PRIDE; BRIDGEOVER SUNDOWN. At seventeen, Glen Steele's life is full of myths and misses, and he feels the paternalistic government of modern times has robbed him of his destiny. The Steele family myth calls for boys to be men by the time they're seventeen. Soldiers, settlers, lovers and losers march in his lineage, but Glen is still at school, and even his losses are second hand. Glen yearns for adventure and rites of passage, so when his sister goes on her honeymoon, he borrows her car, a state-of-the-art Bradman Pride, and hits the road for the Outback Highway. At first, the experience is liberating, but soon Glen realises nothing has changed. The outback has been tamed by the straight red road and the automated servomats he encounters at regular intervals. It's all too easy… until – the next town fades off the map, and the servo isn't there. Disoriented, Glen finds his way to the ghost town of Bridgeover, where the adventure begins.
Pride: Bridgeover Sundown
Gallipoli. May 20th, 1915.
Arthur bleeds onto the sand. Not great gouts from a severed artery or the prim red line of a kitchen cut, but a dark, creeping blot like an incoming tide. He knows, through a haze of pain, that this is the grim kind of tide that will cut him off forever from the spit of life he was walking on this morning.
He's seventeen, and he knows he's going to die.
The blood thickens in the heat, binding him to his resting place like a new umbilical, and soaking into the sand.
He waits for stretcher bearers (they are going to come too late) and wonders how he ever got into this mess. Because he wanted to do his bit, or was he afraid of being left behind? Is he here because his mates joined up, or because his girl admired a bloke in uniform? Was it the posters that got to him, or was it a memory of his dad, telling him, when he was seven, that he had to be a man? He can't remember exactly, but here he is on the sand, and John Simpson Kirkpatrick, deserter and hero, (known as the bloke with the donk) bought it yesterday.
Simmo seemed invincible, but now he's gone to hell or glory and the little donk with its rough and salty coat died with him. Arthur can taste the fear in the air; his ears are numb with the rattle of enemy fire. He's going to die at seventeen, but he's earned his place in history, and he'll live forever in the land of the Anzac legend.
Could that comfort him if he knew it?
Is death any less of an insult when it comes with a hero's ticket to forever?
Death wears a Turkish face on this May day, but Arthur never sees the man who kills him. His eyes are glazing now. His body is a husk, smashed with a single blow. Machete or machine gun? It's all the same when you've bled to death in the sand. Thirsty sand, as so much of Australia is thirsty, but Arthur's grave will be far from his native land.
And Arthur rises from the bloody death of his body. Arthur Steele is stepping, a silent, khaki figure, into the shadowing lands, Eternity.
"Stone the crows! I thought I'd bloody bought it!" His voice echoes weirdly in the sudden quiet. There's a strange wild smell in the air, and a rattle of gibber under his well-worn boots. That smell… Arthur sniffs again and realises, rather slowly, that it isn't a smell but the lack of a smell that attracts him. The blood and putrid stink of battle is gone, the blowies have vanished along with their sated buzzing.
Perplexed, he looks about. The cove has vanished. The Turkish guns are quiet. A willy-willy spins across a saltbush plain, and a kangaroo is hopping away in the distance. Arthur shakes his head; his slouch hat shades his eyes. Is this the hat he lost on the day they landed?
Where the bloody hell is that hell of Gallipoli? And where the bloody hell is the rest of his life?
Seventeen Gets Younger all the Time.