Finally, the vegetation parted, and the surveyor stepped out into the open. He found himself standing on a slight embankment at the edge of a small clearing, etched out of the thick, west-coast scrub. Just below him, nestled within the natural borders that the edge of the bush provided, was a small timber house, capped with a rust streaked, corrugated iron roof. Overgrown lawn helped to fill in the gaps between an assortment of old vehicle parts and piles of scrap timber and metal that littered the space between the house and the surrounding curtain of vegetation. A further small expanse served as a buffer between the house and the potholed, bitumen road. A picket fence, in search of a coat of paint, leant drunkenly along the edge of the lawn providing a scant barrier between the property and the street. From the fence led a concrete driveway up between the house and the foot of the embankment to a small concrete apron surrounding the rear entrance to the house. A car port leant, tentatively, against the faded, yellow weatherboards.
The surveyor began to turn back down the line towards the theodolite when a faint, whirring sound caught his attention. He looked back towards the house in an attempt to locate the source. A quick glance around the rear of the house revealed nothing, so he turned his attention down the drive towards the road.
It was then he noticed a small toy. A scaled down four-wheeled drive model, gleaming red with large, black, rubber tyres. Pointing skywards, from behind a tiny roll-bar, was a disproportionately long aerial with a small orange flag attached at the top, waving wildly in response to the erratic movements the speeding toy was making.
The surveyor leant against his brush-hook and watched its almost hypnotic motions. The toy darted and weaved crazily up and down the concrete driveway, occasionally careering off onto the neglected lawn where it would bounce to a sudden stop, before gradually crawling its way back onto the concrete where it would race off again at breakneck speed. Whenever it raced out onto the road, it would leap into the air as it passed over the concrete crossover.
The surveyor, fascinated by the display of supposedly youthful entertainment, glanced around the yard for the orchestrator. Failing to find anyone, the surveyor concentrated instead on the toy and the amusement that it provided. Occasionally the tiny machine would stop and sit like a giant insect awaiting a predator, poised and ready to scurry off. Then it would race off to accomplish another couple of laps.
One of its erratic orbits took it deeper under the car port, and it was then that the surveyor noticed a little boy standing motionless apart from his hands that were grasping a control box with his thumbs frantically wriggling two levers. The boy was partially concealed by the roof of the car port, but the aggressive actions imposed on the control box indicated that the boy was concentrating hard to keep the speeding machine under control.
The toy seemed to be an extension of the boy's body and mind, linked by the invisible radio waves. The rigorous movements of the control box's aerial seemed to will the toy round the course.
Suddenly there was a roar, and the faint whirring coming from the small toy was drowned out by the presence of a large machine that filled the void in the driveway with its metallic bulk, and roared to a standstill just short of the car port. The toy skidded to an abrupt halt as the boy's attention was drawn from his toy and diverted to the new arrival. He dropped the control box onto a bench and appeared from beneath the car port where he stood and watched as the machine sat vibrating violently until it took its last breath and shuddered to a sudden stop.
Time stood, briefly, still.
The surveyor continued watching with a certain amount of fascinated anticipation. The boy was motionless, and the four-wheel drive, a dull blue showing, intermittently, through layers of thick mud, remained quiet and still where it had come to rest. Only the portion of windscreen swept by the wipers remained sparkling clean. Suddenly the door swung open, and a man stepped out. A faded blue singlet stretched over his large, fleshy frame and rounded stomach, and was partly tucked into ill-fitting blue jeans, torn above one knee. Dark curly hair reached down to his shoulders and he wore heavy boots. His attire was adorned by a liberal splattering of mud.
"Wow!" the little boy exclaimed, "What happened?"
The man walked up to the little boy and rested a plump, hairy arm around his shoulder. He looked back towards his muddied vehicle with admiration.
"Got 'er bogged," he announced proudly, between aggressive bites on an exhausted piece of gum. "Had ta winch 'er out."
"Wow!" the boy uttered again in amazed response.
They stood, for a few moments, as if mesmerised by some wondrous, biblical epic, before turning and walking under the carport and disappearing round the corner of the house.
The following morning the surveyor and chainman pulled up outside the small, yellow house. The driveway was empty. The only sign of habitation was a thin column of blue smoke rising into the cool, still air. They worked quietly, removing the gear from the rear of the car, and when they were organised the surveyor climbed the slight embankment, beside the house, with the theodolite over his shoulder.
He paused at the point where he had stood the day before, and looked back at the small house, quiet and calm, in the early morning light. The dense bush, dark and forbidding, closed in like a protective curtain. Behind the house, a lone gum tree rose out of the thick mass of bauera and tea-tree. Scraggy limbs reached up to catch the sun's faint rays and its thin leaves hung wet and glistening. Dew lay heavily on the neglected lawn.
The surveyor searched the deserted yard and finally found the little red four-wheel drive, poised as if ready to pounce at some unseen prey, on the concrete apron by the back porch. A slight grin appeared on his face before he disappeared down the line.
The toy was coated in mud.