Castle Roland

The Odd One Out

by Gary Conder


Chapter 23

Published: 29 Aug 16

The Odd One Out

Copyright © 2015
by Gary Conder
All Rights Reserved

Odd Man Out Logo

A week had past without any sight of Vail. Colt was becoming concerned and called in on Eric as he believed his friend knew a little about the family. Eric still lived at home but seeing his parents were away in the city, had his girl friend Sandra stay over. Usually Eric would stay at her parent's home over weekends.

Colt arrived as the two finished their evening meal, with Sandra clearing the table. Eric collected a bottle of whisky before directing Colt into the lounge. Although nothing was spoken Colt felt something was amiss, as the old adage, 'one could cut the air with a knife' was most appropriate to describe the climate within the house.

"Is everything alright between you two?" Colt asked in a low voice.

"Not really, we just had a row."

"Oh – I could come back another time." Colt suggested.

"No worries, she will get over it."

"What was that about?"

"The usual: Who needs a reason with a woman?" Eric complained.

"Maybe I should leave?" Colt repeated, lacking experience in the ways of heterosexual relationships, or the workings of the female mind. Being only capable of basing his experiences on those of his mother and Mavis, otherwise it was founded on adolescence behaviour and a minute spent with Maddy in the scrub behind the school yard.

"No stay." Eric paused, there appeared to be something he had need to talk about. Placing the glasses on the coffee table he continued. "She won't marry me you know." Eric said decidedly and poured the drinks, Colt's to the measure of two fingers, his own four - five even six.

"Have you asked her?"

"Many times, she will let me fuck her but doesn't want anything permanent. She said she'd have my kid but doesn't want a husband or a long term partner." Eric downed his measure and poured a second with equal capacity. Releasing a grin that turned into a sneer he continued. "She did graciously say if I gave her a kid, she would give me visiting rights."

"Has she given a reason?"

"Yea, she said with her parents break up and that of her aunt and both uncles, she doesn't want to go through the stress."

"What do you think of that?" Colt asked.

"I don't like it; I'm not giving some kid life without the chance of having both parents."

"Then I wouldn't trust her birth control method."

"Don't worry I use a rubber and check it well before going in." Eric grinned and took a good swig from his drink. "I might as well get drunk." He added.

"Why stay with her?" Colt asked as Sandra re-entered the room. She flashed Eric a look, collected her book and once again left the room.

"That's it, she's a good root but these days I'm not getting that too often either. I may as well turn gay." Eric paused, "sorry about the gay reference."

"That's alright, what is –is; have you told her about me?"

"Na, no one outside the club knows, best kept that way."

Colt slowly released his breath, "I appreciate that."

Eric finished his second and poured a third but a more sensible measure. "Now what is it you wanted to know about the Brown kid?"

"It's more about Frank, his father. I've had Vail over giving him riding lesions. Well one anyway and he hasn't been back since his father returned."

"Probably won't either. If Frank found out, he more than likely gave the kid a thrashing and kept him home."

"Can't anyone do anything about it?" Colt asked.

"Maybe when he was younger but no one really knew until recently and he's now old enough to leave home, so it may appear heartless to say so but it's the kid's problem."

"What about the old man, what's he like?" Colt asked.

"A tall drunken bean pole with a foul mouth and a quick temper but like all bashers, a coward."

"I'm thinking of approaching him, would he be vindictive?"

"Probably, so you better be careful, you know Clem Ryan, why not talk to him and see if the cops can come up with anything?" As Eric answered Sandra returned once more.

"Russell, Maddy Ferguson was talking about you the other day." She said and poured herself a scotch.

"You don't like scotch." Eric commented.

"If it's good enough for you to get drunk, I can have a scotch." She answered gruffly.

"What did Maddy want?" Colt asked.

"Not you, she was more interested in when your mate Charlie was coming back." Sandra paused and gave a cheeky smile, "She did say something about you."

Colt panicked, "what was that!" he demanded.

"Don't worry mate, it would have been about the size of your dick, she's always on about it, giving us all a complex." Eric grinned which immediately turned sour towards Sandra.

"What's wrong with you?" She snapped at Eric and left the room.

"You won't be getting it tonight." Colt humoured.

Eric rolled his eyes. "Women you can't live with them and you can't live without them and they've got you by the balls, no matter which way you turn. You want it, they have it and they ration it." Releasing a quiet snigger he continued, "As I said may as well get drunk."

"Last time I saw Maddy, she was coming on to you." Colt perceived.

"More than coming on mate but for Christ sake keep your voice down Sandra doesn't know anything about it." Eric's tone became serious as he glanced towards the door but Sandra wasn't within hearing.

"Fuck man what a root, she milks you dry and still want's more."

"How many times have you been with her?" Colt asked.

"Just the once but three times in the night; after I didn't have the energy to spit, I tell ya that woman's crazy but at least you can trust her to keep her mouth shut."

"You hope." As Colt spoke Sandra once again returned to the room, poured another scotch, glared at Eric and turned to Colt.

"I'm off to bed see you Russell." She coldly bade farewell.

"I'll be off soon Sandra, good night."

"Don't bother knocking on my door Eric." With her scotch and attitude Sandra left the room.

"I'll be going as well Eric, thank you for the information and I will have a word with Clem Ryan about Vail's old man."

Some days went by and still without a visit from Vail. Out of concern Colt called into the police station and had a chat about Frank Brown with Clem Ryan but there was little the police could do unless Vail complained about his father, or the old man went berserk with a machete.

Colt related his intentions to call on the Brown house and was cautioned. If he did so then keep from getting into a scrap, as Frank could turn on a pin head. Usually with strangers he was only verbal but if he had been boozing it was impossible to say what would set him off and the last thing Ryan wanted was the necessity to write lengthy report on an assault or worse.

The Gibber was once barren land, mostly unfit for farming or building but with the expansion of the town had become a housing estate and with a little attention and the removal of truck loads of stones would grow most things. Slowly that area was becoming suburb, even officially named The Gibber but as an address, definitely the wrong side of the tracks.

The Brown's house was a good two kilometres beyond the town limits, well into the Gibber, down a dirt track and backing onto a small scrubby creek infested with snakes and rabbits. The house was an old miner's cottage and only had electricity because the town's power lines crossed over the creek in the same paddock as the house. A previous occupier had paid the exorbitant connection fee to run a line to the cottage. That was long ago and now, if the authorities chanced to visit, more than likely would not only condemn the power connection but the dwelling as well.

Once the house was painted battleship grey but this was only recognisable by the residue on the bare weather boards. Some time previously there had obviously been a bush fire that had come so close it had scorched the west side wall, there was also indication that the fire almost took hold, as number of the wether boards were not only scorched but showed signs of charring.

The dwelling was on low stumps, capped with stump protectors, still the tell tale sign of termites was everywhere. Their mud highways travelled upwards to the metal plates and where there were rust or nail holes, through into the floor boards and walls.

Colt had borrowed Eric's vehicle, parking it some distance from the property to avoid damage, if Frank Brown chanced to erupt into violence. Cautiously he approached on foot and knocking on the dry brittle wood of the door, heard his arrival echo along an empty hall beyond. Soon he could see movement through the door's opaque glass, appearing as some grotesque form as it noisily approached along the passage.

Standing back from the door Colt patiently waited. Some seconds passed before he heard complaining from inside the hall. The door slightly opened to a crack.

"What do you fucken want?" Brown growled through the crack in the door.

"Mr. Frank Brown?" Colt enquired as politely as he possibly could, while attempting to mask his otherwise nervous disposition.

"What's it to you?"

"My name's Blake and,"

"I know who you fucken are, what do you want?"

"I was giving Vail riding lessons."

"Piss off, the boy's too dumb to ride a horse, he'd get himself killed." Frank opened the door wide and his tall bent sinewy frame met Colt eye to eye, the veins in his neck bulging blue with anger.

"He is rather a good rider," Colt protested from his distance.

"You're like your fucken father, he couldn't mind his own business either, now piss off." With that Frank Brown slammed the door, causing the loose fitting glass to rattle loudly in its warped framing. Moments later Colt could hear the man raving at, who he believed to be, Vail. He had obviously caused trouble for lad and there was nothing he could do about it, except, as in the words of Frank Brown, wish he had minded his own business.

The days passed without hearing from Vail and Colt mulled on his meeting with Frank. He related his encounter to Charlie who advised forgetting about Vail as there was nothing that could be done but Colt wasn't satisfied.

Eventually it was Mavis who came up with the answer. She had heard from a friend who was a nurse at the local hospital, Frank Brown had had a stroke and if he survived would need to be permanently placed in care.

That same day Vail arrived at his door looking lost to the world. Colt invited the lad in and sat him in the kitchen.

"I heard about your dad. How do you feel?" Colt asked.

"Sorta relieved I guess but I do love him, he's my old man."

"Are you hungry?"

"I haven't had anything since dad went into hospital. All that's left in the house are empty beer bottles and I checked his wallet, it was empty." The lad answered.

"When was that?" Colt asked.

"The night before yesterday,"

Colt made sandwiches and joined Vail at the table. "What are you going to do?" He asked caringly.

"I dunno stay at the house I suppose." Vail answered from a mouthful of sandwich.

"Does your dad own the property?" Colt asked.

"No he rents it from the Nat Hughes across the creek."

"How will you keep up the rent?"

"Dunno – get a job I suppose."

"You'd be lucky in this town."

"Dunno I suppose I'll think of something." Vail repeated.

"You can't stay there on you're own. You better get your stuff and come over here for now. We'll work something out." Colt offered.

"Could I?" For the first time that day the lad's eyes shone brightly.

"Finish your sandwiches and go get your gear; If you like I'll call for a taxi."

"No need, I can walk."

"It's a long way carrying your stuff."

"Don't have much and I'm use to walking."

While Vail was collecting his belongings, Colt contacted Charlie on his decision. He then set up a small room at the rear of the house. Being far enough away not to hear when Charlie came to stay but how without Vail discovering their association. He could only hope if he did perceive their relationship he would not be disturbed by it or wish to relate the situation further.

Eventually Vail arrived with all his worldly goods, a small battered sports bag a twenty-two rifle and nothing more.

"I hope you know how to use that thing." Colt nodded towards the rifle.

"I do,"

"Don't go shooting around the horses."

"I know that, I wouldn't besides I don't have any bullets, it belongs to dad and I dumped the bullets long ago in case he used it on someone." Vail answered somewhat indignant to think he would be thought so silly.

"Where are your clothes?" Colt asked, noticing the battered bag.

"In here." Vail held up the bag.

"You sure travel light." Colt commented but didn't receive an answer.

Colt showed Vail to his room, where the lad placed his bag on the bed and commenced to extract his few items of clothing, consisting of three pairs of board shorts, one pair of torn jeans, two shirts being the remnants from his school uniform and three tops. No underwear or socks. As for footwear, the runners he had on his feet were all he had and they had seen better days.

Surprisingly everything was clean and once extracted from the bag, were neatly folded and placed in a small set of drawers beside the bed.

"Is that all you have?" Colt asked.

"We didn't have much money." Vail answered without an inkling of embarrassment.

"We will have to do something about that." Colt promised as Vail smiling gently bounced up and down on the floor boards.

"What's the problem?" Colt asked somewhat confused with the lad's strange action.

"The floor doesn't squeak and there aren't any holes."

"Has your floor got holes?"

"Holes, they're everywhere and when your walk the floor sounds like a flock of starlings."

Late in the afternoon Charlie arrived for the weekend, proudly parking his cherry red monster before the steps, bringing Vail down at haste to run his hands over its shiny surface.

"Are you going to take me for a drive?" Vail asked as Charlie alighted from the cabin.

"I thought you were here for the horses?"

"I like cars as well." Vail sat behind the wheal and commenced to fiddle with the switches and knobs and he appeared to know what each was for.

"Maybe," Charlie answered.

"Maybe I could drive it." Vail suggested.

"I think you're getting a little ahead of yourself there Vail."

"How was the trip?" Colt asked as he led Charlie up the stairs.

"It runs like a dream and doesn't jump out of gear like the old girl." Charlie answered and patted Colt's arse as he travelled.

"Be careful the kid." Colt protested. Vail was close behind.

"I'm not dumb you know." Vail declared cheerfully, which the two let pass to the keeper but once inside and alone Charlie commented on the lad's remark. Colt hadn't an idea but knowing Vail it would be explained in due course.

"Vail I have something for you." Charlie said once they were all together in the kitchen. He passed a brown paper bag to Vail, who quickly opened it.

"Oh boy a computer game!" Vail exhilarated.

"It's one of my old games but should work in Colt's dinosaur."

"It will can I go and try it?" The lad quickly responded.

"Sure but dinner wont be long." Colt agreed as Vail disappeared down the hall.

"You sound like someone's dad." Charlie laughed.

"What do you think?" Colt asked.

"I think you are a great bloke and I would do the same. The lad needs a little TLC." Charlie paused and glanced towards the passage doorway. "About the sleeping arrangements, maybe we should use different rooms." He suggested.

"Suppose you're right." Colt answered somewhat despondently.

"You don't have to." Vail's voice appeared from just outside the kitchen door as he returned to advise the game was working. "I know you sleep together." He added. The boys looked at each other without response. Eventually Colt spoke.

"Does that worry you Vail?"

"Why should it?" The lad commenced to return to his computer game. He paused and returned to the kitchen. "I saw you together on the river bank and I've seen how you treat each other around the house and I like that."

"Do you know what gay means?" Charlie asked quizzically.

"I do and maybe I'm that way as well." Vail admitted without true conviction.

"At your age you wouldn't know." Charlie declared.

"Charlie you're only two years older than me and Colts not much older than that. I don't see what age has to do with it, besides I don't like girls much." Vail paused then continued. "Well I don't know any to like or dislike."

For the first time since their encounter with Vail he displayed a serious disposition. This lad was far from dumb and had the makings, even with his past disadvantages, of becoming a well adjusted person.

"What do you make of that?" Charlie asked once Vail was back with his computer game.

Colt smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "I want to take him into town tomorrow and get him some clothes, he has none. Also shoes and underpants, the little bugger doesn't wear any and drops his dacks without shame."

"Do you fancy him?" Charlie asked with a note of concern attached to his tone.

"I could, if I didn't fancy you but he is becoming more a younger brother. I feel more responsible than fancy." Colt explained.

As Colt spoke Vail returned from his game.

"I'm Eighteen tomorrow." He declared somewhat nonchalantly as if it were an everyday occurrence.

"Then we will have to buy you a present." Colt suggested.

"I've never had a birthday present." Vail's still appeared incidental.

"Are you going to visit your dad in hospital?" Colt asked.

"Nope, he will only rage at me or worse."

"I don't think he can even talk never mind rage at you, or hit you. I think you should." Colt expressed firmly.

"If you want me to I will."

"No it's your decision I only made a suggestion. Tomorrow you will be considered an adult and you will be one of us, so no one tells you what you have to do." Colt promised.

"I like that idea." Vail smiled with the thought.

"But for today you're just a kid so go and get yourself ready for tea."

Buying clothing for Vail was most difficult, he was narrow gutted but long in the legs, so if jeans fitted him at the waist they were half mast at the ankles. Colt purchased two pairs of jeans and left them to be altered. Tops were easier, fortunately Vail liked them floppy and floppy is what he got. As for shoes, he had feet the size of patrol boats and was most fussy for someone who had no idea about fashion.

Next it was underwear, that article of apparel was even more difficult than the footwear. He hated y-fronts and jockettes squeezed his balls, while the tightness gave him a permanent erection. His description was most vivid and the young girl at the service counter told him so. Eventually he settled for boxer shorts in some shiny material with aeroplanes across the arse and front. Charlie laughed, thinking it was a change from the teddy bears his mother usually bought for him.

"Right what you like as a birthday present?" Colt asked as they dumped their packages in the back of Charlie's utility.

"Nothing I already have it staying with you two. That's enough for me."

"Then I'll get you a cake and make a real beat up meal tonight." Colt suggested.

"That sounds great." Vail agreed. "Can I have a beer?" He added cheekily.

"You're eighteen now, you can have what you like." Colt assured.

With Charlie returned to Mt. Oakey, it left Vail in the company of Colt. Over a matter of days the lad settled into a routine. He surprised Colt as he could cook and loved doing so but was a little messy in preparation and wasn't keen on washing dishes but volunteered to do so after every meal. He was also good at giving space, not once did Colt feel crowded by his presence.

Vail would play with Charlie's computer game or listen to music or watch television. He loved television and hadn't had a set at home for some time. His father threw some heavy object through their television screen some months previously and from then on the smashed set stood in the corner of the room, its gaping screen appearing to be laughing at them.

Colt had another surprise for Vail, one he thought he may or may not like but it was needed to be said. Vail had come from the computer room and was watching some banal American cop show on television. Colt interrupted the lad.

"I have surprise for you." Colt declared. Vail turned the sound down but didn't answer.

"You left school halfway through your first term, true."

Vail agreed.

"You haven't missed too much, would you like to finish your last year?" Colt heard his own voice. It appeared to be coming from someone else. Some father authority he had never known and he wasn't sure if he liked the sentiment.

"What do you think I should do?" Vail asked.

"It isn't my decision; I personally think it wouldn't hurt to finish the year. How were your marks?" Colt asked.

"Quite good but catching up may be a problem." Vail admitted.

"I've already spoken to the principal and she agrees and said she would help you catch up." Colt said.

"I don't mind." Vail answered again without commitment.

"It's up to you and if you don't want too you can still stay here for as long as you wish."

"I think I would like to as I was learning computers." Vail admitted.

"So the two of us will go and see Mrs. Perkins tomorrow and sort something out."

Within days Vail was back at school and although he was the oldest in his final year, a product of being kept back a grade during his primary schooling, he looked the part and fitted back in as if he had never left. Not having his father around to destroy his confidence was paramount and coming home to riding lessons and cooked meals, made the lad feel like he was at last part of the social fabric of family life.

As for Colt he loved every minute of his newly discovered roll in life and was constantly calling Charlie about Vail's progress, they both were acting like mother hens, while as proud.

"How's your son?" Eric would cheekily enquire and Colt would give a running commentary on his school progress. "How's the wife?" Eric would add and Colt would talk equally on Charlie without the fear of being ridiculed. Life at the Blake farm was becoming most enjoyable. All that was needed to make it perfect was Charlie's permanent presence, to which he had an idea but for the moment kept it to himself.

Soon it would be cricket season and Colt once again became pressured to act. Ferguson needed to know if he and more to the point Charlie Wyse would be on the team. Colt guaranteed for himself, saying he had a plan to obtain Charlie for the season but needed a little time. Firstly he wished to take a trip. At the Wednesday club meeting he approached Eric.

"Do you remember I promised to play the season if you were to do me a favour?" Colt asked. Eric did, mentioning Colt had also made a promise in relation to Charlie, or would at least attempt to improve their bowling line with Charlie's presence.

"I have a plan there as well but first I want to go and visit my brother Toby."

"How long will you be gone?" Eric asked.

"Maybe ten days, will you stay at the farm?" Colt asked.

"I said I would, what about Vail, how will he respond to me being there?"

"Don't worry about Vail; he's been looking after himself for years." Colt assured "and he seems to like everyone."

"Is it alright if I have Sandra stay as well?" Eric asked. It appeared the two were at a critical stage in their relationship and were in choppy seas, with rocks ahead, so he was attempting to avoid a ship wreck.

"No worries how's the relationship going?"

"That's a good question. She has agreed to take a flat with me. I reckon staying at the farm together may either make or break the idea." Eric didn't appear confident, suggesting they were probably due to fail no matter what he did, as he was of the opinion she was seeing someone else.

Charlie was somewhat disappointed with Colt travelling. He had intention to visit the farm during the allotted time, arranging for the neighbour to care for his mother for a number of extra days.

"I have to do this." Colt appealed.

"It's alright mate, I can wait until you return." Charlie may have been disappointed but understood his friend's necessity.

"I'd love to be coming with you?" Charlie admitted.

"And I would love to have you along but this is something I need to do by myself. There will be plenty of chances for both of us in the future."

"Has your new car arrived yet?" Charlie asked.

"There's been a hold up."

"How will you travel, do you want to take my ute?" Charlie offered.

"Na, I'll fly to Cairns and rent a vehicle there." Colt had never flown before and as the thought of doing so came to him he gave a shudder. He continued. "They still want you for cricket."

"That could be difficult seeing I'm not living there."

"Ah but you are still on the books at the golf club as green's man and registered to vote at the farm." Colt assured.

"Maybe so but the Mt Oakey team know I'm living here with mum."

Colt had an idea and told Charlie so.

"And what would that be?" Charlie asked.

"I won't go into it at present but will run it past you when I return."

"You and your surprises but I bet it wouldn't top the ute."

"You never know but you will have to wait.

"I'll miss you." Charlie promised.

"Tell you what, I'll get a mobile telephone and call you each day."

"Yea, I can see you using a mobile. You will have to take Vail along to show you how it works. No don't do that, I'm sure I can last a few days without hearing your voice."

While in town preparing for his trip to Cairns Colt chanced upon Maddy Ferguson and went for coffee. As Maddy took her seat, Colt notice she was putting on weight to which he had to comment.

"That belly of yours, you aren't – are you?"

"That would be telling." Maddy smiled, giving Colt a wink.

"You are!"

"Around three months now but don't panic it isn't Charlie's, I never got the chance." Maddy assured.

"I know that but whose is it. Eric?"

"That's something I'm keeping to my self."

"Does Eric know?" Colt asked surmising he was correct in guessing who was responsible.

"I didn't say it was Eric and I won't be telling the father or anyone and don't you dare suggest it's his to Eric."

"Ah but you haven't denied it's his?"

"No I'm not denying it or suggesting it. I'm not saying anything and my silence on the matter is not to be taken as some silent confirmation."

Colt reached across and patted Maddy's extended belly for good luck.

"What did your old man say?" He asked.

"He's getting use to it but doesn't like the idea of becoming a granddad."

"You know girl you've got a real glow about you. You seem to have lost that harsh unforgiving posture." Colt construed.

"Coming from you that is a complement." Maddy smile and rearranged herself on her seat.

"No I really mean it. I think motherhood will suit you." Colt ordered coffee and croissants.

"How would you feel if it were yours?" Maddy asked stirring three teaspoons of sugar into her coffee.

"I don't think I would know what to do with kids, I'm not the father type; too much into my own company." Colt answered truthfully.

"You've taken on Vail Brown."

"Na he's like an adult and that's different."

Maddy sipped her coffee. Gently placing the mug back onto the table top she shook her head and smiled.

"What!" Colt demanded.

"You know I always wanted a kid from you. Back at school it was my plan to let you get me pregnant."

Colt laughed, now it was Maddy's turn to ask why.

"All I can say Maddy, I'm glad it wouldn't fit."

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