The Odd One Out
Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
Mavis had her gate strung with streamers and balloons, as was her front door, gathered around a large cardboard sign declaring Judith's celebration. One of the gate balloons had burst, its shredded red rubber strips sadly dangled from a length of string over the letterbox, others were in various stages of deflation but in all, advertising party time and by the sound coming from beyond Mavis' front door, girlie party time.
Colt paused as the last of the day's sun struggled from behind a row of Cyprus pines. Summer was growing old and the evening air now had a slight chill but not enough to wear a jumper.
He was late, almost forgetting his cousin's party altogether. Only being reminded when Eric telephoned asking if he would like to join a few of the cricket team at the pub.
Taking a deep breath Colt passed through the gate but on doing so, noticed the shadow of a man off to his right. Colt paused and challenged the stranger, who appeared to be there for no legitimate reason.
"You alright mate?" Colt asked while searching for recognition in the face of the middle aged stranger.
"Is this Mavis Blake's house?" The stranger asked his voice somewhat apologetic.
For a moment Colt thought he knew the man but it was obvious he wasn't a local, otherwise he would know where Mavis lived, as she ran everything, from the Op-Shop to the charity dances, volunteering for every committee that could be thought up and creating those that had not.
Colt found familiarity in the stranger's face but from where? Although obviously in his early forty's the stranger still held a degree of youth, his hair full and dark. His clothes a touch too modern for his age and his fit frame was too short to be of any threat.
"It is," Colt advised, "who are you?"
"The party is for Judith's twenty-first?" The stranger asked nervously, keeping his distance from Colt.
"It is but what is it to you?" Colt asked.
"I knew her once."
Colt felt unsure and was about to challenge further when the stranger produced a small package and offered it.
"Would you give this to Judith?"
"Why not give it to Judy yourself?" Colt directed abruptly, becoming most annoyed with the encounter, besides his cousin never employed her full name, Judith, so how could this man claim to know her.
"I would rather not, please do me the favour."
By automatic response Colt accepted the package and as quickly as the encounter occurred, it ended. The stranger voiced appreciation, gave a slight nod of his head, smiled weakly and was gone into the fast approaching darkness.
"That was weird." Colt thought aloud on reaching Mavis' front door.
"Where have I seen him before?" He knocked but the door wasn't locked. Pushing it open he entered into what sounded like a chook yard.
Halfway along the hall he was met by Mavis. "I thought you weren't coming."
"I had a problem with one of the horses." He lied.
"Young man you've used that one a little too often." Mavis complained as Colt offered up his own present, which Mavis accepted and placed it with the many others. They entered into the party.
Colt's reckoning was correct. It was a hen house and he and three other blokes, one being his Cousin Dennis, were the only roosters. Now he felt much out of place. Dennis acknowledged Colt's arrival but didn't break from his conversation with a girl in a short tight skirt and come to bed eyes. Colt recognised her from his early school years, remembering her given name to be Sarah but not her family name, thinking she was plain then and had held her most ordinary appearance into maturity.
"Oh I almost forgot, some fella handed me this at the gate, he said it was for Judy." He offered the small package which Mavis scrutinised most inquisitively. It was beautifully wrapped but lacked a card.
"What did he look like?" Mavis asked her face a question of curiosity.
"Dunno just a bloke, short, late thirties; maybe forty something. It was getting dark." Colt explained.
"Did he have a slight limp?"
"I didn't notice any."
Colt was beginning to tire with conversation on the stranger and most relieved when Judy spied him and crossed the room to greet his arrival. As they spoke, he noticed Mavis didn't place the stranger's gift with the others, instead placed it to one side on a small table that held the telephone and a number of glass ornaments. There appeared to be purpose in her placement as if it were being hidden. Soon he forgot about the stranger and his package and accepted conversation with Dennis, who had failed in his attempt to make-out with the girl with the ordinary features.
"You didn't have much luck with Sarah." Colt suggested.
"Is that her name?"
"What you were trying to get into her pants and didn't even have the decency to ask her name?"
"I would have."
"When after you got her nickers off? Dennis you're unbelievable."
"No sense wasting time with small talk and seeing you know her, maybe you could put a word in for me."
"Wouldn't do any good, she's obviously beyond your pulling-power mate." Colt concluded.
Dennis accepted his Cousin's denigration as if it was commendation and soon moved away to try his luck elsewhere. Again failure but if the lad lacked tact and decorum he had nerve and in spades, as no amount of dejection appeared to deflate his over zealous ego.
Warm morning sunlight kissed nakedness as Colt stood at the top of his verandah steps surveying the dampness of the land. It had been raining for most of the night, commencing as he left his cousin's party. By the time he had reached the edge of town he had become as wet as one could be.
With the rain the night air lost its chill and walking in darkness while wet wasn't a bother. Colt believed it was the discomforts in life that proved he was alive. Rain connected his body, his skin to the air, while sunlight did so to the land. It was his way of being part of nature, part of the experience of living.
It had been as a boy Colt related that very sentiment to his parents. Coming inside soaked from a sudden downpour, Jillian quickly dried his hair and changed his clothing. "Why stand in the rain Jillian had asked and the lad, in the intrinsic words of a child, divulged his belief. "You should be a poet." His mother declared while Stan standing to one side and shaking his head roared with laughter. "More a poof like Harry." That was the first time Colt had heard of Harry and although he had no idea what a poof was, he did understand enough to comprehend he didn't wish to be one.
The rain had now gone and the warm morning sun lifted clouds of steam and the scent of wet eucalyptus leaves, while puddles along the side of the road had already become colonised with jelly like frog spawn.
Off to the left on the grassy verge before the horse paddock a flock of Apostle Birds was busy searching for breakfast. Colt gave a smile as he remembered what his father once told him. 'The way to catch a bird is to put salt on its tail.' A youthful lad spent half of that school holiday, salt container in hand, attempting to sprinkle salt onto the tails of any bird that chanced to land close by. Where the idea originated he knew not but there was a drawing of a lad chasing a bird on the salt container. Which came first the drawing or the belief, Colt had no idea but eventually he came to the conclusion, if you could get close enough to sprinkle the salt, you were close enough to catch it.
The following holiday had the lad upgrading his catching skills. Gone was the salt, instead it became a box, a stick and a length of string. The stick held up the box and the string was to be pulled once a bird entered under the boxes' shadow. It worked once and there after every bird within a hundred mile radius appeared to be aware of his little trick and no matter how much seed he placed under the leaning box, the birds pecked around its perimeter.
Gazing vacantly across the tree tops to the distant Cumberland Hills with their blue green haze, Colt's thoughts returned to his cousin's party and the stranger with his mysterious package and why his aunt hadn't placed it with the other gifts, also when it came time to open the presents it wasn't there, nor any longer on the small table. Did it matter? He thought not.
For now his thoughts drifted to the contents of the Blockhouse and its solid door, Mavis had once again reminded him of his promise to see if it held anything for her Op-Shop. He would but in his own good time.
At the foot of the stairs, Max had bailed up one of the horses it believed came a little too close to its territory and comfort zone. Colt allowed some of the horses to graze on the grass around the house. It was his habit to employ the stock as lawn mowers, finding they did a better job than he could with the motor mower.
"Get out of it dog!" he shouted down the stairs. The dog complained before reluctantly returning to the shade and dust under the stairs, while the horse snorted and continued its grazing, its rump twitching from sweat flies gathered there in abundance.
A glint of sunlight caught Colt's attention from along the river. Shading his eyes from the sun he fixed his sight across the paddocks. There appeared to be someone walking along the far bank. A second glint before the image disappeared beneath the tree line. Town kids he thought and left the verandah to prepare breakfast.
Maybe it was about time he did erect a fence, an electric fence, as the intrusions onto his land were becoming more frequent and with the water level low, even a child could cross without difficulty. Also there was the instance of the open gate, allowing his stock access to the river and the road beyond.
Later he would investigate to be sure the gates to the river paddock were still closed. After the last time he had placed a chain around both the gate and gate post, promising to find a lock but once he had returned home forgot to do so.
With the smell of frying bacon Max was at his side in an instant cadging for a portion. The dog received an uncooked rasher which was quickly devoured in one noisy gulp before sitting eagerly anticipating more. He received a second rasher and was told to leave the kitchen. The dog did so but only to lie patently drooling in the doorway, its eyes fixed greedily on the frying pan.
"Out means out Max," Colt repeated. The dog stood, completed a full circle in the door way, complained and returned to its original position.
Max again complained and as slowly as it possibly could, left the kitchen to retire for the remainder of the morning sulking on Colt's bed.
Feeding Max raw bacon brought a smile to Colts face, remembering as a child he loved to steal uncooked bacon from the refrigerator. "You shouldn't eat raw bacon." Jillian had warned. Colt defiantly asked why he should not. "Because you will get pig measles." Colt didn't wish to break out in measles of any kind but his taste for raw bacon brought about further defiance and ever after he still enjoyed his bacon raw. As for his mother's health threat, he came to realise it was most probably her way to prevent him from devouring the lot before she could prepare a meal. Releasing a chuckle he called after Max. "No more bacon mate or you will get pig measles," but the dog had long gone.
Once again Colt's thoughts returned to the stranger from the previous night. The man had appeared familiar to him but no matter how hard he tried he could not determine why. Maybe it was because his deep unrequited urge appreciated the look of the man. The same urge that drew him towards Charlie Wyse, towards Eric and others in the cricket and football team, a desire that wished for more than friendship. There was a need to touch, to hold, to - he could think no more unless his desire should surface and became dominant in his thoughts. While his longing was submerged it could be controlled, therefore he was normal and not the odd one out.
"I know where I've seen him." Colt declared loudly from his breakfast dishes, his face beaming with success. Discarding the tea towel he hurried to collect the shoe box of papers and photographs from his bedroom. Bringing the collection into the kitchen he placed it down on the table and commenced his search.
At the bottom of the box, amongst the many risqué photos of his parents, his birth certificate and that of Toby his unknown brother, Colt found what he was looking for: A single photograph of a short handsome young man with a dangerous smile in designer clothing. His stranger was much older but there was a definite resemblance to the man in the photograph but who could he be.
Colt placed the photograph on the window ledge while he finished his few dishes. As he dried he continued to look upon the small black and white snapshot. The back ground was unfamiliar. It could have been taken close by the rear steps to the house but nothing stood out in his recognition. There was what appeared to be a
Camellia shrub closes by but if it were the rear steps, the shrub had long gone. Also a toy of sorts just visible under the steps but not clear enough to distinguish its form. Maybe it was the fire-engine red tricycle he had as a child but as quickly he realised it could not be so as if the photo was of his wayward uncle, it would have been taken before his birth. "You're clutching at straws." He mumbled and turned away but could not remove the question from his thoughts.
Possibly Mavis would know who it was, he could ask her next time he was in town but if the man in the photograph was the mystery caller maybe his aunt wouldn't be forthcoming with the information. She did seem somewhat put out with the present and the stranger did appear to be uneasy in meeting Mavis. Maybe the mystery would never be solved and he hated the unexplained. Finishing the dishes Colt took himself to the stables. The previous day he had discovered rats nesting in the horse fodder and needed to bate the area.
Early afternoon and the day became unusually hot. Colt visited his favourite bend in the river for a refreshing swim. Here he could skinny dip in total privacy, as the river turned away from the main road for some distance before turning back on itself and the opposing bank was covered in thick scrub, undulating and uninviting even for children to explore.
There was a property some distance past the scrub but Sid Jones, its owner, was too old and crippled to do much more than attend to his small vegetable garden, while constantly looking out for trespasses. On Colt's side of the river the bank was low and eroded, creating a beach and a sandbar into the water, making a perfect swimming location.
Colt had used his river's bend for swimming since he could remember. In its refreshing water he could swim as naked as he wished without any fear of being discovered but this day he felt he was being watched from the scrub aligning the opposite bank. He could feel eyes fixed on his naked form, watching as he dived into the depth, rising to display his powerful chest and floating on his back displaying all.
Colt stood in the shallows facing the scrub. His eyes turned left, then a slow scan to the right and back to centre but could see no one. Yet there was someone, something, he could sense tension in the air.
"Whose there?" Colt called towards the scrub, sending a number of lorikeets into noisy flight from the bottle brush, before settling once again but further along the river, while the heat of the day caused the distant tree line to distort and shimmer.
"Come on whose there?" Colt repeated his voice loud and laced with annoyance. There was no answer. No movement. The air was still and hot and the leaves drooped silently from their branches.
"I know you're there!" Colt called once again and left the water. He collected his clothes and dressed. All the while his gaze trained on the distant bank, scanning each tree, each bush, mound of earth for movement, for a glint of light for some erroneous colour among the brown, green and grey of the scrub; Nothing.
"I'm coming over to get you." He called into the silent scrub, thinking his threat would flush out his Peeping Tom or Jill and there would be a scurry in the undergrowth to escape his arrival. Once again nothing, all he received was the plaintive cry of crows complaining about the heat.
"Come out whoever you are," Colt called once again into the undergrowth and crossed the river, manoeuvring his way along the opposite bank. Further inroads into the scrub also failed to find anything except a number of tracks made by some dog or dingo and those of wild brumbies as they headed for water but they were old, put down before the rain.
The tracks reminded Colt he had set out with Max and had not seen the animal since half way across the horse paddock. Usually Max was first into the water and last out. Whistling loudly he failed to receive response but once back at the house found Max sound asleep under the stairs.
"Some bloody watch dog, you're supposed to protect me." Colt humorously scalded Max, who lifted his head and gave what, in human terms, could only be considered a wink. The dog rose and lazily met Colt and immediately began to bark.
"What is it fella," Colt turned and discovered someone approaching across the bridge on foot. Max rose his hackles and was about to advance towards the visitor. "Down Max or I'll put you on the chain." Colt demanded, sending the animal back under the stairs, still complaining it wasn't permitted to attend to its occupation as guard.
Eventually, displaying a slight limp, the visitor approached close enough to be recognised as the stranger Colt had met at Mavis' front gate. From a distance the stranger called.
"Good afternoon," Coming short of Colt's comfort zone the stranger paused.
"You were at Mavis' house last night."
I was and thankyou for the favour." The stranger answered his attention more on the house and lay of the land than on Colt.
"I did give Mavis the package." Colt assured.
"Sorry mate, I didn't come over about that." The stranger continued his visual investigation, leaving Colt to feel most uncomfortable, almost to the point of ordering him away.
"Sorry again, I didn't mean to be rude." The stranger offered his hand but Colt refrained from accepting the gesture. "I once lived here many years ago." The stranger declared, still without an introduction to who he was. Colt continued to hold his caution.
"Oh, I'm Harry Blake, my dad once owned this property."
"Well I'll be buggered." Colt's attitude softened. "I thought as much this morning. I found a photo that resembles you when you were younger."
"Who would you be?" Harry asked.
"Believe it or not, I'm family; I'm your brother's son Colt."
Harry's eyes brightened showing as much surprise as Colt had. He was unaware his brother had children. As soon as they married, his brother and sister-in-law left for Europe and remained over seas well passed Harry's departure from town. Colt was most probably conceived in Rome, or Paris or maybe London. On the couple's return they then travelled locally, mostly the artistic quarters of Sydney and Melbourne. Stan loved to travel and had often asserted their union would remain childless, as kids got in the way of a good time but most of his brother's life and love was unknown to Harry.
As for Harry he had only returned for Judith's twenty-first out of a lingering feeling of guilt for deserting her and her mother so many years previous.
"I only came over on the off chance I could look around for old time's sake. I didn't know the place was still in the family." Harry explained.
"It certainly is. Did you know dad and mum died in an accident?" Colt asked.
"Only through reading about it in the paper some time after the accident and seeing they were never found I didn't have reason to return. I did have contact with a school mate for some years after leaving, he usually kept me informed but he also left town."
"Come inside, would you like a beer, coffee tea?" Colt offered.
"A beer would be fine. So Colt - is that your actual name?"
"It is but first that beer, I guess we both have a hoard of questions to ask."
As they climbed the stairs Harry paused and sprung up and down on the seventh step from the top, it gave a little, releasing a loud squeaking sound. Harry laughed. "I see you haven't fixed that step yet." He offered.
"I hadn't thought of it as needing to be fixed." Colt dryly answered as Harry produced his reason for asking.
"That step caught your dad and me out on a number of occasions. Your grandfather slept on the verandah during the hot periods and when your dad and I tried to sneak out at night it would give us away." Harry paused, "It took us an age to realise the squeak gave us away and he wasn't psychic."
"Na it holds firm as far as I am concerned and dad didn't care if I sneaked out or not." Colt replied.
The conversation flowed freely and before time could be checked it was approaching dusk. Colt explained he had to attend to the horses but would only be a short while and for Harry to freely explore his old home.
On returning he found Harry in the kitchen admiring the photograph Colt had left on the window ledge that morning.
"Is that of you?" Colt asked.
"It sure is and taken out the back of here the day I became engaged to Stella, Judith's mother."
"I didn't know you were engaged?" Colt sounded somewhat surprised. He had an advantage over his uncle, knowing why he left town, while Harry knew nothing of Colt's deepest secret; the stain that, in his belief, among family and friends would make him the odd one out.
"Yes I was engaged for one short terrifying week. I suppose you know why I left." Harry's voice was somewhat guarded, half expecting his nephew to disown him.
"I do and Mavis has never forgiven you."
"How do you feel about it?" Harry asked nervously.
"It's none of my business and you are still my uncle no matter where you put your dick."
"That's a novel way of defining it." Harry laughed, "When I was a boy we called it stemming the rose."
"There is one question I often wished to ask, who was the barman?" Colt asked ignoring his uncle's adage.
"Wayne Cooper, he wasn't a local, was up from the city and we are still together." Harry proudly answered.
"Ah he wasn't local, so that was probably why no one ever mentioned his name. It's getting late would you like to stay for tea?"
There were many questions both still wished to ask, mostly from Harry who knew little about his brother's marriage. As for Colt he learnt much about Stan's youth, none of which resembled the man he knew to be his father.
"What about yourself Colt, are you married, engaged? Harry asked feeling comfortable in doing so.
Colt answered all, although it was information about his father he mostly wished for. At first Harry appeared somewhat coy on answering but slowly a picture of the youthful Stan Blake unfolded.
"Didn't you get on with your father?" Harry asked as most of what Colt had to say about his parents was negative.
"They were different but treated me well, even if most of the time I felt as if I was a chattel rather than a son and somewhat an unnecessary extra to their life." Colt answered truthfully.
"Then you probably didn't know about Stan's secret?" Harry offered, as he became relaxed with his newly found nephew, that and a number of beers had loosened his guard. Besides Stan was no longer around to be concerned if Harry chanced to disclose his brother's past.
"What was that Harry?" Colt asked.
"No maybe I should keep my peace on the matter."
"It's too late now, you're planted the thought, so may as well be out with it."
Harry thought for some time then continued. "You seem adjusted enough to know. Your father was bisexual."
"Well I'll be buggered." Colt exclaimed.
"You don't seem surprised." Harry commented.
"The way he and mum carried on, I wouldn't be surprised if they bother weren't."
Harry became bold. "What about yourself? They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
"Are you suggesting I'm an apple?"
"No I was wondering if you are like your father." Harry answered.
Or do you mean like my uncle?" Colt somewhat abruptly answered Harry's question with another.
"Sorry mate, I was forgetting my place." Harry checked the time. "I should be going; I've a room at the pub and it closes doors around eleven." He stood and was about to thank his nephew for his hospitality.
"You may as well stay here, there's plenty of room and there is a bed made ready in the back bedroom." Colt offered.
"That was my old room." Harry declared delightfully.
It was decided, Harry would stay the night, besides Colt still had his ream of questions that need satisfying, mostly relating to his uncle's sexuality and that of his own, if he could be brave enough to disclose. Colt believed himself to be, using his uncle's word, bisexual by thought alone, as he had never voluntary entered into sex with another man.
Past midnight both uncle and nephew had consumed more than enough alcohol to enable the loosening of their conversation. Colt asked and Harry honestly answered but still Colt's own sexuality was well guarded. Harry would suggest and Colt would ignore.
"Do you remember coach Jamieson?" Colt asked offering one final beer to his uncle. Harry declined and Colt had had more than usual.
"Is he still around, he must be seventy by now." Harry surmised, remembering well Jack Jamieson as coach even when he was at school but Jamieson was a young man then and fresh from his training.
"He's still around town." Colt said with disdain in his tone.
"Why do you ask?" Harry asked.
Colt refrained from answering, pushing his unfinished beer aside he stood, "I'm off to bed, you know where things are, if you want more beer there's plenty in the fridge." He paused, gave a slight stagger before becoming upright. "See you in the morning." He forced a smile, called Max to follow and was gone.
"Righto, I won't be long either."
During the night Colt dreamed of his old sports coach, who turned into Charlie Wyse and was bowling to him naked. His waddling motion towards the bowling crease caused his balls to swing wildly and they were huge, more like what you would find on a young bull. The cricket ball whizzed past at pace, loudly hitting the stumps full on, without removing the bails. When he turned to face the bowler, the entire fielding team was naked but their crotches blurred like what you would find on television when someone streaked across the playing area. The second ball was slower and Colt sent it back past Wyse. He made a run but as he turned to take a second, Wyse blocked his way wrapping his arms tightly around him, pinning his arms and bat to his side. He protested loudly while feeling the bowler's nakedness against his body. It aroused him to a state of near ejaculation, while Charlie Wyse and the fielding team broke into uncontrollable laughter.
Waking sweat soaked and needing to piss, Colt sat bolt upright in his bed, complaining he hadn't finish his orgasm but his bladder was full to busting and if he had done so, it may have been a wet dream of a different kind.
Max followed Colt along the hall to the toilet, his claws clipping on the polished boards as he walked. The front and back doors were wide allowing the breeze to flow through, while from the rear bedroom the sound of gentle snoring came from Harry. Colt released a smile. It was the first time he had anyone stay during the night since the demise of his parents. Harry's snoring sounded like that of his father, soft and distant, unobtrusive and manly.
Back in his bed Colt found he could not return to sleep so he dressed and joined Max on the front verandah while having no idea of the time. Over to the east was the first glimpse of the new day, giving a faint glow to touch the distant hills.
"Hey dog what do you think of Harry?" Colt asked, gently running his hand along the animals back. Max came closer for further attention. "You've got an easy life haven't you?" Colt paused and sighed, "If it comes to that, so do I but there is something missing isn't there mate? Like an itch you just can't scratch."
The rising sun's rays' crept closer, a slow edge in yellow devouring the nightly shadows, as his rooster commenced to brag about its potency.
"Listen to him." Colt commented on the crowing. "Maybe I should sharpen the axe eh boy?"
Now the morning was upon him and the verandah became bathed in yellow and gold; the light that only comes with the beginning of a fresh new day, unlike twilight's fading light that only lasts for a few short minutes.
There was movement in the house. Colt could hear clatter in the kitchen, a chair scraping upon the floor, a mug upon the table and the smell of brewing coffee.
"Sounds like Harry is an early riser, shall we join him boy."
"I've made coffee, I hope you don't mind." Harry said as Colt entered the kitchen.
"Sure, I'd love one. There's nothing like the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning."
"Nothing like the smell of Napalm in the morning," Harry laughed.
"What was that?" Colt asked while stretching life back into his limbs.
"Oh nothing really, what you said reminded me of a line from some Yank movie."
"I don't watch much television." Colt admitted.
"No I don't either, mostly to busy socialising."
How long will you be in town?"
"Wayne is picking me up on Sunday."
"If you like you may as well stay here." Colt offered.
"I'd appreciate that and it would give me the chance to learn more about what's been going on over the last twenty years."
"Not a lot I'd say. Mostly one year over and over with a few births, deaths and marriages along the way."
"Most astute young man but I'm sure there's been a scandal or two along the way as well." Harry laughed.
"Not since you left town Harry."
Colt collected bacon, eggs and tomatoes from the refrigerator and commenced preparing breakfast. "Is it too early for you for breakfast?" He asked.
"No any time."
"What was in the package you gave for Judy?" Colt quizzically enquired.
"It was my mother's, your grandmother's wedding and engagement rings. I found them before leaving and kept them. I thought they should go to Judith." Harry words were touched with a measure of remorse.
"What you found or stole them?" Colt protested.
"Yes and no, by then mother suffered badly from Alzheimer's and was in a home and Mavis carried on so much about the rings, I decided on the spur of the moment to deprive her of them." Harry paused, sipped at his coffee, it had gone cold. He topped his cup with some boiled water. He continued. "I know I shouldn't have but that was over twenty years ago and Mavis and I didn't get on; back then she could be a right bitch at times." Harry released an apologetic sigh and once again continued. "If Judith doesn't want them at least they could be returned to Mavis."
"I don't think she gave the package to Judy." Colt offered.
"Well at least I tried."
"Does it worry you if Judy isn't interested in seeing you?" Colt asked, while concentrating on having the egg yolks at just the correct consistency.
"Not really worry but I had for some time decided to attend her twenty-first; Call it growing old, call it guilt, I don't rightly know, I just thought I should do something. I don't think I thought it all through that well and in retrospect it wasn't such a good idea."
"You do realise Judy has been poisoned against you're memory by both her mother and Mavis and she thinks you died before she was born?" Colt offered.
"I guess so but I don't wish to be part of her life, possibly I just wanted to have Judith realise I exist."
"For all the wrong reasons Harry, all the wrong reasons." Colt advises sternly.
"I guess you're correct but I don't know who put such a wise head on such young shoulders; it definitely wasn't your father." Harry concluded.
"If what you say were true, it wouldn't have been my mother either." Colt mused and served breakfast.
"What was my Grandmother like?" Colt asked.
"Both your grandparents were surly, hardly ever smiled or joked and if you swore, Christ you were really in for it."
"Were they religious?"
"Not overly but did go to church every Sunday." Harry answered.
"Mum and dad didn't and only went to church as an outing."
"I could believe that of Stan." Harry agreed.
"I didn't really know Gran. Dad and I did visit her a few times in the home when I was quite young and my only memory is some little old grey haired lady who scared the crap out of me." Colt recollected.
"In what way was that?"
"She would shout at dad and me, saying there were strange men in her room." Colt paused and laughed. "She would even through things at us, like pillows and stuff."
"You can't blame her for that, even by the time I had left for the city her mind had gone."
"I don't blame her now. What about Grandad, I was around six when he died?" Colt asked.
"As I said a surly old bugger who hated everyone except on Christmas Eve, he would harness a nag to some old buggy and dressed as Father Christmas hit the town, giving out lollies to all the kids."
"I sort of remember something about that." Colt admitted.
There was obviously something more on Colt's mind. Questions he wished to ask but didn't feel confident to do so, secrets he could not disclose. On a number of occasions he commenced a sentence then diverted the topic onto something else, mostly relating to his uncle's life style and his relationship with his barman.
Often Colt's questions were direct and personal and he was surprised how freely Harry answered them, all the while polarising an opinion in Harry his nephew was gay or bisexual and not just overly interested. Maybe the apple did fall close to the tree.
Will you be coming back this way in the future?" Colt cleared the breakfast dishes and dumped them in the sink.
"I don't suppose I have any reason to," Harry paused, "I'll do the dishes." He volunteered.
"No worries but you do have a reason."
"And what would that be young fellow."
"You have a nephew who would like to see more of you and for all the right reasons. Do you ride?"
"Not since I was a kid." Harry answered.
"Then you should visit some time and I can reintroduce you to the saddle."
"I like that idea; you will have to give me your Email address."
"I have a computer and am on the net but don't use Emails. Don't know anyone at distance and if any of my mates want me they telephone." Colt admitted.
"What about a mobile telephone number?" Harry's request was delivered more as banter to show how backward his nephew was.
"Nope, if you want me you will get me most nights on the land line." Colt innocently answered.
Although Colt declined his uncle's offer to wash the breakfast dishes, Harry took hold of a tea-towel and dried.
"So you wouldn't mind me visiting in the future, what if I brought Wayne with me?"
"That would depend, Harry."
"If he can behave himself," Colt paused and gave a cheeky smile, "and that goes for you as well, I don't want my mates at the cricket club complaining about you trying to race them off to the city."
"Cheeky bugger" Harry declared.
"Besides Harry there is something I want to talk to you about but not at the moment."
Friday morning found Harry exploring the farm while Colt went shopping. By the time he had visited the butcher, greengrocer and supermarket he needed an extra pair of arms. Coming to the conclusion he should get himself a vehicle, some small run-a round, a mobile shopping trolley.
On the occasion Colt had saddled one of the horses and rode into town but found it too dangerous. People had become so urbanised they had no tolerance towards a horse on the road, or for it crapping along the main street. In the past, if a horse dropped its pile, someone with a shovel would be on it immediately to be utilized as fertiliser. Besides the smell of horse shit wasn't so repulsive, having an earthy quality and unlike cattle came in easily manageable clumps.
All the simplicity of life, the pleasure of past years had become one solid lump of impatience, providing another reason for Colt to feel he was old before his time. He would rather have been born back in buggy days and if he had a buggy would most probably use it, if only to piss off some of the high and mighty in town.
Before returning home colt called in on Mavis on the pretext of asking how Judy enjoyed her party but more to sound out his aunt on the return of her brother. He found Mavis dashing this way and that with the vacuum cleaner, the cord tucked impatiently under her arm, while the house smelt of pine and floor polish and lavender, all mixed together in a cleaning frenzy. Colt entered and called from halfway down the passage.
"In here love," Mavis switched off the vacuum cleaner, releasing a busy huff. Spying Colt's shopping she made comment on his mode of transport and decided it was time for a coffee break.
"When are you going to get yourself a car?" Mavis asked while impatiently waiting for the kettle to boil.
"Only need one for shopping and it isn't that far to town."
"Don't you ever want to travel?"
"Not really and if I need to move anything or go anywhere, I can borrow Eric's."
"Fair enough but I couldn't survive with out mine." Mavis admitted, "Coffee or tea?" She added.
"Whatever you're having will be fine."
There was much conversation on Judy's party and her many presents, most of all how pleased she was with Colt's attendance. He knew that was Mavis's addition as Judy was so involved in the night, she hardly knew he was there. Eventually Colt came around to his reason for his visit.
"What did Judy think of the stranger's gift?" He asked, not yet ready to mention Harry's name.
"I didn't give it to her." Mavis answered abruptly.
"You do realise who he was?" Colt asked, leaving his aunt no other direction except discussion the matter.
"You know what was in the package?"
Mavis' anger built and told her nephew it wasn't any of his business but Colt persisted declaring he was family therefore it was his business.
"Harry stole those rings!" Mavis snapped abruptly. Her thoughts, her emotions her very existence returning to once again become that young woman so many years previous, full of phobia towards a brother she had once loved; who had betrayed her. He had not only stolen the rings but a life to be shared with a younger sibling.
"He has admitted that and wanted to return them to either you or Judy."
"He had no right turning up like that after what he did." Mavis became emotional but held back her tears.
"I agree but he's done it now and what was done all those years ago can't be undone."
"Have you been talking to Harry?" Mavis asked wiping her ample nose with a small pink and blue handkerchief she retrieved from a pocket in her apron.
"He is staying a couple of days out at the farm."
"Not with that barman I hope." Once again Mavis' tone returned to anger.
"No he's alone and seems genuinely sorry for the pain he caused you and Judy's mother."
Mavis' mood changed. She was no longer the young woman who had sadly lost her younger brother but a busy house maid, needing to get on with her work.
"I'd give you a lift home but I don't want to see Harry." She concluded.
"That's alright I can manage. Besides I have to call in to Jack John's on the way. I'll see you after the game tomorrow."
"Please East be careful, those kind of people are dangerous." Again in relation to her brother Mavis' phobia became apparent. She walked her nephew to the door.
"Mavis what do you think Harry's gunna do, jump me in the night?" Colt commenced to laugh but noting his aunt was deadly serious, quietened his tone.
"Don't be so crude young man; you're not so big I can't box your ears." They then parted in good spirit.
Jack Johns was the town Saddler who had a house and shop halfway distance between Mavis and the farm. Some weeks previously Colt had left him two saddles in need of attention and seeing he was in town and passing, he would see if they were ready for pick up. If so he would need to contact Eric for their collection. Colt found Jack busy stitching a set of reins.
"Good morning young Russel, suppose you've come about those saddles." Jack greeted without lifting his head from his stitching.
"I was passing." Colt answered.
"They will be ready mid week." He lifted his head as drops of sweat dribbled down his elongated nose to drip away at its point. He wiped the remainder away with a dirty red handkerchief.
"I'm not in any rush." Colt assured.
"Do you still use them?" Jack asked showing surprise as both saddles could be considered antiques.
"Na I just like the look of them besides they belonged to Grandad Blake." Colt admitted.
"More like his grandfather." The saddler finish his stitching and placed down his needles, being careful of their placement as the passing years were telling on his memory and he had lost many sets somewhere amongst the clutter of his work area. "I knew your grandad, he was a fine horseman. There wasn't anything he didn't know about horses but he knew nothing about leather." Jack proclaimed with a smile, he paused and continued. "I don't suppose you know anyone interested in taking over the business?"
"Why's that Jack?"
"I'm too old for all this now, my sights failing and I can't keep my hands still long enough to find the flaming needle holes."
"Wish I could help you Jack." Colt apologised.
"Want a beer son?" Jack offered as he opened an ancient refrigerator hiding in the dullness of a corner and covered with strips of cow hide and old news print.
"No I should get my groceries home. I'll see you Wednesday or whenever I can arrange pickup with Eric."
Jack followed to the footpath and gently lowering himself into a ragged sofa chair under the shop's awning close to the entrance.
"Break time," he announced and sipped at his beer, "time to start counting the passing cars. It's about my only hobby now, since Mary passed on." He concluded and lifted his beer towards Colt, who smiled gave a gentle nod of his head and continued on his way.
"I've spoken to Mavis."
Colt's words came out of a long pause in the conversation while he and Harry walked lazily along the river bank. It was to be their last day together as Wayne would collect Harry that evening.
"What about the rings?" Harry asked his tone low and somewhat dejected.
"I think you should forget about all that Harry, Mavis still doesn't wish to talk to you or let you meet Judy and I agree discovering her father coming back from the grave, may be a little too much for Judy."
"I guess I have already moved on, I now realise it wasn't such a smart idea to attempt contact with either of them but something good has come out of my visit."
"What would that be Harry?" Colt asked. He took a step and paused waiting for his uncle's answer.
"I've had the chance to meet a nephew I didn't even know I had." There was sincere warmth in Harry's words as they walked on, pausing on reaching Colt's swimming hole.
"Did you know Mavis had a son?" Colt asked.
"Yes she was sent to the city about the time I left but I never knew if she had a boy or a girl. What's his name?"
"It's Dennis, you also have another nephew, I have a brother Toby but even I don't know where he is. Mum and dad gave him away; I was around two at the time." Harry admitted he hadn't any knowledge of Toby, as he had not of Colt's birth either and wasn't surprised at his brother and sister-in-law's hedonistic action by giving the boy up for adoption, seeing they didn't want kids.
"You know your father and I used to go skinny dipping here." Harry's mood improved. He may have been saddened with his rejection by his sister but wasn't one to carry such a burden longer than deemed necessary.
Now Harry's eyes were everywhere as if remembering each tree growing along the bank, each bend in the river, shrubs even the call of the birds. His thoughts were long ago, again he was a lad, when he and Stan had their first experiment in mutual masturbation amongst the scrub and prickle bush within a leading chase to the swimming hole.
Harry related the experience. Firstly it was touch and feel with much giggling, then tiny hands with tiny fingers stroked even smaller digits until a wave of unknown sensation but nothing more, flowed within their immature bodies. It commenced in the pit of the stomach and radiated out to fingers to toes to cheeks and as it did so they were interrupted by the rough voice of their father standing but a body's length above the bushes.
"You dirty little buggers, come here and I'll cut your flaming dicks off." He growled and reached for his knife. The lads screamed and fled; their trousers at their knees, causing both to trip as they made good their escape. Surprising once home nothing more was said on the matter. Yet there was future experimentation but well concealed, being as far away from the house as possible and never again beneath the prickle bushes by the swimming hole.
The brothers soon shared their discovery with Billy Croxley a neighbour's boy of their age but Billy was a self righteous, religious young fellow who proclaimed Jesus wouldn't be happy with their antics.
"I also swim here; do you want to go for a dip?" Colt laughed loudly, releasing a hoot and like a child skipped his way down the slight bank to stand beside the water, innocently smiling and as always eager to test the water.
"Another time perhaps, I reckon it would be cold enough to freeze your balls off," Harry answered from the bank. Colt disagreed, rejoining his uncle as he turned for home.
"You asked me if I remembered Coach Jamieson, why was that?" Harry asked as the conversation about his childhood days and stories of Stan's adventures had for then run their course.
"You know back then Coach was molesting many of his boys?" Harry expanded in an attempt to draw out Colt's deep seated mystery.
"Really," Colt answered somewhat casually.
"Wasn't he your football coach?" Harry added, giving an all knowing smile.
"He was" Colt again responded casually.
"Coach got at me in year nine." Harry admitted.
"Did he now,"
It was obvious Colt wasn't going to give his uncle the pleasure of knowing that Coach had also molested him, or that he actually enjoyed the experience, so reluctantly Harry gave up trying to draw his nephew out.
"Yes young fellow, I think I would like to visit again." Harry said on reaching the house.
"Maybe in time Mavis will forgive you."
"That I doubt as she had a long memory." Harry smiled, "you should ask her about the night of the school dance."
"What happened?" Colt asked Harry.
"That is something I will have to leave to Mavis to tell, unlike your father's little secret, she is still around."
"Then why mention it?"
"Suppose it's the devil in me."
"Want to go into town for a beer?" Colt offered.
"Not this time around, how would you like to visit me in the city?" Harry suggested but Colt wasn't much interested, too much traffic, too many people and no horses.
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