Castle Roland

The Odd One Out

by Gary Conder


Chapter 7

Published: 5 May 16

The Odd One Out

Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved

Odd Man Out Logo

Sunday's church bells seemed to sound louder than usual, bringing with them memory of the accident. Eventually they faded and so did Colt's thoughts on his parents, to be replaced with those of his uncle.

Harry had left the previous Sunday promising to visit once more when he had some leave owing. Colt had also met Wayne, who appeared quite normal, not quite the gay, girlie type painted by his Aunt Mavis and both he and Harry would have fitted in well at the cricket club bar, as long as they didn't cuddle.

On hearing the church bells, Max as usual sang along while Colt sat on the verandah shaking his head and laughing at the dog's stupidity.

"Bells mate; they are only bells, not some flaming dog pack." He told Max but the dog showed little interest in its master's explanation and kept on howling. "Suit yourself."

Colt stretched the lethargy from his arms and shoulders and left the verandah. Max, fearing he would miss out on something, soon followed but found itself a tad too close to a brooding mare, causing both the dog and the horse to shy. The horse bolted back to the main paddock while Max trotted nervously against Colt's leg, all the while its head turned towards its adversary and tail cautiously between its legs, as if protecting its balls.

"What's up feller, did the big bad horse scare you?" Colt asked laughing loudly at the dog's nervous disposition. "You will have to get use to horses, they are here for keeps."

Max wasn't so sure.

"What do you think feller shall we break into the Blockhouse for Mavis?"

Max didn't care, still shadowing Colt's trouser leg as if part of the fabric in fear the big bad horse returned.

The house, being on high stumps, had ample room to stand beneath although to the rear it was much lower, at arse height to a tall man. Where red backed spiders hid in dark corners and Devil-devils the larva of the ant lion built funnel shaped traps in the fine dust.

As a child Colt would spend hours tormenting the small creatures by dribbling spit down the side of their funnel trap. The tick like devil-devil would believe it to be dinner and scurry disappointed into the funnel to find nothing but a soggy ball of dust and spit.

Pre-electricity, in the days of boiling the copper, the wash house was below, also a bath tub found close to the copper for access to boiled water, all in in-situ and if one had the inclination, was ready to use. There was also a large tool shed built to one side filled with a multitude of implements. From spanners to garden shears, from lawn mowers to post hole drills, neatly displayed and mostly new.

Stan had had an obsession for tools. He couldn't pass a hardware store without buying something, even if there were already three of its kind in the shed. Unlike the house the shed was always immaculately tidy and every tool had its place. Many marked out on the wall, so one would remember where to return it. There were hooks for spanners, some carrying two or three or more of the same calibration and jars of screws, bolts and nails. Also three lawn mowers, one a push motor mower still in its unopened box, one in use while the third a ride-on but no longer working and as in the days of Stan still carrying the promise to be mended. The shed was a handy man's paradise, or nightmare depending on one's point of view.

Colt found a jemmy hanging on the wall inside the door, its form marked out by a thick black line as if it was a body marker in some murder film. Beside the jemmy were a number of hooks with locks hanging from them. He remembered the chain on the gate he had promised to lock but it could wait.

"This should do the trick." Colt collected the tool and marched to the Blockhouse with ill intent towards the side door and with some effort the jemmy did its work.

With a splintering of timber the lock was sprung and he was in, amongst the smell of dust and mould and years of neglect. Most of the contents hadn't seen the light of day since his Grandfather's time; maybe even longer.

Inside the door Colt found a switch. He flicked its brass and bakelite housing. Instantly an ancient bulb, dangling from a long and frayed cord, illuminated the area in a wash of weak yellow light.

"Christ, what a lot of:" Colt refrained from announcing his conclusion. He couldn't. He was about to determine the contents to be junk but instead it was a museum set in memory to his grandfather's life and maybe even his grandfather's father.

Around the walls of the Blockhouse was a hundred years of collecting and centred, in almost perfect condition, a dusty single seat buggy, its four large spoked wheels dominating a black leather canopy, while along the timber sides, in faded but elegant gold lettering, were the words, 'Blake Estate.'

Colt could imagine himself perched high and handsome upon the leather seat, trotting along the main street to park innocently in front of Turner's Supermarket, taking two parking spaces, one for the buggy and the other for the horse, while attracting an inquisitive crowd. He could also imagine being ran out of town by a host of killjoy parking inspectors and over zealous councillors but there were always the back roads and fire tracks and maybe he could find a good trotter amongst his mob. Smiling upon the idea he commenced to rummage through the rest of the collection.

There was every contrivance imaginable but nothing electrical, except for one ancient bakelite wireless with a missing cord and a broken glass dial cover. If it didn't have a small petrol motor, it was push power, objects with handles that need energy and time to operate, from butter churns to ice cream makers and gramophone record players, ancient bicycles and clocks and things he had no name for, or understanding of their usage.

There were also Boxes of books and 78RPM recordings made from bakelite, all packed neatly but full of dust, mouse droppings and spiders along with sheet music partly devoured by silverfish and piano music rolls - and on and on.

Colt eventually became tied of looking through the contents of the Blockhouse and left to telephone his aunt.

"It's about the stuff in the Blockhouse." Colt explained, "There's a lot that may interest you but most of it wouldn't fit in the shop, you may have to have a garage sale."

Mavis was most interested. As a girl neither her nor the boys were permitted to enter into their father's sacred Blockhouse, even the windows had been blackened to prevent them from developing interest. As for Stan, once he inherited the farm he had lost any inclination to explore the Blockhouse and forgot it altogether. How one could forget the existence of such a large building was beyond belief but Stan managed, while Colt had seen enough of junk in the house not to wish to see more in some locked shed.

Mavis arrived within the hour and declining coffee marched directly to the Blockhouse. By her arrival Colt had managed to open the front barn doors from the inside, allowing sunlight to touch on ancient wonders for the first time in decades. The air hung heavy with dust and the smell of antiquity.

"Well I never," Mavis declared gushing with excitement, quickly fixing her eyes on the buggy.

"Sorry Mavis you can have everything except the buggy." Colt directed as if he could read her thoughts. He was correct the buggy was her first choice, thinking it could raise quite some for her charity.

"That's a shame I should think we could get a couple of thousand for it."

"You can have the rest." Colt explained as Mavis ran a long painted finger nail across the buggy's painted words.

"You didn't know your Grandfather Blake, did you?" Mavis asked, rubbing dust away from the gold lettering.

"Not really he died when I was quite young." Colt could read Mavis like a book as she built pressure for the buggy. She was a most determine woman, lacking any acceptance or understanding of the negative pronoun.

"He was a right stern bugger and mean as cats pooh."

"You still can't have the buggy Mavis."

"Shame, some museum would pay good money for it."

Colt took a deep breath and forced it from his chest, "I'll tell you what Mavis, you have it valued and I'll give you a donation of its value."

Mavis agreed as it was money for her charity and not ownership of the ancient mode of transport that interested her. Now all that remained was how to arrange sale of the contents.

It was obvious it all wouldn't fit in the shop and to hire the cricket ground or some such venue would cost money.

"How about a very large garage sale," Mavis proposed.


"Or maybe an auction; why not have it here." Mavis put forward, being more a demand than a suggestion. Colt agreed but placed a caveat on her request and that was, he would help with setting up but wouldn't be around on the day.

"So when would you like to have this sale?" Colt asked.

"It may be a while, I'm somewhat busy at the moment and I would have to arrange help from the Woman's Associate and find tables and clothes racks."

"Alright the stuff is yours but not the coach and as I said, I won't be here on the day."

After much time rummaging through the Blockhouse, Mavis agreed to coffee. Colt boiled the jug.

"What did Harry have to say for himself?" Mavis requested her tone moderate, not wishing to sound too interested in her wayward brother, while attempting to obtain as much comfort as possible from the wooden hight back chair. It wasn't working and Colt watched in amusement as the overflow of skirt and his aunt's posterior almost hid the seat from sight.

"Not a lot Mavis, he has a good job in some insurance office and I believe a nice house in the suburbs." Colt offered.

"Is he still a homosexual?" She asked, her nose rising and twitching with the thought.

"I suppose once gay, always a gay." Colt asserted allowing a measure of displeasure to colour his answer, while feeling somewhere deep within that part he would not allow to surface, his aunt's affront was also against him.

"I don't like that word gay," Mavis complained.

Although Colt could never use the terminology to include himself, it was chosen because he lacked other descriptive vocabulary.

"I don't much either but It's only a word Mavis."

"Maybe so but it somehow attempts to normalise their behaviour." Mavis gave a shudder as she spoke. She could not imagine having sex with another woman and couldn't comprehend how a man could or would wish for sex with anything but a woman.

"You may be right but Harry's not a bad bloke and comes across like any other feller you would meet on the street, or in the pub." Colt assured. He paused and smiled, "he doesn't wear a dress or bangles you know."

"Still their behaviour isn't right and you shouldn't encourage him to come here." Mavis again shuddered, while again twitching her large flat nose at the thought.

"Anyway enough of Harry, what are we going to do about this massive garage sale of yours?" Colt asked.

"I'll arrange it and let you know." Mavis finished her coffee, "any chance of a refill?"

There was and as Colt filled her cup he paused. Something was heavy in his thoughts and that something was the existence of his younger brother Toby. He had searched for more information around the house but without success, believing if anyone were to know, it would certainly be his aunt.

"Mavis there is something I have been meaning to ask you for some time." Colt spoke, his voice inquisitively toned.

"What would that be East?" Mavis helped herself to a third chocolate biscuit.

"What happened to Toby?"

"Who is Toby?" Mavis asked apparently unaware of anyone with that name.

"Going by a birth certificate I found, Toby is my younger brother and was born when I was around two years old."

"Sorry East, I don't know anything about your Toby and if your parents had another baby I am sure I would have known about it. Besides I was living down in the city during those early years. I wasn't even here for your birth." Mavis finished her coffee and gathered her belonging into her carry bag.

"The birth certificate appears authentic." Cold assured and went to the drawer where he had placed the document for safe keeping. Returning he passed the certificate to Mavis.

"It looks authentic enough. Has all the right information about your parents and the signature does look like your father's but sorry love, I haven't anything to add."

"It's a right mystery," Colt continued while collecting the dishes and placing them in the sink.

"You've a dishwasher, why don't you use it?" Mavis suggested.

"It's not worth it for one, just as quick to use the sink."

Mavis stood to leave but couldn't find her car keys. Once again she emptied the contents of her bag onto the table allowing the bunch of keys to fall from deep down in the cavernous bag.

"I don't know; women and their bags." Colt jested.

"That will be enough cheek from you young man, besides isn't it about time you thought of marriage yourself?"

"There is plenty of time for that Mavis; if at all."

"You don't want people to think you're like your Uncle Harry." Mavis protested.

"He was your brother first." Colt objected to the insinuation.

"Well my boy enough of that, If you want to know more about your parents during your early days, you could ask Louise but you should be quick as her mind is growing leakier by the day."

Louise Bradford resided on the far side of town and was cousin to Mavis and Colt's father. She was much older than they and lived alone while quickly sliding into old age and senility.

If Mavis could be called a gossip, she was a mere amateur compared to Louise and with the two together no one in town was safe from innuendo.

"I might just do that, is she well enough to receive visitors?" Colt asked.

"I should think so." Mavis assured.

"I haven't seen Louise since I was a kid; dad would visit with parcels of food and as I remember she made things like curtains and dresses and mum would give her any material she had to spare."

"Yes Louise went through a tough period after loosing her work at the Wool Mills and she was good at needle work. Your father was always delivering parcels around town, sometimes he was referred to as Father Christmas."

"He was everybody's father except mine."

"He did his best, just had a different way of expressing things, besides he often told me how proud he was of you and what a good horseman you were."

"Then you must have known a different Stan than I did." Colt paused, remembering Harry's declaration that Stan was bisexual. Should he relate that to Mavis in devilment? He thought not. It would suit no purpose, besides Mavis wouldn't believe Harry's innuendo anyway.

Collecting her keys from the table top and scooping the emptied contents of her bag back into its cavernous interior she was ready to leave.

"Well East, I have a committed meeting at three. She glanced at her watch. "I mustn't be late, have to set a good example; walk me to the car so you can keep that mutt of your's from jumping all over me."

Max met Mavis half the distance down the stairs, with mischief in his eyes. Mavis paused and gripped the rail.

"Down Max!" Colt demanded. The dog froze.

"Go to bed!" Colt gently ordered. Max half obeyed and sat to one side of the stairs.

"I don't know why you had to get such a big boisterous dog." Mavis complained on reaching the last step. Max hearing her voice commenced to wag its tail and stood to approach. Colt once more called it away.

"I don't like small yappers." Colt answered.

"I don't like dogs." Mavis answered affirmatively.

Both dog and Colt watched as Mavis with difficulty, made her way to her vehicle. It was obvious her weight was beginning a problem although she had always been a large woman. Big boned Mavis would call such a condition but Colt also noticed that of late she appeared to breathe heavily even while walking on the flat, even while talking but it would be of no use commenting on his aunt's condition, as she was a most independent woman.

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