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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.

Dream On

There's magic in the air. I can feel it. A tingling from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head. I'm in our room getting ready to go out and I'm really excited. Bill and I have stayed here before; the cottages in Warrandyte are owned by friends of ours. This time Cheeky, our Chihuahua, is with us. I don't know where Bill is; he's probably gone for a walk. He'll be a while, so I won't have to hurry. I sit on the side of the bed and find myself daydreaming.

I've got lots of things planned for this long weekend. There is so much you can do in Warrandyte. I remember last time we were here; we walked along the Yarra river to the Pound Bend Reserve. We saw a couple of koalas that time, along with lorikeets, galahs and gang gang cockatoos. It was summer then and there were people swimming in the river, and a canoe race was taking place. We'd had lunch at one of the cafes in the main part of town, and afterwards bought ice-creams to enjoy as we strolled along. One of my favourite places is Ratty and Mole's, crammed with a huge range of antiques. I especially love the jewellery and bought an old-style topaz ring on my last visit. It's now my lucky ring and I'm going to wear it today.

Suddenly Cheeky leaves her perch on the pillow and pounces onto my knee. She needs to go outside. I shake myself back to the moment, throw on my dressing gown and open the door. I look into the distance through the trees and think Bill might be coming back, but there seems to be a sort of backlit fog making it hard to see clearly. Cheeky finishes and nips back inside; it's cold so I do too. I finish dressing and put Cheeky in her carry-bag ready to go. Bill hasn't returned yet, so I lay on the bed to wait. When I hear the door knob rattle, I sit up, wondering if I've dozed off, but I look at the clock and know I haven't. Then Bill says "it's nearly ten are you ready to go?" Immediately I feel recharged and can't wait to setoff. We're going to a special spot down by the river to try panning for gold. Lots of rain over the last months has greatly improved our chance of success.

We leave the cottage and the fog swirls around us as we make our way to the river. We tramp along beside the water for about a kilometre, until we find the rocky outcrop where we'd been told to try our luck. The atmosphere is moist, but it feels warmer as I bend down to the water. A calm feeling has replaced my former state of excitement. As I swish my hand through the water. I sense it. There's gold here.

I watch as Bill heads off a short distance downstream, with Cheeky in her special pouch across his back. All at once I feel a sense of urgency, and get to work with my trowel. Having memorized the technique, I put several scoops of dirt and gravel into my pan, make sure it's covered with water, and swirl it around with a counterclockwise motion to allow any gold to settle at the bottom. I then tip the pan into the water and the current rinses off the top layer of dirt and gravel. I keep on swirling and rinsing until I get down to the last little bit, which I rake through looking for gold. Nothing yet.

I continue panning for a while, my optimism still high. Across the river shafts of sunlight pierce the trees and I hear a flapping of wings. I watch as a kookaburra swoops from a nearby branch, and when my gaze returns to the sediment in my pan I see it, a small piece of gold, shining. I can't believe my eyes. My heart starts dancing with delight. I reach into extract my treasure and yell out to Bill. My voice is almost drowned out by the kookaburra's vibrato which sets off a chorus of staccato laughter all around me. I see Bill coming and wave my arms, anxious to show him my find. "Look! Look!" I yell. He seems to be taking forever to reach me but eventually I hear him say "What is it, what's up?" and then I feel him shaking me vigorously.

I have the gold pressed between my thumb and forefinger, but the next minute the fog lifts and as it does, I see I'm holding Cheeky's name tag which hangs from her collar, as she lies wedged in bed between Bill and I. He's raised up on one arm, with a surprised expression on his face. "You dreaming?" he asks. "We're gonna pan for gold today aren't we? - better get up now, eh."

Goldie Fox