Jordan in Okarito
Kim sat there, feeling – what? He didn't know. Offended? Yeah, a bit. Intrigued? Yes, definitely. He was interested even if the boy was not. He sat there and waited. He didn't even know if they came back the same way, but there was only one way to find out and he was in no hurry.
His phone rang and it was his mother, worrying of course. "I'm okay, Mum. Just sitting here waiting to talk to someone. I'll be back soon. 'Bye, Mum."
And – yes! He saw them coming back and he sat and waited and watched again. He wouldn't say anything this time. If the kid wanted to snub him again, well – fine. He was just looking. Was that how people saw him when he was walking around – without the dogs of course.
This time the boy stopped and looked. He sat down next to him and had a closer look. "Yes, that's weird. I've never seen anything like it. What's your name and where're you from?"
"I'm Kim. Kim Harrison. We've only been here a short time, but I live in the Royal Hotel."
"Kim Harrison? Cool. I'm Jethro. Where did you live before you came here?"
"In Green Island."
"Where? I've been, like, everywhere! But I've never heard of any Green Island. Is that overseas?"
"No," Kim laughed. "It's a suburb, at the south end of Dunedin."
"Dunedin – the dour southern Scottish city. I know where that is. Got any family?"
"Yes. There's my dad, my mum and us four kids. I'm the oldest."
"Mum, Dad and four kids and you're all living in a hotel. Are your folks rich?"
"I wish! No, they're not rich, they're just workers."
"How do you all afford to live in a hotel then?"
"We don't just live there, Dad bought the place and he's fixing it up."
"So he is rich."
"No, he's not and he's even less rich now. He used to have a painting and decorating business, he sold it and now he's got a big old pub and a huge mortgage. What do your folks do?"
"Not much. There's just my mum and I. We live in a 30 foot caravan and now it's parked-up in a friend's backyard because Mum's got a job at the hospital."
"Is she a doctor or a nurse or something?"
"Or something. She's the handyman/gardener and looks after the coal-fired boiler too."
"Sounds like she's busy."
"She is. It's a 6 day a week job. She got it because she wanted to get some money together. She says she likes it but she'll probably chuck it in and we'll move on before long. We usually do. Mum doesn't like staying in one place for long."
"Where's your dad?"
"Haven't got one. I guess I had a father somewhere, but I don't know anything about him. Mum won't tell me, she says I was a virgin birth. Haha. I bloody wasn't – I know that much. Hey – maybe we could have the same father? Does your father ever stray?"
"Not likely – Mum'd kill him! So, no brothers or sisters, but you've got all those dogs. Are they all yours?"
"No. None of them are. Mum won't let me have a dog, she says there's no room in the caravan for one."
"Camping grounds probably wouldn't have you either. But you take them all walking, do you get paid for that?"
"No, I don't get paid – wish I did! They just come with me. I like dogs. I like most animals and get on better with them than I do with people."
"It must be hard making friends when you're always moving on. Why don't you go to school?"
"I'm with the Correspondence School, always have been and always will be."
"Makes sense, I guess. Do you like it?"
"Don't you get lonely, being by yourself all the time?"
"But I'm not by myself. These are my friends," he waved a hand at the dogs.
"Better than nothing."
"Yeah, way better than nothing. Have you got a dog?"
"Sort of. Mum's got a Bijon, but he's old and grouchy and he doesn't do much – just lies around farting and sleeping all the time. Wish I could do that."
"That'd be all right, eh? Probably get boring though."
"Probably. I s'pose I should be getting home before someone comes looking for me." Kim stood and got on his crutches. "Are you going up this way?"
"I'll walk with you then. I'll be one of your dogs. They won't bite, will they."
"Not unless I tell them to."
"Hope you don't do that then." They started back up the street and Kim tried not to slow them down too much. "Your name is Jethro. Jethro Tull, is it?"
"It's not and I have heard that joke before – about a million times. I'm Jethro Bourke, b, o, u, r, k, e – Bourke. Don't say it."
"Wasn't even thinking about it. Who was Jethro Tull? An early 70's rock singer, wasn't he?"
"Not he, they. Jethro Tull was the name of a group – one of the original Heavy Metal bands. They got their name from some old dude who was an inventor, or something, hundreds of years ago."
"What did he invent? Metal music?"
"Something much more useful than that."
"Most things are."
"You're not wrong."
They walked along in companionable silence for a few minutes, both of them stealing glances at the other. They neared the hotel on the other side of the street.
Kim said, "Well, there it is – Home Sweet Home and there's the redoubtable Miss Clayton looking for me."
"Miss Clayton. I've heard of her. They say she's an old battleaxe."
"She's not that bad. She just pretends she's fierce."
"Must be a good pretender."
"She is, she's got the whole town fooled, but not me. Will you be walking this way tomorrow?"
"I will, unless it's raining. I walk everyday, at around the same time, but not when it's raining."
"Don't the dogs like walking in the rain."
"They don't care. It's me, I hate it and I don't do it."
"Fair enough. Nice meeting you, Jethro. Maybe I'll see you tomnorrow, if it's not raining."
"Probably. I'll look forward to that. 'Bye, Kim, you good-looker you."
"'Bye, Jethro, the other good-looker."
They parted with grins and Kim crossed the street, hoping that he wasn't about to be growled at by Miss Clayton. She wasn't growling, she was too busy watching Jethro walk away up the street.
"Who is that boy, Kimberley?"
"His name's Jethro and he's new in town too. His mum's working at the hospital."
"Is he a relation of yours?"
"Don't think so. Never seen him before."
"Never? Amazing, he could be your twin. It's said that everyone has got a double. I think that you've just met yours."
"Don't contract your words, Kimberley. It makes you sound common."
"But I am common."
"You certainly are not! You're a most uncommon young man. Now, come along, it's time for our music practice."
"Yes, we must. Practice makes perfect. You are well on the way, but you're not perfect yet."
They were practicing every night, from about 6.30 until 8pm. Or, Kim was practicing, Miss Clayton was guiding him. She had summoned him into the downstairs lounge, 3 days ago, and sat at the upright piano while he stood, fidgeting nervously.
"Don't fidget, Kimberley, and stand up straight. Develop the habit of good posture when you are young and it will stand you in good stead when you are older."
"Yes, Miss Clayton."
What he was really thinking was, 'You must've stood real straight when you were a girl then.'
She told him that she'd been a music teacher for many years, which he knew, and that she'd heard him singing and playing around the hotel, which he did not know. (She didn't tell him how she'd heard him, that was her secret).
She said that, while she didn't like some of his choices, he was easily as good as anyone she'd ever heard in all her years of experience – possibly even the best.
"You are hugely talented, Young Kimberley, but you are obviously self-taught and you need to learn techniques for breathing and projection. Also, you should be exploring the range of styles that would suit your voice.
With your gifts, you could go a long way in music. There are many singers inferior to you who are making a good living from it. Even if you never do that, there is still great satisfaction in being the best that you can be.
In short, Kimberley, you would benefit from having a teacher. I would deem it a privilege if that teacher was me."
"You're offering to teach me, Miss Clayton? Well, why not? That could be really good, thanks. I can't afford to pay you anything though, I'll have to speak to Mum."
"There will be no payment required, just satisfaction for the both of us. I must warn you though, I can be a hard taskmaster."
"I don't doubt that! Hard but fair."
"Indeed. Anything that is worthwhile is worth doing well and nothing is achieved without great effort – Blood, Sweat and Tears, as it were. We will practice in here, every evening from 6.30 to 8pm."
"Yes. Or would you rather be cleaning up the kitchen at that time?"
"In here it is then. One thing, Miss Clayton, could you call me 'Kim'?"
"I think not. Your name is Kimberley. That is a perfectly good name and there is no need to butcher it."
"Okay," he sighed.
And so it had begun. Miss Clayton was a good teacher and she knew a lot of stuff, but she wasn't kidding when she said that she was a hard taskmaster – she was!
On Saturday it rained all day, so walking wasn't going to happen. Mid-morning, getting bored, Kim thought he'd try going up to his room. Going up the stairs on his crutches was an effort but he could do it.
However, after he'd climbed the first half-dozen steps, he thought he'd see what it was like going down again. He was glad that he hadn't gone up any further, getting down was too hard.
He almost tipped forward a couple of times and he really didn't need another fall down the stairs, so he gave up on that plan. Going up to his room would have to wait for another day.
He had lunch and enjoyed being fussed-over by Mrs Springer. It was good, but not worth falling down the stairs for. Then he watched his parents' TV for a while, got bored and thought he'd have a 'nana nap'. Not much else to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
That plan was not a success. He'd just settled down on the bed when Alesha came bouncing into the room.
"Damm, Alesha! I know it's really your room but you could knock when I'm using it."
"Sorree! No need to bite my head off. What're you doing in bed in the daytime?"
"Just having a rest."
"You're not you know. You can't because you've got a visitor."
"A visitor? Is it Jordan?"
"No, and it's not Bonnie either."
"Come and see. Or do you want me to send him in here?"
"In here?" He looked around the girly room – unicorns and One Direction posters everywhere. "No, I'll come out."
He climbed out of bed and hobbled out to the living room.
"Jethro! Hello. What're you doing here?"
"I came to see you. That's all right, isn't it?"
"Yeah - great! But I thought you didn't walk in the rain?"
"I don't and I didn't. Mum's friend, Barry, dropped me off. He's gone to do the Supermarket shopping and I hate that."
"Supermarkets are a pain. Come in. Sit down."
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