Okarito - Tyler

by Kiwi

Chapter 4

They sat around the kitchen table, looking at old family photographs. It really was amazing how much Tyler looked like John and also like his grandfather in the few old black and whites that they had of him as a boy.

Eventually, Mrs. Rodden ordered them out of her kitchen while she started preparing the evening meal.

"I don't like having people underfoot when I'm working in the kitchen. Go away. Go for a walk or something."

"Fine," said her husband. "Come on, Tyler, we'll sit out the front and you can have another look at that view that you liked so much."

"Great. But are you sure that I can't help you, Grandmother? I'm a good cook."

"Maybe you are, but you can help me best by going away. Shoo!"

They went through the house, leaving the doors open on the way, and sat together on the long bench seat on the covered porch out at the front. The afternoon sun had broken through the clouds lighting up the town over the placid water. It looked great.

They both knew that it was the distance that made the town look good. Up close, the commercial buildings were worn and weather-beaten, faded and jaded. The town was getting old and the glory days had gone. They were hanging on, but there wasn't a lot of money there.

There were a lot of empty and boarded-up buildings up and down the main street; Tyler had seen that in his look-around the night before. But, from a distance and shining in the sunshine, the town looked good. He was beginning to see what they meant by 'glorious on a sunny day'.

But, the sunshine was fleeting. The clouds closed in again and the grayness returned. "Nice while it lasted," Bob Rodden sighed. "Funny thing you know, if there's the least bit of rain on an otherwise sunny day, the weather-office people will always say, it rained in South Westland today. But it doesn't work the other way around, a few minutes' sunshine isn't reported as a sunny day. That is just ignored."

"But not by you."

"No. We appreciate all that we get. Oh, oh, here's trouble!" He stood up and looked back through the house. An extremely loud car had pulled in at the back, thumping music pouring from its open windows.

"Damm!" Mr. Rodden stressed. "It's Gordon and company. I told them, I told everyone to stay away from here today to give you some space. Some people always think that the rules don't apply to them."

Tyler recognised them, it was the same car-full of idiots that he'd seen the night before.

"Damm is right. Who are they?"

"Family, some of them. Gordon and Brinn are our nephews. That makes them some sort of cousins of yours."

"Cousins? I saw them last night; they're idiots and I don't want to know them."

"At the moment, I don't want to know them either. Wait here and I'll go and get rid of them."

Bob went through the house to the back. Another car pulled in, before he even got there. He went out of the door, growling, and chased them all away. He told them that they could, maybe, come back tomorrow to meet the boy, but not today. The kid was shy and they needed some time alone with him.

It was only a couple of minutes before they left and he went back to the front, but when he got there Tyler had gone. There was no sign of him anywhere.

He checked the kitchen but he hadn't gone back there, so he went out the front and down to the water's edge. There were fresh footprints in the sandy gravel there and, when he looked up, Tyler was coming back around the corner at the end of the bay.

"There you are," he sighed in relief. "I thought we'd lost you."

"No, not yet. I haven't got my bike. I was just making myself scarce and having a look around. I thought I'd see what's around the corner there."

"And now you know – nothing. Our nearest neighbours are away down the road, which is one reason why we like it here."

"That's a good reason, but there's not nothing there. There's old trees, grass and a private little beach. I like it."

"I imagine you would, there's no people around there."

"You've got it," Tyler grinned. "Have your vistors gone?"

"They've gone, but they were your visitors not ours, they came to see you."

"They're not my visitors. I don't know them and that's good."

"You think so? The family will all be wanting to meet you. You are family too you know, like it or not."

"I don't like it. I don't like it one little bit."

"You're not at all interested in meeting more of your family? You have uncles, aunts and cousins of all sorts around here. Who knows? You might even like them – we do. Blood calls to blood you know."

"Not for me it doesn't. I had a family, I didn't like them and they didn't like me. I'm not staying here anyway. It's time that I was going if I'm going to get to the shops before they close."

"I, ahh, I think you're already too late. There's only one supermarket in town and they close at 5 o'clock on the dot. It's 12 minutes to now; even if you were on a motorbike you wouldn't get there in time."

"Nearly 5 already? I didn't realise it was that late."

"The day's gone fast, hasn't it? If it's groceries you want, you could get them from a Dairy, there's several of them and they don't close until later. You'd pay Dairy prices though, probably up to double what it'd cost you in the Supermarket."

"I can't afford that. I'm on a tight budget."

"Stay the night here then. The spare room is empty and you'd be very welcome."

"No, I don't think so. Thanks but no thanks. I like my own space. Also, the tent was packed away wet, 2 days ago. I need to put it up and air it out before it goes mouldy on me."

"You wouldn't want that to happen. How about we hang it in the rafters in the barn? You could get it properly dry in there and, in the meantime, have a good night's sleep in a good bed.."

"In the house do you mean? No thanks, there's no need for that. I'll sleep in my tent. Could I put it up under the trees around in the next bay? They'll keep it more-or-less dry, if it doesn't rain too much in the night."

"But you will stay here for the night?"

"Just tonight, yes."

"Good then. Put the tent where you like, but why not put it up under the verandah roof outside the barn? It won't get rained on there and, hopefully, will dry out a bit by the morning."

"I will put it up there then. Thanks."

"You're very welcome. I do wish that you'd come and sleep in the house, but camping near it is the next best thing, I guess. Tyler, this is our home, it's a family home and you are family. You're more than welcome here."

"Thanks, Granddad. I'll stay tonight, in my tent, which is more than I was going to. Tomorrow, I'm gone. I've got a long road ahead of me."

"You have, a very long road on a bike, but at least we've got tonight. You will eat with us, won't you? Your grandmother is probably cooking enough for 6 hungry boys."

"How would you know that?"

"I don't, but that's what I'm guessing. We've been together a long time, nearly 40 years, and we know each other well."

"You get along after 40 years?"

"We get along very well. Your grandmother was my best friend when we were teenagers, and she still is – better than ever."

"That's nice! Everyone should have someone like that."

"Anyone can, but it takes work. I hope that, one day, you'll be able to say the same thing."

"Me? Not likely! I'll be growing old alone."

"You'll most likely change your mind. Most people do."

"I'm not most people."

"Yes, we've already seen that. You don't have a girlfriend then?"

"Me?" he laughed. "Definitely not and I never will."

"You don't know that. A fine-looking boy like you, I'm sure you'll find someone."

"Not very likely when I'm not looking and even if I did find someone it wouldn't be a girl because I'm queer."

"You are what?"

"Queer. Gay. Homosexual. Whatever you want to call it. That's who I am. Do you want me to go now?"

"No, I don't! Are you sure that you're gay?"

"I'm sure. I know who I am."

"Okay, you're gay, but you're still our grandson and that's all that matters. Do you have a boyfriend?"

"No, I don't and I won't."

"Maybe one day."

"I won't. I'll get my bike and put the tent up now."

He wheeled the bike and trailer around to the front of the barn and got busy setting up camp. His grandfather sat and watched him for a while, but he obviously didn't need help and he wasn't talking, so he left him to it and went inside.

Tyler had the tent up and everything sorted out and was sitting on the grass in front of it, looking out across the water, when both of his grandparents came out of the house.

"All right there, Tyler?" his grandmother asked. "Is there anything you need? More blankets, perhaps? It's going to be a cold night."

"I'm fine, thanks. I've got a good quality sleeping bag. A warm bed is my biggest luxury," he grinned.

"Could we? Would you mind? I, ah," his grandfather stammered.

Grandmother was much more to the point. "Can we look inside, Tyler? We'd like to see how you live."

"Yes. Of course I don't mind." He opened the front flaps of the tent to show them the inside.

They had to bend low to look in, it was only a small 2-man hiker's tent. Everything inside was neat and tidy. There was no mess or clutter, just an almost military orderliness.

"Very nice," Mrs. Rodden said. "Do you always keep it so tidy?"

"I do. There's a place for everything and everything in its place. It's only small so there's no room for confusion and I need to be able to find everything in the dark.

This is my home, where I live. Everything is good quality stuff; it cost me a fortune but was worth it. Quality is cheaper in the long term and now I can live comfortably and cheaply."

"How long have you lived like this"

"A few months. My journey is just beginning."

"Ah, beginnings," his grandfather sighed. "I envy you, Lad. This is an exciting time in your life."

"Well I don't envy him, said Mrs Rodden. "I don't envy him at all."

"You don't? Why not?"

"Because, Bob, he's living alone, completely and totally alone. I've never known anything but large families around me and that's the way I like it. Tyler, the life you're planning sounds like a nightmare to me."

"It doesn't to me. I guess we're just different, Grandmother. My nightmare would be in a family."

"Yes, we are different. But why are you so anti-family? You must have had some bad experiences there."

"I have."

"Do you want to talk about it? It might help to talk it out."

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