection of non-human animals.

Jonathan has never bottomed. Get over it bitch and give it a try. 

 

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I wonder how it went with Jonathan and Lachlan? I haven't heard any reports, so I guess it will stay in the bedroom. 

My few words have encouraged you all to reveal your compassion for your fellow man and our non-human neighbours with whom we share this planet. Thanks guys. 

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