Castle Roland

My Home Town

by Gary Conder

In Progress

Chapter 1

Posted: 3 Oct 16

My Home Town

Copyright © 2014, 2016 by Gary Conder
All rights Reserved

Tired eyes gazed blankly through the grime of the bus window, seeing only shadows and the occasional dreamy light from distant farm houses. Yet those same eyes had witnessed a good deal over the past year. Much of which was lonely; some considered degrading but now Esca Brody was travelling home with little more than he left with.

Had it been twelve months since he'd departed? It seemed longer and would have remained so, if not for an impasse being reached, creating the need to once again normalise his youthful life and escape the back alleys of city living. He stretched his legs and arms to relieve the weariness of the trip, then cast his gaze around the now almost empty bus with its dull lighting, vibration and roaring engine. Releasing a sigh he once again attempted to find comfort in the uncomfortable seat.

"Going home?" The driver asked with equal necessity to relieve the numbness of the continuing miles. Esca confirmed the driver's conclusion while sinking deeper into his seat in search of sleep. It would not come. Instead his thoughts were governed by apprehension.

Esca had left home in turmoil, declaring never to return but time softened his memory and the scars across his back had long since healed.

It had been towards the commencement of his final school year's examinations, when that well known straw, in blood, broke across Esca's back in the form of a whip stock, swung in fury by a mind-sick father.

"What did I do wrong?" was the child's question; still unanswered. That whipping was the last of many but by far the worst. With that final treatment Esca's judgement became impaired. Fight or flee his only choices with the latter his only option. This he did. Under the cover of darkness he packed some clothing in a sports bag and left.

Back at the buses window spots of rain silently struck the glass, gathered and trickled down. Esca sadly smiled. It had also been raining the night he left; a slow cold drizzle. On reaching the bridge on the outskirts of town he was wet. By the crossroads the drizzle turned to steady rain and he was cold and soaked. He had been on the verge of abandoning his flight when the lights of a bus illuminated his stand beside the road. It stopped, air brakes loudly hissing. Its automatic doors opened with a swish, releasing a gust of warm air to comfort the lad.

"You look wet." The driver declared sympathetically. Esca didn't answer.

"Where are you going?" The driver continued his hand firmly on the door control.

"City," Esca proclaimed without direction. Anywhere would do, as long as there was a multitude of people he could hide amongst. Where he could become lost from those he loved.

"I don't have any money." Esca confessed.

"Never mind if you don't tell anyone then I won't." The driver offered and with a hand gesture and a kind smile, he beckoned the lad to enter.

Except for the driver the bus had been empty as it was returning to the depot for servicing, made obvious by the sound given off by its aging motor. A rhythmic sound of bang, bang clatter bang but its comical tempo did not cheer the lad. His injured back stung against the fabric of his shirt. Even more painful was the image of his father's face as he landed his spiteful blows.

"Bob Douglas," The driver more described than introduced himself, "Sit anywhere." He offered as Esca moved to the rear of the vehicle. Nothing more was spoken until the bus reached its destination.

"Mind you take care lad; the city can be a dangerous place if you don't know your way around it." The driver advised as Esca alighted from the vehicle and watched after him as he slowly disappeared along the crowded street.

There had been concern in the bus driver's voice as if proclaiming he understood Esca's grief but nothing more. Bob Douglas had arrived out of the misty night like a guardian angel to transport Esca away from tyranny then became just a fond memory and now another bus ride brought back that memory and many more.

"Running Creek," The driver announced bringing his vehicle to halt in the town's main street, in fact one of only four. A back packing couple stirred from their restless slumber to collect their belongings, then after much deliberation on the weather they descended into the rain, where in a heavy accent they thanked the driver, before dashing under shop awnings for shelter.

There was a vehicle parked close by, on seeing the two its driver flashed his lights and the backpackers made a further dash towards the vehicle's cabin; Suggesting more cheap labour for a local cattle station in the guise of a paid experience in so called Jackarooing.

"You're the last eh." The driver declared on returning to his bus. He paused on the top step to gaze upon the face of his remaining passenger. His round jolly face broke into lines of recognition. "I know you; aren't you that skinny kid I gave a free ride some time back?"

It was then Esca realised that his homeward bound driver was the same Bob Douglas; his angel out of the rain and darkness, who delivered him away from his father's cruelty. Esca declared he was.

"I often wondered what happened to you." Bob Douglas placed his vehicle into gear and shook his head. "You looked so fragile; I thought the city would have eaten you."

"I survived Mr. Douglas." Esca answered, not wishing to divulge what he had experienced during his absence.

"You still have a couple of hours before home, better get some kip." The driver suggested. His eyes glazed through the heavy rain and the continuous movement of the wiper blades.

"I survived." Esca repeated in a whisper and closed his eyes, allowing his thoughts to meander across the previous months.

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