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Rigby Taylor

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About Rigby Taylor

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    My partner, Writing, Art, reading, Nature, Keeping fit, Music, healthy food, repairing house and garden, sleeping 8- 9 hours a day, remaining calm at the insanity of politicians. not wasting anything.

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  1. Escape

    Fidel was scared. Shit scared. He felt like throwing up and probably would have if he'd had any breakfast. He had to stop thinking about what he was doing or he’d chicken out. His whole life had been one long worry that he’d done something wrong and would be punished, but this was sharper, more urgent, more exciting too if he could only stop thinking about all the possible consequences. Taking a deep breath he shouldered the backpack he’d concealed in a corner for the last three weeks, let himself out of the shed, crossed the back lawn and tapped on his brother’s open window. Hylas appeared, rubbing at sleepy eyes. ‘Fidel! What’s the matter?’ ‘I’m off.’ ‘Now? But you…’ ‘Shhh! You'll wake Mum. I just wanted to say goodbye and tell you I love you.’ ‘Where are you going? I love you too! Will you write?’ ‘Brisbane. Of course I’ll write. Don’t tell Mum anything. Pretend to be surprised I've gone.’ With a cheery wave that even Hylas knew was fake, Fidel adjusted his pack and ran off before his courage ran out. Twenty minutes later he was sticking out his thumb on the David Low Way. Almost immediately an elderly couple in a battered Toyota stopped and demanded to know his age, where he was going and why. He said he was sixteen and was going to visit his grandmother in Mooloolaba. Shaking their heads in suspicious concern they remarked tersely that he was small for his age and didn’t look much more than fourteen. Fidel’s sad eyes pleaded. ‘Get in then. If we don’t take you some monster will.’ Vistas of twinkling blue sea, sand hills and sunny skies flashed by unseen during thirty minutes of well-meaning but dire prophesies about the abduction, rape and murder that awaited Fidel if he persisted in trusting strangers in this day and age. It was different when they were young—everyone was honest and reliable and young people were safe and… Predictably perhaps, their predictions of impending doom calmed Fidel’s nerves. Old people were always exaggerating—it couldn’t be that bad. When they let him out he thanked them profusely, waved them on their way, jogged to the motorway entrance and grinned his relief at a road sign informing him he was already forty-seven kilometres away from his former life. With new confidence, he again stuck out his thumb and smiled encouragingly at every passing driver. Half an hour later, confidence was being edged out by images of abduction, rape and torture. Bravely, he thrust such febrile imaginings from his head, reasoning that although he looked younger than his years, he wasn’t pretty enough to attract predators. As if to reward his courage, half a minute later a yellow sports car stopped beside him. He clambered in, smiling gratefully at the middle-aged, solid man in a cream linen suit and full black beard who took off with such speed the tyres screeched and Fidel was thrust back into his seat without time to attach the seatbelt. In mounting panic he clung to the dashboard as the car zipped out into the traffic, zigzagging between other cars at top speed, the driver’s elbow on the windowsill, his fingers barely touching the steering wheel, eyes half closed as if he wasn’t concentrating. Fidel didn’t dare speak in case he distracted the man and caused a fatal accident, so he was hugely relieved when ten minutes later they pulled into a lay-by and parked behind a low screen of banksias. ‘What the fuck do you think you're doing?’ the driver growled angrily. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘How old are you?’ ‘Sixteen.’ ‘Crap! Fourteen.’ ‘I’m fifteen. I know I'm a bit small for my age but I'm strong and Dad says he was also small but he’s nearly two metres now.’ ‘Who knows where you are?’ As the implications of this sank in, Fidel’s heart pounded. He stared at his abductor in horror. ‘No one knows,’ the driver sneered. ‘No one saw me pick you up. No one can see us now because I concealed the car behind those shrubs.’ A tiny, ‘Yes.’ ‘Are you as strong as me?’ ‘No.’ ‘So I could easily tie you up, rip your clothes off, fuck you stupid and then strangle you before dumping your body in a hole.’ A whispered ‘Yes.’ ‘Don’t you like living?’ ‘I… I’m sorry. I thought…’ ‘Young man, you did not think at all! You've ended up on your own, parked in the middle of nowhere with someone three times as strong as you. What, apart from screaming, could you do if I decided to do all those things I mentioned?’ Fidel’s eyes were swimming. ‘Nothing, sir. I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean...’ he hung his head in shame. The driver put the car in gear and drove angrily onto the motorway. ‘How many lives have you got?’ Fidel frowned in surprise. ‘One, sir.’ ‘Exactly! You have one life that starts the moment you are born and just goes on and on relentlessly till you die. It isn't like a play you can rehearse until you get it right. You get it right first time or live with the consequences. There’s no back button to start over.’ He looked across at a very wilted young man and his face softened. ‘Okay, end of lesson. Look out the window and let’s see how many things you can name and describe in two words.’ Fidel concentrated hard, naming everything that caught his eye, labelling it ugly, beautiful, interesting, messy, tall, huge, unpainted… it was an interesting exercise, relieved his sense of stupidity, and the next hour passed swiftly until they took an off ramp and stopped. ‘That was very good, you're a keen observer,’ the driver said with a smile. ‘I’m sorry I have to let you out here, but I'm running short of time and need to use the bypass. The city’s straight ahead and there are loads of busses.’ He held out his hand, which Fidel took and shook warmly. ‘Friends?’ ‘Yes,’ Fidel breathed in gratitude, feeling slightly sad and very much alone as the little yellow car sped away. The city towers looked deceptively close so it was dispiriting to discover he was still twenty kilometres from the centre. Manfully he trudged along the noisy, smelly, dangerous road, wondering if there was another, quieter route, but determined never again to accept a lift from strangers, when an elderly woman in a newish sedan stopped and with a motherly smile asked where he was going. Fidel looked carefully at the pleasant, grey haired woman wearing no makeup, and decided if he couldn’t trust a woman who was contented with her natural appearance, then he could never trust anyone again. She was heading through the centre of Brisbane and could drop him off wherever he wanted. With profound relief he jumped in and learned about her grand children, her charity work, palliative care, and her husband’s dementia. To allay her obvious concern for his wellbeing, Fidel proudly confided he had fifty dollars for emergencies in case the grandmother, whom he was now almost believing in, wasn’t at home. Suddenly the elderly lady pointed to the dashboard. ‘Oh dear. I'm almost out of petrol.’ She pulled into the next Service Station and asked Fidel to put fifty dollars worth of petrol into the tank. When he came to her window for the money, she was searching in her purse. ‘I can’t believe how stupid I am! I've come out without any cash.’ She pulled out a credit card and pointed down the road. ‘Look, there’s a cash machine along there in front of that bank. You go and pay for me, then we’ll drive down and I’ll take out the money and repay you.’ Her smile was so disarming, so honest, that without the slightest twinge of doubt Fidel ran in to pay, proud to be able to assist this nice kind lady. When he came out the car was gone. His heart stopped, then rallied. She must have driven down to the cash machine and would be waiting for him. Fear clutching at his chest and belly he sprinted towards it. ‘Please, please, please let her be there. Please don’t let her be a thief. Please…’ Heartfelt whispers were in vain. Iced water settled in his stomach and cold crept to the tips of his fingers. She had stolen his money. All the money he had in the world. What could he do? He’d never had a bank account. It had taken him nearly a year to save even that fifty. He could scarcely breathe. What to do? Tell a policeman? Hardly. They'd ask his age and send him home. The thought of that put firmness in his step. He’d think of something, and with a heart heavier than he could ever have imagined, set off towards the city centre. Traffic became denser; a bridge led him over rail lines and other roads. Tunnels belched endless cars onto already crowded, smelly, noisy streets. An hour later he was walking down a relatively quiet road towards what looked like an important shopping centre. His feet were sore, his enthusiasm for adventure gone. Physically and mentally exhausted he sat on a bench under a couple of small trees near a drinking fountain and ate his biscuits. After a long drink of water he gazed around. Behind him was a sex shop advertising twenty-four hour videos, massage and a sauna. He felt scruffy and tucked in his shirt. Maybe he’d just sit for a while, he rationalised. He had no money and nowhere to go, so what was the rush? If he had an instrument he could busk. But he couldn’t even sing. When his legs felt strong enough to carry him without wobbling, he wandered down to the shopping centre, scrutinising every window for notices offering work. There were none. He asked for directions to a Jobs Agency, but received impatient shrugs of ignorance. He went into shops and asked for work, but no one needed him. He was told to go back to school. A panic attack had Fidel leaning against the wall of a shop. He slid down till he was sitting with his head resting on his knees, feet tucked well away from passing pedestrians who paid him not the slightest attention. Eventually, dismay at his situation was replaced by a deep loneliness that began eating holes in his soul. But then he remembered what had happened at home that morning and was glad he wasn’t there. Even this was better than that. He retreated to his bench and watched passers by. No one looked very rich, but they were all carrying parcels or eating or laughing. A woman approached on high heels. She looked smart. Perhaps she’d like him to carry her parcels. On impulse he stood and walked to meet her, smiling to show he meant no harm. ‘Excuse me, madam, but someone stole my money and I was wondering if…’ ‘Fuck off or I’ll call the police,’ she snapped. Crushed, Fidel returned to the bench to find a man had taken his place. He was large and solid; body and face both sort of shapeless. Probably about fifty, Fidel guessed. Clean but dull. Almost ugly with very little chin, loose lips, clear blue eyes and a red face. Rolled up sleeves exposed powerful hairy arms that ended in large hands with fingers like sausages. They looked immensely powerful. He looked up as the youth approached, then slid sideways and patted the seat beside him. ‘There's room for two,’ he invited in a warm and friendly voice, exposing unattractively crossed and protruding front teeth in a shy smile. ‘I’ve been watching you from my window over there,’ pointing to the third floor of an apartment block on the far side of the road. ‘Are you on the game?’ ‘Game? What game?’ Fidel’s innocence was evident. ‘Sorry. I got it wrong. I saw you approach that bitch and assumed you needed money. You look a bit like the other boys your age who hang around here, mainly in the evenings hoping to…’ he stopped, but whether from embarrassment or in order to invite a question wasn’t clear. ‘To?’ ‘To find a buyer.’ ‘A buyer for what?’ This time the man was genuinely embarrassed. ‘For their bodies. Lots of men find young bodies attractive and pay to spend time with them. They prefer boys because they don’t make things complicated. Sex without emotional baggage; and their bodies are smoother and firmer than girls’ and just as versatile.’ ‘And you thought I was one of them?’ ‘Only from a distance, now I realise you are far too innocent and fresh. Too nice, in fact. Those boys are tough. I guess they have to be, considering some of the people who buy them. I see a lot from my window. It makes me sad, but I know they'd sneer at me if I started just talking to them like this and showed any sympathy.’ ‘Why? You're nice.’ ‘But not rich and not handsome.’ Fidel hesitated before deciding to be truthful. ‘Neither am I, but you have a lovely voice and you look very strong’ ‘Thanks for those kind words. As for you, you are handsome, but not conventionally. I think it’s your eyes. They’re alive, interested, and you want to be pleasant—to make people feel good—and that makes you handsome because as my mother used to say when I got depressed, handsome is as handsome does.’ ‘I’ll remember that next time I'm depressed. Do you enjoy doing… things with the boys? How much do they charge?’ ‘I’ve never done it. It’s a fantasy. I'm perfectly happy with my wife, but I keep remembering the first time we had sex. We were about the same age as you are now, with smooth, firm flesh. I've often thought it’d be nice to experience that youthful feeling once more. But if a middle-aged man even looks at a young woman he’s labelled a sexual predator. And prostitutes are not what I want. And I figure it isn't worth the risk of my wife finding out if I tried a local boy; and like I said, up close they're not… nice and probably have diseases. Character is an important part of sexual attraction for me; not just youth and a pretty face. Anyway, there’s no way I could afford a hundred bucks to be sucked off, or two or three for a screw. And that’s not what I’d like to do anyway.’ He uttered a slightly embarrassed chuckle. ‘But why am I talking like this to you, a mere kid? You’re the first person I've ever confided in—you must be a hypnotist.’ He held out a giant paw. ‘My name’s Ted.’ They shook hands ‘I’m Fidel. I expected you to crush my hand. But you're very gentle.’ ‘Not when I'm annoyed. But enough of me, what's your story?’ Fidel gazed into Ted’s eyes and thought he saw genuine interest and even concern. But then he wondered if he only hoped he saw that. And then he thought he was thinking too much and should trust his instincts. But then he recalled the grey-haired woman. By then Ted had realised the kid had more problems than he’d guessed. ‘It’s okay,’ he said softly, standing as if to go. ‘I’m being nosy. You don’t have to tell me anything. I’ll leave you to it.’ ‘No!’ Fidel blurted with more force than intended. ‘I want to tell you.’ To his relief Ted resumed his seat, and in what seemed like a single breath Fidel told him about running away from a mother who had abused him his whole life; his misery at leaving his younger brother; the warnings of the old couple and the man in the sports car, the old woman who stole all his money, and his inability to think of what to do next.’ ‘You poor young bugger,’ Ted said shaking his head. ‘What a fucking bitch.’ He reached into a pocket and produced a small purse. ‘As it happens I have a fifty dollar note on me. I want you to have it.’ Fidel, who had noticed that it was the only money in the purse, drew back in alarm. ‘No! I couldn’t. There's no way I can repay you.’ ‘It’s a gift for a brave young man who I like more than anyone I've met for ages.’ ‘I can’t accept such a present from a total stranger. I’d feel…’ Fidel’s eyes lit. ‘But what if I earned it?’ ‘How?’ ‘You said you'd like to… just once to… do things with a young person.’ ‘Are you serious?’ Fidel’s smile was brave and perhaps slightly excited and definitely more than a little nervous. ‘Yeah. I'm serious. But you won’t hurt me will you?’ ‘Never! And that’s a promise.’ Upstairs in a small but pleasant and scrupulously neat apartment, Ted pulled the covers off the spare room bed and they stripped and stood facing each other—neither sure how to proceed. ‘You look different without your clothes,’ Fidel said seriously, forcing himself to lightly touch Ted’s chest. ‘I thought you'd be fat, but you’re not, just solid. What do you do?’ ‘Until last month I was a construction worker—hard yakka but I loved it. The company went belly up so I'm out of work.’ ‘Like me.’ A slightly embarrassed pause; Ted wondering how to start; Fidel wondering what on earth had made him offer himself. He had to get it over with before he chickened out. ‘You can touch me if you want.’ Tenderly, Ted ran hard yet smooth hands over Fidel’s shoulders, down his arms, around his waist, over his buttocks, then drew him close. Fidel felt him harden and held his breath. Effortlessly, Ted lifted the youth and laid him gently on the bed, then followed, kneeling with his legs either side of the young man’s hips. Fidel closed his eyes and tried to relax. He knew that if he looked up he’d be so repelled he’d run away. He wanted to earn his money honestly and didn’t want to hurt Ted who was nice but couldn’t help being old and ugly. The last person he would ever have considered doing this with. Ted knew exactly what to do, having imagined it being done to himself for years. Mistaking Fidel’s shudders, sighs, slight grunts and twitching for signs of pleasure, he massaged the firm young flesh from toes to feet to calves to thighs; his own arousal leaving no room for concern at his victim’s lack of it. ‘May I kiss you?’ Fidel’s eyes opened in alarm, stared into the kindly eyes, felt pity for the nervous old man and nodded. It was the lightest of touches, a mere brushing of lips that lasted but a moment before Ted sat back on his haunches pulled roughly at his cock and with a high-pitched expiration of breath, contracted all his muscles in a shuddering spasm that caused a tiny quantity of thick creamy stuff to ooze from the gigantic knob and trickle down over his fingers. He stared at it as if surprised, then clambered off, still holding it. ‘I’ll just go and wash this off.’ He turned at the door. ‘I sweated a bit so you'd better shower. I’ll get you something to eat.’ Dressed and clean, Fidel drank a large glass of milk while Ted opened the backpack, put the fifty dollar note in the inside pocket and wrapped a large slice of chocolate cake, a bread roll and two apples in paper before stuffing them in among the few clothes and other possessions. Fidel was having difficulty looking brave. ‘If I lived alone, I’d let you stay as long as you like, but my wife, although a wonderful woman, wouldn’t understand. Do you know where you're going?’ Fidel shook his head. Unable to speak. ‘Go to Roma Street Transport Centre and ask the Help Desk where the free refuge is for street kids.’ He pointed out the window to the main road that led to the city centre. ‘When you get to The Mall, ask directions. Okay?’ Ted held out his hand which Fidel shook manfully, then with a whispered, ‘Thank you’, ran down the stairs and away before he cried. Ted had ten minutes in which to put the spare room back in order and wonder what had come over him, before his wife bustled back full of delight at her sister’s problems. For once he was pleased she showed no interest in his day. ***** It was getting dark by the time Fidel stopped at a small park. He didn’t fancy going to some sort of doss house for street kids. From what he'd heard they were tough and took drugs and stuff. Perhaps there was a sheltered spot beneath a clump of trees and shrubs. But they were thin and surrounded a statue of Robbie Burns where a dozen or so guys and girls were lounging on the grass, smoking, drinking, laughing stupidly. A girl asked if he wanted a fuck, only eighty bucks. He smiled, shook his head and continued down to the Queen Street Mall where smart people were queuing for the cinema, eating in restaurants, laughing and enjoying themselves with friends. He hoped the ache in his chest was loneliness, not an incipient heart attack and asked the way to Roma Street. Feeling conspicuous wearing a rucksack, he crossed to the bare area in front of the Town Hall where mainly white youths wandered aimlessly. Someone was playing a clarinet. He crossed a busy street to a grassy park in which more young people were sitting near a pond bordered by trees and rocks down which water tumbled like a real waterfall. There was a path leading up the hill through the trees. Surely he could find somewhere up there to curl up and rest, if not sleep. But as he moved towards it three police cars drove up, officers leaped out and started hitting the young people. Everyone was shouting. It was too dark to see clearly and before Fidel could escape he was knocked to the ground, handcuffed, dragged to a wagon, thrust inside with a dozen other young people and driven to a watch house, where names were taken. A tall, slender young man complained that the cops were racist. No one had been doing anything wrong. He was told to shut the fuck up and had his head slammed against a wall for his insolence. He dropped to the ground and lay moaning, blood dripping. A cop prodded him with his shoe and told him to shut the fuck up. No one dared assist him. Unable to bear it, Fidel shouted that he shouldn’t be there because he'd just been walking past; he didn’t even know these guys. A backhanded swipe broke his nose and he crumpled onto the concrete floor. In shock, he could only stare wide eyed as a large hand pulled him up by the hair and an acne-scarred face peered into his and said, ‘You're not a fucking black cunt. Who the fuck brought his guy in?’ Fidel was bundled out, followed by his rucksack that he only just managed to prevent skidding across the pavement onto the road. Having been told he’d be locked up for life if they saw him again, he ran for his life, nose a swelling bloody mess. With no idea where he was, he ran blindly, tripped, sprained his wrist trying to cushion the fall, gashed his knees on the concrete and lay sprawled in silent agony, head hanging over the edge of the gutter, unable to think of anything except the pain, the hopelessness, the sadness of… of everything. A group of drunks staggered past, stepping over him. It began to rain softly. Cars flashed past spraying dirty water, headlights briefly raking the still body as they carried their happy occupants back to warm and cosy homes. Fidel’s head cleared slightly. He knew he was wet, getting cold and lying on the footpath, but didn’t want to move. ‘I’ll stay here until I die,’ he thought without sadness. ‘ I hope it’s soon.’ And then he thought of Hylas and tears welled. But still he couldn’t move. His head and wrist and nose ached so much it was hard to think about problems. It seemed easier to just lie still and try to remember everything in the hope of working out where he had gone wrong. His first five years hadn't been too bad. His father had been home so his mother hadn't belted him around much—just an occasional thrashing with a length of plastic-coated wire and a few bruises on his legs, and a broken arm when she threw him down the steps, and some burns on the back of his hand when he didn’t bring the ashtray quick enough. But then a baby arrived, so they needed more money and his father got a job as a fly-in-fly-out mine worker way out west, which meant he was away all week, sometimes longer, and so tired when he got home he had no time to listen to Fidel’s problems as well as his wife’s complaints. Fidel adored his young brother, Hylas, and by the age of seven had taken over most duties usually performed by a mother. Not that this saved him. It seemed that the more he loved his brother and the more he did to help his mother, the angrier she became. Sometimes she was almost nice, then suddenly he’d be told he was a nasty, wicked little boy and be sent to his room without dinner. He never got used to feeling hungry; that was worse than being slapped around the head. If he accidentally banged the spoon on his teeth when eating he would be sent from the table, or denied dessert. After every meal he washed the dishes. If he made too much noise or she found a spot on a plate, he'd have his head plunged into the hot soapy water until he was sure he was going to drown. But the worst thing was when visitors came and she told them what a naughty, horrible boy he was. The shame almost overwhelmed him because he always tried so, so hard to be good. Fidel’s mother considered herself an honest woman who called a spade a spade, demanding that everyone take her as they found her; she wasn’t going to pretend to be what she wasn’t for anyone. The truth of that was never tested as she managed to never be found less than well groomed, or with her house in less than pristine order—thanks to Fidel. Her honesty extended to profligate generosity in sharing her opinions about everything from the behaviour of acquaintances’ children to their hairstyles, figures, sloppy housekeeping or taste in clothing. The reluctance of others to return the favour was taken as approval. On the rare occasion when someone dared to point out one of her shortcomings, she would laugh contemptuously at their jealousy. Well aware of her unpopularity, she insisted that popularity was proof of sycophantic bootlicking. This allowed her to despise those who were popular. ‘Huh,’ she would snort dismissively, ‘I’d rather be unpopular than a greasy, crawling, smarmy, toady.’ It was inevitable, therefore, that her son, a natural empathiser who made whoever he was with feel good about themselves, should bear the brunt of his mother’s disdain. The more he tried to please her, the more vicious her response, justified by insisting that the world is a nasty place and her duty as his mother was to prepare him for the future, not mollycoddle him into a false sense of security. ‘To survive you have to be tough,’ she declared on more than one occasion, ‘and that’s what I'm determined he’ll be!’ Fortunately for Fidel, the number of people who wanted to hit him for being too nice were outnumbered by those who liked—even loved his gentle determination to be decent at all costs. That he hadn't become a neurotic mess was due to his young brother, Hylas, who never tired of telling him he wasn’t naughty, it was their mother who was. Despite the risk of punishment, Hylas would always secretly take food to his adored brother when he was sent to bed hungry. Fidel never cried. It was Hylas who cried when his mother attached one end of a four-metre leash to his brother and the other to the clothesline, then proceeded to hit him with a heavy stick as he ran desperately around in circles in a vain attempt to escape the blows; his mother laughing, his brother screaming at her to stop. When her arm tired she wandered inside, still laughing while Hylas desperately struggled to untie the knot and comfort his brother who was too exhausted to do anything except squat on the ground, bleeding, bruised and shuddering. But not crying. Over the last two years as he grew older and stronger, physical punishments were replaced by snide, carefully worded insults intended to undermine his self esteem and confidence. She was on the point of succeeding in both regards when that very morning she overreached herself and triggered the rebellion that saved him. Sprawled uncomfortably on the pavement, getting wetter and colder, the realisation that at least he wasn’t at home caused Fidel to smile softly; his hurts temporarily forgotten. Perhaps he should just stay where he was. Uncomfortable, but happy—at least he’d never have to see his mother again. Happiness quickly turned to shame when he recalled his friend Tad, with whom he used to go to a private spot and with the innocent curiosity of youth, admire each other’s erections, compare sizes and jerk off. One day it rained and as Fidel’s mother would be at bingo, they went to his room. She returned early and caught them. After slamming her fist into the side of her son’s head, she shoved the terrified Tad out the door, tossing his clothes and schoolbag after him. Then in silence she gathered up all her son’s clothes and meagre possessions, including his bed linen, carried it out to an aluminium garden shed and threw them in. ‘This is your room now you evil, nasty, wicked little boy! Filth like you will never sleep in my house. And if I see you speaking to, touching or even looking at your brother, you perverted creep, I’ll beat you within an inch of your life!’ Hylas—the only person Fidel loved in the world. The only thing that had made his life bearable. Fidel felt his life had ended. From then on he became an automaton, refusing to think, to feel, to question; kept going only by the thought that one day he would be old enough to run away. To this end he had procured a small rucksack and kept it stocked with spare clothes and biscuits. When his father came home he was permitted to have a mattress, but no light. Every morning he filled a basin with cold water from the garden tap, took it into the shed and washed himself thoroughly. Apart from banishment to the shed for sleeping, life continued much as before; he still had to clean the house and do the dishes. When he started high school he was allowed to sit at the dining room table to do his homework, and if his father was home, watch television. At school he learned to use computers, joined an Internet after school club, and usually managed to anticipate his mothers moods, escaping to the shed when danger loomed, where his father had finally rigged up electricity so he could read in an atmosphere that was almost cosy with pictures on the walls cut from magazines. Imperceptibly, this life began to seem normal. It was cold sleeping in the shed, but he was young and fit and didn’t suffer unduly. His mother got a job, so after school he and Hylas secretly took up where they left off, making sure they were never together when their mother returned. Unfortunately, she didn’t enjoy working in a factory, and when at home returned to taking out her frustrations on her son—muttering while he worked that he was a useless, ugly wretch, a perverted queer fit for the gallows, enumerating the dreadful things she would to do to him if she was certain of not getting caught. Despite the nightmares this triggered, Fidel refused to let her see how much he was affected, which was perhaps a pity. Like all torturers she needed a reaction and the lack only encouraged her to redouble her efforts. People like that don’t admire fortitude, bravery, decency, goodness… these are things they smash to prove their superiority. Fidel turned fifteen and was halfway through Year Ten and doing reasonably well when, last night instead of accepting his mother’s insults and vile innuendo, he found the courage to tell her to shut up because he was sick of her insane ranting. She had the problem, not him, and should go and get her head shrunk. She said nothing, merely looked at her son with half-closed eyes, a slight smile twitching at shiny lipsticked lips. Fidel’s heart pounded. Now he’d done it. That smile was more frightening than a punch in the head. He took his fears to bed and slept badly. Just before sunrise this morning his mother had let herself silently into his shed, ripped off his duvet and straddled the mattress. He woke with a start and stared up in horror as she lifted her nightgown and sprayed hot urine over his naked body. He scrambled away, cowering in a corner, sick from shock, nauseous from the stench. She laughed, lowered her skirt and, humming something tuneless, wandered out. Fidel had scrubbed and scrubbed himself under the tap as if trying to remove his skin, then returned to the shed, dressed, checked his rucksack, went quietly out, closed the shed door behind him, then tapped on his brother’s bedroom window. Cold, wet and pain dragged him back to the present. ‘That was this morning!’ he shouted into the blackness. ‘It wasn’t a dream! It happened and… and… if I fall asleep I will die,’ he whispered. ‘I must go to sleep!’ But he couldn’t. Instead, his body began to shiver to maintain warmth—determined to stay alive despite urgings from the brain, which in its turn refused to maintain the barrier he had so bravely constructed to contain his emotions. Like a dam bursting, fifteen years of tears he had refused to shed, flowed over his cheeks into his mouth, over his neck and into the gutter to join the rainwater on it’s way to the sea. Traffic had slowed slightly to an occasional car and when the episode ended he decided he was being a bit stupid to just lie there, so tried to push himself up, but the pain in his wrist made him fall back and consider other options. A vehicle slowed and almost stopped. Hope of rescue set his heart pounding, only to be dashed when it continued on its way. A few seconds later it backed up, the passenger door opened and a woman got out, took a look and called, ‘He’s not drunk, Sanjay, he’s hurt! Come and help.’
  2. Fidel

    Fifteen year-old Fidel runs away to the city where he falls into trouble, then falls out again and then is too busy living to notice a quiet political revolution. He and his friends fall foul of the new government and, after a series of adventures, excitements and horrifying experiences, work out how to live, what to value and how to survive during a reign of terror that it seems is not going to end.
  3. Author's Note

    My stories are prompted by ideas that rattle around in my head demanding escape. Fidel is the result of wondering what life will be like in another few decades when the planet’s population has doubled to fifteen billion, food and water are running out, infrastructure is decaying, and the climate has become ever more dangerously unstable. Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, commenting on social order in 1849 wrote; “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”. A proposition I choose to interpret as meaning: Circumstances may change, but how we govern ourselves doesn't. Why is it that most humans always end up being exploited? In my opinion it’s because for the first three hundred thousand years of our existence, humans survived by being strongly individualistic, and ten thousand years of living in permanent social groups [civilization] hasn’t been long enough to quell this individualistic urge. The result being that would-be Chiefs, Kings, Presidents and others who want to rule us, are forced to control the revolting individualists by giving them ‘bread and circuses’, and if that doesn’t work, by using their well armed police enforcers who are ever ready to kill, hurt and imprison all who step out of line. Their allies in this subjugation of the masses are organised religions that augment the physical threats in this life, with the prospect of eternal fire, torture and damnation after death, to all who refuse to obey the priests. This vile concept was invented by power-hungry witchdoctors who cleverly replaced the multitude of personalised, relatively benign, natural gods of forest, river, air and sea, with a single, omnipotent angry, vengeful supernatural deity. Powerful men and women are almost always bad. Corrupted by wealth and power, they see the state and its citizens as the means to garner ever more power and wealth to themselves. This is done by enslaving most of them, and waging wars against all obstacles to their desires. No nation state has ever gone to war for the good of its citizens. The sole purpose of war is, and always has been, to make powerful and wealthy men richer and more powerful. The unsurprising result of centuries of repression of individuals and constant war has been to maintain the same division of wealth as has been the case in all societies since humans first huddled in permanent settlements – the ruling 1% owning 99% of the wealth. The sole change to the equation today, is that ubiquitous and total surveillance of every individual, combined with ever more lethally armed police, has made revolution impossible. Please don’t let the future depicted in Fidel depress you unduly – I could be wrong.
  4. A Perfect Day For It

    And I've enjoyed your comments, Thanks. As for winter, it is the best time here, cool nights and sunny warm days in the mid to high twenties. No mosquitoes, plenty of fruit and vegetables. Bliss.
  5. A Perfect Day For It

    Thank you for reading it. I hope you enjoy the next -
  6. A Perfect Day For It

    Thanks, Okiegrad. I'm too soft hearted to have written it otherwise.
  7. A Perfect Day For It

    And I look forward to reading your opinions, Wesley. Thanks for following the story.
  8. A Perfect Day For It

    And your praise is also much appreciated! I hope "Fidel" lives up to your standards.
  9. A long and sensuous foreplay... I love it. Ha, ha... and then it does happen - then like an orgasm suddenly it's over and you wonder if...
  10. Faking a death, solving a problem, fooling the 'authorities' ... indeed an interesting puzzle. But are brains and courage enough?
  11. Thanks Okiegrad, I always knew you were a visionary.
  12. A Perfect Day For It

    The god who looks after the innocent had decreed perfect weather for a swim. Wind free, slightly overcast, hot enough to entice people into the sea instead of wallowing in a tepid pool. At a quarter to ten Mort and Arch arrived with flippers, masks, snorkels and beach towels, and claimed a spot amongst the other guests, swapping smiles and casual greetings. After rubbing each other somewhat ostentatiously with sun lotion, surreptitiously watched by males envious of Arch, and females envious of Mort, they relaxed for a while, propped up on their elbows, gazing out to sea, pleased that no other guests seemed intent on underwater sightseeing. What they hadn’t counted on was the lifeguard sitting on his perch at the edge of the water in the centre of the beach. Too late to worry. With a bit of luck he’d get bored watching their snorkels and wouldn’t notice when Mort swam a little further out. When it looked as if everyone had lost interest in them they casually wandered to the water’s edge, sat and put on flippers and masks, slithered into the water, popped the snorkels into their mouths and swam lazily away. At first they swam together towards and around the closest rocks on the right, then Arch stayed close to shore while Mort swam in ever increasing circles. When he was about two minutes swim from the point, Arch dragged his thigh across a sharp branch of coral. Instantly, the water turned red and he almost panicked. The cut seemed huge. Controlling himself, he managed to swim to shore where he called for help—the panic in his voice was real. It was a deep and jagged tear in his flesh. Within seconds the entire beach came running, including the lifeguard with an emergency first aid kit. By the time he had dried, disinfected and dragged the gash together with tape, Mort had disappeared, unnoticed by a crowd hypnotised by the blood, raw flesh and the unpleasant yellow colour Arch had turned before vomiting and fainting. It wasn’t until he was being carried up the steps on a stretcher that anyone thought to ask about his wife. Someone said she had returned to the beach before Arch cut himself, others said they thought she was still swimming among the rocks. An elderly gentleman had seen her mount the steps up to the hotel. No one panicked until the beach guard returned and said she wasn’t at the hotel. He scanned the sea with his binoculars and declared her missing. ‘No one go in the water! Do not use the paddleboats! Despite the hooks there could be a shark or a crocodile. She may have been stung and is seeking shelter on the rocks. Mrs. Lintel is a good swimmer, so if nothing’s happened to her she will be fine. I’m calling the search and rescue helicopter, they’ll be here in half an hour, everyone stay calm and use the hotel pool for the rest of the day.’ ***** Mort was nervous. It had been too easy. He’d rounded the point unnoticed and with the help of flippers powered towards the shore. It was probably only half past ten—quarter to eleven. He could see no one on the shore. What if? He took deep breaths to calm irrational fears. His feet touched bottom. He waded up to a small patch of sand and had just removed snorkel, flippers and mask when Hercules and Zadig came scrambling down the rocks. They smiled grimly, but no one spoke. A minute later, Mort was wearing motorbike leathers and following Zadig up to the concealed motorbike. They mounted and rode quietly away. Hercules tore the swimsuit to shreds, emptied the contents of the flask containing Calumnia’s blood that Arch had removed from the freezer, onto the pieces, ensured they were absorbed, then tossed them and the snorkelling gear back into the water where they drifted slowly towards some rocks further out. He then wandered casually back up to the hotel and was nearly there when Hale passed him in the van. It wasn’t until he was entering the lounge that he heard the approach of a helicopter. He looked at his watch and smiled. By now they’d be merely one of dozens of bikes and cars pounding up and down the highway. ***** Two helmeted and leather clad young men on a powerful bike, saddlebags bulging with gear, rode north for half an hour to a reddish brown sign marking the tourist route to the waterfalls. They turned left onto a winding sealed road that rose rapidly through heavily forested slopes. Two cars passed them going down. At an overgrown entranceway, Zadig turned in and stopped out of sight of the road. At that moment a vehicle drove up the road. Mort was shaking when he dismounted and had to hold himself against a tree to avoid sagging to his knees. Zadig was instantly at his side, supporting him. ‘Mort, sweetheart, are you okay?’ ‘Fine, thanks. Just a bit dizzy.’ Zadig checked a nearby log for ants and snakes. ‘Come and sit down.’ ‘I’m fine, really. Don’t know what the matter is. Delayed shock I guess. All that tension, planning, pretending to be Calumnia, dancing, swimming, terrified it’d all blow up in our faces. And then suddenly I’m here. With you. It’s almost an anticlimax.’ He turned his face to Zadig. ‘Kiss me!’ They hugged for long minutes until Mort’s shoulders relaxed. He took a deep breath and shook his head. ‘I was so worried you’d crash the bike, have an accident, run into trouble. Every minute I was thinking about you, terrified something would go wrong and we’d be separated and I’d never see you again. If I’d thought about that when we were planning, I’d never have done it. Losing you would be a price too big to pay. I’d sooner die.’ ‘Yeah, it isn’t until we’ve made a choice that we realise exactly what’s at stake. Humans can plan, but they seldom want to work out the consequences. I felt the same. Worried all the time that you’d be found out, thrown in prison, drown when swimming to me…’ He sighed deeply and shook his head. ‘Let’s never do anything like this again... separating and doing dangerous things.’ ‘Too right. From now on, if we’re doing something risky we stay together. What happens now?’ ‘I told the ranger we were going to spend the day at the waterfalls, so we’ll head up there so we know what we’re talking about if anyone asks, then we’re going to the Falls National Park to camp for a couple of days. Can’t go back to where I’ve spent the last two nights because one ranger thinks I’m me, and the other thinks I’m you.’ ‘You really are amazing. Okay, let’s go.’ ‘First, bare your lovely head while I play Delilah to your Samson.’ Ten minutes later Mort’s hair bore a striking resemblance to Zadig’s centimetre-long fuzz. ‘You look different.’ ‘How?’ ‘Tough. Mean. No... not mean, hard. No. Not hard. Able to look after yourself.’ ‘And with long hair I didn’t?’ ‘It sort of softened your face; gave you a slightly insecure look. Made me want to take care of you even though I knew you were an independent cuss.’ ‘So you no longer want to take care of me?’ ‘I do, but I now realise I don’t need to.’ ‘And what do you prefer?’ ‘This by a long chalk! Now I know I don’t have to worry about you. I will still worry, but not because I think you’ll be taken advantage of or get out of your depth. I feel more equal now. I realise you can also take care of me if I need it.’ ‘It’s interesting how much difference a bit of hair makes. It feels better too. I’m glad it’s off; always something flapping round my head. I don’t know why I kept it so long. I think I unconsciously promised myself I wouldn’t cut it until my life was sorted. Well now it is and I’m a new man. I’m glad you still like me because I still reckon you’re the perfectest man on the planet.’ Zadig took Mort’s head in his hands and kissed his brow, nose, eyes and lips. ‘Beautiful words sealed with a loving kiss, but we’d better get going.’ As they powered quietly up the hill towards their future, glossy black tresses were cast on the winds, taking with them a troublesome past. Meanwhile, back at the hotel, the helicopter crew had seen nothing floating; body, shark, or crocodile, but they did report clothing in shallow water not far up the coast. A police sergeant and a constable pulled Calumnia’s torn togs and snorkelling gear out of the water, bagged and labelled them and placed them in the boot of their vehicle. Hercules had walked round to the parking area to meet Hale, and together they entered the lounge to be met by an almost hysterical Malcolm. He clung to Hale as if for support. ‘Hale! It’s a disaster! Do you know where Calumnia is?’ ‘No, why?’ ‘She disappeared while swimming. And Arch cut himself on coral and is nearly dead from loss of blood. We’ve sent for an ambulance. Should we inform someone?’ ‘Calm, Malcolm, calm. None of this can possibly be your fault. You run an impeccable establishment, so leave it all to the cops. Just remain calm, do as they ask with no questions. Be helpful; don’t protest your innocence; that makes cops suspicious. It will sort itself out.’ ‘Yes. Yes. You are right. But …’ ‘But keep calm. Where’s Arch?’ ‘I’ll take you.’ The sick bay was in a separate building behind the office, a large airy room smelling of disinfectant. The resident nurse was taking Arch’s temperature. A policeman was standing watching. Blood had seeped through the bandage around Arch’s thigh. His eyes were open and he grasped Hale’s hand nervously. ‘Where’s... where’s…’ ‘Calumnia?’ Arch nodded. ‘She’s disappeared. No one has any idea where she is.’ Hale gave a slow wink. ‘That’s terrible. What can have happened?’ ‘The police are on to it, so don’t worry. I’m sure she’ll be found.’ Hercules stepped forward and took the other hand, 'You’re a fuckwit, Lintel, gashing yourself. Do you want me to let Mort know?’ ‘Yes, please Hercules. His number’s on my speed dial.’ The policeman stepped forward. ‘Who is Mort?’ ‘Arch’s son, he’s on a camping trip with his friend.’ ‘Where?’ ‘Last I heard they were in the Platypus National Park.’ ‘That’s about three hundred kilometres south.’ ‘Yeah, something like that. But they’re moving around a bit apparently. He’s an independent kid, doesn’t take kindly to being told what to do.’ ‘How old is he?’ ‘Eighteen.’ ‘The cop checked his records. ‘Mr. Lintel’s only thirty-three.’ ‘Yeah, a teenage fuck, apparently.’ ‘So the missing woman’s his step mother, only a few years older than him, how did they get on?’ Hercules laughed. ‘I think he was in love with her.’ He looked at the policeman’s face. ‘No, not like that. He’s gay and Calumnia was brilliant. Made him feel totally at home. He’ll be gutted, poor bugger.’ The cop pulled a wry smile. ‘Not very politically correct, Mr. Buff.’ Hercules grinned and winked. At that moment the ambulance arrived. Within two minutes Arch had an oxygen mask on his face, had been given an injection, was carried into the ambulance, papers had been signed and they were on their way. ‘Will you be needing us? I’d like to be at the hospital when Arch comes out of surgery.’ ‘We?’ ‘Me and Hale, we’re his best mates. Hale gave a performance here last night.’ The policeman checked his notes. ‘You haven’t been interviewed. Give me your details then call in to the police station to make a statement before going to the hospital.’ ‘What about Arch’s things?’ ‘We need to check his room in case there are leads to what might have happened. He will be contacted when he can retrieve his effects.’ ‘What about his car? Can I take it?’ ‘While you’re cleaning out your room and checking out of the hotel I’ll have a constable take a look, then I imagine you can take it.’ Half an hour later they met the policeman at Arch’s car. He handed Hercules the keys and Arch’s mobile phone. Mr. Lintel asked you to call his son. Do it now, but we’ll keep the phone.’ Mort answered on the third ring. ‘Mort? Hercules. Bad news. Arch has cut his leg and is in hospital, and Calumnia’s missing. There’s a helic…’ ‘What do you mean missing?’ Even from two metres away, the cop could hear the anxiety. Hercules explained. Mort was terribly upset. Wanted to come and help with the search. Was told he had to be calm and remain where he was, not to worry, he couldn’t do anything except upset Arch, so finish his holiday and they’d all meet up back at Oasis. Mort played his part well. The constable took the handset and introduced himself, explained that everything that needed to be done was being done, so Mort should remain where he was—where was that exactly? ‘And tonight you’ll stay at Falls National Park camping ground? Right, stay there; a police officer will arrive sometime this afternoon to interview you in case you have any information that might help the police with their enquiries. So hang around the camping area.’ The interview at the police station in town was straightforward; they signed statements and were free to go, but were not to leave the country without police permission until the case was closed. Mort’s interview was similar. Arch was released from hospital the following day with twenty-five stitches in his thigh, a packet of antibiotics, a pack of sterile dressings and several bandages, on condition Hale would stay with him and follow the doctor’s instructions. Over the next five weeks, everyone was interviewed several times by polite policemen who freely admitted that so far they had seen and heard nothing that made them suspicious of foul play. Arch had been in full view all the time. None of the mobile phones had any messages that could be called suspicious. Calumnia had sounded pleased with herself and was clearly under no threat when she sent the messages to her friends, and mother, all of whom agreed her plan was to cement her marriage with the man she loved. Calumnia’s friends’ helpfulness was triggered more from self-preservation than concern for her fate. They carefully avoided saying anything that might invite further interviews and investigation into the lucrative but illegal prostitution business of which Calumnia had been an invaluable asset. Her mother too was worried. She had foolishly bragged to her friends about how her daughter was going to fleece her wimpish husband, and didn’t want the cops to get hold of that information. Nor did she want them to know her daughter had been blackmailing Hercules. She was dead, and from a gossipy woman’s point of view the untimely death of a daughter in love makes a far better story than the death of a bitch who was screwing her husband for all she could get—and failed. A check at both National Parks proved that Mort had been staying at both during the tragic episode, so could not have had any part in his step mother’s accident. Cleaning staff swore they had seen both Hale and Hercules in and around their cabin while the tragedy was unfolding on the beach. To Hale’s astonished relief, no one bothered to find out who or what had driven along the coastal track to the town—he still had not thought of a valid reason for driving there at that time. The bathing costume did not look like either a shark or a crocodile had torn it, however, the traces of blood were analysed and DNA matched to Calumnia, who had had her DNA taken when she reported being raped by a teacher at the age of sixteen, and chose a compensation package from the school rather than the ignominy of a court case. Death by misadventure—possibly a shark or crocodile attack, was written on the bottom of the file. Arch’s leg healed perfectly and he and Hale have become the most sought-after architectural duo in the state. Hercules remains Hercules. Douglass Verdi bought himself a small unit in the city, and Mort and Zadig remain in connubial bliss in the cottage, living exactly the life that suits them. ********
  13. You're supposed to be biting your fingernails down to the quick in nervous apprehension about whether they will succeed. You're a cool customer, Wesley.
  14. Reconnaissance, Inhibitions, Tactics, Nerves.

    Arch and Mort took their time; they wanted to arrive at four o’clock. Hale and Hercules drove fast and at ten o’clock arrived in the forecourt of the Regal Rainforest Resort. ‘This is an exclusive hotel?’ Hercules asked in astonishment. ‘It’s just a collection of cheap sheds with windows. I’ve seen caravan parks with relocatable homes that look classier.’ Hale surveyed the low, flat-roofed reception block surrounded by what looked like a scattering of shipping containers and grinned. ‘This, Hercules, is what passes for classy architecture in Australia. There’s no aesthetic tradition in contemporary architecture; they adopt the Bauhaus principal that function should dictate form, but leave out the bit where style and finish are considered, because that would cost more. Foreigners think it’s quaint, being so basic and crude, and the locals don’t know any better. And if there’s a cyclone it’s easy to replace.’ ‘They stand out like sore thumbs. Should have asked Arch to design the place. Shouldn’t have got a building permit.’ ‘The sole function of building permits is to augment local government coffers, they have nothing to do with ensuring well designed and attractive construction.’ They parked, then wandered into the reception area where a few potted palms failed to suggest luxury. The receptionist shook her bleached head and sucked air through her teeth. ‘I don’t think we have any vacancies.’ ‘Then please call your boss.’ ‘You mean the manager?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘The manager bustled in. ‘Hale! How wonderful to see you again. Have you come to put on a show?’ ‘Great to see you too, Malcolm. Yes, I can manage a show if you can manage a double room for Hercules and me.’ ‘Of course I can.’ Malcolm extended his hand to Hercules. ‘Welcome. Are you part of Hale’s show?’ ‘No, just his boyfriend.’ ‘Good. Good. I’ve been telling him for years to find himself a mate. Hercules, eh? I don’t suppose you could put on a performance that included a bit of stable cleaning and monster slaying like your namesake? No? Never mind, At least the women will have fun ogling you both in the pool. Here are the keys to your cabin, number 23 just down that path. The same as you had last time if I’m not mistaken. I’m busy this morning, but come and have a drink with me this afternoon.’ ‘Sure thing, Malcolm. Around four o’clock?’ ‘Perfect.’ Their small but comfortable cabin overlooked the sea. Hercules was impressed with the view. They dropped their bags and went for a walk, taking photos, making notes and measuring distances. A check of the tides had been reassuring, for the next few days there was less than a metre difference between high and low. The weather forecast predicted no rough weather, although rain was a possibility. They kept their fingers crossed. After a light lunch they stood on the edge of the cliff in front of the public lounge and admired the panorama. It looked as if a giant had taken a bite out of the cliff in front of them, creating a small, crescent shaped beach thirty metres below, accessed by wide, shallow steps descending to what from this distance looked to be pristine white coral sand, dotted with umbrellas and loungers. Three people were swimming close to the shore; a dozen more were walking or sitting or sunbathing. Two little paddleboats were bobbing around near colourful buoys to which a stinger net was attached. Further out, other buoys indicated the position of shark hooks. The beach was enclosed by vertical rock walls that jutted about a hundred metres into the sea; so the only access to the bay was by sea or the steps. Behind the hotel buildings and pool lay well-tended gardens, accommodation for staff, car parks and service structures. Beyond the gardens lay a few square kilometres of remnant rainforest—tall, dark and inhospitable. The main access to the hotel was a sealed road through this patch of forest, on which, Hale informed a despondent Hercules, careless drivers caused the deaths of the last few almost-extinct cassowaries every year. There was also an emergency road from the hotel; a seldom used, unsealed track along the cliff top that followed the sea for several kilometres until it turned inland and joined the main road where the forest ended and cattle holdings and tea plantations began. At four o’clock, Hale and Hercules joined the manager for a drink in the lounge bar to discuss possible times for a show. The manager was relating an interminable story about some American guests when Arch’s car pulled up to the entrance. ‘Excuse me for a minute, guests have arrived, I must go and welcome them.’ Hale looked up. ‘I think that’s my friend’s car.’ He turned to the manager. ‘You aren’t expecting Arch and Calumnia Lintel, are you?’ ‘As a matter of fact we are,’ the manager replied, proud of having his finger so securely on the pulse of his establishment. ‘How bizarre! They’re my best friends and we arrive at the same place on the same day. Do you know him, Hercules?’ ‘We’ve met.’ ‘Come on then, let’s say hello.’ Arch and Mort were approaching the reception desk when Hale let out a cry of pleasure. ‘Archibald Lintel! What are you doing here? And Calumnia! My god, every time I see you, you get younger and more beautiful.’ ‘Flattery will get you everywhere, you great galah,’ Mort said in a sexy soft voice with a smile so beguiling the manager felt a slight arousal stirring his loins. ‘Hale, great to see you. I’ve been meaning to call but... you know. Clients. Never time to do everything.’ Hale turned to the manager. ‘Malcolm, allow me to introduce my best friends, Arch and his lovely wife Calumnia.’ They shook hands, assured each other they were delighted to have made each other’s acquaintance, completed registration, and were given the keys to their cabin. ‘You and Calumnia go and freshen up and we’ll catch up in the bar in about half an hour, okay?’ Hale and Hercules wandered along the cliff top to the alternative road. It was very rough, recent rains having scoured it somewhat, but that was good as no one would willingly venture along it in their expensive cars. Beyond the bay, the track, for it was little more than that, dropped rapidly until after about half a kilometre it was only a couple of metres above sea level. Satisfied with their reconnoitre they returned and joined Arch and Mort in the bar, where the manager had introduced them to two couples from upper Arizona whose strident praise for the scenery was countered by complaints about the heat and humidity. After a reasonable period they detached themselves from the Americans and went for a walk that ended in Hale and Hercules’s cabin for a council of war. ‘The sooner the better,’ Mort insisted. ‘Too soon would be suspicious. You and Arch have to establish yourselves as a loving couple, and Mort a competent swimmer. Dinner isn’t for another hour, so let’s go for a swim. It’s so hot and muggy it would be strange if we didn’t. We have to seem ordinary.’ A dozen people were lying on loungers around the pool, and about the same number were splashing around in the tepid water. No one was properly swimming, and the diving board was empty. The females looked half starved in skimpy little bikinis, the men, surprisingly, were mostly in speedos or equivalent, and unsurprisingly, overweight—some grossly. The presence of three well built, lean youngish men took attention away from Mort, who walked demurely to the edge and dived cleanly in, swimming four lengths before allowing Arch to help him out of the pool where they sat on the edge with their feet in the water watching Hercules doing acceptable dives, and Hale stunning everyone with double somersaults and twists. Arch felt slightly inferior, having a stocky, solid figure despite constant efforts to become a little more like superman. ‘You should probably put your arm around me; we’re supposed to be married and still in love,’ Mort said with a sexy smile. Arch did, and was slightly shocked. ‘Fuck, Mort. I’m getting a hard on. This is not right. You’re my son.’ He withdrew his arm. ‘Stop thinking that, Arch. Imagine I’m Perdita and we’re in love.’ ‘It’s difficult.’ ‘I dare you to go on the diving board with a hard on, that’ll show them you’re a real man.’ ‘No way!’ ‘Piker.’ ‘If I had a body like Hale or Hercules or you, I might consider it, but I haven’t.’ ‘Actually, I think I’d prefer your body if I was really your wife,’ Mort said thoughtfully. ‘Really?’ The delight in Arch’s voice was appealing. ‘Why?’ ‘Because no woman would want to steal you away from me.’ ‘You prick,’ Arch laughed. Forgetting himself he shoved Mort into the water. He surfaced, grabbed Arch’s leg and dragged him in, to restrained clapping from a few females and surprised looks from their men. After chasing each other through the water for a while, the four friends returned to their rooms to prepare for dinner. The brochure said dinners were formal, so they felt a little silly arriving in dinner suits when every other male was in slacks and open necked shirts. Their wives, though, had compensated for their partners’ casual attire with what appeared to be the entire contents of their jewel boxes. ‘We don’t fit in,’ Hercules observed. ‘We’re too formal and Calumnia doesn’t look like a whore.’ ‘And neither does this food fit my idea of the type of cuisine a luxury hotel would offer.’ ‘But we won’t complain or make a spectacle of ourselves.’ They moved to the lounge where coffee was served. Several couples smiled at Mort and Arch, but no one approached. ‘There’s dancing in the lounge later on, I suppose we have to go?’ ‘Yes, but not in these monkey suits. We’ll meet in your cabin, Arch, in ten minutes.’ ‘You seem tense, Hercules.’ ‘I am, and will explain when we’re certain of privacy.’ Twenty minutes later they gathered in the large and almost luxurious cabin assigned to Arch. ‘What’s the problem?’ ‘You are! You and Mort are supposed to be in love; you’ve only been married a couple of years. Yet you behave like a couple of mates. That business at the pool when you shoved Mort in, he dragged you in by your foot, then you chased each other around the pool like teenagers—male teenagers, not a loving, married, heterosexual couple. Two women asked me who you were. I told them your names, as that’s an essential part of the plot, said you’d married late, Arch, to a girl much younger than you. All your friends had prophesied, including me, that it’d never last, but you’ve proved us wrong, being both still in love.’ ‘But…’ ‘Hercules is right, Arch. You do not act like a loving husband. You took no notice of Mort at dinner, just chatted and left him to join in. You should have been showering him with attention, passing condiments, pouring his wine, picking up his napkin when he dropped it, instead of which he had to get down in that ridiculous tight skirt and pick it up himself.’ ‘The problem is I feel silly. Mort’s my son. When I put my arm round his shoulders at the pool it felt wrong. When he kissed my cheek I felt like a paedophile with my son.’ ‘The problem, Arch, is that we have literally put our lives on the line for you! If this goes belly up we’re for the chop. Sadly, it’s too late for you, but it’s not too late for us to back out. If at the dance this evening you do not act convincingly like a besotted lover, nibbling Mort’s neck, kissing, stroking, cuddling and gazing into his eyes, dancing every dance with him, or reluctantly letting one of us have a dance, but watching us all the time because you can’t take your eyes off him, then I’m out of here. Hale and I will get in his van and take off, and if Mort wants to come with us, that’s fine.’ ‘But…’ ‘No buts, Arch. Hercules and I are going for a walk. You and Mort must go to bed now and make passionate love to get over your stupid brainwashed notion that a father mustn’t have sex with his willing adult son. At this moment thousands of fathers are screwing their daughters, and some their sons, with mutual pleasure. Scores of teenage boys fuck their mothers and their sisters. We’re animals. Think of the Bonobos and come up with the goods or you’re on your own! Come on, Hercules.’ He turned at the door. ‘And keep the light on while you’re doing it!’ Without another word, they left the cabin.’ ‘They’re right, Arch. It was embarrassing this afternoon when you refused to put your arm around me. You don’t act as if we’re in love. I know you feel silly, but we have to do what they said; desensitise ourselves—or you, I have no problem being sexy with you.’ ‘At the pool you said I was unattractive.’ ‘A joke Arch! Do you think Hale would be lusting after you if you weren’t sexy? Come on! We’ve showered together, now we’re going to explore a little further.’ They stripped and lay on the bed. ‘Are you sure you’re okay with this?’ ‘Arch! Do you want to be strangled? I thought you were sexy and nice the first day I set eyes on you. So shut up and enjoy.’ Soft kisses became harder, more urgent. Hands began to wander, tongues and lips to explore other parts; bodies writhed; nipples swelled; erections grew ever stiffer and in the moment of simultaneous orgasm it felt as if their two bodies had exploded then melded into one. Reluctantly, they rolled apart and gazed into each other’s eyes. ‘I’m very glad you found me, Mort.’ ‘I’m very pleased I found you, Arch.’ ‘We’ve still got twenty minutes.’ After the second, shattering orgasm they lay silent for several minutes side by side, then as one they turned to face each other, drawing light fingers along each other’s cheek. Words were superfluous. They now knew each other mentally, physically and spiritually, and liked what they knew. When they walked into the lounge the afterglow of love seemed to follow them. Slightly idiotic smiles found on the faces of lovers who have enjoyed superior sex, lingered in secret glances and smiles, gentle touches and attentiveness, bathed in an aura of exclusivity. ‘Two cats who’ve licked the cream,’ Hercules grinned as they sat. ‘You might as well have a sign round your necks saying we’ve just has humungous sex.’ Arch and Mort smiled, walked dreamily onto the floor and spent the evening glued together, dancing every dance, refusing with soft smiles requests to change partners—the epitome of a truly loving couple. Nothing false, no ostentation, just simple, unobtrusive affection that makes others feel better for having witnessed it. Before going to bed, Arch used the cell phone Calumnia used when out of Oasis, to message both her friends and also her mother. He kept it brief, telling them she’d arrived, it was very pleasant, and everything was progressing as planned. ‘That’s vague enough to cover anything she might have said to them, and should give nothing away to whoever will be investigating her disappearance. What do you reckon?’ ‘Sounds good to me. Better too little than too much. I wonder, though, if you and I have had enough or too little desensitising?’ ‘Don’t be ridiculous, Mort. How can you have too much? But not too long, you need your rest for the swim tomorrow.’ They leaped into bed and this time turned out the light. ***** That afternoon, three hundred kilometres south of the not so luxurious resort hotel, while Mort and the others were cavorting in the hotel pool, Zadig had arrived at a camping ground attached to a national park renowned for it’s platypus viewing. ‘There are two of us,’ he told the Park Ranger, writing his and Mort’s names in the visitor’s register. ‘How long are you staying?’ ‘One or two nights. I’ll pay for two.’ ‘Fair enough. Where’s the other bloke?’ ‘He couldn’t wait to see the platypus, so I’ll send him up later.’ ‘I’m off duty in an hour. Tell him to come past in the morning; Tom’s on duty then.’ ‘No worries.’ Zadig erected his two-man tent, spread two groundsheets and sleeping bags, put a small pack at the head of each, and went for a swim and a look for the platypus, which were apparently on a break. He took a shower and spoke to a couple of other campers in the communal ablutions block, introducing himself as Zadig. Half an hour later he went for a second shower, this time telling the elderly man who seemed curious, that his name was Mort. The following morning he introduced himself to Tom as Mort Aywun, signed the book and waited for a phone call. At nine o’clock Arch rang and told him rain had forced a postponement, probably to the following day, he’d ring at the same time tomorrow. Zadig spent the day wandering forest tracks and sleeping, exhausted after a mosquito-ridden, sleepless, nervous night, made worse by the thought of having to endure another. ***** Back at the hotel, the rain prompted Hale to offer to put on a show for the guests that evening if the rain stopped. He spent much of the day practising away from prying eyes, while the others borrowed hotel umbrellas and went for a walk along the cliff-top track. It was muddy, which was good as that was another deterrent to sightseers. After a few hundred metres the track descended close enough to the water’s edge to permit access, and in answer to their prayers a tumbledown shack lurked behind an outcrop of rock; probably once a shelter for fishermen. They walked another two kilometres along the track, saw no signs of it’s being used recently, took a few photographs, noted important details, and returned. After lunch the weather cleared slightly, although the wind was unpleasant, so they went down to the small beach and braved the waters, carefully avoiding any display of interest in the rocks on the right of the bay. As Mort said, you never know who is watching and wondering. ‘I reckon it’s about a hundred metres till I’m round the point, from then on I’ll be invisible to anyone here on the beach or up by the hotel, then another three hundred metres at least to where the track is low enough to climb up to it.’ ‘Say half a kilometre. Can you swim that far?’ ‘Easily, but I’d look silly just swimming straight around the point and disappearing. There has to be a reason I’d go so far.’ ‘You could take one of those little paddle boats and fall off without anyone noticing.’ ‘The fellow in charge is certain to keep a watchful eye on them in case of that. An accident would be bad for business.’ ‘We’re going to be very bad for business. I’m starting to feel guilty. I like Malcolm.’ ‘Got it!’ Arch nodded in satisfaction. ‘In the sports room there are flippers, snorkels and masks for the use of guests; we’ll get some and go snorkelling to look at coral and things. Then I’ll get cramp or cut myself or something, and come back in. Then while people are fussing over me, you can disappear.’ ‘But the beach has to be full of people, it’s no use if we’re alone.’ ‘So let’s pray for a bright day with a little cloud so those who sunburn easily will also come down.’ That night it was Hercules who phoned Zadig. ‘It’s on for tomorrow. He’ll go in the water at eleven, so you should be here by then. I’m sending a photo of the map with an x at the spot we’ll meet. Call me back when you’ve worked out how to get there.’ Ten minutes later Zadig phoned, said he’d checked satellite maps and found the place easily. He’d only need three hours, but would allow four to get there in case of a mishap, so would leave at seven, to arrive at ten. If the swim was cancelled, someone should phone any time after six. Hercules reminded him to destroy and dispose of the phone and card afterwards; he would do the same. At nine o’clock that evening the entire population of the hotel assembled on chairs in front of the lounge. Hale had set the frame up on the edge of the cliff. The air was utterly still and sensuously warm; the backdrop an almost full moon sending a wavy yellow path across the ocean. He had decided to use no music. The susurration of the sea and occasional night noises were enough. In an artificial environment music is important to set the mood. In nature at night the mood is already set—mysterious, magical, expectant. Malcolm turned off all lights except the three spots Hale always used, and from his first magical leap—a golden streak of perfect flesh flying to the top of the frame where he remained vertical on his hands long enough for his audience to get over the shock and realise what they had seen, right through to the final dizzying triple somersault, landing on his feet in front of everyone, the atmosphere was electric with tension punctuated by gasps of astonishment, fear and relief when what seemed impossible proved the opposite. ‘One of the best shows I’ve seen,’ seemed to be the consensus. Malcolm was delighted. Even the most difficult guest was at last satisfied with something, and he soaked up the praise for having organised such a performance. ***** While the hotel guests were still tucked up in their cosy beds, back in the forest Zadig rose early, swam, made himself a plate of muesli, received a phone call, packed his tent and gear and rode softly out, only to be stopped by Tom the ranger. ‘Gidday Mort. Where’s the bloke with the Arab name? Zad...something?’ ‘Zadig. It’s Persian, not Arab. I think his grandparents came from there. He’s waiting for me at the end of the track—I hope! He loves walking, so set off an hour ago. You must have seen him on the way in.’ ‘Oh, right. There was a bloke out on the highway. Too far away to see clearly. Must be pretty fit to walk so far.’ ‘He is.’ ‘Where are you off to today?’ Up the ranges to see the waterfalls, they should be good after the rain, then we’ll camp at Falls National Park. I hope the camping area’s as well looked after as this place.’ ‘Thanks. Ride safely.' With a wave Zadig rode quietly off and was soon lost to view. On reaching the highway he picked up speed, keeping to the speed limit for three hours until he saw Hercules sitting on a stump beside the road. Hercules looked at his watch. ‘One minute to ten—Brilliant. Great to see you.’ ‘And you! I’d never have noticed this track! Thank goodness you got here first. How long did it take you to walk?’ ‘I didn’t. Hale drove me here along the track. He’s gone to the shop up the road for something. He’ll drive back after you leave to muddy your tracks.’ ‘That is so clever; when did you think of it?’ ‘About half an hour ago. I suddenly realised your bike would leave a very suspicious trail.’ Hercules mounted the pillion seat. ‘Drive on McZadig.’ Fifteen minutes later the bike and Zadig were concealed in the decrepit shed, and Hercules was sitting on a boulder staring out to sea, contemplating the cosmic absurdity of life.
  15. Hale Returns & An Accident Requires Action

    Ah... such callousness - where's your empathy for a misunderstood young woman?

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