The Odd One Out
Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
It was during a quick dip in the now cold water of the river when the thought materialised. Colt lay naked on the bank where the warm winter's sun met the cold of the water and tingled along the length of his body. Firstly he thought of Charlie and the distance that existed between them. He remembered Harry's telephone call and reminder that if he didn't act, he may lose Charlie completely. Then of Eric's party and his words, 'if you won't come to us, then we'll come to you.'
"I'll get him a new car." Colt spoke loudly and laughed louder, wondering why he hadn't thought of doing so earlier. His thoughts were interrupted. Feeling he wasn't alone he opening his eyes and was met by the stare of a young lad standing close by.
"Hello mister," The lad spoke, his eyes directed at the crotch of Colt.
"What are you doing here? This side of the river is private property." Colt growled and reached for his shorts. Standing he confronted the lad but more out of surprise rather than menace. The young stranger stood his ground, his head lowered away from Colts rebuff.
"I often come here, I like your horses." The lad answered softly. Colt quickly dressed while evaluating the lad. All of sixteen, maybe younger, slender with a mass of long brown curls bobbing about on his head in the slight breeze and falling to almost cover his eyes. Blue they were deep and sad while his lips were upturned at the corners to give a permanent smile. He was dressed in tattered board shorts and mustard to yellow coloured top. Colt believed he had seen that top before but only a glimpse of it within the scrub.
"Where are you from kid?" Clot asked as he had not seen the lad around the town before.
"I'm no kid, I'm seventeen, will be eighteen soon and I live with my dad beyond the gibber the other side of town." The stranger answered.
"What's your name?" Colt asked.
"Sorry - Vail Brown,"
"So Vail do you think it's proper to be sneaking up on someone when they are naked?"
"Sorry mister but I've seen you swimming many times and didn't think."
For a time both stood looking at each other without conversation. Colt resting his hands on his hips, while Vail with his head cocked to one side, squinted against the sun's glare.
"Do you go to school?" Colt eventually asked, feeling he must ask something as the lad, who without invitation sat himself on the grass close by.
"Na my dad says I'm too dumb to teach, I finished up early this year." Vail answered, while pulling straws of grass and chewing on their ends.
"Are you?" Colt asked as his first perception of Vail was that he was far from dumb or stupid.
"Dumb?" the kid answered.
"Not as dumb as my dad."
As they spoke Colt noticed bruising on the lad's upper arms and across the back of his legs. "How did you get the bruising?" Colt asked.
"Rather not talk about it."
"You're a little on the skinny side." Colt remarked.
"Suppose I'll fill out and play football like you." Vail answered hopefully.
"You're leaving it a bit late, do you like football?"
"I like watching you in the ruck."
It was around lunch time and Colt was about to return to the house. He collected his towel and commenced to walk away while Vail remained seated on the grassy bank.
"Are you expected home?" Colt asked.
"Dad's away for the week with work, he does fencing; He's supposed to be back Tuesday, if he doesn't hit the piss."
"Who's looking after you?" Colt enquired and commenced to leave.
"I am; I can sorta cook and look after myself, besides I've been doing for myself for years." The lad's admission pulled a heart string in Colt, relating it to his own upbringing.
Three more steps towards the house and Colt paused. He turned. "Are you hungry?" He asked.
"A little, there's no food left in the house." Vail answered.
"Want some lunch?"
Without answering Vail rose from the grass and tagged in behind Colt, reaching his side half way across the horse paddock.
"So you like horses?" Colt asked. Vail nodded.
"Can you ride?"
Vail shook his head."
"Oh by the way, I'm Colt."
"I know that but only to your friends otherwise you're Russell and your aunt calls you East."
"Shit mate you're spooky, how come you know so much about me?" Colt gave a shudder.
"I like football and horses and you like both." Vail answered proudly.
The two walked in silence until they came to the house yard, "That's your favourite horse." Vail pointed to a roan mare."
"What brings you to that conclusion?" Colt asked.
"That's the one you are always riding."
Lunch consisted of salad and cold meats and the lad ate a second helping, followed by two mugs of tea.
"When did you have your last meal?" Colt asked somewhat astonished at the amount of food such a small fellow could put away.
"The day before yesterday but I had some biscuits last night," Vail admitted while devouring another portion of cold meat.
"Where did you get the bruising?" Colt asked remembering the patches of dark skin on his upper arm and the back of his legs.
"I'd rather not say." Vail once again answered and paused his eating.
"Did your dad do that to you?"
Vail recommenced his meal but refrained from giving an answer.
"If you don't wish to say how, that's fine but if you're ever in trouble and need someone to talk to you are welcome over here and don't send yourself hungry again, come and see me – ok?"
Vail nodded but remained silent on the matter.
Colt watched the young lad cross the bridge, turn, and wave then took the road towards town. He felt sorry for the lad. Vail appeared so fragile although under that brittle exterior there was real strength, if only he was given the chance to show it. He was obviously not backward. His speech above normal for his age, his knowledge sound and he knew horses, even if only from the pages of a book but he had understanding and a zest to know more. Colt knew he hadn't seen the last of the lad and would endeavour to discover more about him.
Mavis rang on the Saturday as Colt was about to walk into town to do his weekly shopping. She had information on Judy's wedding. It was soon and he was invited. Truthfully Judy, knowing Colt's dislike for family functions, demanded he be there and for him to invite Charlie. Colt explained it may be difficult for Charlie to attend but Mavis persisted. Judy wanted him there and therefore it would be Colt's job to make sure he was.
Before going to the shops Colt made a detour to the town's Holden dealership. If Charlie was to attend the wedding, it would be a good time to surprise him with a new Holden utility. The idea excited him as he lengthened his step towards the car yard. He could imagine Charlie's face, sitting behind the steering of a new vehicle, with himself beside as they travelled around town. Even to visit Mt. Oakey, or another camping expedition to the Cumberland's. The thought spurred him on towards the dealership.
Bloomfield Holden had become Caldwell Holden. The dealership had recently changed hands and was now run by a man, William Caldwell, who was up from the city, with city ideas and city ways. Artificial friendliness and false concern but was the only dealership in town, if you wanted Ford, it was necessary to travel to Mt. Oakey, anything else, you would have to travel further.
Colt had been on friendly terms with Stan Bloomfield but had not yet been introduced to the new proprietor. Approaching the car yard Colt made a bee line towards the row of shiny new vehicles without first visiting the office. Moments later Caldwell appeared, hovering over him like an eagle on a rabbit.
The yard held only one utility and it was cherry red. Shining like a bright new pin in the morning sun. Supporting a large cardboard price tag across its windscreen, 'Forty seven thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars.' Colt opened the door, allowing a rush of newness to tempt his senses.
"Can I help you?" Caldwell asked from close behind, as Colt poked half his body into the cabin of the utility. 'Bucket seats', he thought, 'Charlie's vehicle had a bench seat.' Extracting himself he stood beside the vehicle.
"Maybe," Colt answered.
"I have two good condition second hand vehicles over the back." Caldwell said, while appraising the status of his potential customer.
"And you are?" Colt enquired, running his eyes from the man's highly polished shoes, past his rotund gut to his hawkish features, supporting what appeared to be a very black toupee, with natural grey hair showing around its join.
"William Caldwell, I'm the new proprietor." The man introduced and offered his fat clammy hand with its stubby fingers and hairy knuckles. Colt reluctantly accepted the offer and introducing himself, while quickly developing a strong dislike of the man.
"What makes you think I'd be interested in one of your second hand vehicles?" Colt asked once he had extracted his hand from Caldwell's clammy grasp.
The salesman didn't answer but possibly the fact that Colt had not dressed for the occasion influenced his opinion. Before him stood a young man smelling of horse feed and manure, his tea shirt stained and torn, while his jeans appeared as if they had been buried in the earth for some length of time and were torn at both knees.
"Do you have this model in some other colour, red is somewhat in your face." Colt asked.
"I can get one in most any colour you like but it may take some time." Caldwell explained.
"Don't have time; I suppose this one will have to do."
"Don't you wish to take it for a test drive?" Caldwell asked some what put back by the directness of his customer.
"It's new isn't it?" Colt asked
"Yes it only arrived yesterday and I haven't had time to put it in the show room."
"Then I'll take it, I guess they all drive the same."
If it were possible to see dollar symbols in someone's eyes it would have been so in those of Caldwell, also his manner changed, Colt was no longer a hick covered in horse shit but a customer and the only true customer he had that week.
"Come inside Mr. Blake and we will talk about finance." Caldwell suggested. Colt followed the overweight man with the hair piece into his office.
"Would you like coffee or tea?" Caldwell offered and clicked his fingers at a young girl in the next office.
"Nothing for me thanks," Colt declined as Caldwell waved the girl away.
"Now how would you like to finance the vehicle?" Caldwell asked, "We have some good deals with Holden Credit if you wish," he continued before colt could supply his answer.
"I don't wish to finance it." Colt answered.
"Then how -,"
Colt cut across Caldwell's question mid sentence.
"Cash, private cheque or bank cheque, which would you prefer?" Caldwell appeared stunned by Colts offer to pay in cash.
"Bank cheque would be fine."
"What discount would you give if I bought two?" Colt asked.
"Yes two, how much discount?"
Caldwell thought for a moment and answered, "Ten percent is about a much as I could offer."
"Give me twelve and it's a deal on two vehicles." Colt declared.
"Twelve it is but why do you need two?"
Colt ignored the dealer's request. "Firstly I'll pay for the one in the yard now, and give you a deposit for the second but the red ute has to be registered in another name. The second has to be white or grey; none of these fancy colours and that will be in my name."
"That wouldn't be a problem but it may be around a month before your second vehicle arrives, there has been a backlog and I was fortunate to have the one in the yard."
Caldwell quickly extracted two sets of sale documents from his drawer before Colt had a change of mind and commenced to write.
"The one for me can wait, I'll pay a deposit but I want the other right away but you will have to wait until Monday when the banks open for payment. Is that alright with you?"
It was, the sale of one vehicle was good measure but to sell two to the one customer was a first, even for Caldwell's city experience.
If anyone were to know of Frank Brown, Vail's father, it would be Mavis. Saturday afternoon, after the mundane experience of shopping and the excitement of purchasing two vehicles, Colt visited his aunt but said nothing about his purchase.
Mavis had heard of Frank Brown through her Country Women's Association: That he had been separated from his wife for many years and had a son but little more, except what Colt already knew. He was a fencing contract, had a violent temper and hit the grog.
"What about his son, couldn't something be done for him?" Colt asked his aunt, displaying concern for the lad's wellbeing.
"How old did you say he was?" Mavis asked.
"He only looks fifteen but maintains he is seventeen; almost eighteen."
"Then he's almost of age, did you say he was a little backward?"
"He claims his father said so but he appears quite normal to me." Colt explained, his concern growing for the lad's welfare.
"Well unless he reports the matter, there is nothing that can be done."
Mavis slapped her plump hands against her portly thighs and stood away from their afternoon tea, "I have work to do; you can stay and talk if you wish but the housework won't do itself." With much exaggerated clatter she cleared the table. "If you want to talk to Dennis I think he's in the shed: He's supposed to be raking up the leaves."
"No, I should be on my way." Colt smiled. To him the house was spotless. Still Mavis would clean and dust and polish regardless.
As Colt was leaving Mavis called after him, "Judy has a friend who lives in Mt. Oakey; she can bring your fancy mate over for the wedding."
"That's fine, I'll let Charlie know."
Close to Mavis' gate Colt chanced upon Dennis as he rounded the side of the house carrying a large bamboo rake more as an optional extra than a work tool.
"Afternoon Dennis, I see Mavis' got you working." Colt commented.
"Just a few leaves but they can wait until later."
"Leave them long enough and the wind will do your job for you." Colt suggested.
"That's about the plan -Been shopping?" Dennis asked the obvious, seeing Colt had his hands full of supermarket bags.
"Looks that way Dennis, how's it going living with your mother?"
"Couldn't lend me twenty?"
"No but I have a few jobs need doing over at the farm. Tell you what I'll give you twenty dollars an hour." Colt offered, although he wasn't in need of help, believing his proposition would be a way of making his cousin realise the value of money and work.
"I'll give it a miss I'm not that hard up." Dennis opened the gate to allow Colt passage.
"I could give you a lift home for taxi money." Dennis offered as Colt reached the footpath. Colt declined with a shake of his head and a laugh. "What were you doing at the Holden Dealership?" Dennis added.
"None of you business mate, how did you know I was there?"
Graeme Payne said he saw you this morning. He also said you seemed to be checking out some ute."
"You're unbelievable – see ya." Another shake of the head and Colt was gone from his cousin's company.
"Are you going to Judy's wedding?" Dennis called after his cousin. Colt turned on the call and answered.
"Suppose so why do you ask?"
"No reason - just interested."
"Sure thing Dennis, I'll be there."
"Is Wysie coming back?"
"I don't know why?"
"I thought you may have a room for me." Dennis if nothing was persistent.
"I don't think so Dennis, see ya."
That evening Charlie rang after tea sounding somewhat miserable but on hearing Colt's voice brightened. The conversation as usual was centred on Charlie's mother's condition and how they missed each other's company, followed by a measure of dirty talk, with suggestion one or the other or both was performing manual manipulation.
Eventually Colt conveyed the news about the wedding and with much difficulty refraining from mentioning the utility, only he had a surprise and it would have to wait until Charlie arrived for the wedding.
"What is it?" Charlie asked in a most inquisitive fashion.
"You'll see when you come over."
"How will I get back home after the wedding?"
Although it had been arranged for Judy's friend to bring him to the wedding, she would be returning to Mt. Oakey soon after. Charlie wished to stay the weekend with Colt, on doing so, he would have to find alternat arrangements for the home journey. Charlie therefore showed his concern.
"Don't worry about that, I have arranged something." Colt assured.
"What's this surprise you have for me?"
"You'll see, I'm not saying."
"Come on you know you can't keep a secret for long." Charlie insisted.
"This time I will."
"Come on mate, what's the surprise." Charlie begged but no matter how he did so Colt remained stolid, it would have to wait.
"Oh I almost forgot, I was having a swim down at the river and some kid turned up."
"I hope you had your pants on?"
Colt neglected to mention he was naked at the time, or that Vail appeared to be interested in his tackle, instead conveyed the kid's interest in horses and appeared to have an abusive father and needed someone to take his side. Charlie agreed that he should do something but for him to be careful not to upset the father, as he didn't wish to come to a funeral instead of a wedding.
"Now about your surprise you have for me?" Charlie reiterated.
"I said you will have to wait."
"Come on Colt, you know you can't keep a secret." Again he begged.
"This one I can."
"Is it bigger than a bread box?" Charlie humoured.
"You said size doesn't count."
"With surprises it does."
"I'm hanging up now." Colt threatened and with a silly giggle he did so.
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