The Odd One Out
Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
During breakfast there was a light taping at the front door and Max bounded out to investigate. He commenced to bark. Charlie was closest so he went to discover what the commotion was about. Moments later he called.
"Hey Colt there's a young feller here who wants to talk to you."
"He said his name is Vail."
"Bring him in."
The lad nervously entered into the kitchen with Charlie close behind. He was a sight and seemed even thinner than previously, while his eyes lacked the lust for life a lad of his age should have.
"Vail what brings you over this side of town so early in the morning?" Colt asked. His head over a pan full of sausages and eggs, while the toaster was busy browning bread and the smell of breakfast filled the room. The lad remained silent. "Have you had breakfast?" Colt asked. Vail said he had not.
"Then you must have some, grab a chair and sit yourself down." Colt added more sausages and eggs, "you haven't met Charlie." Charlie offered his hand and the lad hesitantly accepted but without applying pressure. Charlie released the timid grip and set a third placing at the table.
"Yes I've seen Charlie before." Vail admitted as he settled into the conversation.
"Where would that be?" Charlie asked.
"I've seen both of you swimming down at the river."
Immediately Colt realised it would have been Vail whose presence he more felt than saw the day he and Charlie were swimming. If so he would have seen them naked on the bank and Charlie as he teased Colt into erection with a straw of grass and maybe even other times when they went further. What would Vail perceive from such actions? Colt blushed red and served the meal.
"Do you often spy on people?" Charlie asked. His tone disturbed by Vail's disclosure.
"No I just happened to be there. I don't spy – honestly, I wouldn't do that."
"Is your dad back from fencing?" Colt asked.
"He won't be back until Tuesday and then he's off again; I think."
"Has he left food in the house?" Colt asked.
"It's all run out."
Colt gave Charlie a glance, who nodded in agreement. "Then you come here for your meals until your dad returns. Do you want to learn how to ride?" He added and the lad's eyes lit like two beacons.
"It's Colt not sir." Colt corrected.
"Oh Colt I would love to."
After breakfast Colt took Vail down to the horses and had him familiarise with one of the quieter mounts but decided not to give Vail lessons until after Charlie had driven his new cherry red beast back to Mt. Oakey. Besides he didn't want to share the short time they had together with anyone, also they wished to take the utility for a test drive, as the only distance it had travelled was from the car yard to the farm and Colt had used it for shopping twice and once to the Cricket club.
Sunday afternoon Charlie had a visit from Les Ferguson, wishing to know if he could rely on him for the cricket team. Charlie couldn't answer as he was still responsible for his mother's wellbeing but as Colt was seeing Les off he had a quiet word. He had an idea, a plan and if it came to fruition, he would surely have Charlie in town for the commencement of the season.
Sunday night Vail arrived for his meal, Colt cooked a roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings. Potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and a large bowl of peas with butter. The kid ate as if there wasn't any tomorrow.
After his meal Vail stayed for some time playing Colts Country music and appeared to be most entertained with the genre.
"I don't know how you can listen to that rubbish." Charlie commented, aimed at both Colt and Vail. The lad ignored Charlie's comment and wound up the volume, while Colt released a mocking smirk.
As Vail was leaving Colt reminded him about his riding lessons the following day, Vail proposed he should stay the night, advocating he could sleep on the old couch the dog used on the verandah. Colt declined the lad's suggestion as he only had time with Charlie until the following morning and having the lad around would most definitely cramp his style.
Monday morning arrived much too quickly. With the new day, almost before the sun, so did Vail nearly catching the two in bed together. The front door was open and Vail marched in without knocking.
"Didn't you dad teach you to knock before entering someone's house?" Colt complained, meeting the lad in the hall as he was returning from the toilet.
"Sorry I didn't think, besides the door was open." Vail apologised and hung his head.
"Don't worry but remember an open door doesn't mean come in, you may have caught me undressed."
"I have already seen you naked." Vail declared robustly.
"So you have but it's different in the house." Why so Colt hadn't a clue but it sounded like the correct statement for the situation.
After breakfast it was time for Charlie to leave, saying their farewell away from the prying eyes of Vail.
"He's not a bad kid." Charlie said while walking towards his bright new utility.
"So you don't mind if I help him out?" Colt asked.
"Not at all, I would do the same and he's not dumb at all. A little forward but be careful, if his old man is as bad as you say, he could cause trouble. It maybe a good idea to speak to the old man first." Charlie warned. He reached the utilities door. As he opened it a rush of newness met him, reminding him once again of his friend's generosity.
"I take your point; I'll go over and see his dad when he returns."
Charlie didn't wish to leave, feeling most guilt in accepting the gift but Colt was persistent, besides what would he do with two vehicles, keep one for Sunday best?
"Be sure to call me as soon as you arrive home." Colt said, closing the vehicle's door with a fresh new click.
"I will," Charlie promised then slowly drover towards the bridge. Colt watched until the last of the cherry red vehicle disappeared amongst the trees.
"Right its time for your first ride." Colt bounced up the stairs to where the lad was waiting. "Are you ready?"
"Sure am." Vail replied.
Board shorts, not the best for riding. You need something covering your legs or the saddle will rub all your hair off and chafe your upper thighs." Colt explained, looking down at the lad's thin hairy legs.
"I didn't think." Vail answered.
"Tell you what, I'll lend you an old pair of Charlie's jeans, they will be much too big but at least the length is almost right," Colt found the jeans and handed them to Vail. "There you go try these."
Colt expected the lad to pull the jeans over his board shorts but instantly Vail removed the shorts, displaying the fact he wasn't wearing underwear and all he owned.
"Shit mate, I didn't mean strip." Colt protested.
"I've seen you naked so what does it matter?" Vail innocently answered.
"It matters a lot, what would your dad say."
"Don't know he doesn't say much, only with his fists."
The pants were on and looking most comical, having to be fastened to his waist with a length of leather but suited the purpose, now it was to the horses.
A quiet mount had already been saddled and waited patiently tethered to the horse paddock fence. Calmly the two walked towards the horse. "You always approach from the front," Became Colt's first lesson.
"So you don't spook it." Vail answered.
"Correct, what else do you know?" Colt asked.
"You always mount from the left." Vail stated, approaching the animal without fear and gently patting its neck. "Correct again, the left is the near side and the right is the off side, and that doesn't mean you dismount from that side." Colt commented.
"I know that but what is the reason for using the left?" Vail asked.
"That my friend is lost in time, probably to keep it uniform and as you suggested not to spook the horse, or as I have been led to believe, something to do with mounted soldiers and their swords, not to stab the poor animal." Colt paused and gave a third suggestion, "or maybe because most people are right handed."
"Sounds good enough," Vail answered and failed to perfect his mounting, falling back on his backside before breaking into laughter. The horse stamped its hoof and moved away snorting.
Colt also laughed. "You can't learn that procedure from a book. Come on get up and have another go, this time wait for my instruction."
Colt instructed and the lad climbed into the saddle like someone mounting a ladder. Perfection would come in time. Colt adjusted the stirrup straps to Vail's leg length, now could he remain perched up there without tumbling off. Vail did and held the reins adequately, while his posture was more like a sack of spuds about to topple. Soon he found his upright as Colt led the mount around the yard. Vail's face changed to delight. He was riding.
"Can you ride a bicycle?" Colt asked.
"I can but I've never owned one. I learnt on a school mate's bike but after buckling a wheel riding over a gutter, he wouldn't let me use it again."
"Well balance is much the same as riding a bike. How does it feel to you?" Colt asked.
"Great, I love it."
The lesson lasted most of the morning with Vail actually going solo at a slow pace around the house yard. He may have lacked style but appeared confident and listened to Colt's every word. The lad also appeared to understand the animal's mood and a gentle pat of the neck or whisper near its ears calmed the beast.
"I think we have a budding horse whisperer here." Colt phrased at the lesson's end.
"I love horses and want to be a ringer." Vail admitted as he awkwardly dismounted, while for a short period loosing his land legs and the ability to stand upright. The skill quickly returned.
"What does your dad think of that?" Colt asked.
"He said I wouldn't make a ringer's arse hole."
"I think in time you will make a good horseman." Colt praised. "Come on let's have some lunch."
On the way to the house Vail couldn't stop talking about his ride. Did you see this? Or did you see that? The way the horse turned and when it shied at Max I didn't fall off." The lad was so happy it was as if his youthful heart would burst with joy.
Once on the verandah Vail again stepped out of Charlie's jeans and stood for some time in nothing but a grubby yellow tea shirt, still talking about his ride.
"What did I tell you about undressing in public?" Colt reminded.
"Sorry Colt I forgot but you're not public." Vail pulled on his board shorts and followed Colt into the kitchen for lunch.
During lunch it was quiz time, Colt felt he needed to know more about the lad. Firstly he asked about his schooling and found Vail had been doing well in his final year but his dad made him leave. It appeared the old man was a failure and couldn't bide his son outshining him, therefore he denigrated the lad, either verbally or with his fists, at every chance and still the lad had time to smile, be polite and wish to learn. Vail's position almost brought Colt to tears, making him even more determined to help.
Vail stayed through the afternoon, listening to Colts music and playing on the computer. He was surprising as he knew his way around the computer at lightning speed, even fixing a few faults caused by Colt's lack of knowledge. It was now the student instructing the teacher and although Colt wasn't interested in computers he listened out of respect for the lad's developing self-esteem.
After the night's meal Colt decided it was time for Vail to leave for home as his father was returning the following day, promising he could ride whenever he wished and somehow Colt would have Vail's father agree.
"Don't think you will have much luck there." Vail sadly declared.
"We can only try and as I said, if he keeps hitting you tell the police."
"Could I stay here for the night?" Vail suggested.
"No mate it wouldn't be right, let's see what happens with your dad."
Colt stood for some time on the verandah watching as Vail waved back from the gate, crossed the bridge, waved once more and was on his way back into town. As the lad finally disappeared from sight the telephone sounded. It was Charlie calling as promised, to say he arrived home safely. Once again giving gratitude for the utility; again he declared it was too much but did admit on returning home, he drove it into the garage and sat behind the wheel for almost an hour, fiddling with the switches in disbelief the vehicle was his and had remained there until he heard his mother calling.
Colt also spoke of Vail's riding lesson and how quick he was in learning but didn't say anything about his computer expertise, not wishing to make Charlie feel redundant in that field. Again Charlie agreed with Colt's intention to help the lad but was much too excited about his utility to give further advice.
"I'll have one in bed for you tonight." Charlie concluded.
"You grubby little bugger." Colt laughed.
Late in the evening while Colt relaxed on the verandah with a beer listening to the night life. His thoughts returned to Vail and how the kid came to life around horses. He smiled while visualising the lad naked without shame and how innocent he was in being so. Nothing appeared to stress the lad, not even his father's ill treatment. Colt realised he must approach the father no matter what eventuated.
Before doing so he would let Vail know of his intention but first he needed to learn more about the father.
At last Colt had something to take his mind from missing Charlie. He still did so but Vail had given him a new direction. He allowed his thoughts to return to the day he had met the lad while naked on the river bank. How long had Vail been there and what had been his intention? Colt did question Vail some time later, discovering he had been returning from visiting the horses when he chanced upon Colt but didn't elaborate further.
It had also crossed Colt's mind, it may have been Vail who left the gate to the river paddock open some days earlier but the lad had promised it wasn't, as when he visited the horses, he would climb through the fence and not use the gate but during one such visit, he did chance upon two younger boys throwing stones at the horses. Vail professed he shouted at them and after throwing stones at him as well they quickly left.
The snorting of a horse diverted Colt's thoughts from the chance meeting with Vail to dwell on how he was going to approach the father. How would he approach a man who obviously lacked respect or love for his son and would it be possible to convince him Vail had the ability to become a horseman? Colt had little experience in dealing with aggression. Normally he would walk away and had never swung a punch in anger. If Vail's father were to become aggressive, what would he do? Maybe he should ask Eric to go with him when he made his visit but possibly with two the father may feel threatened. Colt yawned and called Max back to the verandah.
"Bed time feller," Colt suggested and gave another long loud yawn.
"What do your reckon?" He asked Max.
"You haven't a care in the world."
Colt gave Max one final pat and retired to his bed.
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