The Odd One Out
Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
More than two months had passed and the football season was almost at its end. The local team didn't maker the finals and the blame was laid upon the shoulders of Colt. Now, with the approaching cricket season, pressure was being placed on him to step up to the batting crease.
Eric Chambers had been given the task to visit Colt and obtain assurance he would be playing. He arrived at the farm soon after the monthly team meeting, which once again Colt had not attended.
"Will you be playing?" Eric asked as the two sat on the front steps watching Max round up half a dozen horses that believed the grass was greener around the house. One frisky animal kicked out at the dog as it came a little too close. Colt called Max away.
"You know when that dog arrived he would run a mile even if one of the horses looked at him." Colt explained, shaking his head at the animal's bravado.
Max bound up the stairs and sat between Colt's legs, his head resting in his lap while two sad eyes looked up towards Colt.
"You didn't answer me." Eric protested.
"You know your way around a horse?" Colt asked.
"Yea dad had horses and I've looked after your lot before, why?"
"I'll tell you what; I'll make sure I play if you will do something for me; I may even be able to get Charlie to play but he probably won't be able to practice here in town. Well not for a while anyway."
"What's your deal?" Eric asked suspiciously.
"Some time in the future, before the cricket season I want to take a little trip and if you look after the place while I'm gone, I'll play."
"That sounds a little like blackmail."
"Na you know I would play even if you say no."
"What trip is that?" Eric asked.
"Nothing's planned yet but it may be for two or three weeks, do you think you could manage for that long?"
"I reckon I could."
"What's happened to you car?" Colt asked realising Eric had walked to the farm. Usually his friend would drive no matter the distance.
"The front end's gone and Clem Ryan said if he saw me driving it around town he'd give me a yellow canary."
"What's the front end?" Colt asked, feeling somewhat silly having to ask what was probably an obvious question.
"Well the problem is actually a bent tow rod, which means the car's going sidewards like a fucking crab." Eric placed both hands together, palm to palm and veered the union off to his left as if it was a crabbing car.
"Are you going to have it fixed?"
"Eventually but I haven't the readies at the mo."
"How much will it all cost?" Colt asked.
"There are a few things to get it roadworthy, Fry quoted fifteen hundred."
"I'll tell you what, you take it to Fry's Garage tomorrow and I'll give him a call. I'll pay for it." Colt offered.
"I can't let do that." Eric protested.
"Why not, I can afford it, besides you are always running around for me and I've borrowed you car often enough."
"Are you sure? I'll give you the money back as soon as I've saved it." Eric promised.
"No when you've made your fortune will do."
Two beers, a third and Eric's imagination and thoughts were travelling to his tongue. "How come you gave up the football?" He asked. Colt was slow in answering. How could he admit the absence of Charlie had taken away his drive? Being around the team, listening to their conquests, their girlfriends their wives, only made his missing for Charlie more acute.
"Just time I guess." His justification appeared as weak as the breath of air that carried it.
"Funny it happened the same week as Wysie left town." Eric concluded.
"Coincidence, that's all." Colt assured as the horses slowly returned to the yard, "stay Max," He warned the dog while it strained to once again chase after them.
"Not only that but you've been a right pain in the arse since he left." Eric added.
"Do you think so?"
"We all do."
"Suppose I did become somewhat used to having him around." Colt admitted.
"I think it's a little more than that mate." Eric suggested and opened a fourth beer. Colt remained silent, his large strong hand running across the back of Max, bringing the animal to a state of bonding ecstasy.
"Come on mate, we've all known about you for years. The way you never look at girls, never talk dirty, never date them. We also noticed the way you couldn't keep your eyes off Wysie when he played for Mt Oakey."
"Oh." Was all Colt could say. What else could he say, he was the boy caught with his hand in the biscuit barrel, being discovered to be the odd one out and didn't like how he felt. Denial would be fruitless as it wouldn't change his mate's conclusion.
"Look you're a mate and so is Charlie, it doesn't matter where you put your dick, besides the town's full of poofs." Eric paused and reworded his statement, "full of odd people." He couldn't use the word gay; as it didn't project the characters of either Colt or Charlie. Another pause, "well are you going to play or not?"
"As I said if you look after the place for a couple of weeks."
"That sounds like a deal." Eric offered his hand to seal the promise and Colt accepted with a week and nervous smile.
Eric continued with a cheeky smirk. "As I said I don't care where you put your dick but I wouldn't want that thing near me, Wysie must be a brave man."
A suggestion Colt left unanswered, being much too embarrassed to respond but did realise a measure of recognition in Eric's statement, as he had once used the same line while acknowledging Harry's sexual preference. More circles within circles he thought.
"Well mate, we all expect you to play." Eric insisted while standing to leave. After taking a single step down the stairs he hesitated. "About the car are you sure? It's a lot of money."
"Of course I'm sure, I wouldn't have said so otherwise, I'll ring Fry in the morning."
"I feel a bit guilty."
"I better be going and you be at the next meeting." Eric reminded.
"I will I promise."
"And for Christ's sake go and visit Mrs. Blake, once my motors up and running you can use it, I'll look after your flaming horses."
Eric's divulge of Colt's sexuality didn't fit well with him. He became paranoid, thinking everyone knew about his association with Charlie. They were all staring at him. The women in the supermarket, the mothers with prams in the street, the school kids on their way to school. They were looking and whispering, yet nothing was spoken, while everyone treated him as they always had. Still he kept his visits into town to a minimum, while avoiding his mates as often as possible, which was duly observed by Eric and the team. Even Mavis became concerned for his lack of contact. She called and to Colt's surprise nothing was said. If she had heard the rumour, she would be the first to criticise. Possibly it was true that only his immediate cricket mates were suspicious of his oddity. Maybe he could cope with that.
It was more than a week after Eric's visit before Colt found the courage to convey Eric's suspicions to Charlie, who didn't appeared to be concerned at all. Proclaiming they both had been outed but Colt announced it to be easy for Charlie as it was only to his mother, not his mates and likely the town. Still Charlie wasn't perturbed. His belief was there would be a week of gossip before it would become old news and forgotten.
"I promised Eric I would try and have you bowel for us." Colt conveyed during their conversation, diverting from his displeasure of being outed.
"That would be hard seeing I don't have transport and I'm not living there." and it would be somewhat cheeky travelling with the Mt Oakey team to play with your lot." Charlie answered.
"I guess so but I'll think of something, how is Meg?"
"Much the same, she has been asking why you haven't visited."
"I'd love to but like you I don't have the transport and there's no bus service." Colt became despondent. He continued, "Did you do anything about the ute?"
"I had the local mechanic take a look but again it wasn't worth the trouble. I've sold it for scrap."
"How much did you get?"
"Fifty bucks and the bloke said I was lucky for that, he should have charged me to dispose of it."
The conversation ended with neither seeing a way to end their collective problem and Colt feeling more isolated than he had previously. Sometime he thought of selling everything and drifting, where to he couldn't say. He didn't know anyone outside the district and had no idea how to live in a city, as for travelling that was something his parents did before he was born and after his birth complained bitterly how a child restricted them.
Colt may have thought of selling but he knew he could not. His love for horses was too strong, even a matter of days away from them weighted heavily on him. Now there was Charlie who came to him from nowhere and after creating the whirlwind was gone. Not for ever but when would he return, could he return.
Darkness was physically and emotionally upon the Blake property as Colt sat silently on his top step, Max by his side, both gazing thoughtlessly into the night. His thoughts were neither at home nor with Mt. Oakey, more so lost beyond the tree line of the river, beyond the dark outline of the Cumberland Hills, somewhere in the pool at the base of the water fall.
It was all too much for Colt and as he sunk deeper than he had for days, he noticed a line of car lights approaching from town and crossing the bridge. The vehicles, eight in all, quickly came into the yard and parked in a line below the stairs, while noisily spilling their contents onto the gravel.
"Hey Russell it's party time." Eric was the first out and bounded up the stairs carrying a box of beer, followed behind by many from the football and cricket team.
"What's the party for?" Colt asked, somewhat perplexed but their spontaneous visit.
"It's for you, you dumb cluck." Eric declared boisterously and passed by into the house, dumping his box of beer on the kitchen table.
"We've brought our own music as well, none of that country crap you listen to." Stan Sullivan the full back shouted from the lounge room as he placed a disc into the player. Instantly head thumping music devoured the atmosphere.
"Why?" Colt asked confused by sudden show of attention.
"If you won't come to us, we decided to come to you." Eric said and passed a can of beer to Colt. Moments later Colts lounge room was crowded with beer drinking sweaty blokes and not a female to be seen. "Another thing no birds mate just us blokes but we don't want you getting ideas alright and we expect you to be at the next cricket night as well."
"Hey Colt get in here." Paul Straub called from the lounge.
"It's not a hen's night so get out of the kitchen you lot." Rowan Matthews demanded from beyond the kitchen door.
"Were coming Matthews keep your dick in your pants." Eric bellowed back as he pushed Colt towards the gathering.
Being accepted by his mates for himself was inspiring and uplifting but his dull ache for Charlie remained. Still Colt refused to put his feeling to words. Describing it as love was beyond his capacity for understanding the emotion, besides men didn't love men, even if he had already admitted so. He may desire their bodies but believed he did so in a blokie way, without girlish influences, with tears and volumes of pointless words spoken to those who didn't actually care.
As for his mates, they didn't seem concerned, as long as he didn't try it on with them, or speak those volumes of pointless words he remained as always. To them he was their champion batsman, or the once ruck who with a little prodding in the right direction would be so once more. Or was Colt or Russell their mate.
Some day's after Eric's impromptus party, Colt received an equally unexpected telephone call from his Uncle Harry, who with Wayne was to travel north and thought Colt may like to join them. Colt declined the invitation and for the moment kept his finding of Toby to himself. If Harry was travelling to Cairns and beyond, knowing his uncle's character he would not be capable in refraining from travelling west to visit Toby, doing so before Colt had the opportunity himself and with Harry's flamboyancy and Wayne as his travelling partner, Toby may be scared off the Blake family even before Colt had the chance to meet him.
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