Okarito - Tyler

by Kiwi

Chapter 3

The man, Bob Rodden, was wearing a suit, but she was in more casual clothes. They looked to be aged about 50 to 60 and had gray hair, thinning in his case.

"Can I help you?" Tyler looked up.

"Tyler? Tyler Rodden?" the lady said.

"Yes, that's me. Who are you?"

"I think that we are your grandparents, Son," the man replied.

"You what? You can't be. I've never been here before."

"Maybe not, but your name is Rodden and your father's name was John. Our son was John Rodden and you are the spitting image of him."

"That's right!" Amy and another waitress came over. "John was in my class at school. I had a huge crush on him for years, but he was never interested, unfortunately. He had darker hair, but the blue eyes and everything else were just like yours – identical! It's amazing."

"It is, really amazing," Mrs Rodden agreed. "You are our John's son. You must be!"

"His son? This is too weird! I never knew my father. I grew up with just my mother and her parents, my grandparents. They died."

"Everyone gets two sets of grandparents you know," Mr Rodden nodded and he searched through his wallet. "There's a photo here somewhere, I think. Yes! Here it is. Not very big I'm afraid. Have a look at this."

He passed a photo to Tyler who looked, and looked again. "That's me!" He exclaimed. "How'd you get a photo of me in your wallet?"

"It's been there for years. That's not you, that is our son, John, the son we lost."

"Right!" Mrs. Rodden agreed. "That was taken on the day of his Senior School Ball, John was just 16 then."

"He was?" Tyler studied the pic again. "I'm 16. Well," he looked at the policeman, "I'm nearly 16. Your son, John Rodden. Wow, this is so weird!"

"Yes, it's strange," she agreed. "Strange in a good way. After all these years, it's like our boy has come home."

"Whoah, hang on there!" He put the photo down and sat back looking at it. "Okay, it's true. I've seen old photos of my father, his name was John, and that's him – I think. But, I'm not him, I'm me and I don't belong here. When we've finished here I'll go to the Supermarket and get my supplies, and then I'll be going."

"Wait on," Mr. Rodden said. "What's the big hurry, do you have to be somewhere?"

"No, I don't have to be anywhere. That's the whole point of travelling alone. I'm free to go where I want and do what I want and I don't have to answer to anyone in the world."

"If you don't have to hurry, why don't you stay here for a while? We'd love to get to know you and you could meet the rest of the family too."

"Rest of the family?"

"Yes, we had a lot of kids, eight of them. They're all grown up and left home now but most of them live around here and they've got kids of their own. Also, your grandmother and I both come from big families and a lot of them live here too. You've got a huge family that you don't know about – Aunts, Uncles and cousins, dozens of cousins!"

"Eww!" The boy shuddered. "No thanks! Family is a dirty word as far as I'm concerned. The less I have to do with any of them, the better."

"You've had bad experiences with family?"

"I have and I don't want any more."

"But you wouldn't. Okay, we're not perfect, nobody is, but on the whole, your family here are good people. You'd like them if you got to know them."

"Not going to happen."

"No? That's a shame, but no-one's going to force you. Won't you, at least, come and visit with us? We're your grandparents, you are our lost grandson and we'd love to get to know you."

"Well . . "

"No-one else, just us – for a start anyway. Won't you?"

"No thanks," Tyler shrugged.

But then he looked at his grandmother. She said nothing, just stood looking at him and tears ran down her cheeks. She shook her head and turned to walk away.

Then he spoke. "All right then. If you really want me to, I'll stay for today. But just with you, no-one else."

"No-one at all?" his grandfather replied.

"No-one!"

"Okay, agreed. But I must warn you, our home is always an open house and they'll all be curious about you. We'll try to keep them all way, but I can't guarantee it."

"Okay, you try then. If your house fills up with people, I'll be gone."

"We'll try not to let that happen. Let's go home, shall we?"

"Your home, not mine. Is it far? My bike and gear are out back of the police station."

"Bike? What sort of bike? If it's at the police station it'll be safe. No-one's going to steal it from there."

"That's what I thought and that's why I left it there. It's just a pushbike and trailer, but it's got all my gear on it, everything I own. I'll need my stuff if I'm staying here."

Mrs. Rodden smiled and said, "Yes, bring your gear. We live over the river, across the bridge and a couple of kilometers away. Go back to the station with Jeffery, get your bike and we'll meet you there and show you the way."

"Right. We'll do that then, but isn't anyone going to work today?"

"Not now," Bob Rodden smiled. "Work can wait a while. Today we've met a lost grandson and that's much more important.

The Roddens, in their old car, ambled along the road and they led the boy on a bike out to their home. They lived across the water on the other side of the lagoon from the town, near the noisy sea.

Their family home was a big old, rambling, single-storied farm house with a verandah around three sides of it. They'd lived there for many years and had raised their large family there. The property had been in the family for over a hundred years, they thought.

It was no longer a farm though, it was just a hobby-farm now with only about 15 acres of mostly scrubby land. A couple of paddocks were leased to horse-mad girls and the rest was, roughly, kept under control by a few sheep and dozens of all-but feral hens and ducks.

They pulled in and parked under the car-port at the back of the house. Tyler stopped and stood astride his bike, looking around. His grandfather got out of the car and beckoned him forward.

"Bring your bike in here, under the roof and out of the weather. It's going to rain again by the look of it."

Tyler looked up at the looming dark clouds and nodded in agreement. He pushed the bike in under cover, next to the car. "Does it ever stop raining around here?" He said, more to himself than anything else.

"Sometimes it does," his grandmother smiled. "We do live in a rain-forest and it gets a lot of watering, but when the sun does shine there's nowhere like it. You'll see and you'll agree. Everyone does."

"Maybe. I don't plan on sticking around here for long, I'm just passing through. I'm looking forward to getting through the pass and into Otago. I hear it's much drier over there.

"It is. That's why it looks like a desert."

"When you've been biking for days in constant rain, a desert sounds good."

"Maybe it does, but you'd soon get tired of that too, especially in a hiker's tent. Here you can relax and it doesn't matter what the weather's doing outside."

"I guess not, until I leave. How much land do you have here?"

"Just 15 acres, but some of it is leased out."

"Fifteen acres? You're not a farmer then."

"I'm not. I'm an accountant, I work for the local council."

"Oh, a government man."

"Local government, but I have nothing to do with the politics, I'm employed to look after their finances"

"And he does it very well too," said Mrs. Rodden. "Come inside and we'll have a cup of tea, or coffee if you prefer."

"Coffee would be good, thank you. Strong and black, I didn't get much sleep last night."

"Coffee it is then. Walk this way."

The boy and the man followed her inside and they sat in the big old kitchen while she fussed around preparing drinks for them all. The room was old, that showed in the wood panelling and the high ceiling. It looked lived in, but it was clean and bright, uncluttered and tidy. It was a nice room.

The solid wood table and chairs looked like they were old too, certainly older than him and maybe even as old as the grandparents. His grandparents! That was a turn-up for the books, he never expected this.

He'd never known the other side of his family and never wanted to. The family that he'd known, his mother and her parents and siblings, were more than enough. If all family were like them, he was better off not knowing them. So, what was he doing here again?

"Welcome, Tyler," his grandfather sat smiling at him. "Welcome to our home. Your father grew up here, so did I and my father did as well. Roddens have lived here for over a hundred years and now, at last, you've come home too."

"This is not my home." Tyler was not smiling. "It might be yours, but it's not mine. A couple of hours ago we'd never heard of each other and tomorrow we'll just be memories to each other."

"Unless you change your mind."

"Not likely. What makes you so sure that we're related? I mean, there's the name and everything, but maybe I'm just a super-distant cousin with some of the same genes."

"Some of the same genes?" said Mrs Rodden. "I don't think so! Come through to the lounge and we'll show you."

The kitchen was in the back of the house and the living-room was at the front. It was a big welcoming room but Tyler didn't even see it. He walked in, went straight across to the front window and stood there entranced.

"Tyler?" Mrs. Rodden prodded.

He didn't look around, just stood looking out. "Wow. Spooky!"

Mrs. Rodden sat on the carpet searching through the old video tapes in the TV cabinet. Mr. Rodden stood next to the spell-bound boy. "Like the view do you? We like it too, but I wouldn't call it spooky. What makes you say that?"

"It's spooky because I know it. The flat water out there, the old town over at the other side and the snow-capped mountains in the background, I know them all. I dream about this exact same view, lots of times. Have I been here before? I must have, when I was a baby or something."

"No, you haven't, as far as I know. We'd never heard of you until this morning."

"Never?"

"Never."

"How do I remember this then? There's a barn, isn't there? A big old red-painted barn with an open verandah across the front of it. It's around at that side of the house, near the water."

"Yes, there is, sort of. It is red but it's badly in need of painting. You must've seen it out of the side of your eyes on the way in. Deja vu is the mind playing tricks on us. Very recent memories, like just minutes ago, can seem like old memories sometimes."

"You think so? There's a boat in there too, isn't there?"

"We've got a few boats, dinghies, a row-boat and the kid's kayaks, but they're not in the barn, they're in the boat-shed on the water's edge."

"There's a boat in the barn, an old boat."

"There is! My grandfather's old boat is stored away in there. It hasn't been in the water for many years but it used to be the family's main transport, back before they had cars."

"It's not very big, long and skinny with open sides and a white canvas roof. The rest is painted dark-green and it's steam-powered with a boiler in the middle and a tall chimney and there's a paddle-wheel at the back of it."

"That's right! That is exactly what the Princess is like. This is too weird. Oh, you're having us on, aren't you? You must have come around checking the place out when we weren't here."

Tyler stiffened and he lost the smile. "You can think what you like. I told you that I've never been here before and I don't tell lies. Thank you for the coffee, it was nice to see your home. I think I'll go now."

"Go? Please don't, not yet. You've just got here and there's so much that we want to show you. Look, I've found the tape I was looking for. Sit down for a minute and I'll play it for you. Bob, shut the drapes please."

The TV flickered into life as Mr. Rodden closed the heavy drapes and shut the day out. Tyler sank down to sit on the couch as he watched the screen. The video started with a boy, in the distance, standing on the roof of a shed. He fell forward and bounced up again, and again and again. The camera moved forward and around a corner and the boy could be seen doing back-flips and somersaults on a big trampoline.

Finally, he flopped, bounced a little and lay face-down stretched out on the tramp. The camera moved in closer and focussed on the prone boy. His feet and long, tanned, legs were smooth and bare. His shorts were dark-coloured and his t-shirt was black, as was his medium-length hair.

He sat up and grinned at the camera showing the first clear shot of his face and Tyler sat staring with his mouth hanging open.

The clip finished, the screen went dark and Tyler sighed. "Oh, wow. If I didn't know better, I'd swear that that was me – my face on your TV!"

"Exactly," Mrs. Rodden nodded. "But it wasn't you, that was our son, John at age 15. Looked a little like you, didn't he?"

"A little? He looked exactly like me, apart from the hair. That was my face entirely!"

"It surely was. That's what everyone is seeing. Now you know what we saw when we walked into that restaurant and looked at you. Do you still say that you might not be closely related?"

"No, Grandmother, I don't. I don't think there's any doubt at all."

"Well, good. Neither do we. Stay there and we'll watch some more of the tape. The next piece was when he was getting ready for his Senior Ball at Highschool."

They sat in silence and watched until the end, it didn't take long and was an obviously amateur effort. The clip finished, Mr. Rodden reopened the drapes on the window. Tyler quietly watched him, and then looked at his grandmother. She was sitting crying quietly.

"Grandmother, are you all right?"

"Yes." She pulled herself together. "I'm fine. Sorry. I just get overcome when I look at that – our boy, our beautiful boy, so young and free, happy and laughing. Enjoy your youth Tyler, it doesn't last long."

"I'll try," he nodded. "I never knew my father, my mother was a total waste of space, but I did love my grandparents. We lived with them until they died and that's when it all went to hell." He paused and looked at the dead tv screen, then continued, "I've got no time at all for family. The ones I knew gave me nothing but grief. But . . . I think that I'd like to know my other grandparents – if you want me of course."

"Oh Tyler!" his grandfather replied. "Of course we want you. There's nothing we'd like more."

Tyler stood and faced him and he teared up. "Granddad!"

"Oh, Boy. Beautiful Boy." He put a hand on Tyler's shoulder, then drew him into an embrace. Mrs. Rodden joined in and all three stood hugging and crying.

Tyler had come home.

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