I struggled out of sleep. The sky was just beginning to shift from black through to dark blue. I stood, careful not to step on any of my workmates who hadn’t woken yet, a
nd picking my way through the shack; I made my way out of the temporary structure and into the early morning.
I scratched at a couple of mosquito bites I’d received in the night while I sucked in the welcome air. Spending the night shut up with nineteen other men, after months working the road, really taught you to appreciate a little fresh air.
I loved this time of the morning, even in the winter; a time when hardly a soul moved and hardly a sound reached your ears. It was easy to imagine the world a small place, rather than how far it was home from here.
It was hot today. I don’t mean the normal hot for June, somewhere around thirty-five degrees, but really hot. I think it was about thirty-nine, and the humidity was so heavy it felt like being wrapped in a hot, woollen blanket. It was going to be a long day.
Today we were finishing the earthwork, adding layers of gravel to the compacted, screened dirt. This was my favourite job; the gravel kicked up clouds of dust, but I much preferred working with gravel than dirt, dirt never seemed to wash out, however long you spent in some local stream, if there was one handy, and laying the asphalt smelt bad and could give you a nasty burn if you weren’t careful.
We’d been following this road for nine months now, and weren’t even half way. It wasn’t so easy to find two year contracts these days. I was looking forward to October as I’d managed to save just enough, after sending the majority of my wages home, to afford the three day journey coach to see my wife and daughter.
I worked through the morning, shovelling the small stones onto the compacted dirt. Every now and then I would signal someone to take over while I filled my water bottle; the owner of this project was pretty generous, he supplied us with as much drinking water as we needed. Normally, we are rationed, and in this kind of weather you have to be pretty careful.
Whenever I filled my water bottle I would spend a little time looking at the old road, the one we were replacing, running parallel with this one. I liked to look at the pretty cars. Most of them were, what I called, ordinary, but now and then, just occasionally, you might see a really nice one speed by… Some of them looked so sleek and powerful, and they made a different sound from the others, a kind of growl that made my insides feel like they were wobbling. A lot of these rare cars were interesting colours too. Most of the ordinary cars were black or white, sometimes red, but those strange, scary, aggressive cars might be yellow, orange, purple or any of a dozen other interesting colours. It must be nice to have a yellow car that made your insides feel like they were wobbling.
I finished filling my bottle, a little disappointed I’d not seen a pretty car, and went back to shovelling my gravel.