The Odd One Out
Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
The drive to Mr. Oakey was the longest distance Colt had ever driven a vehicle and he found the experience most exhilarating. He even discovered a country programme on the radio, turned up the volume and sang along poorly with the music. He had brought some of his discs with him but had difficulty using the player. Each time he place a disc onto the tray, it came right back out at him. He would have to scrutinise the manual at a later time, or maybe ask Charlie for instructions.
During the previous week Eric arrived each evening after his work for Vail's lessons. The lad improved in leaps and bounds and by the third day he wanted to take the machine out onto the main road. Eric wouldn't allow him to do so, not until he had his learner's permit, which Eric promised to arrange for him the following week.
Colt had reservations leaving Vail in charge of the stock for the days he would be away, as the lad was much ingrossed in his riding lessons, also his school exams were close but Vail promised he would manage. Besides if he was in any trouble he could always rely on Eric. Eventually Colt agreed and told Vail he would tan his hide if he played up. Vail in his usual cheeky forthright way declared he may enjoy the punishment.
Becoming tired of the radio or to be truthful the sound of his own voice Colt switched it off. Once more his thoughts drifted to Vail and his sexuality. Was the lad gay or playing at being so? He often declared he didn't like girls but seemed to watch them while in public and most of his school friends were female. He also accepted Colt's relationship with Charlie as natural and had suggested he could join in. Was his suggestion serious or only his usual banter? The lad also seemed delighted catching Colt or Charlie naked whenever the chance availed. Yet with all his bluster he never once forced the issue.
Did Colt think of the lad sexually? He may have once when they first met, on that warm day as he lay naked on the river bank. Maybe later as well but there was always Charlie and he would never do anything to hurt Charlie. As for now and as according to Eric, Vail had become like a son or maybe a younger brother and that in itself was enough to prevent anything from occurring.
Colt had punched Charlie's address into the Satellite Navigation and no sooner had he passed into Mt. Oakey's town limits a voice in badly pronounced English advised him to turn right at the approaching round about. Colt did so and seconds later the same voice instructed him to make another turn and the house was on the left. "You are at your destination." He was finally advised as he pulled into the kerb. Moments later Charlie came bounding down the three steps, his face as bright as ever.
"You found the place." He called as Colt alighted.
"I didn't the Sat-nav did."
Colt collected his overnight bag and followed Charlie into the small weatherboard cottage. Inside was dark and cool with polished boards running the length of a long narrow hallway, leading into an equally dull kitchen at the rear.
"Mum's in the kitchen."
Colt followed Charlie down the passage.
"Hello Mrs. Wyse." Colt greeted.
"It's Meg, and just as well you arrived, Charlie has been fussing over lunch all morning, checking the time every five minutes.
"Mum I have not!" Charlie protested offering Colt a cold beer. Colt accepted seating himself at the small laminex and chrome kitchen table, with its plastic table cloth and vase of paper flowers. Charlie removed the flowers before setting the table.
The house was not only small but obviously not wheel chair friendly. Anytime Meg needed to leave the house, she and the wheel chair had to be manhandled down two steps at the rear or three at the front. Also there wasn't any turning room in the hall, if she wished to turn she would have to open one of the bedroom doors, enter the room and turn around before once again entering the passageway.
"How have you been Mrs. Wyse?" Colt asked while taking notice of the inept design within the house.
"Some improvement Colt but I'll never be the same again and as I said, it's Meg."
"Sorry, just a habit my parents always instructed me to call people by Mister or Misses and family friends, aunt or uncle."
"What if the lady wasn't married?" Meg questioned.
"You have a point there Meg."
"Good you have it at last."
"How long will you be staying?" Charlie asked.
"I'll go back Monday morning I have Jack Hubbard from Brolga station arriving after lunch to collect a filly I sold him.
"You actually sold one of your precious horses?" Charlie laughed.
"I will probably need to sell some more, I'm becoming overstocked."
Charlie fussed with the meal and commenced to dish it out. "Seeing you're here you can give me a hand, mum would like to visit an old friend who is housebound and so you can help get mum in and out of the car."
"You don't mind do you Colt?" Meg asked.
"It would be a pleasure Meg."
After dinner Colt helped Charlie with the dishes. Settling Meg by the lounge window with her book the two took a walk.
"What was it you wanted to tell me?" Charlie asked as they returned to the house.
"I haven't forgotten but I will wait until we are with your mother."
"It must be serious."
Once back inside Charlie boiled the kettle. Meg thought it would be nice to have coffee for a change. "You don't mind coffee do you Colt?" She asked. He didn't and Charlie presented a small brown paper bag. "Mum I got you a couple of those nice cakes you like from Herbert's Bakery."
"That would be nice love."
They settled with their coffee.
"Mum Colt has something he wishes to say." Charlie impatiently reminded.
"What would that be dear?" Meg asked of her son.
"I don't know, he wouldn't tell me until we were with you." Charlie answered.
Meg again asked, directing her question towards Colt.
"What would that be Colt?" She questioned.
Colt took a deep breath and commenced. "I can't help noticing the house isn't exactly designed for someone in a wheel chair."
"True but we don't have the money to renovate." Charlie interjected.
"You should have asked me." Colt put forth.
"You've done enough already, I can't keep asking you for things." Charlie explained.
"You can and should but that isn't what I wish to suggest. You know my house is much too big just for me and Vail so I could put in a wheel chair ramp at the rear and turn those back four rooms into a flat. Why don't you and your mother come and live with me?"
"I couldn't do that love." Meg protested.
"And why not?"
"Because," Meg was lost for grounds.
"See Meg you can't give me a valid reason and it would mean Charlie could play cricket for us." Colt gave a broad grin while waiting for Meg and Charlie's decision.
"I don't know," Meg said.
"I'll tell you what, don't make a decision right now but don't leave it too long either, as the cricket season starts soon and we need Charlie's dumb waddle up to the crease and his bowling arm."
Late in the afternoon the boys took another walk. There was a creek near by, its banks lined with bottle brush where parrots shrieked their protest as they passed.
For some time the boys walked in silence. The babbling of the water along the creek's stony bed was tranquil, almost hypnotic, and then the creak opened out into a deep still pool, loosing its soothing qualities.
"I do like your suggestion but I don't know if mum will want to leave the house." Charlie said.
"Does she have many friends in town?"
"She wouldn't need to sell the house and we could bring her back whenever she wished."
"I still think mum may wish to remain with the memories of dad. It hasn't been that long since the accident."
"We'll see, give her a day or so and we will ask her again." Colt suggested.
"How is Vail going with his bike riding?" Charlie asked as they paused to become seated on the green slope of the creek's bank.
"Great he goes for his learners next week. Do you swim in there?" Colt added, pointing towards the pool and where rocks held back water as if it were a natural dam.
"Some of the town kids do."
"Are there any crocs?" Colt mused.
"Only minnows," Charlie answered seriously, without comprehending Colt's question on crocks. "You know the more I think of your suggestion the more I like it." Charlie announced.
"Good than we're half way there."
After tea Colt sat with Charlie and Meg in the lounge. The television tuned to some detective show while Meg watched inattentively. Something had been bothering Colt most of the afternoon and as the show finished and Meg dozed in her chair he asked Charlie in a whisper. "I've noticed there are only two bedrooms, what are the sleeping arrangements?"
"Mum has the front room and we're in the next, there's a double bed." Charlie innocently explained.
"Yes you and me in a double bed - together."
"With your mother in the next room?" Colts voice rose and fell as quickly to become a whisper.
"I'm not asleep you two." Meg said and opened one eye.
"I'm sorry Mrs. Wyse but." Colt paused he couldn't think of anything to follow but, except embarrassment.
"It's alright, I'm a sound sleeper." Meg declared.
Eventually it was time for bed and time for Colt to face the double bed with the mother-in-law close by. A most nerve wracking experience he perceived.
Once Charlie attended to his mother he showed Colt to their room with its dark wood furnishings and double bed, covered with the most girly bedspread Colt had ever encountered.
"Did you used to sleep under that?" Colt taunted.
"Not usually, my stuff is over at your place." Charlie quickly denied ownership.
"I don't know; I still feel somewhat coy with your mother in the next room."
"Don't worry she knows the score."
"I could use the couch." Colt protested.
"Bull shit, think about it, if me and mum come to stay at your house you and I will be bunked together, so get use to it." Charlie demanded.
"Suppose so but no funny business." Colt agreed.
"You came all this way to see me and no funny business. I'll keep it quiet."
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