Our new waste transfer station rides the solar winds on the outskirts of town like a Colorbond space port.
As if under the direction of Kubrick, we're swallowed up by the engineering marvel and dock in slow-motion, obsequious and deferential to our fantastic facility's alien code of conduct as meted out by the omnipotent sky marshal in the shed with the sliding aluminium airlock.
Tinseltown legend Buck Henry has only just died and I'm thinking how proud, or, far more likely, wryly amused, he'd be to witness the future he created in his single-season TV show, Quark, come to life on the apron of a scrappy, slightly singed community some 12,000 kilometres south-west of the Hollywood sign, which, were it to be dismantled and disposed of, would be stacked in the designated "steel" pile, precisely where I'm headed, carting a vexing nucleus of fencing mesh harbouring enough potential energy to sling us into the sun should a strand of wire spring loose from its sloppy mooring.
One of the kids is with me because it feels unAustralian not to be accompanied by a minor on a tip trip, and as the sky marshal scans my offering with all the suspicion of a keeper of the Bunnings rope gate, we sit, holding our breath, like Han and Chewie using some old Imperial codes to inveigle themselves onto Endor.
My solo, maiden voyage to the centre a fortnight before left me 11 (Star)bucks lighter, and it's been bugging me that I didn't argue the toss (although using the mechanical wheelie-bin tipper thing was almost worth it).
Given my growing unease and the sublime gallimaufry of genres and eras that generally issues from our local radio station, I almost expect Chris de Burgh's soaring brogue to gush from the tinny door speakers, warning us "Don't pay the ferryman ... don't even fix a price..."
On a closer listen, it's not de Burgh's ferryman, but Bryan Ferry, warbling on again about how he's a "slave to love", a sentiment no doubt resonating among the cadre of padres in their utes at the dump on a Sunday morning after a commendable night at the office.
As it turns out, I'm especially pleased I dragooned our scrawniest child with the suspect teeth because the sky marshal peers into our cabin and waves us through without even suggesting we pay a fee.
MORE FROM B. R. DOHERTY:
We're all fresh to this literally set-in-concrete compartmentalising of rubbish, and as our orbiting waste station has become fully operational, the rather grubby business of money has been approached with sensitivity, as if we're negotiating a university endowment or a kidney donation rather than the more irritating reality of suddenly being stung for the privilege of jettisoning unsorted household garbage, whereas only before Christmas we were doing so for free.
The situation is unsettling and, while doing exactly what we're told, we all seem to be eyeing each other off as if we've slipped through a wormhole to a place where quarantining old paint tins may be less an act of civic responsibility and more Tralfamadorian conspiracy.
Whereas once we were proud and free and jostling like cosmic pirates to reverse into a spot at the very edge of the known universe and lustily unburden our various vessels (you should see how much crap can fit inside a horse trailer) of anything from flat screens to trampolines to dead horses, we now meekly accept the prescribed new world order as if we're all following an IKEA floor arrow to the rugs (ooh, Mexican!), only to be sucked into the great vacuum and drift in soulless oblivion for eternity (yes, a few meatballs would've been handy).
But we like it this way, don't we?
For all our convict stock nose-thumbing to authority, our laissez-faire she'll be right, mates, our no wuckin furries, the myth-making Hawkean impromptu schooner-skolling and bosses-are-bum jibes; for all our girt-by-see-just-how-laid-back-we-are, our sunburnt-country-casual-barefoot-Byron-beach-weddings ... we love rules.
Our compliance is the supreme paradox of our identity, up there with how we treated Lindy (and many others) for those things we don't like to talk about when friends pop over.
It's a trait we share with many of our Commonwealth cousins and certainly not a bad thing, particularly when it comes gun control and when asked to bring a plate.
Unfortunately, its uglier reverse is the fact we'll also go out of our way to dob someone in who's being a little too young and free with the hose amid water restrictions, or is testing karmic limits in a handicap parking zone without a permit.
I stand halfway up the shockingly large mountain of discarded metal and through the smoke watch my fellow ratepayers move obediently from one pile to another, like WALL-E...
Being confronted by someone else breaking the rules forces us to question everything from why we didn't just take that last slice of pizza to "Do I really need a job and couldn't the kids just sort of work it out for themselves?"
Scratched up but thankful I haven't lost an eyeball, I stand halfway up the shockingly large mountain of discarded metal and through the smoke watch my fellow ratepayers move obediently from one pile to another, like WALL-E or his prototypes, Huey, Dewey and Louie from Silent Running.
Like me, they cherish country living, and like me they're all trying to wrap their heads around the ramifications of the fires.
The ineluctable asteroid of insurance premiums aside, various authorities have already flagged life in the bush will have to be very different - and soon enough, we'll all have a new set of rules to live by.
No more homes among the gum trees?
Just as Leonard Cohen lamented how the attack on the twin towers "wounded New York", the fires have wounded the bush.
There'll still be heroes and villains and legends and all the associated sophistry, but life will be different; more scrutinised, more accountable, less independent, less innocent.
But we'll follow the rules.
Farewell to our final frontier.
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