The Odd One Out
Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
Often, from out of a still sunny day, or when the gentle breeze brought with it the faint sound of bells and sent of pittosporum, Colt received mental flashes of the accident that claimed the lives of his parents, he once again heard metal on timber, saw the vehicle turn the bend in the river - then nothing.
His emotions towards the demise of his parents were as void as had been the interior of their waterlogged Citroen, found stranded on a distant sand bank some distance down stream. Often rebuking his character for not being a more caring son, believing his failure to be so was etched across his forehead, shining from his eyes like beacons for all to see and attached in shame to each uttered word of regret or remorse that he felt forced to speak.
Truthfully Colt had little remorse. His feelings were indolent, pond flat. It was as if his parents had been strangers. As if it were some tragic accident read about in the daily papers or viewed on the nightly news, distant and happened to someone else's family, people to feel empathy for until the news report ended then become just two more of the many dead.
There had been a funeral service and many attended. Also ample free food and booze for all, supposedly stipulated in some verbal decree dictated to Stan's sister, Mavis, during the previous Christmas gathering.
During the weeks leading up to that Christmas there had been an unexpected death in town and few had attended the old man's funeral, creating in Stan a measure of sadness for the deceased.
"Mavis, when I go I want loud music and copious amounts of food and fancy dress." Stan had declared in his usual jovial abandon, his arms waving across the Christmas table and it's bounty like de Quixote's windmill.
At Colt's parents send off there had been copious amount of food and music of sorts but no fancy dress. Most were too sober in thought to turn a memorial service into a Blake farce, even if Mavis' attire was somewhat untraditional, dressed in floral swirls and feathered picture hat. As for the service it was non-denominational as none could decide on Jillian's or Stan's preference, or if they held any respect for religion at all.
In time it became easy for Colt. Family gave their condolences, townsfolk left flowers and sympathy and friends hugged his shoulders declaring, with time all would improve. As for Colt time was better then. He no longer had to listen to the banal arguments or play the role of child in Jillian and Stan's theatrical production. It had been as if he was the house and his parents were visitors to his solemn rooms, passing through his life while entertaining him in their passage.
With his parents gone the house seemed empty but never lonely. The week Colt lost his parents he replaced them with a dog, almost full grown and chosen from the Council Pound, a tall spindle legged brown Pointer with sad eyes and floppy ears and in no way akin or resembling his parents. He called the dog Max and it instantly bonded with him.
Colt always wanted a dog but Stan's love for animals didn't extend beyond horses. Dogs, he said, were alright in their place as working animals on a farm, or bush station but not mucking up the house and crapping all over the yard. Jillian true to character, just declared they stunk.
The second week after his parents demise Colt built a huge bonfire at the rear of the house paddock. Firstly the broken furniture from an adjacent sheds, was fed to the flames, then the clothing. Suits of pinstripe, double-breasted, tuxedo, dinner, morning; suits in grey, dark blue, light blue even red. His parents had been ardent hoarders and everything they had ever bought, were given or found was represented on the pyre; piled high with the many props for their theatrical performances. His mother's dresses, hats, shoes by the dozen, some brand new, still in shoe boxes accompanied by their sales docket. There were silk flowers in plastic Wedgwood vases, almost realistic but dusty and burnt well. There were suitcases, still holding clothing, displaying the labels of many journeys. All piled higher and higher until there was nothing left to remind him of their bizarre farce. Colt lit the pile and without sorrow watched as it burned. The multicoloured flames, brought on by the varied contents of the pyre, leapt high into the dull grey afternoon's sky, kissing the low and sullen covering.
Colts bonfire could be seen from even the far side of town, bringing the local fire brigade in haste to the farm expecting the worse. For his action he was given a wrist slap for not advising of his intention and for wasting their time but believing his grief had brought about his behaviour they returned to their station, allowing the flames to finish their work.
Some believed Colt was suffering from his loss, bringing him food and fellowship, which he graciously accepted but was relieved when folk deemed their obligations fulfilled and once again left the lad to his solitude. He then took a deep breath and sunk comfortably into his new way of life, free from continuous excitement and distraction. Delivered from a time when he only felt free while with his horses.
As for the bonfire, most supposed he was attempting to destroy the memories of his parents but in actuality he hatted clutter. He wished to be able to walk from one room to another in a straight line without the fear of tripping or tumbling some pile of junk down upon his head. He had no need for six frying pans, fourteen cooking pots and enough crockery for a royal dinner party, enough knives and forks for a battalion and sheets to supply a hospital. Nor had he need for at least twenty pairs of fashion jeans, all folded neatly in his drawers and never worn and shirts, underpants, which he seldom wore, along with socks, caps hats and on and on. Colt kept his favourites and burnt the rest.
Within a week the house was free of clutter, within a month it was as if his parents had never lived there and the only reminder of Stan and Jillian's existence being a large black and white photograph of their wedding day. Jillian dressed in white, Stan in a sober morning suit and without his handlebar moustache. His hair full headed without a strand of grey; his expression tense and upright besides the radiance of Jillian and her white and lace.
That was how Colt wished to remember them, appearing normal in every way, without even the slightest hint of eccentricity, before the clutter and the continuing farce and the habit of being eclectic bowerbirds.
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