A few weeks ago, the very wonderful Lisabet Sarai posted an excerpt of one of her books on her blog. For every comment she received within the first twenty-four hours, she donated $1 to her nominated charity, Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It’s a bloody marvellous idea.
Lisabet is doing it again and this time other people are joining in. Including me. Here’s how it works. Leave a comment on this post on Sunday, 9 July 2017. I will donate $1 to the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia for every comment received on that day. You don’t have to say much at all–just say “Hi” if you want. As I’m in Australia, our Sunday is before most of the world’s, so I’ll leave it open until 11.59pm Pacific time in the US. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to donate; I’ll do that.
I have a cap on my donation (just so that I can eat next month if I get hundreds of comments!) but I’d be delighted if I reached it.
If you’re an Aussie, chances are you know of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. If you’re from somewhere else, maybe you haven’t heard of it. The Flying Doctor brings medicine, clinics, and emergency treatment to some of the remotest areas in Australia. The outback regions and the Gulf, where population is sparse, and medical treatment can be many hours away. There are bases all over Oz, and the doctors, nurses and paramedics who work for the Flying Doctor bring medical care to cattle stations, indigenous communities, tiny settlements, and the blank areas on the map in between. The planes are small, able to land on the roughest of makeshift airstrips. They transport people to hospital, deliver babies, stitch people up. More mundanely, but just as importantly, the Flying Doctor does telephone, video and radio consultations for people with no way to see a GP or specialist.
I love to travel remotely in Australia. I’ve been lucky and never needed the Flying Doctor, but it’s still a charity close to my heart.
The excerpt that accompanies this post is from my novel set in outback Queensland, Not-So-Straight Sue. It’s the obvious excerpt to chose, as one of the main characters, Moni, is a doctor working for the Flying Doctor in outback Queensland. Moni works at the base in Mount Isa (a real place, a real base). In this excerpt, she’s talking about what drew her to work for the Flying Doctor.
So, I hope you read and enjoy the excerpt, but importantly, I hope you leave a comment on this post so that the Flying Doctor gets a dollar. Please also check out Lisabet Sarai’s charity post this month. Comment there and Lisabet will donate $1 to her chosen charity.
Here’s the excerpt:
Moni was closer since she’d kissed me on the cheek, and her hand still rested on my leg. Deliberately I relaxed my thigh muscles, which was hard as her closeness had me wound as tense as I used to be before a court appearance. “Can I…” Her breath feathered over my cheek, and I held my breath. “Can I see the rest of your house?” I breathed again. “Sure. Not that there’s much to see.” I leapt off the bed before I could make a fool of myself and kiss her. She followed me around as I showed her the office, the third bedroom, and the living areas. Even the under house laundry and Mrs T’s veggie patch, with its wilting crop of tomatoes, basil, and squash which was hard to see in the gathering darkness. It was definitely dinner time. Ripper obviously agreed; he was under my feet every time I turned around. I collected a bottle of Ken’s better wine from its hiding place in the laundry, and led the way back into the house. Mrs T had indeed left dinner—some sort of rice and chicken dish that only needed microwaving. There was plenty for two. I opened the red wine to breathe and tipped the remainder of last night’s bottle into two glasses. As the quickest way to my little dog’s heart was through his cavernous stomach, Moni fed Ripper while I set the table outside. Over dinner, Moni talked about her new job. Her face glowed in the dim light as she talked about her days working with Royal Flying Doctor Service. All the way through Mrs T’s chicken and rice, and through the bottle of wine, she told me about vaccinating children, delivering a premature baby, and stitching up a jackaroo’s gashed leg. She talked about flying low over the outback in a small plane, navigating by the line of the road and the river course, of sitting beside the pilot as they flew towards the setting sun, of bumpy landings on station airstrips, and of the relief of seeing the Isa come into view as she and the nurse reassured a critically ill patient, knowing there would be an ambulance waiting for them at the airstrip, and a modern hospital a few minutes’ drive away. The enthusiasm shone in her eyes and animated her voice. In a community like Mungabilly Creek, with no doctor in town, just a couple of volunteer First Responders, the Flying Doctor was a lifeline. The Royal had a collection tin on the counter, and it wasn’t even nailed down. No one would dream of pinching the Flying Doctor’s money. “You know,” Moni stared into her empty glass, and if it weren’t for the serious tone of her voice, I would have gone for another bottle of wine. “When I was little, I didn’t want to be a ballerina or a showjumper, like the other girls. I wanted to be a nurse. Not because that’s what I thought girls did, but because I thought nurses helped more people than doctors. To me, a doctor was someone who swept past in a white coat, while the nurse was the person who stayed and held your hand, and gave you candy after a needle. A nurse seemed like the more important job. As I got older, I realised that, while nurses are some of the most important people in the world, I could have more freedom as a doctor. I wanted to help people, really help them. At first, I wanted to work in a free clinic, somewhere that never turned anyone away because they couldn’t pay.” I nodded. To Australians, free healthcare was a given, but some countries weren’t so lucky. “But those places are in cities. I wanted to live somewhere rural. So I diversified my training as much as I could, thinking maybe I’d work in the Peace Corps. Then I heard that Australia was giving work visas to doctors who were prepared to work in remote areas. I couldn’t apply fast enough.” She rested her chin on her hands and stared out across the dark yard. I took the opportunity to grab another bottle of wine. “I’ve got a twelve month contract. I’m already hoping they will renew it. I love it here, Sue. I feel like I belong. Sure, it’s a bit blokey at times, and I haven’t met anyone in the Isa I could date, but I feel I’m making a difference. A real difference.” She reached out and took my hand where it rested on the table. “Having you here is fantastic. I liked you when we met in London. Really liked you, if Nora hasn’t already told you that.” The underlying meaning of her words wove through the quiet night, but I was content to sit there, feel the touch of her fingers, to sip red wine, and let possibilities meander through my head. Moni had only hinted at being something more than friends, but the option was there, hanging between us. If I reached out and took it. If she did.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can purchase Not-So-Straight Sue from these places: