Okarito - Tyler
Next morning, the Roddens were up early, as usual. While Kathleen got started in the kitchen, Bob went out to see if Tyler would join them for breakfast. The tent was open and empty and there was no sign of him anywhere. So, where?
He walked down to the water's edge and along to the corner where Tyler had disappeared around the day before. He was there all right, he was on his way back and he greeted his grandfather with a big smile.
"Hey, Granddad. It's a better day today. Do you think we'll get sunshine?"
"As well as the sunshine of your smile?" Bob replied looking up at the sky. "I'm not sure. It looks a bit patchy, but it might clear as the day warms up."
"Or it might not."
"Yes, it might not. It doesn't look too bad though. Are you hungry? Breakfast is nearly ready."
"A cooked breakfast? Sounds good, but all we seem to do is eat."
"And what's wrong with that?"
"Not a lot. Let's go eat."
Sitting around the table, the grandparents told him that they had to go into town, to go to work, for an hour or two, but they'd be back as soon as they could. He didn't want to go in with them, he'd just hang around and rest and maybe get some more sleep – which would be nice!
"Grandfather, you said that you work for the Council?"
"I do, I look after their finances."
"Where do you work, Grandmother?"
"I've got a part-time job in the kitchen and dining-room of the Golden Lead Hotel. It's not much, but I like it."
"The Golden Lead Hotel? That sounds like something out of the Wild West."
"That's exactly what it is. The Golden Lead is one of the oldest businesses around, it's been there since the gold-rush days a century ago."
"Right. But most of them have by the look of the main street."
"Well, maybe. Businesses come and go, but there are some old buildings there."
"Old? They're ancient!"
"They're not that old. Are you sure you don't want to come and look around in the daylight?"
"Okay, we'll leave you here then. Make yourself at home and we'll be back in a couple of hours."
"I will. Thanks."
They left him sitting on their front deck and they drove into town, in separate cars. Bob went past with a wave, but Kathleen stopped and spoke to a boy who was walking out of town.
"Hello, Bevan. How are you today?"
"Hey, Auntie. I'm good, how are you?"
"Oh, I'm good – really good. Never been better. How come you're not in school?"
"I'm having a day off."
"I can see that, but why?"
"Why not?" he grinned.
"All right, you're not telling me. I hope you know what you're doing. We've got a visitor at our place; a grandson who we didn't know we had."
"I know, I heard that yesterday."
"News travels fast. His name is Tyler, he's about the same age as you and he'd be your distant cousin. Why don't you go on out and meet him?"
"I think I've got enough cousins. Anyhow, I thought everyone had to stay away because he doesn't want to know us? The snobby prick!"
"He's not a snob, he's just shy. He's had some bad experiences with family and is not keen on meeting more."
"Suits me. I've got better things to do anyway."
"Can't they wait? Bevan, he's a nice kid and he's all alone. He could do with a friend. As far as I know, he hasn't got one friend in the whole world."
"Can't be that nice if no-one likes him."
"I don't think it was his fault. Things just happened."
"Yeah well. Nothing to do with me anyway. He's got his life and I've got mine and I have got friends."
"You're a lucky boy then. Couldn't you go and make someone else lucky too?"
"He doesn't want to know us."
"That was yesterday, today he's maybe changing his mind. He wants to meet you anyway."
"Yes you. He saw you last night and was intrigued that he had a cousin who can walk on water."
"Sheesh! It's just a paddleboard, nothing special."
"You might think so but for someone who's never seen one before it looked special, especially in the moonlight."
"It's better in the dark," Bevan grinned.
"I'll take your word for it," Kathleen nodded. "And I won't ask what you were doing out there either. Please, Bevan. Do it as a favour for me. You won't be sorry."
"Well . . yeah, okay. Just for you, Aunty, I'll go and see him sometime."
"Thank you, but could you make it now? He's there all on his own and he's liable to leave at any time. You're the only one he's said that he is interested in meeting. If he does, he might stay a while longer. I'd really like that."
"You like this kid, don't you, Aunty?"
"I do. He is our grandson, but apart from that, I just like him. Who knows? You might find that you like him too."
"Doubt it! Is he gay?"
"As a matter of fact, yes, he said that he is."
"Of course. Forget about match-making, I'm not available and I'm not interested."
"I'm not matchmaking, I'm just hoping that you might be friends."
"Friends? Maybe. I'll go and see what we think of each other. I'm probably too weird for him anyway."
"You're not weird."
"You think? Most people wouldn't agree with you."
"Most people would be wrong then. Thanks, Bevan."
"Anything for my favourite aunty."
Walking on home, Bevan watched the wind out on the estuary and smiled widely. 'Very nice! That'll save me a lot of work.'
He arrived home, where he and his family lived, bordering the estuary and below the main road out of town, a couple of houses before the long bridge to the far side. In his room, he changed his sneakers for Crocs – dead ugly but practical shoes when they're going to get wet.
He got his paddleboard from the boatshed at the back, and then laid-out his frameless 'parachute' kite on the back lawn. He lifted the strings to let the breeze fill the kite and, with an even pull, launched it into the air.
The kite took flight and, when it was pulling steadily at the full length of the controlling strings, he nudged the board into the water and carefully stepped on to it. He found his balance and, with the kite pulling gently but constantly, started moving out on the water.
It soon reached a speed that he decided was quite enough, it was almost like water-ski-ing, and he deflected the kite to reduce speed a bit.
Across the estuary, he turned in and sailed up onto the beach below his uncle and auntie's house. A skinny youth stood on the deck watching as he expertly landed the kite on their front lawn. When he'd done that, Bevan turned and grinned at the stranger.
"Hi. You must be Tyler."
"Yeah, I must be. Who would you be?"
"I'm Bevan, the good-looking cousin. Best-looking one you've got anyway."
"And so modest!"
"Yeah, that too."
"The grandparents are not here right now, they've gone to town for a while."
"I know that. Aunt Kathleen met me and asked me to come and meet you."
"Why would she do that?"
"She's probably hoping that you'll be so dazzled by my fascinating personality that you'll decide to stay around for a bit." Bevan walked up on to the deck and sat on the front railing. "Nice here, isn't it?"
"It is," Tyler looked out at the water. "It's very nice here. I like it a lot. You're not a bit shy, are you?"
"You think? I'll tell you a secret, Cousin, I'm shaking in my shoes here."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I'm nervous. I'm shy and scared that you'll tell me to fuck off. I just cover it up and no-one knows."
"But now I know."
"You do, if you believe me, but you probably don't."
"Oh yeah!" Tyler laughed. "You're probably right. I usually read people really well, I don't know what to make of you."
"And that's the way we like it," Bevan grinned and nodded. Then he got serious. "Most people don't know me. They don't bother with me and I don't bother with them."
"We're two of a kind then."
"But you still came over to see me?"
"The wind was blowing this way. No, seriously, Aunt Kathleen asked me to and she's not easy to say no to. Also, I was curious and wanted to have a look at you, just this once."
"Why just once?"
"Because that's enough. Look, Cousin, you're gay, right?"
"I am. Did my grandmother tell you that?"
"Yeah, she did. Thing is, I'm gay too. No doubts on that score."
"Okay, we're both gay and we're distantly related. Does that mean we can't be friends?"
"It's not just that. I've got a boyfriend, a possessive and jealous boyfriend. He wouldn't like me being around you and he's quite capable of ripping your head off if he thinks you're getting too close."
"He could try."
"He would. It's better if I don't go giving him reason to worry – better for him, better for me and for you too. So we meet, just this once."
"Fine." Tyler lost the smile and his back stiffened. "You can go back and tell Grandmother that we've met and I'll start packing up now. I'll stop in town for some supplies, and then I'll be on my way. Goodbye, Bevan."
"You what? Do you mean you're leaving right now, this minute?"
"Almost this minute. It will take a while to load everything on to my bike."
"Why not," Tyler shrugged. "This is not my home. I've done what I was going to do here, the weather's improving so I might as well make the most of it."
"But Aunty said you were going to stay for a few days."
"She was wrong then. I've already stayed way longer than I was going to; it's time to go."
"You've changed your mind. Was that because of me?"
""Hang on. Hang on. Damm, people call me anti-social. I've got nothing on you. How will you ever get to know anyone with an attitude like that?"
"I won't. Why would you care? You don't want to know me anyway."
"Maybe I do."
"You said that you don't, apart from this once."
"Maybe I was wrong too. I'm sorry if I've offended you. That was not right."
"Sorry? Okay, whatever. Have a nice day."
"You're still going?"
"Damm. You're way too sensitive. Bugger off then if you're going. It's your loss."
"It is? Conceited aren't you?"
"I'm not talking about me. It's your loss if you don't spend more time getting to know your grandparents, they're good people. So are some of the other rellies too, your aunts and uncles. But no, you just pack-up and bugger-off. Your loss and they're all probably better off for not knowing you."
"What? Why are they better off?"
"You're not that nice a person, are you? You're all prickly and sensitive and anti-social too."
"You think you know all that after talking to me for about 5 minutes?"
"I do. I told you, we're the same. I look at you and I see me."
"I'm not you."
"I know that, but you're like me."
"And you don't like it?"
"I didn't say that. Don't put words in my mouth."
"You did say that. You said I'm not a nice person."
"Maybe. I'm not nice either. I've got the same prickly, sensitive and anti-social traits."
"And you've got a boyfriend despite that?"
"Yeah," Bevan grinned. "Lucky, eh?"
"Yes, lucky," Tyler sighed. "You don't know how lucky. It's never happened for me and I doubt if it ever will."
"It never will either."
"You heard me. You're never going to get anyone while you keep pushing people away. Moving on all of the time is not helping either, is it?"
"I guess. You're probably right, but . . "
"But nothing. Look, you've got the perfect place here. Make the most of it."
"What d'you mean? I've got no place here. I've got nothing here."
"Oh but you have. I don't mean physically, as in owning something. I mean that you've got a place in this town. You're a Rodden, John Rodden's son and Bob and Kathleen's grandson. That means something around here."
"Like what? The grandparents are not mega-rich or anything. They're just working-class people."
"I wouldn't be too sure about that. Yes, they both work, but that's more for an interest, something to do. They own their home and property and all that and they've got money in the bank. They don't have to work – not for money anyway."
"Okay. But that's nothing to do with me. What's theirs is theirs and if they were writing a will I'd be at the end of a very long list."
"Maybe. But, go into town, go to the bank and apply for an account. Tell them that you're Bob Rodden's grandson and they'll be all over you. Apply for a job in a local business, any job, and they'll put you on top of the list."
"Because I'm a Rodden? But what if I'm no good at it?"
"Then you won't last, but first they'll give you a chance because of your name. Where else are you going to get opportunities like that?"
"Nowhere, I guess."
"Damm right, nowhere like here."
"Are you sure that my grandparents' name would open doors?"
"Of course I am. Try it and see. They've got a good name because they're good people. And it's not just them, there's all the rest of the family too – your family. They're locals, an old-established family, solid and reliable and 'salt of the earth' types."
"And you are one of them."
"Yeah, well. No family's perfect – black sheep can pop up anywhere."
"You don't look black to me."
"That's because you don't know me. Wait until you do and you'll see."
"Then I'll see what?"
"That I'm a nutbar. I'm weird, strange, different."
"Is that a bad thing? Everyone is different and I like what I see, so far."
"So far. Hang around a while before you make up your mind. But don't be offended if I don't talk next time you see me."
"Why wouldn't you?"
"Sometimes I don't talk. If I can't be bothered, I talk to no-one for days on end."
"Yeah?" Tyler grinned, "Are you sure you're totally sane?"
"I'm sure. Are you sure that you are?"
"Yeah. Well, I think so."
"There you go then. Are you going to offer me a drink or not?"
"You want a drink? Okay. I've got orange, cranberry and black-currant juice or herbal tea. Which would you like?"
"We can do that too. Instant coffee with no milk, okay?"
"Sounds fine. Thanks."
Tyler led the way over to his tent outside the barn. That surprised Bevan; he'd assumed that they would go to the kitchen for a drink. That probably would've been faster and easier, but that was not where they went.
Bevan was going to ask why, but closed his mouth. He was curious about the tent and its contents. This was Tyler's full-time home, apparently. The only home he had.
Tyler dropped down and crawled in through the unsecured door flaps. Bevan followed, as far as the entrance, and he looked inside. It was small space and everything there was neat and tidy and uncluttered. The kid was obviously very well organised, unlike himself.
"Do you want me to go and get some hot water?" Bevan asked.
"No thanks," Tyler replied. "There's no need. I've got water here and it'll only take a minute to heat it up."
"How do you do that?"
"On the gas, naturally. It's quicker than an electric kettle."
Bevan scurried out of the way as Tyler backed out of the tent carrying a lidded-pot on a small gas cooker. He set them down on level ground, lit the gas and crawled back into the tent.
"You've got a miniature kitchen in there!" Bevan looked back inside. "But I'll bet you haven't got an oven."
"I should take that bet, because you'd lose."Tyler came out again carrying two mugs. "I have so got an oven."
"Yeah? Where do you plug it in?"
"I don't. It's a Dutch Oven, so it sits in a fire. Well, technically, it's a Bedourie Oven – same principle but made of stainless steel so it only weighs half as much and it's all-but unbreakable."
"A Bedourie Oven?"
"Yes. Made in Australia actually – one of the better ideas to come out of Aus."
"Hey!" Bevan protested. "They make some good stuff in Australia."
"Like me. I'm Australian, I was born there."
"Yeah? What're you doing here then? They kick you out?"
"Haha, very funny. No, they did not. I was just a baby, my Mum had post-natal depression, quite bad apparently, and she was rotten homesick so they came back."
"Back to Okarito?"
"Yeah, to their hometown, where their family is and here we are."
"So we are."
Tyler poured the almost-boiling water to make their drinks and handed one to Bevan. "Sugar it yourself, you know how you like it."
"I do. Thanks, Cousin."
"You're welcome, Cousin." He extinguished the gas flame, then took the spoon from Bevan and sweetened his own drink.
They sat, facing each other, under the awning on the front of the tent and chatted quietly about this and that. Both of them were smiling quietly, enjoying the moment and thinking how well this encounter was going.
"So," Tyler said, when the conversation stalled. "Tell me about your boyfriend. Where did you meet and how long have you been a couple?"
"Boyfriend? What boyfriend? I haven't got one and never have had."
"But you said that you did."
"No I didn't."
"Yes you did! You said you had a boyfriend, that he was jealous and wouldn't like you being around me and that he'd rip my head off, or something."
"You did so."
"Okay, yeah, I did. I lied."
"Lied? What would you do that for?"
"Because, that's what I do. I'm a liar and I'm very good at it too."
"You're good at lying?"
"Yes. No. That's a lie too. I'm a pathological liar and everything I say is a lie, including that statement."
"So you're lying when you say that you're lying? Bevan, my head is spinning now!"
"So you want to take a break?"
"I think I need to."
"Yeah, so do I," he said with a grin.
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