The Odd One Out
Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved
Once back home Colt had much to organise. He would need to find someone to build the chair ramp and turn the back rooms into private living for Meg. There was already a bathroom and toilet but would need modifying and a bedroom of reasonable size, also a small lounge area but a couple of walls would need to be demolished and another built. Then there would need to be a kitchenette, one that would be user friendly for someone in a wheel chair. He thought of Eric's Father, he was a builder.
Vail had managed well in Colt's absence, having a riding lesson every night, while sneaking a ride around the farm at other times on his own but it was his love of horses that held most of his interests and as Colt drove across the bridge he spied Vail in gallop across the flat from the river, with Max boisterously bringing up the rear.
"Don't push that horse too hard." Colt called as Vail brought his mount to pause beside the rail fence of the house yard.
"I won't, I only galloped her from the river when I saw you arrive."
"Have you had lunch?" Colt asked approaching to check the condition of the mare. She appeared to be fine.
"No I've been waiting for you; how's Charlie?"
"No worries, I'll give you the news over lunch – come on."
On the Tuesday, as arranged by Eric, Colt took Vail to obtain his learner's permit, which locally was issued at the police station. Vail true to his nature stirred the pot so much, Clem Ryan decided to ask twice the questions he would usually ask but Vail also being, in Ryan's words, a smart little bugger, answered every question precisely, even correcting the sergeant's interpretation on one occasion. The lad came out of the station in a bound, his face lit with success.
"So you got your learner's permit." Colt surmised.
"You will have to wait until Eric believes you're ready to go on the road."
"The learner's permit says I can go on my own except between midnight and five in the morning." Vail protested.
"Maybe so but it's still up to Eric."
Eric didn't arrive that afternoon for Vail's lesson, instead he arrived much later, his reason being, he wished to watch Vail's night riding, even if it were only around the paddock, on the service road and across the bridge to the main road and return.
Eric arrived just before dusk and found Vail motoring up and down the drive to the gate but no further.
Standing with Colt he watched as Vail went through the paces. He passed through the gate, across the bridge and back. Eric instructed him to do so again, this time a little faster. Finally Eric had the lad cross the horse paddock to the river and return at half throttle. Vail returned faster than was directed, skidding the wheels in the gravel and spraying the small stones across Eric's feet.
"Piece of piss mate." He bragged.
"Maybe so but when you're riding a motor bike, you only make one mistake and it's usually your last. Being over confident was your first mistake, so no more of this piece of piss, alright." Eric growled at the lad's flippancy.
"Now across the paddock again, this time return between those two trees but at a slower pace." It was growing dark but enough daylight remained not to need the bike's lamp.
Vail obeyed but couldn't understand why he had been instructed to return at a slower pace. On his way back he slowly passed between the trees, having to do so because of undulating ground, then came the topple, Vail went one way and the bike fell the other. Fortunately he was almost stationary when the bike threw him. He wheeled the machine back.
Eric shook his head, "what did I tell you?" he asked sternly.
"I know I know you said my first mistake could be my last." Vail was unhurt and unshaken, prepared to remount the bike that threw him.
"I sent you that way to teach you a lesson." Eric said.
"You knew about the ditch?"
"Yea when Colt and I were kids, I came of the very same bike in the very same spot, except I broke my bloody arm." Eric related.
"You could have got me killed!" Vail protested.
"Not if you followed my instructions and you did." Eric checked the machine. It was fine.
"Yea you check out the machine but don't see if I'm hurt." Vail again protested.
"Are you hurt?"
"There you go, lesson learned, so I guess you're almost ready for the road."
"After tea we'll do some night riding and there are a few buts." Eric added.
"Here it comes." Vail answered.
"Firstly no riding late at night, you only ride around town and to school and only as far as the water hole to the east and Benton's bend to the west."
"I agree and one other thing Eric, I really appreciate the time you've taking teaching me. I really do, even if I don't sound as if I do."
"Yea I know, let's go inside and have dinner." Eric said and turned back to Vail, placing his finger firmly onto his chest, "another thing no drinking and riding, its zero for you or you'll lose your flaming licence before you get it." Vail agreed.
"I'll set the table." Vail offered and disappeared into the kitchen.
"I saw Maddy in town the other day, she's really big now." Colt related while fishing for information.
"Yes it should be due soon." Eric offered indifferently.
"Did you ever discover who the father is?"
"She won't tell anyone but I have my suspicions." Eric answered obviously not wishing to continue with the conversation.
"It wasn't me." Colt gently protested as a lure to extract his friend's suspicions.
"I know that and I know all about the episode behind the school, it's Maddy's favourite story." Eric gave a smirk then continued. "It wasn't Charlie either, although she tried hard enough, besides the two of you don't lean that way."
"You know something Eric being as you say odd, doesn't mean you can't do it, it's a preference not an obstruction."
After dinner Eric took Vail to establish how he managed riding at night. Half an hour later he believed the lad was confident enough to go on his own. Returning to the house Colt offered them both a beer. Vail declined, having some revision to catch up on he left the two talking on the front verandah. His final exams were only weeks away and although he felt confident enough, there was always that topic he should have studied but thought it wouldn't matter.
"Did you speak to Charlie about cricket?" Eric asked, sitting on the top step his legs stretched downward and the thumb of his left hand hitched under the band of his jeans. He finished his beer, lifted from the step and went for more. "Want another?" He asked returning with two without receiving an answer. Colt accepted the beer.
"I did talk to Charlie."
"What's the verdict?"
"He is going to come and live here on the farm and go back to his job at the Golf club."
"What about the cricket?" Eric wasn't much interested in the living arrangement, only if they would have their spin bowler or not.
"He will play,"
"Great Ferguson will be pleased and that gets him off my back." Eric released a relieved breath. "When's he coming?"
"That depends on your dad." Colt explained.
"Why does it depend on the old man?" Eric answered sharply, the information was extracting somewhat piecemeal, making him impatient.
"He's a carpenter, is he busy at the moment." Colt asked.
"Na not much around,"
"You know Charlie's mother is invalided since the accident?" Colt asked and Eric admitted he knew but couldn't see what her invalidity had to do with his father. "Well she will be coming to live here as well as Charlie and I need to have some alterations to make it easier for her."
"Shit mate you also get the mother-in-law?"
"It is something like that but I like the lady and when it comes to his mother Charlie is stoic and I respect that in him."
"Don't mind me I'm jealous you have someone. There's been no one since Sandra dumped me, have had to use the hand." Eric held his right hand up in front of his face and smiled, "and how about tonight my love, care for a bit?" Wrapping the same hand around his beer can he moved it up and down as if masturbating. "Don't suppose you'd give me a hand job eh?" He said grinning at Colt.
"You're not serious – are you?" Colt frowned.
"That my friend you will never know. I'll have a word with the old man tomorrow about the job, other than that, I must be off." Eric placed his empty can beside that of Colt. He stood, glancing back into the house. "Keep an eye on the kid with that bike. We don't want him going like a madman, as he still has a lot to learn."
"No worries but I think he's sensible enough." Colt assured.
"Maybe, but you know kids, think they are invincible."
Eric released a weak smile, remembering only a few short years previous, he was Vail and as invincible, tearing around town unlicensed, with Colt on the back of the very bike. Also of the warning Sergeant Ryan gave and the thrashing he received from his father; As for Stan's attitude on the incident, Colt didn't even receive a ticking off.
Eric called to Max who quickly came to his side. "Come on feller, I'll race you to the car." Both descended the steps at pace with Max in the lead. "Be seeing ya." Eric shouted back from his vehicle's door.
"Clown," Colt called after Eric as he closed the door against Max's chasing game. "See ya," he echoed and was gone.
As Eric's vehicle crossed the bridge Vail came out from his room and sat himself close to Colt. He fiddled with the empty beer tins.
"Do you want a beer?" Colt asked. Vail shook his head.
"Did I hear Eric drive off?"
'You did and he said I'm to watch you not to go teararsing around on the bike."
"You should know I wouldn't do that." Vail answered most indignant to think Colt would think otherwise.
"Have you finished your revision?"
"I like Eric." Vail stated his gaze lost within the stars.
"In what way would that be?" Colt asked.
"No way, I just like having him around. It was fun when we looked after the farm together. He was so afraid he would screw things up on you and after Sandra left I did his cooking."
"Did you like Sandra?"
"She was bossy and treated me like a kid." Vail said.
"So you didn't like her?"
"She has big tits." Vail laughed. "Eric likes big tits."
"Do you like big tits?" Colt asked but only received a shrug of the shoulders and a conversational change.
Extracting Vail's true character was like fly fishing, a little at a time, then when you believe you have hooked him there was nothing and you would have to wait for the next instalment.
"Do you mind Charlie and his mother coming to stay?" Colt asked.
"I like Charlie almost as much as I like you. I don't know his mother but I am sure I will like her also." Vail answered honestly.
"Do you remember your own mother?" Colt asked.
"I was only seven when she left. Oddly I can't remember her face. I can picture the outline of her body and her head but in my mind her face hasn't any definition." Vail paused, still fiddling with the beer cans. Colt let him continue without interruption. "I can even remember her favourite dress and its colour. I can see the lot, her hair her arms everything but her face. What do you think that means Colt?"
"It doesn't mean anything. Even after two years I'm having trouble in picturing my parents. It's probably our mind's way of handling loss." Colt answered.
"I suppose you're right."
"Did you love your mother?" Colt softly asked.
"I think so, she was kind but dad would beet her until she could no longer take his cruelty. She wanted to take me with her but dad said if she did he would find us and kill her." Vail took a deep breath and by his posture didn't wish to continue further.
"Would you ever wish to find her?" Colt asked.
"I don't think so, maybe in some year's time but for now I want to be me and know who I am. I couldn't do that with her any more than I could with dad."
"Have you thought more about doing stock work or going to university?" Colt asked but Vail hadn't, saying it could wait until after his exams and Christmas.
"I suppose so." Colt agreed.
"I've never had Christmas." Vail announced somewhat sadly.
"You know mate neither have I in the true sense of the word, my parents didn't do Christmas they didn't do birthdays either, just showered me with dumb useless presents at any time without reason. I think they believed it to be the correct thing to do." Colt paused and released a weak smile. Realising it was now his turn for deep and meaningful conversation. He continued. "We did sort of have Christmas dinner but no trimmings or decorations and definitely no tree and if dad and mum were in the right mood they would go to church as an outing."
Colt's admission filled Vail with ease. He wasn't the only person who had missed out on the simple things in life. Maybe Colt's parents didn't bash him like Vail's father did but they obviously maltreated him psychologically.
"Dad gave me a belting last Christmas day." Vail sadly announced.
"What was that for?"
"I knocked over his last bottle of beer and it smashed on the floor." Vail answered and released a soft laugh. He could now laugh at the past, as he was free from his torment and happy. Colt reached out for the lad and bodily dragged him closer, embracing him in a manly cuddle, while Vail allowed the affection.
"Do you want to ride the bike to school tomorrow?" Colt asked after a lengthy silence.
"I would, if you think I'm ready."
"Eric said you are; be careful and we will all do Christmas together this year, Christmas tree, presents, dinner the works."
"I would like that."
"So would I Vail, so would I and we will have Charlie and his mother and Toby here as well and it will be a fine Christmas for sure."
Colt watched as the lad returned to his room, "Good night," Vail called back and turned off his bedroom light.
"Good night mate, see you in the morning." Colt proudly answered.
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