Jordan in Okarito
"Back the truck up."
The driver's mate stood in the yard, making useless gestures while the huge pantethicon inched back through the narrow gateway. The driver took no notice of him at all, he was busy concentrating on what he was doing.
It looked impossible but he was a proud professional and he knew he could do it. Slowly, ever so slowly, it entered and filled the yard, like a carefully copulating porcupine.
The boy stood out of the way, in a doorway, watching and waiting. Yesterday, when it arrived at their old home, he'd wondered why they had to have such a big truck? Surely, it was too big, they weren't even moving half of their furniture. All the whiteware, fridge, freezers, washing machine and dryer, was being left behind. A lot of their other stuff was too. They didn't need it all because they were moving into a hotel and that was already furnished.
'Surely,' he thought, 'a small truck would be enough if we're only taking personal stuff.'
He got that wrong didn't he? By the time they'd finished the truck was chock-a-block and there was no room for any more in there.
What he'd overlooked was his father's gear and there was a whole garage-full of that – carpentry tools, painting equipment and paint, oodles of paint – buckets and buckets of it. He knew that his dad was a painter, but – wow! ("Can't you buy paint in our new town?")
Apparently, there was no need to, not when they had all of this.
So, they filled the truck up, spent the night in a motel, and now they were here, just arrived and waiting to unload and move into their new home.
Everyone pitched in, even the little kids helped, (a bit), and it was all unloaded in no time flat. Sorting it all out was going to take a lot longer. For now, all the furniture and personal effects went into a big room and the passage at the back of the pub, and the tools and gear were left, covering the floor, in a garage.
When all of that was out of the way his mother summoned him inside to meet the staff. He stood there, feeling awkward, while all the strange grown-ups studied him.
"This is our oldest boy, Kim. He's 13 and he's obsessed with music. If you talk to him and he doesn't answer it'll be because he's got his earbuds in and the music turned up loud. Kim is usually plugged in to one thing or another."
"Mum!" He protested, even though it was true.
"Whatever," she replied in teen-talk. "Kim, these are Mr. And Mrs Springer, the chief cook and barman."
"Chief cook and bottle washer, more likely," the big, bald, man held out a hand which Kim took and shook. "Hello, Kim and welcome. Forget the Mr and Mrs, our names are Terry and Anne, okay?"
"Okay. Thanks, umm . . Terry."
"Louise and Jody. They help in the kitchen here."
"And in the bar," one of the younger women smiled.
The other one nodded," Right. Everywhere else too. Hello, Kim."
"Hey, Ladies," he smiled, then stopped when he looked at the other , grim-looking, old lady standing there.
"This is Miss Clayton, the Housekeeper. She runs the place really, the hotel couldn't function without her. It was a condition of the sale that Miss Clayton should keep her place here, which we didn't mind at all. How long did you say you've been here, Miss Clayton?"
"Fifty-seven years," she replied without taking her eyes off Kim.
"Wow," he said. "Fifty-seven years! You must've been very young when you started?"
He held out a hand, which she ignored.
"What should we call you?"
"I think 'Miss Clayton' will suffice, thank you. Come with me and I will show you where your room is."
He followed her out to the hallway which ran through the hotel from the front to the backdoor, up the stairs to the second floor and up again to the third. He hadn't even realised that there was a third floor.
Miss Clayton didn't speak, didn't look back and didn't stop until they came to the door of his room at the back of the building. She might be getting old but she wasn't slowing down.
"This will be your room. Your sister is on the second floor, in Room 11, and your parents and the 2 younger children are in the owner's apartment on the ground floor. The bathroom, showers and toilets, are along the hall there. Please wear a robe if you are not fully dressed; you'll find one behind your door.
Keep your belongings in your room and do not disturb the paying guests.
We have several full-time boarders up here and the Springer's apartment is at the front. Mrs. Springer is an early riser, Mr.Springer is not. Kindly respect their hours, they work hard. Are there any questions?"
"I, ah, no, I don't think so. Where do you live, Miss Clayton?"
"Far away from here. I have my own apartment on the ground floor, near the backdoor and I value my privacy.
Meal times are at the same hours as for the guests, but I understand that Mrs. Springer has something special prepared for this evening. Go down to the kitchen to eat when you are ready."
"Great. Yes, I'll do that. Thank you, Miss Clayton.
"Don't be too long. Mrs. Springer needs her sleep; her day starts at 6am. Good evening, Kimberley."
She swept away, leaving him standing with his mouth open. His parents might own this place now, but he didn't envy them trying to tell Miss Clayton what to do. She was an impressive lady. Staunch.
Left alone, he sat on the king-single bed and bounced a couple of times to try it out. Seemed okay. It was an old building but, thankfully, it was a modern bed.
The room had one door, one window, the bed, a free-standing wardrobe with attached drawers and a mirror on the side, two chairs and a small table, with a radio and a telephone on it. The TV was secured high on the wall, by a bracket, and there was a light above the bedhead.
It was not a bad room; not huge but big enough. He could be comfortable here, especially after he brought in his music, his laptop and his bits and pieces. That stupid framed print on the wall above the table would have to go and some posters would brighten the place up.
He got up and opened the drapes to see what the view was like – it was awesome! The window faced east, away from the sea and towards the mountains. Some of the town was spread out below him, houses hiding in amongst the greenery, the darker-hued bush beyond them rose up to the hills and the snow-capped mountains reared up behind. The cloudless blue sky completed a scene that was 'as pretty as a picture'.
Actually, it was better than any picture he'd ever seen. Even the schoolyard, visible in the distance, looked good from here. He loved this view.
So, what else was there? He checked-out the bathroom, and then went along to see what the view was like from the front.
There were glass doors out to the wooden, roofed, balcony outside. He opened them and looked out but stayed where he was, safely inside.
"Not scared of heights, are you?"
He looked around and grinned."Oh, hi, Mr. Springer. I'm not really, but is it safe out there?"
"Of course it is. It holds me and I'd weigh twice what you do. Seriously, there's nothing to worry about, this old place was built to last. It might all look a bit shabby but it's all as solid as a rock. And, I told you to call me Terry. I might be old compared to you, but you don't have to rub it in."
"Okay, right. Sorry. Terry, then. I'll take your word for it and if it all collapses and kills me, I'm blaming you."
He stepped outside for a better look. It was different to the view out at the back. The balcony looked down over the main street, there was a patch of green, a park or something, behind the shops on the other side, then, screened by over-grown hedges, a camping ground with a few tents and campervans. The Tasman Sea was over behind them.
He could just see the famous lagoon, on his right, up past the main street, and more mountains behind that. It was all good, but he preferred the view from his room at the back. Looking down at the street was interesting though; it was all very busy down there. He guessed that the sunshine would've brought the people out. It wouldn't be much fun wandering around on a wet day and they got a lot of them here.
A kid walked past down there, surrounded by dogs – 10 or 12 of them, easily. Maybe more. Amazing – there were all sorts, pure-breds and mongerels, and they were all very well-behaved, just walking along quietly like they were all on leashes, which they were not!
'Whoa. We've only got one dog and he never behaves that well. What's that kid's secret?'
And - "Eating time!" He scurried down to the kitchen to get in before all the food was gone. It'd been a long day, he was hungry and was sure that the others would be too. Four kids took a lot of feeding and they'd be famished.
He needn't have worried. Mrs. Springer had served-up more than even they could eat. They did try though. It was a great old-fashioned steak and kidney stew with strange things on top that she said were Yorkshire Pudding – weird, but good for mopping-up the gravy.
The parents weren't eating. Or, maybe they already had? Who cared? They could look after themselves.
When he'd cleaned the plate up, and refused a 3rd helping, Kim sat back and grinned at his sister, Kaylee. "We could get fat around here."
"Yeah, but we won't. Great meal, thanks Mrs. Springer."
"Really good, I loved it," their younger sister, Alesha, agreed. Baby brother, Bayley just grinned and waved his spoon. He didn't talk much, he wasn't even 2 years old.
"Right, Kids," their mother came in and lifted Bayley from the highchair. "Rinse your dishes and leave them in the dishwasher, and when you've done that, you can all shower and go to bed. It's been a big day."
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