The Odd One Out
Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
Louise Bradford was much older than Mavis and was cousin of sorts to both Mavis and Colt's father but as often said a couple of times removed. The exact relationship was somewhat difficult to qualify and had become smudged by the passing years, with the new generations of the Blake family. That was the way in country towns, scratch the surface and hiding only a layer beneath was someone's cousin, or aunt or uncle. Insult one person and you eventually insult the entire town, even the entire district.
It was said Louise was the keeper of family history. All locked away in her mind and usually at recall within an instant but the passing years can be cruel to memory and Louise was no exception. Living alone didn't help and the solitude sent her thoughts further into the past to happier times, while forgetting what she may have done the previous, or even the same day. If you asked Louise what she had had for breakfast, it would be a struggle for her to remember but as for what was on the table for Stan and Jillian's wedding, she could describe that down to the silver wear or the colour of the bows on the back of each chair. She could even recall most of the guest list.
Often Mavis suggested having the family history recorded for future generations, even offering to scribe to paper but Louise never seemed to have the time or ability for instant recall of one event after the other and in sequence, as she preferred to narrate accounts that were revellent to the conversation at any given time.
Colt hadn't seen the old lady since he was quite young, having only visited the house on a few occasion. Then it smelt of stale piss and burnt toast, so repeating the experience wasn't one he cherished but if he wanted information on Toby he hadn't any other choice.
He arranged his visit through Mavis, who not wishing to frighten the old lady with some strange man knocking unannounced at her door, telephoned Louise the previous night. Mavis rang back to Colt soon after making the arrangement, telling him not to be surprised if by the time he made his visit, Louise had forgotten he was coming or even that he existed at all and to be careful not to place too much pressure on her memory.
Mid morning as planned Colt arrived to visit Louise. It was an old house that obviously had not been painted for many years. What paint remained was in grey-green flaking patches, mostly on the southern side and away from the worse of the summer's sun and further protected by a line of trees. The house appeared to be leaning to one side but possibly that was an optical elusion, as the trees along the opposite side were somewhat twisted in the opposing direction.
The front entrance once featured a security door but long since come loose from its hinges, its mesh rusted and holed, now lay beside the three concrete steps leading up to the entrance.
There was once a well kept garden. Colt remembered how proud Louise kept it, now it was unattended with tall weeds overpowering a number of struggling rose bushes, while wire baskets filled with parched dirt and dead grass, long since gone to seed, hung from a number of struggling trees along the fence line.
Colt knocked at the dry timbers of the front door and stood for quite some time without receiving response. He knocked again but louder. There was movement beyond the door and a failing voice.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." The voice was croaked but recognised to be that belonging to Louise. She opened the door a crack and peered out into the sunlight.
"Yes young man." She spoke nervously.
"It's me Louise Stan Blake's boy." Colt introduced through the gap.
"Oh East, Mavis said you wanted to talk to me, you better come in out of the glare." She offered and slowly opened the door, guiding him into what was obviously her sitting room. The house still smelt of stale piss and burnt toast except worse than he remembered.
The living room contained a couch loaded high with dress making material and what appeared to be curtains, while to its front were two club chairs, both tattered and sprung, with throwovers to hide the loose springs and to give cushioning quality to a visiting backside. The wall paper of drab, dark florid swirls was pealing at the edges and in one corner mould had formed from a leak through the ceiling, displaying a rust red discolouration, descending towards the floor.
The room was carpeted in what was once prized Axminster but now stained and threadbare, while against one wall and precariously leaning, stood a pile of newspapers almost as high as Louise was tall. Against another wall were three boxes of hard covered books, Louise had once been a avid reader and collector of first addition book but time and neglect had rendered them to be almost valueless. There was also a planter box containing a very dead aspidistra plant.
The dwelling could be considered a hazard and if a fire were to break out the lot would be gone in a matter of minutes, Louise with it.
"Would you like a cup of tea young Stan?" Louise offered.
"I'm," Colt faltered, he was about to say Colt but thought better of doing so and always appeared to be adjusting his title to suit the company he was with, "I'm East, Louise, Stan was my father."
"Of course you are, how silly of me, would you like a cup of tea East?" She repeated her breath short and weakened. Almost lifting from her seat she faltered before falling back. "Now East what was I going to do?" She asked quizzically.
"You were going to make tea." Colt softly answered.
"That's right, how silly of me, would you like a cup of tea?"
"That would be nice." Colt agreed out of the need to be sociable.
Louise left the room and was gone for an age. Colt was beginning to worry. Eventually she returned carrying a wooden tray holding two cups, sugar bowl, milk jug and an ancient china teapot with broken tannin stained spout. She poured the tea and added milk to Colt's cup. The milk had curdled and slowly motored its way around the surface of the hot beverage in miniscule clumps like tiny white motor boats on a calm brown lake. Colt thanked the old lady and placed his cup down.
"Now what did you wish to know about your father?" Louise finally asked.
"It wasn't actually about my father but I found a birth certificate and according to it, I have or had a younger brother Toby."
"Ah yes your brother, Mavis did say you wanted to know something about a lost brother."
Colt was becoming quite nervous. He wished to know all about his mysterious brother but wasn't prepared for a negative response. What if Toby had died soon after birth, or was kidnapped by child stealers or worse. It is one thing to have no brother, another to find that you do, only to lose him during an exchange of information.
"What did you say his name was dear?" Louise asked.
"The birth certificate said Toby."
"Mavis had a son and I think his name is Toby." Louise answered as her mind wandered back through the years, while sipping at her cup of black tea. Instead she remembered she had not brought the biscuits. Louise went for biscuits and while out of the room Colt disposed of his beverage by pouring it into the aspidistra pot. The old lady returned with an open packet of arrowroot biscuits, placing them on the tray beside Colt's now empty tea cup.
"Another cup of tea dear," she offered.
"No thankyou Louise," He couldn't afford pouring another cup into the aspidistra or it may commence to drip onto the faded threadbare carpet.
"Now what was it you wished to know about Dennis?" Louise asked.
"No I'm sorry Louise, not Mavis' son Dennis, my brother Toby."
Louise sat for a while gazing through the tattered lace curtains. At first Colt thought her mind had drifted or she had fallen asleep. Eventually she gave a light sigh and commenced to talk.
"You know East I shouldn't really be talking about your parents business." She again offered a biscuit and a refill. Colt once again declined.
"They are deceased so I guess it wouldn't matter." Colt answered.
"I guess not." Another light sigh and what appeared to be a developing tear. She wiped her face with a small handkerchief.
"Your parents did love you." She offered somewhat wishful even if unconvincingly.
"Yes I realise that."
"Neither Stan or your dear mother wanted children, they said they got in the way of travelling," Louise paused then continued, "when you were born there was a hell of a row, Jillian became depressed and wanted to give you away, Stan also but for some reason you reminded him of one of his precious horses so you stayed."
Colt gave a wry smile and asked the old lady to continue, he was eager to hear about Toby not himself. Slowly the story built towards the birth of Toby.
"Well some time after you were born, Jillian once again became pregnant. At first she wanted to have an abortion but decided against doing so. Eventually Toby was born, given the name of Toby as Jillian hated that name and once old enough they gave the baby to a couple who couldn't have children. I think it was a simple handing of the baby and not through any adoption agency."
"Was the family here in town?" Colt asked feeling excitement build within. Maybe he could find Toby. He could be living a few streets away; possibly he even went to school with him. Colt could march up to his brother's door, proudly knocking and declare 'hey Toby, I'm your brother, what do you think of that?'
"No dear, Jillian wouldn't allow the child to grow up locally. The last thing she wanted was a constant reminder of her lack of motherhood. Toby was given to a family out of town." Louise was becoming most brave with her information as she had never forgiven Colt's parents for their treatment of the child.
"Where did the family come from?" Colt asked feeling the trail for Toby dissipating with each spoken word.
"Jillian would never disclose who but I believe it was some horse breeding friend of Stan and he had a horse that ran second in the Doomben cup, beaten by a half head by a horse with a foreign name."
Louise was obviously growing tired, standing she commenced clearing the small coffee table. "I'm sorry East; there isn't anything else I can tell you, maybe Mavis knows more." The hint for Colt to leave was strong. He thanked the old lady and was almost at the front door when Louise called after him.
"There is one other thing I've just remembered. The winner of the Doomben cup was a horse with a French name. I remember as there was much ado about disqualifications or something like that."
Colt thanked the old lady and as she closed the door behind he realised she had only increased the mystery, not solved it. How would he discover Toby's whereabouts? Toby would now be an adult and could be anywhere in the country, maybe overseas and the only lead he came away with was a horse with a French name that once won the Doomben Cup.
The Cricket Club was quite busy as the boys arrive. Eric was at the bar with a number of the team while most of the committee gathered in a dim corner away from the noise and by their expressions their conversation was not on cricket.
"Hey," Eric called and waved to Colt. "You've brought your wife." He added seeing Charlie bringing up the rear.
"Funny boy," Colt protested.
"Hey Wysie, how long are you going to be in town?" George Denman asked as the two made their way to the bar.
"Don't know George, the job at the Bacon Factory was only for three months and there's only a matter of weeks left. Why do you ask?"
"If you're here for more than six months you can play for us." George suggested.
"I was thinking of finding work in town once the job finishes."
Colt ordered two beers and passed one to Charlie, "get that into ya,"
"We could do with a good spin bowler." George declared.
"We'll see what happens eh George."
"Don't leave it too long," George nodded to the committed huddled in their dim corner, "they are arranging next years programme already." As he spoke Les Ferguson came from the committee huddle for extra jugs of beer.
"Russell, are you in for next year?" He asked while eying Charlie. Colt agreed he was.
"What about Mr. Wyse, can I pencil you in as the new spin?"
"Pencil maybe Mr. Ferguson but I don't know where I'll be."
"Aren't you working at the Bacon Factory?" Ferguson collected his two jugs of beer.
"Yes but not for much longer,"
"I'm sure I can put a good word in for you somewhere." Ferguson gave a nod and a wink and returned to the huddle.
"What's up mate, you're a million miles away." Eric asked noticing how detached Colt was from the conversation.
"Nothing just thinking." Colt's thoughts had once again drifted back to his meeting with Louise and how to locate Toby.
"You're nothing like your old man." Eric observed.
"I hope I'm not, hey did you know my old man well?" Colt asked.
"I guess not as well as you." Eric grinned and ordered another beer "want a refill?"
"No, I'll sit on this one a while, as for dad I don't think I knew him at all and I thought you being an outside may have a different slant."
"As I said I didn't know him that well, mostly around the cricket club and things like that. Where is this heading?"
"Did you know I had a brother?"
Before Eric could answer Maddy burst through the doors as if she owned the place. Spotting Colt and Charlie she, without the slightest hesitation, marched up to the bar.
"That woman's got balls but I'd give her one." Eric whispered and moved away to be with the rest of the team.
"Pimms and orange juice please Rodney," Maddy ordered from the barman and looking past Colt she spoke to Charlie.
"Charlie I see you have your watch dog with you." Maddy made jest referring to Colt but the underlining inference was serious.
"Would you like me to leave?" Colt suggested sarcastically.
"No don't be so prissy. It was a joke, why don't we take a table?"
At first the conversation was general and inclusive of both but as the night drew on, it was obvious Maddy was only interested in Charlie and getting him into her bed.
Eventually Charlie grew tired of dodging Maddy's innuendos and touching. Maddy was a toucher, a gentle hand on one's shoulder as she spoke, a light touch to the knee, while delivering a point. She also touched with her eyes and Charlie could feel her stare burning through his clothing as the conversation turned to school days.
"Didn't you and Colt get it together back at school?" Charlie asked in attempt to divert her interest away from his person.
Colt sat back from the table, his arms folded and his head gently shaking in disapproval, gritting his teeth against his friend's line of questioning. Maddy laughed and finished her drink, looking directly into Colt's eyes she answered.
"We tried but he's too big and I was inexperienced." By Maddy's tone of voice, being big wasn't intended to be a compliment but more a suggestion of abnormality.
"You're experienced now." Colt curtly suggested.
"I don't think I'm that experienced, but Charlie here." Maddy cut short her verdict and went for more drinks.
"Are you suggesting I have a small dick?" Charlie protested.
Maddy turned, "I don't know how big it is but there's one way to find out."
"You do know her old man's on the selection committee?" Colt asked.
"Do you really think I would fuck her just to play cricket?"
"Nope I think you have much more class than that."
Maddy returned with her Pimms and two beers. "Charlie there's a disco at the town hall next Friday night would you like to go?" She asked.
"Look I'm sorry Maddy but as I said, I have someone I'm sorta interested in back home." He paused, "why don't you ask Colt?" Charlie's suggestion came with much tongue placed firmly against cheek.
"I don't dance." Colt quickly interjected. It was true he had never taken a dance step in his life. He had often witnessed his parents waltz around the kitchen, fully costumed in ballroom gear, stepping across the linoleum to strange music from countries whose names he couldn't even pronounce but never had the wish to join in the frolicking.
Colt flashed Charlie a disapproving glance, which was returned with a cheeky smile.
Finally Maddy accepted she was defeated and Charlie was beyond her conquest. Oddly her character changed and she became more pleasant to both boys, while keeping an eye on those at the bar. It appeared by her mannerism, she had caught Eric's eye. He winked, she smiled and obviously it was on for the night.
Eric may have believed Maddy had balls but he liked a woman with a measure of enthusiasm. In Eric's opinion a hole was a hole and true to his hedonistic sexual attitude, or what Colt believed to be so, he would screw anything with a hole, in or out of a skirt and according to previous conversation within the group and by his own confession, Eric had on the occasion entered the back passage of both sexes. When it was suggested he was gay, he boisterous declared, he wasn't the fag as he was on top. It had been Rowan Mathews, a cricketing colleague who had made the gay reference. "So you would shove it up some bloke's arse?" Matthews asked as the group feigned protection to their rear ends.
"If I was hard up enough I'd think about it."
"How about Straub shove that bent donger of his up your arse?" Matthews humorously suggested, while Phil Straub announced his rejection to the task.
"Shit no, I'm not a fag, besides my arse is an outlet not an intake."
"You're full of shit Chambers."
Yet with Eric it was difficult to comprehend where fact and fantasy commenced or ended. He did enjoy shocking people to observe their reaction.
Another wink and a second smile and Maddy left the table without as much as a parting greeting and joined Eric at the bar. Moments later she was running a long painted fingernail along the fabric of Eric's jeans, halting within touching distance of becoming indecent.
"Eric's in for the night." Colt tersely commented.
"It appears your Maddy's a bit of a mole."
"She's not my Maddy and has always been a little free with herself. Suppose she's no different than most of the blokes around town. If they can spread themselves around why can't she." Colt paused, "except not with me."
"It's different with a girl." Charlie proclaimed,
"I don't see why, come on lets make it a night, the air in here is getting a bit stale."
It was well past midnight; Colt and Charlie were relaxing on the front verandah enjoying one last cold beer before retiring for the night. Max was lying at their feet, occasionally scratching at a flea and shaking its ears about when one chanced to enter there and tickle as it ran about searching for a good place to bite.
One of the horses had come into the house yard and was using the bottom upright to the stairs as a scratching post. Rubbing its rump vigorously against the timber, it sent a shudder along the railing to the verandah.
"Clear out!" Colt shouted, sending Max in a scurry of legs down the steps to bark profusely at the horse. The animal bolted back across the yard and both boys laughed.
"I love this time of night," Colt admitted. "The breeze in the trees, the crickets, frogs, night birds the lot. One could almost believe there was a god."
"Do you believe in god?" Charlie asked.
"I don't either."
"I was thinking Charlie; maybe folk don't actually believe in god but are frightened not to believe but I do believe in wonderful nights like tonight. What else could you ask for?"
Charlie refrained from answering, he couldn't think of more to add to the mixture, as mere words would only kill the atmosphere while he sunk deeper into the comfort of his friend. He finished his beer.
"Want another?" Charlie offered but neither did.
"Did I tell you I have a younger brother?" Colt asked but Charlie remained silent. "His name's Toby and I'm going to try and find him." Colt added then once again both fell silent while listening to the night. Sometime later Colt spoke. "You know silence has a sound of its own and it is louder than any noise you can make."
"Most astute," Charlie said not quite understanding what was meant but felt he must say something. He listened carefully to the night but heard nothing but the slight breeze through the branches of a close by tree and the occasional night bird. Maybe that was Colt's sound of silence.
Inside the ancient mantle clock struck once. It had done so twice before that night, therefore it should have been half past the hour but being a good twenty minutes fast it was just past the hour. The striking drained the ambience from the night, replacing it with realisation of tiredness. Colt yawned and gave Charlie a gently push with his boot.
"I was almost asleep." Charlie declared.
"Bed," Colt suggested and stood to lean on the verandah rails. Moments later the sound of running water was apparent.
"You know Charlie between you and me and the cricket crowd, we've killed off every plant down there." He laughed as the flow subsided. "I suppose it's what is known as taking the piss."
"Come on feller," Colt called, Max quickly bounded up the stairs, from sentinel against the horse's return, to stand at Colts side; his tail - his whipper-snipper, going at twenty to the dozen.
"Go to bed boy." Colt gently demanded of Max, who instantly went to the old couch set up at the far end of the verandah for its convenience, as there wasn't room for the three of them in Colt's bed.
"Are you coming?" Colt suggested turning towards Charlie who without answering followed. Colt bolted the door against early visitors, in the guise of Mavis, who didn't comprehend the art of knocking, often arrived early without notification, while coming from or going to some meeting or another.
In the darkness, hands softly caressed smooth velvet skin feeling the strength beneath, while lips ran gently along backs and buttocks and played with nipples. Charlie paused. He laughed.
"What is it?" Colt asked.
"I want to try something." Charlie said with humour in his tone.
"What would that be?"
"Do you remember what Maddy said earlier tonight?"
"She said a bloody lot."
"Yea but she said, even now you would be too large to enter her."
"What are you suggesting?" Colt asked. Charlie paused then continued.
"I want to be one up on her," Charlie said.
"You are and always will be."
"No what I'm getting at is you're too large to mount her, so I want to be one up on her and want you to mount me." Charlie again gave a nervous giggle and fell onto his back, staring into the darkness within the room, not believing what he had suggested.
"I've never been in anyone, are you sure?" Colt asked surprised at his friend's proposition.
"No – but I still want to try."
It was fortunate Colt had locked the door the previous night as before the two had the chance to raise from his bed there was a loud knocking at the front door. Charlie grabbed his gear and scurried back to his own room while Colt pulled on a pair of pants and bleary eyed, answered the door.
"Oh Mavis you're up early." He yawned. Mavis as usual without invitation pushed her way past into the house.
"Coffee East, I haven't been home all night and your place was the closest on my return." She looked around especially through Colts open bedroom door, noticing the disarray of bedding and scattering of clothing. "Where's your fancy friend?" She asked while heading for the kitchen.
"Still in bed I suppose, where I should be."
"You are both usually up at this hour, isn't he going to work?"
"It's the weekend Mavis, what time is it?" Colt yawned.
"It's after six and you are usually up with the horses." Mavis filled the kettle. "Why was the front door locked?" She asked and searched for the coffee. It wasn't in its usual place.
"Where's the coffee?"
"It's in the end cupboard, Charlie's rearranged the cupboards."
"Why would he do that?"
"I don't know, to make it easier to find things I suppose."
"Again what's with the locked door, that's not like you?"
"There's been a few robberies around of late." Colt answered.
"Then why lock the front and leave the back door open?" Mavis didn't miss a trick. She appeared as someone on an information fishing trip. In her biased opinion, two women living together were economising, two men were homosexuals.
"I forgot anyway where have you been at this hour of the morning?" As Colt spoke Charlie, making departure from his own room as obvious as possible, joined them in the kitchen.
"Good morning Mavis," he yawned long and wide. Stretching his arms he forced a weak smile.
It appeared Mavis had been visiting a sick friend who lived some distance from town and stayed the night but had to leave early to attend some committed meeting.
"How did you go with Louise?" Mavis asked as the boys sat silently at the kitchen table, coffee in hands but too early for conversation.
"She acknowledged Toby's existence but had no idea how to find him and gave me one more reason why I don't respect my parents."
Mavis wasn't accepting her nephew's depiction of his parent's character and told him so.
"I can forgive them for treating me like property – no I correct myself, more like a chattel but to give away my brother for no other reason than they wished to travel, that I can't forgive them." There was growing anger in Colt's tone an unforgiving anger that he would always carry.
"It's past now East and there's nothing you can do about it all, as for you brother? I wasn't around so I can't help you but I do understand how you feel."
Mavis' words didn't help, instead they had an adverse effect on her nephew and he was in the right mood to tell her so.
"I don't accept that Mavis how the hell can you understand when you gave away your own child." Colt cruelly spat the words at his aunt.
"That is unfair East, I was no more than eighteen when Dennis was born and I didn't have any choice. Don't forget it was a different world back then and the legal age was twenty-one. It was your Grandmother who gave him away, besides as soon as Dennis was old enough to understand, I contacted him and explained what had happen."
As Mavis spoke, Charlie, not wishing to be part of Colt's family matters, asked to be excused, "shower time," he declared and left the room.
Colt lowered his anger into silence, while Mavis collected her thoughts. It was physically obvious her nephew's words had hurt her greatly and equally clear she was strong enough to ride out his outburst.
Eventually Colt calmed and spoke. "I'm sorry Mavis that wasn't called for, I apologise."
"Accepted and if there is anything I can do to help you find this brother of yours, just ask." Mavis finished her coffee, "I suppose I should be on my way."
"Oh Mavis there is one other thing. Harry is coming for a few days."
Now it was Mavis' turn to show displeasure.
"Where is he staying?" She asked abruptly.
"Here at the farm."
"Does Charlie know about Harry?"
"You mean does he know your brother's a poof." Colt asked sarcastically as their momentary truce appeared to end.
"Yes that about the measure of it; you don't want to air the family's dirty linen in front of strangers."
"I think we both did a good job of that this morning and yes Charlie knows about Harry and is fine with it, besides Charlie will be back in Mt. Oakey for most of Harry's visit."
Mavis stood to leave, "Fair enough East it's your house but keep him away from me and Judy." Colt followed her to the door.
"Harry knows that."
Colt watched as Mavis clumsily managed the stairs. Her weight was becoming a problem and she had commenced to puff even while walking and obviously with each visit the long ascent of the front stairs was becoming more of a burden. Once at her vehicle Mavis turned, grimly smiled and waved. Colt returned the wave and went inside, joining Charlie in the bathroom.
Sitting on the toilet seat Colt watched his friend shower.
"Sorry for embarrassing you with Mavis." He offered.
"No worries, she can be a little in your face." Charlie answered his eyes closed against the fall of the water, while his soapy hands slid silently across his youthful body.
Opening his eyes he discovered Colt captivated by his action. He smiled and winked.
"Do you think I went too far with Mavis?" Colt asked.
"It's not up to me to say."
"Sometimes she really gets under my skin and her skin is so thick you couldn't penetrate it with a shovel."
"Get in with me and finish what we started before Mavis arrived." Charlie offered. Colt enthusiastically obliged.
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