Novel Journey to Oz

      Journey to Oz is a series of short stories that I wrote when I first started my writing career.  I submitted
the stories to a number of magazine editors with the provision that I wished to retain the copyrights since I
had planned to combine the stories into a novel.  Only one publisher responded with an offer to publish on
the condition that I did not retain the copyright.  I declined this opportunity for publication.
      Journey to Oz follows one character on an odyssey of discovery from Maine, to Vietnam and then to
Australia.  A few sample pages from this proposed novel are shown below.
                                                           Copyright © 1999 by Paul Roebling
                                                                              Page 1
      I felt like an alien standing there on the sidewalk at King's Cross in the middle of Sydney.  It wasn't
because I was an American in Australia; it was the abrupt transition from the Asian culture of Saigon in
Vietnam to this Western city at the bottom of the world that made me feel out of place. There wasn't a khaki
or camouflage fatigue uniform in sight.  This city was at peace.  Here peddlers and street urchins were not
trying to sell me a myriad of things that I neither wanted nor required.  And I had left behind the irritating
sputtering of the ubiquitous motorbikes of Saigon whose riders sometimes tossed hand grenades in the wake
of their noisy passing.  But what I drank in most greedily was the clean, crisp air that had replaced the
oppressive heat and putrid odors of Saigon.  Sydney even reminded me a little bit of Maine; at least when
compared to what I had left behind a few short hours ago.
      The overwhelming smell of beer drew me to a pub, through whose open door the enticing aroma wafted
out onto the sidewalk.  When I entered, I sensed that the place positively reeked of beer; more so than any
Stateside bar I had ever visited.  There was even sawdust on the floor of the cramped, dirty, narrow pub. 
A few small tables stood against one wall opposite the bar itself, but most of the patrons were nosily
jabbering at the bar.  I had an urge to quit the unappealing establishment, but I decided to order a beer
before exploring Sydney further.  I caught the attention of the busy barkeep, and he came over to me.
                                                                           Page 2
      "What'll it be, mate?" the barkeep asked in a harried voice.
      "A beer," I replied.
      "A schooner or a pint?" he questioned.
      "Just a small beer," I insisted
      "A schooner it is," the barkeep said as he went over to the tap and drew me a draft.
      The glass that he deposited before me was still running over with beer.  The sloppiness of the place was
depressing. I started to gulp my beer, intending to get away quickly.
      "G'day, mate," a voice said from behind me.
      I turned to see a handsome young man with blonde hair smiling at me.  The boyish man seemed out of
place among all the stout, middle-aged men in the pub who were furiously swilling beer.
      "A Yank, I see," the young man said, nodding at my uniform.
      "Yes, I'm on R and R from Vietnam," I replied.
      "I'm Ian Frazer," the young man said, holding out his hand to me.
      "William Stanton," I said as I shook his hand.
      "A schooner, mate," Ian called out to the barkeep when he approached again.
      The rushing barkeep slammed down another messy glass of beer in front of Ian.
      "Are all the pubs in Australia like this?" I asked Ian in dismay.
      "Most of these blokes just got off work," Ian replied.  "The pubs don't open until six.  They are trying to
put as much of the amber liquid into them as they can manage before they have to go home and face their
fossil jam tarts," Ian said with a chuckle.
                                                                           Page 3
      "Their what?" I asked.
      "Their cows...their wives," Ian replied with a laugh.  "Let's get a table away from this mob of stickybeaks
so that we can chat without shouting, Billy," Ian said, motioning toward the rude tables lined up against the
opposite wall..
      Each of the small tables had two chairs leaning up against them.  Ian chose a table at the very back of the
pub, far away from the hubbub at the bar.
      "Go slow, Billy," Ian cautioned me when I took a big swig from my schooner.  "If you drink too much
grog, you'll  end up with an awning over your toy shop and yawn in Technicolor."
      "Huh?" I asked in confusion.  "Just what language are you speaking now?"
      "An awning over your toy shop means you'll end up with a beer belly like those old geezers at the bar,"
Ian explained.  "And you know what is under your belly."
      "Cute," I sniggered.  "And just how do I yawn in Technicolor?"
      "You vomit," Ian replied with a smile.
      "Very logical...once you get the meaning," I said, smiling back.
      "So, how did you end up in that dog's breakfast in Vietnam?" I an asked. "That is where you just came
      "I was in college in Maine when I volunteered for the draft," I answered.
      "You volunteered to get your arse shot off in Vietnam," Ian asked in disbelief.
      I just shrugged my shoulders.
      "What were you studying at the uni?" Ian asked.
                                                                              Page 4
      "Literature...writing," I replied.  "I hope to teach one day."
      "I'll be buggered!" Ian exclaimed.  "We're in the same specialty...well, almost.  I'm studying art and I
plan to teach, too."
      "Teach at a university?" I asked.
      "No, I'm not good enough for that...yet," Ian answered.  "I figure I'll teach the ankle-biters to survive
while a have a go at some serious painting."
      "Ankle-biters?" I questioned.
      "Nippers...children," Ian explained.  "My mum and dad packed me off to study biotechnology at New
South Wales University here in Sydney.  I knew what that meant straight away...sheep breeding. The last
thing I want to do is drive about in a ute in the outback, sticking a syringe up the furry undies of jumbucks
for the rest of my life."
      "Why would your parents do that...if you are so set against it?" I asked, taking a small sip of the powerful
Australian beer.
      "My dad has a sheep station way up north," Ian explained.  "As the only son, they expect me to take over
the whole operation some day."
      "That's understandable," I said.  "They just want you to have a good life.  Does raising sheep pay well?"
      "Strewth!  I'll say it does!" Ian exclaimed.  "My dad could afford to buy me a sports car...or two...when
they sent me off to the uni.  Instead he stuck me with a Holden.  Now I ask you...what kind of a car it that
for a young bloke to be driving?  At least he didn't buy me a ute.  Then I really would look like I came from
the back of beyond."
                                                                              Page 5
      "Well, at least they bought you a car," I said sympathetically.  "And what the hell is a ute, Ian?  Back in
the States, that is an Indian."
      "A ute is a utility...something like what you Yanks call a pickup truck," Ian replied.
      "Yes, I can see that wouldn't be very good for your image," I said with a chuckle.
      "Exactly!" Ian exclaimed.  "And when my mum and dad find out that I have changed my emphasis to
the study of art, they might even take the Holden away from me."
      "You haven't told them?" I asked.
      "Not yet," Ian admitted.  "But I am sure they will be cheesed say the least...when they find out."
      Ian took a sip of beer from his schooner, and then he looked at me closely.  "Do you believe in radar,
Billy?" he asked tentatively.
      "Believe in it?" I asked in surprise.  "It's a well-known principle."
      "Not that kind of radar," Ian said with a wave of his hand.  "I mean do you think it is possible to tell what
a person is like just by looking at the bloke?
      "I suppose that is possible," I replied.  "I have never thought that much about it."
      "I am thinking that we are a lot alike, Billy," Ian said with certainty.  "How would you like to get out of
this thunderbox?  I know a good club that will be open soon." 
      "Thunderbox?" I questioned with a smile.
      "Shithouse, mate," Ian replied with a smile.  "My...ugh...Holden is in a car park just down the street."
      "Ian led me out of the pub that he had rightly called a shithouse.  We walked along in the gathering
darkness to a parking lot about a block away.  There we retrieved what I thought was a fine-looking
automobile from the car park attendant.
                                                                              Page 6
      Not being able to afford a car of my own, I thought Ian's attitude about being given the car a bit
      "Ta, mate," the car park attendant said when Ian gave him one of the over-sized Australian notes.
      When I got into the Holden, I sensed that something was wrong right away.  The steering wheel was on
the right side.  I felt completely naked sitting there on the left with no steering wheel in front of me.
      "The steering wheel is on the wrong side," I said in surprise.
      "We Aussies might say the same thing about the cars you Yanks drive," Ian said with a chuckle.
      "True," I agreed with a smile.
      "There's one problem," Ian said as we left the car park driving on what I considered to be the wrong side
of the street.  "You look too much like a bluebottle...a that uniform of yours.  We can stop at
my digs, and you can borrow some of my clothes.  We are both about the same size."
      "Yes...I guess that would be okay," I said uncertainly.
      I thought back to what Ian had said about his radar.  Somehow I knew I could trust Ian, and there was
something more that I wasn't sure about yet.  For the first time since leaving Maine I felt alive and optimistic
about the future.
                                                           Copyright © 1999 by Paul Roebling