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Thanks to all those who entered our inaugural Wheatbelt Writers Short Story Competition. Of the more than 30 entries, only a handful were less than marvellous. Judge Will Yeoman had his work cut out for him! But only four writers could win, First & Second Prizes for adults and First & Second Prizes for those under 17. Here are their stories: judge for yourself!



1st Prize $500 from Botanicalia: Davina Edwards for "Metamorphous"

Your blood moving through my body, exchanging stories with mine, a reality that this connection to another culture is permanent now, a child growing. We have watched each other parent, our kids live together off and on, a big family even when some are not there. Backwards, forwards, they come and go bringing stories and laughter, sharing rooms , clothes and endless adventures.

Fremantle in the eighties, Free Mantle, free of boundaries and judgement, a multicultural melting pot, coffee coloured people as the song goes, and music and art was what we lived for. You could feel the change coming. Bondy’s won the cup and with the growing of the price of rent my belly grew too, our small world was now in the big world’s eye.

We move to the outer suburbs, take down our fences and grow gardens, the kids are a tribe now that move between the houses, they leave alternative schooling for the public system, uniforms, high speed chases and a suspicion of anything that doesn’t fit the box. Our world out there shrinks as owners sell off the back of their blocks and medium density housing closes in, we lock our doors and wonder where we belong. You go home, back to country off and on, taking whatever kids are around at the time, I don’t go, you have no mother and mine is here, the migrant in me craves belonging and I fear I might like it too much at your faraway home.

Reading an Art bulletin, I see an enticement to move to the country, a small Wheatbelt town is trying to save their school and is offering cheap housing, work and community. We have camped out in the Wheatbelt before and done many trips picking up kids, this is different country though, dryer, flatter and further, the Heartlands, and my heart wants it. We tell the kids, were moving to the country, who’s coming? enough of them come to save the little school and the town next to us loses theirs, this town doesn’t need to bring more families, only us.

Happy Hill is west of town, around a five km walk on a hot day if your car breaks down. Our life is about chasing the school bus, driving to sports and learning the formalities of been called Mr and Mrs. I learn that we do not have the same rights as the sheep, the tank water goes to them first, they are moved when arial spaying happens, I can however sit on the back of the ute with them when heavily pregnant and walking home in January with the shopping. Work becomes scarce and underpaid, Happy Hill is starting to fall apart, the wind whips through in winter, we drag our mattresses to the fireplace and arrange the couches around us like a barricade. In summer the ceiling fans and louver windows catch whatever air comes by and the kids flick water from cloths and slide on the Lino floors.

We grow veggies and sell them in town, I bake bread every day, kneading on the kitchen bench and hitting my head on the cupboard often but the view stops me from moving, golden canola, purple lupins down to a valley of pink everlastings. I watch the lights of the harvester moving across paddocks when you are working late, waiting for the spot where you stop, to bring food and swap over one of the little kids who sit on the floor of the harvester, hypnotised into sleep.

It’s the fourth year here now, the crops are high and ripe for harvest, almost Christmas time and hot. You are outside doing something, I come out to look, there are snakes moving towards the house, we have snakes here often, but this feels different, you tell me watch now, we will get a phone call soon. Meanwhile you decide the only option is to burn around the house. The whole town is here now, drawn by the fire, you laugh and say they have come to say goodbye, my reality sees farmers worried for their crops, the phone rings.

Leaving behind the oldest, seven of us pile into the car, my Mum is crying as we leave, mixed emotions for me but I always loved an adventure, and the small town couldn’t hold me anymore. Our old car makes it to South Australia just in time for Christmas, I haven’t spent time with your family before, all the kids from one Aunty and grandkids are there at one house, I am tied from driving, every time you drive, we get pulled over and we have gotten good at swapping over drivers without slowing down. We leave Christmas afternoon and in Port Augusta the car doesn’t want to go anywhere, anytime soon, nothing is open and there is no-one we know, I go to the police station, they organise food and tell us of a park with a BBQ.

The first night we stretch out on the grass under the stars, click, click, click, getting closer now, we grab our blankets and run to the car just before the automatic sprinklers popup where we were resting. After a few more nights of sleeping in the car, a family who have been coming to the park in the evenings give us their house to sleep in, they go to stay with other family, every day they come to cook for us, you fix the car, and we get a little money for the road. We are nearly at the Centre when we run out of fuel, I have run off the road a few times, blurry and hungry and we are so close, you take your didgeridoo and sell it for fuel and some food, and we roll into Alice for the new year.

Out on country we live in a tin garden shed with two lift up sides, a cement floor and a bit of a veranda where the big kids sleep, we have a canvas tent and the little kids sleep with us, this place is snake country, it has called us, one of the old men has passed, not many of the old people are left now, no houses here , no water, no food or shops, we are eighty km’s from town. We cook on a fire, feeding old people and stray kids, heat up a drum with water for showers with the kids standing on a piece of tin, our toilet is shared with others in the out station, hessian around a hole in the ground. The kids love life here, happy people with time to listen, cricket games, hunting, flat plains country coming down from Honey Ant hills.

Time for school to start, big drives into town, no schools out this way, February heat, the youngest gets sick all the time from drinking at the bore water tap, big rains, we get out before the floods come, some old people won’t leave, food is air dropped to them. In town we are living in a 3-bed house, 4 families, too many kids to count and when they all go to sleep, they cover the whole lounge room floor. Public housing moves everyone on except the family who live there, I go to the women’s refuge with the little kids and daughter, older boys can’t be there and are camped at someone’s place. We move to Aboriginal hostels, two rooms, meals in the communal dining hall, you are working, driving the water truck out to country, all your pay goes on staying here, we get a place on the emergency housing list.

I walk downtown most days with the two little ones, the baby says hello to every person with brown skin that he sees, Hello Nanna, hello Aunty, some look questionably at me but most just laugh and talk to him, they both get little presents, toys, lollies, coins, I love the sense of belonging and family, the colour and the light.

Months pass and we get a four bedroom house, we have a single foam mattress and some clothes, we all camp on the Lino floor under the air conditioner vent in the lounge, the big windows exposing us to the cul-desac of new neighbours, six houses, all with kids who own the street, dirt gardens, prickles, milk crate basketball hoop on the telegraph pole, people bring us things, a cooking pot, some chairs, the generosity of the poor binds us in friendship, the kids swim in the water tank on the back of the truck you drive, I can’t watch.

I’m washing dishes at the big kitchen window, looking out across the yard, the hills hold my gaze, so close, Yeperenye that big sleeping caterpillar hill, I imagine the caterpillar emerging from its cocoon, growing wings and flying away, like me, a metamorphous.


2nd Prize $200 voucher from Barclay Books: Mike Whitington for "Messenger of the Gods"

MY FATHER was raised on the West’s frontier before 1900. Schooling was scarce; there was little religious instruction … not much in the way of entertainment. But plenty of hard work.

On the fringe of the Great Western Woodlands, in a grassland optimistically called Golden Valley, he spent a few young years cutting timber for the booming goldfields down the road. Then the war came, and he was just old enough to sign up. He left his few belongings on a farm and spent four years in Egypt and France. His recollections of this time were typical of the distant man I slowly came to know as my father. He always believed that the idea of leadership had nothing to do with insignia, but was more about who led the way on a dark night under the bombs in no man’s land, or who was first through the wire. He always said that when the going got tough the man by your side was the most important person in your life. His religious convictions no more than the fact that the last word on bloodied lips was more likely to be mother than the deity. He returned to civvie life with a sergeant’s stripes and a strong streak of realism.

The goldmines still needed timber, so it was back to the Valley and the axe. He slugged it out among the big trees, with the occasional woodcutter for competition, and the local meandering mob for company. The money was good, the tucker average. But there were more promising opportunities for a young bloke: in the rolling hills farther west, people were turning small dots of farmland into a new food bowl for the booming metropolis beyond the horizon. He got a block of 1000 acres and set about clearing and planting with the same pragmatic enthusiasm he had for all life’s challenges. It wasn’t long before there was a wife and small children – of which I was the first.

It wasn’t really any surprise that the farm did well. For father, it could never be otherwise. As the isolated community grew, he found a place among the leaders. There was a roads board to establish. A town to foster. His farm got bigger. A new homestead appeared. His children went to the best boarding schools in the city. His lands were the first to begin the transition from horse-power to diesel.

To me, a child formed by the rhythms of a farm in the bush, my father always demonstrated a spiritual side, but not in the conventional sense. We always had a local community living on the creek and working on the farm. They were friendly, skilful and willing seasonal workers, sharing their intrinsic understanding of the land and its many seasons, and sometimes the mysteries of their existence, enshrined in songs and stories, sometimes in objects … claimed by the living from long-passed ancestors. They came in greater numbers at harvest, building the endless stooks, raising grain stacks to tower over the fields, happy in the endless hours spent amongst the wheat. And later, celebrating the bonanza with corroboree. Father seemed more comfortable with their rituals than our own. He pondered their advice, honoured their customs and treasured their respect. It seemed to be reciprocated.

But it wasn’t to last: as the seasons rolled on, mechanisation meant more land under crop, but less people working. The corroborees were fewer; families drifted away to the towns. Then our old machinery shed needed to be replaced. And it was while we cleared the shed that I discovered something of the real depth of father’s spiritual connections. It started with a dusty bundle hauled from the rafters, and then a yarn over smoko. I’ll never forget what he told me.

Back in that lonely valley, almost on his first day amongst the timber, he was working to fall a big salmon gum. And he discovered an odd souvenir: the big trunk turned out hollow. Lodged in the crevasse was what we would then have called an Aboriginal message stick. He’d never seen one, so it joined his modest possessions and eventually came to his new farm as a curiosity. Over the years it lay forgotten, lodged in baggy wrapping in the rafters of the machinery shed. He was too busy to think about it – or even care in the early years.

Like most of his generation, father loved working the land. He valued the times of solitary contemplation amidst the grind of endless effort; time to ruminate on stories … myths and legends passed on by friends and strangers. There’s a sense of mystery, fanciful or religious. Out here where there’s time to think, with the sky and the distant horizon your only witness, you can put it all together anyway you like. Watching a corroboree is a revelation.

So father began to appreciate the souvenir’s significance; to realise that for some people, it was sacred; that the beautifully incised patterns had secret meaning for a select group. A timeless significance beyond a wadjela’s comprehension. The sacred board, wrapped against the elements, remained in the shed’s rafters. He was too busy to do much more.

But here is another dimension to his story.

Back in that distant valley, among the magnificent tall timber, another mystery. Like wind-driven smoke shifting perceptions in a landscape, he could nearly remember something from that past … a figure, a face, a warrior: standing in the distance, strong and graceful; a long and silent stare, absorbing the fallen tree, the axeman; turning suddenly away. Gone.

It’s the sort of memory that might stay with you, an occasional fragment fading in time. A cameo of experience lost. Then – years later at the height of harvest – the vision returned. After all those years, after a day with dozens of men working in the field, the warrior was there. At tools down, the machinery shed framed in sunset, he appeared: bare-chested, graceful and silent; turning away in the purple twilight’s sharp shadows. Gone.

Father could never be sure: a face not seen for a very long time … but impossible not to recall the way he stood like a warrior; alert, graceful and silent; and that smoldering, long look, turning away to disappear again. He was to return with the seasons, a flitting image as the shed glowed in the harvest sunset and workers drifted in, silently fading into the shadows: no name, no friends, it seemed almost no existence.

Life on the farm went on. The sacred board rested in the dusty rafters – safe in its swaddling. Hardwood preserving those ancient incisions full of meaning for those who understood.

At the last harvest before he died, my father shared again that brief tradition with his sentinel. By now, the ritual was routine. Father would simply tell me: saw him today … and we’d smile over a shared spirituality we each knew well but didn’t understand.

After father’s death, I knew I had a duty to the talisman. I made contact with an anthropologist at the museum. He was good at his job; he compared those intricate patterns, the shape and beauty of it, and – even after a hundred years – concluded it was unique to a district … central to a certain locality. Until the academics established provenance and legitimate ownership, he assured me, its secrets were to be preserved in private vaults away from public gaze.

So it came full circle, the beautiful mystery still hidden from plain sight. And the sentinel came again – but only once. At sunset on the last day of the next harvest, like a single frame of an old movie, a glancing view of our warrior beside the old shed, now leaning tiredly over contents mothballed and disused. Somehow, he knew the talisman was gone, the sentinel no longer needed. And he never came again.

Of course, the circle was not yet complete, closure seemingly intractable. Yet in one of those wonderful, mysterious connections of which the bush abounds, our talisman came home. Out of the blue, the museum man called one day to advise that the sacred board had been claimed. The credentials were confirmed as genuine, but the anthropologist was unable to ascertain how this dignified little group of elderly males had discovered the whereabouts of their lost possession. Like their sacred board, their deliberations seem to have been secret. But how, wondered the academic, had they known after all those years? Yet another secret I couldn’t share: it had been in safe hands all the time, the sentinel passing on his observations.

These days, there are no locals anywhere near our farm. A new generation lives in town. But out beyond the cleared agricultural lands, in one of the world’s great biodiversity hotspots, a lone warrior still patrols a silent woodland. In my sunset musings, I sense his presence: graceful and alert; eyes reflecting an old vision: maybe we share the same dreaming.


1st Prize $250 from Pantechnica: Bella Sims for "Guardian Engle"

Walking through the cemetery with flowers in my hands. It’s odd how with just seconds your life can change. One day you’re happy, the next it feels like you’ve been swallowed whole by the darkness, the darkness controlled by death. Some people say that death is where you find yourself as you mourn the death of a loved one. But they clearly have never experienced the death of somebody. It’s funny how nobody cares about you when you’re alive, but as soon as you die they all flock to the ones that actually cared. We take everything for granted til it’s gone. We say things like ‘I hate you’, ‘I wish you were dead’. Then when they actually die we feel lost.

I got to Jenny’s tombstone and laid the flowers on top.”I’m sorry Mum I shouldn’t’ve gone out to that party. I should’ve listened to you” a tear rolled down my cheek. People say Mother knows best, I guess they were right.

Jenny McClaire

A loving Daughter, beautiful Wife, Amazing friend and caring Mother

December 1989- July 2023

“Live your life and never look back”

The last thing I said was ‘I wish you would just leave me alone. I’m sixteen Mum you don’t have to baby me forever. I’ll be back before 12’, I guess she did and now she’ll never again. It feels like that happened a few months ago, but really it was only last week.

The night it happened I went to a party, had a few drinks and wanted to go home before 12 so I started driving home in the thunderstorm, drunk. Mum apparently went looking for me. I was being stupid and saw a car coming and tried swerving then bang crashed right into the car head on. I was in hospital for 3 days in a coma and when I woke I no longer had a mother. I crashed into her car. I killed my own mother. I told her to leave me alone when all she was doing was caring for me.

“I love you, Mum I do and I’m sorry that I said I wished you’d leave me alone. I know all you were doing was looking out for me, I should’ve listened and not gone to the party, maybe you’d still be here. I wished it was me that died. But I deserve to suffer like this, with everybody else,” more tears rolled down my face as I fell to my knees.

People don’t know a thing about death, they just think you get sad then get over it in a few months. ‘You’ll feel numb for a little bit then you’ll feel like it was a stepping stone to finding who you are’ a lady told me at my mothers funeral.

I took my container of oxy and took four pills, swallowing them dry. The doctor told me to take them whenever I felt pain, but what happens if the pain isn’t physical but mentally. I guess this is what Juice Wrld felt before he overdosed on oxy as well. All the rappers I’ve listened to have always rapped about popping pills til they felt numb, I never understood. I guess I do now.

“Hey, are you okay?” a voice asked behind me. I put the oxy in my pocket and wiped my eyes as I turned around seeing a boy about my age. “Yeah, I’m fine” I lied knowing I was far from fine, I literally killed my Mother. “You don’t seem fine,” he said. “We’re standing in a cemetery. Where the dead live, of course I’m not okay” I laughed but it’s not filled with humor but filled with sadness, pain and loss. “You know they don’t live here, sure their bodies do but their soul and memories they live right here” he put his hand to his heart. “Just cause they’re gone doesn’t mean they don’t still love you” he spoke softly reassuring me. “What if you’re the person who made them leave. Do they still love you then?” I asked, wiping another tear. “Of course they still love you, they can see the pain you go through, they know you’re sorry” he spoke.

“Ashley, who are you talking to?” My Dad said as he came up next to me. I turned to look at him. “That boy over there” I pointed to where he stood before but he was gone. “I think it’s time to go home Ash, you’ve had a long day” he put his hand on my shoulder. I nodded and started walking to the car.

Maybe I was just imagining that guy.

I got in the car as we started to drive home. “How are you not mad at me,Dad?” I asked, looking at him. “Ash, I know it was an accident, stop blaming yourself. I love you, so did your Mother. Everything happens for a reason. We’ll be okay I promised” he rubbed my knee. I know it was an empty promise, so did he.

I nodded as we pulled into the driveway. I got out of the car and walked in the house, up to my room closing the door behind me. I slid down the door as tears slid down my cheek. I took the bottle of oxy out of my pocket and took another one.

“Ash, taking pills and crying isn’t gonna change the fact that she’s gone and not coming back” I looked up to see the same boy from the cemetery sitting on my bed. “How did you get in here?” I quickly stood up. “That’s not important, what’s important is the pain, your feeling, the guilt, the numbness” he said. “When does it end?” I asked moving closer to him. “Honey, it never does. Over time the pain eases but it never goes away. Somedays it feels like nothing ever happened and somedays it feels like it happened yesterday” he spoke quietly.

“What’s your name?” I asked, sitting next to him. “Let’s just say Engel, it means Angel in Dutch. I just thought Angel was a bit girly” he chuckled. “You mean you’re dead?” I asked moving my hand to try and touch him. “No, I’m one of your guardian angels, you have two” he said looking down at my hand. “You can touch me, I’m not a Ghost” he laughed and I laughed with him.

“Who’s my other one?” I asked shyly, feeling childish. “Your Mother, of course” he chuckled. “Does that mean I get to see her?” I asked as hope flowed right through me. “Of course in a few years when you need guidance from her but right now you need it from me” he rubbed my knee, reassuringly. “What if I need her now?” I asked as the hope that once filled me left. “Trust me you’ll always feel as if you need her all the time. She’s your Mother, of course you’ll feel like that but at this point of time you need me to guide you and help you heal” he replied.

“Ash, I made you your favorite spaghetti, cheese and tomato sauce for lunch. Can I come in?” my Father said, knocking on the door. I looked to where Engel was sitting but he was gone. “Yes, come in,” I said standing up, as the door pushed open. “Ashy, can you please eat?” he asked, his voice soft, like if he spoke normally he’d break me. “Sure Dad. I’ll try” I gave him a small smile. “You haven’t eaten since… anyway, it would mean a lot to me. Thank Ashy” he placed the bowl on my nightstand, then hugged me.

“Dad, can we stop pretending nothing happened cause it did and now we have to live with it” I hugged him back as tears pricked my eyes. “You’re right, we should stop pretending” he pulled away, wiping away his tears. “I’ll check on you soon” he walked to the door. “I love you Ashy don’t forget that” then closed the door.

I got my oxy out of my pocket again and took at least six. I walked to my bed and plopped down crying into my pillow, punching the pillow and the bed. I was mad at my Dad for pretending nothing happened. I was mad at myself for letting him pretend. But I was mostly mad at myself for taking my Mother’s life.

“Ash wake up” I opened my eyes to see all white. I looked around when I saw her. My Mother. “I was wondering when you were going to join me” she said then hugged me. “What do you mean Mum, where am i?” I asked her as I hugged tightly. “You overdosed,” she said, pulling away.

My eyes fluttered open. I open to see my dad crying. “Dad?” my mouth dry as i spoke. “It was just a dream, it’s okay” he hugged me tightly. I look to my left and see Engle.


2nd Prize $50 voucher from Barclay Books: Bessie Boyle for Millie's Mission

I’M GUNNNA DIE! I’M GUNNA DIE! I’M GUNNA DIE! The thoughts sliced through Millie’s brain like knives. She had to keep going, she couldn’t let it burn…

‘Stay safe!’ Millie’s mum hollered, from their sunroom window as Millie jumped in the buggy and driIed around the corner and out of their shed.

Her eyes were filled with the vision of rolling hills and endless stubble, dried by the blistering heat, as she drove down the new road to reach the team. The new road wasn’t actually new. Millie’s family called it the new road when it was new, then the name stuck. Millie’s dad made this road, and it ran right through the middle of their farm. Although the new road wasn’t new, it had just been regraded and it was at its driIing prime. Many driIs and skids later Millie arrived at the end of the new road and there standing in front of her was the team.

The team consisted of their elderly, but experienced neighbour Jimmy, one of their workers, Liam, her grandpa Hughie, her dad, and her brothers who had been invited to do all the dirty work. They had three decked-out water utes and a quadbike. Skilfully manoeuvring the quad around the perimeter of the paddock, Jimmy was already watering down the fire breaks. ….

Millie’s Dad and Liam were doing the main burning. That leI Hughie and Millie to do the water breaks and the wet downs.

‘Hey Millie’ Hughie shouted, ‘did ya mum pack us any tucker or are we gunna starve?”

“Nah,’ she replied, ‘but she did say she will bring us out some Olivia’s for lunch!’ This caused an uproar.

Olivia’s is a family-owned Lebanese café in town, run by the same family for four generations. The highlight of Millie’s dad’s day was eating his kebab, which he ordered so often it had become known as a ‘Charlie special’: chicken kebab, the lot with sour cream. All of the farmers purchased their daily lunches there. Everyone loved Olivia’s; it was the heart of home for Millie. After all of the Olivia’s commotion had cleared up, Millie’s dad was back to his usual authoritative self.

‘Okay blokes, we betta get going or we’ll be burning at midnight!’ he said. With this, the crew dispersed like a school of fish being threatened by a shark, to their particular jobs. ‘Okay Millie! Let’s hit the road.’

‘What am I gunna do?’ Millie asked a tinge of hope in her voice. Every other year she just sat in the passenger seat of the ute, inhaled smoke and did nothing, but that was with her dad. Now she was with Hughie. ‘You sit on the back of the ute near the cab on the driver’s side with a hose, and turn the valve when I shout,’ Hughie commanded.

These were the only instructions Millie received but she wasn’t concerned, Hughie had many years of experience and no one knew better than him except for her dad. However, where she was instructed to sit, was the exact spot that the water sloshed over the side of the water tank every time they went over a seed line which was about every second. Millie enjoyed it though, the smell of rainwater and the feel of the cool liZle streams of water running down her back was refreshing.

There they were trundling behind Millie’s dad and her brothers who were scowling at her no doubt they were fuming because she had got an important job and they just had to sit motionless, squashed into the passenger seat. Millie was not looking forward to ge]ng home tonight.

“Righty-o Millie! Hughie yelled ‘can ya see the patch of green grass?’

‘yep!’ I yell back but he is oblivious to my reply over the crackle of the stubble burning. The fires aren’t even that big yet, but the sound is already deafening.

“Drench ‘em! They’re baby grass trees.’ “Spray the grass trees, Hugh over.” Once they were away from the fire the sound decreased so she could hear her dads crackly voice come over the two-way. Millie’s dad thought Hughie was in control of the main hose, but Hughie only had the short distance one draped over his rear view mirror to use in emergencies. Millie was in control of the big hose.

These grass trees relied on her. It’s a great feeling being control of something as big and as powerful as a fire hose. You have to be strong, or the hose will wriggle out of control and squirt water everywhere. When you are fighting a fire, the water is everything. As soon as you are out of water, there is a mad rush to refill. They were the only people water-breaking in the paddock, so they had an important job. She couldn’t lose control of the hose and waste their water. It was her responsibility.

Another yell from Hughie snapped Millie out of her thoughts. ‘Hurry up Millie or else you’ll be sent down to passenger seat monitor!’ This hit home. Millie could think of nothing worse than being stripped of her pride and joy at that moment. Urgently she sprayed the grass trees with a considerable amount of water. That would have to do, they were moving on saving more things from her dad’s merciless flame.

‘Millie! We’re behind! We’re gunna have to work in overdrive to catchup to ya dad!’ Hughie called out from the wheel. Now they were behind. Millie felt the pressure building up on her shoulders like a tidal wave. Now they were driving over already lit flames instead of in front of the blaze.

This was bad. They were entering the eye of the fire. Millie could barely hear herself think. Flames roared around her louder than ten aeroplanes taking off at once. The air was filled with black smoke as thick as pumpkin soup. Faintly from in front of her Millie heard an urgent voice

‘Spray the tree! Spray the tree!’ Millie’s brain had gone foggy. She knew it was the smoke. Then she remembered. This tree was relying on her. She had to push on. Drowsily she spat on her polo shirt and covered her mouth with the now damp material. This helped. A little.

Now Millie was scouring the silhouettes in the smoke around her, looking for a tree. She couldn’t find it. There was no looming shadow or leaves swaying from being scorched around her. Where was it?! Millie stood up to search, but the ute jolted away from the flames that were creeping towards her. She was on the hard bed of the ute tray. Everything was hot. Then she remembered. She couldn’t let it die. Millie’s legs were jelly, she couldn’t get up.

I’M GUNNNA DIE! I’M GUNNA DIE! I’M GUNNA DIE! The thoughts sliced through Millie’s brain like knives. She had to keep going, she couldn’t let it burn…

Then out of her squinted eyes she saw a shape, it was small and timid looking. I had been badly scorched, but it was still alive. Millie had expected a ginormous gum but in its place was a small but sturdy sapling. Suddenly Millie adrenalin rushed through her body and she had the power to stand. She sprayed and sprayed and sprayed unVl all of the fire that was any more than two metres of the tree had been put out.

Millie saw Hughie give her a thumbs up in the review mirror as she sunk to her knees in a fit of hacking coughs. As soon as they were out of the eye of the inferno, Hughie stopped the ute and was at her side in an instant. ‘Are you alright Millie?’ he asked sounding worried.

‘I recon I’ll survive,’ Millie croaked back. Hughie grinned and looked relieved. To Millie’s joy, the small sapling is now called ‘Millie’s tree’ and has grown up to be a large York gum. Unfortunately, it is full of termites.