Okarito - Tyler
The boat shed was like a long garage with pairs of big doors at the back and at the front where a wooden ramp led down into the water. There were boats and water toys of all descriptions in there – prams, dinghies, large and small, deflated inflatables, kid-sized open topped canoes and, best of all, four fiber-glass, two-man kayaks.
"There you go," Bob grinned at the look on Tyler's face. "I told you we had a lot. We had a lot of kids, they grew up by the water and these were their toys. Take your pick, use any that you like, but make sure that you wear a life-jacket when you're out there. We don't want you drowning yourself."
"I don't want that either. This is choice. Thanks."
He selected a kayak, (they were all the same). Bob fitted a life-vest on him, handed him the oars and told him to sit in the seat. He did and Bob pushed it forward and onto the ramp.
"Hold the oars up high and hold your breath."
One shove and the kayak slid down the ramp and out onto the water. He paddled around for a while, rapidly gaining in competence and confidence, until he had to come in when his grandmother called them for dinner.
They left the kayak, oars and vest up on the small beach in front of the house. In the kitchen, Kathleen told them to sit down and announced that their meal would be pizzas.
"Pizza?" Tyler questioned.
"Yes, pizza. You do like them don't you? I thought every boy did."
"I like pizza, but you are such a great cook it seems odd for you to be buying take-aways."
"They're not take-aways," his grandfather said. "These are home-made. Your grandmother makes her own pizzas and they're much better than any you'll buy in town."
"I do cheat a bit these days," Kathleen smiled, pleased with the compliments. "I buy the bases and add my own fillings and sauces. I just thought that it was time we ate some boy-food."
"Sounds good to me," Tyler smiled. "But everything you make tastes good. I'll be getting fat if I stay here!"
"Let's hope you get fat then."
She took three large pizzas out of the oven and slid them onto the platters on the table, then quickly cut them into segments with the pizza-cutting wheel thingamie.
"Right then," she sat down. "There's seafood, vegetarian and the meat one. Eat up, but I'll be surprised if we finish the lot."
"So will I," Tyler agreed. "They're huge."
"Ah, but they're good." Bob helped himself to a slice of each one.
There was silence for a while while they ate, but lots of grins showed Kathleen that her efforts were appreciated. They all looked up when a car stopped outside, and then relaxed again when it drove away.
"False alarm," Kathleen said.
"Yes. They must've thought better of it,"Bob said.
"They must have thought better of what?" A tall, slender girl with short dark hair slapped the frame of the open hallway door and walked into the kitchen.
"Cassie!" Bob exclaimed. "I meant that whoever was in the car must've thought twice about interrupting us while we were eating. Apparently I was wrong."
"You were wrong, Uncle." She pulled out a chair and sat down opposite Tyler. "But I'm not interrupting. You keep on eating and I'll join you if I may?"
"You may, seeing as you're already here," Kathleen said. "Tyler, this is your cousin, Cassie. She's Bevan's big sister and she is a very pushy person."
"Hey! No I'm not. We're all family here, aren't we? Bevan came home raving about the wonderful new cousin he met today, so I had to come and see for myself. Hey, Tyler, I'm your something-or-other cousin. I'm the brains of the family."
"Also the Mouth of the South," Kathleen said. "Okay, Cassie, get a plate from the cupboard and help yourself. There's plenty here and you could do with some meat on those bones."
"Cool, thanks, Aunty. But I don't want to put weight on and start looking matronly."
"I'd shut up now if I were you," Bob smiled.
Tyler watched her while he ate. He swallowed and said, "Bevan's sister? You don't look at all like him."
"Of course I don't. I'm much more butch than he is. He is different, isn't he? I'd say he was adopted but I vividly remember Mum's big fat belly before he arrived. Maybe they switched babies in the hospital."
"They did not," Kathleen said. "Bevan is very much your mother's son. You just take more after your father."
"Didn't get Dad's brains though, did I? I think I got my brains from my Great-Uncle Bob, eh?"
"Don't think so. I've still got my brain, but you do seem to have a similar one – good at figures. Cassie's a very bright girl, Tyler, and it's going to waste. She flew through university and now she's at home doing nothing except annoying everybody."
"Oh, that's cruel. I was rotten homesick at varsity, but now I'm back and I'm bored. I don't want to go away again but there's no decent jobs around here. Mind you, if a certain rich uncle was to buy me a car, I could find a job in Franz Josef. That's only a few minutes away from here."
"Franz is a good half hour away on our narrow back-country roads. Find yourself another rich uncle, Girlie. I'm not buying you a car so you can kill yourself."
"But I wouldn't! Tyler, beloved cousin, how rich are you?" She grinned across the table.
He grinned back. "Not that much. Not rich at all actually."
"Oh, shame. Nevermind, something will turn up."
"I thought you said you were bored," Kathleen snorted.
"Yeah, that too. Good pizza, Auntie. We should go into business together – you make the pizzas and I'll look after the money."
"That won't be happening either," Kathleen shook her head. "Bevan was impressed with Tyler, was he?"
"Very much. The word we keep hearing is 'wonderful'. 'Wonderful, wonderful boy.'"
"Hey! I'm not that great. I'm pretty ordinary really."
"Ordinary is one thing that you're not," Bob said. "Who dropped you off here, Cassie? We heard a car stop, and then leave."
"Oh, Uncle, what big ears you have! It was Jeffery actually. He stopped to say hello, so I hitched a ride with him. He says hello by the way, Tyler. He'll come and see you when he's not busy – if that ever happens."
"The cop?" said Tyler. "He's a nice guy."
"He is that. I might even marry him if I can't get a better offer."
"Cassie!" Kathleen growled. Best offer is no basis for a marriage, and you know that."
"Yeah, I know. Sheesh, Auntie, I was just joking. Anyway, he hasn't asked me yet. He is a good guy though. I like him. So, Toby Tyler, tell us all about yourself and show me one of these amazing smiles that Bevan was so impressed with."
"Cassie!" He showed her a shy version of the smile. "It's just Tyer. Toby Tyler was a character in a book – 'Toby Tyler or Ten Weeks With A Circus.'"
"That's the one. You are a bright boy!"
"Not really. When you've got a name like mine, old people say 'Toby Tyler' all the time."
"Oi! Who you calling old?"
"Oh, nobody. My other granddad often called me that when I was little and he read the book to me several times. I think he liked it more than me though."
"The book about the orphan boy who ran away and joined the circus. A bit like you really – welcome to the circus, all we need is a tent. I'll sell the tickets, Uncle Bob can be the ringmaster and Aunt Kathleen will be the lion-tamer. They wouldn't dare not obey her."
"Behave yourself, Cassie," Kathleen smiled.
Even with the extra mouth, they didn't finish all of the pizza. Several slices went into the fridge, wrapped in Gladwrap. Kathleen closed the door and said, "They'll do for lunch tomorrow. I'll pack you a picnic lunch, Tyler."
"Oh? And where we are picnicing tomorrow?" Cassie queried.
"Dunno. Somewhere out there. Grandfather has lent me a kayak and I'm going to go and explore the lagoon a bit."
"Sounds like fun. Can I come?"
"Well," he hesitated. "Yeah, okay. Why not?"
"It's a date then," Cassie grinned.
"Told you she was pushy," Bob nodded.
"It's okay. I don't mind. It'll be good to have some company, I guess."
"You guess? Don't sound so sure. I haven't been out there in yonks. There's some really cool places, especially in the river mouths. I'll show you around and be your guide for the day."
"That'll be good."
"It will. I'll send you the bill."
"The bill? What for, being my guide?"
"Fine, and I'll send you my bill," he grinned.
"Your bill? What're you billing me for?"
"For joining my touring party, of course."
"Oh. We'll just say that they cancel each other out then. We've got a sharp one here, Uncle. Looks like there's another businessman in the family."
"Could be," Bob smiled.
They cleaned-up the kitchen, and then all went out to sit on the front verandah to enjoy the evening. Bob and Kathleen lit-up their pipes. Cassie lit a cigarette and offered one to Tyler. He refused, he didn't smoke, and he sat carefully upwind of them all. They sat and chatted.
"What time do we want to get away tomorrow, Tyler?"
"Anytime, but it'd better be early. I want to get back by the time school's out for the day."
"But you don't go to school."
"No, but Bevan does."
"Oho! Coming back again, is he? Do I hear wedding bells?"
"What? No, you do not!"
"Okay, okay. Just kidding. I'm always kidding – gets me into trouble all the time."
"You think you'd learn then," Kathleen frowned.
"Learn? Me? Not likely. Is that the kayak you'll be using?"
"Right then. I'll paddle home in it, when I go, and come back early tomorrow. Okay?"
"Sure. We'd better get another life-jacket for you. Is that okay, Grandfather?"
"Of course it's okay. I don't want to see Cassie out there without one. We'll go and get one now. Do you want another kayak too?"
"Yeah, good thanks. It'd be bloody hard to race if we're both sitting in the same one."
"I'm not racing!" Tyler protested.
"We'll see about that, Sunshine. We'll see." Cassie grinned.
Next morning, early, Tyler was up, dressed and ready to go, sitting on the seat looking out over the lagoon. The front door opened and his grandmother came out with a bag in one hand and 2 mugs of coffee in the other.
"There you are, Tyler. Have you had your morning coffee?"
"Good morning. You're up early."
"I usually am. Do you want this drink or shall I throw it out?"
"Don't do that. I've had one but can handle another. Thanks."
"You're welcome. There's a lunch for you in the bag. I've packed plenty because Cassie will want some too. You wouldn't think it to look at her but that girl eats like a horse."
"Great, thanks. I've never done this before, so we'll probably stop for a rest somewhere if we find a nice quiet spot."
"Sunshine, once you get over to the north end of the lagoon you'll be hard-pressed to find any places that are not nice and quiet. I haven't been out there for years but I loved it when I was younger.You're not, of course, but it's easy to imagine that you're the first person ever to explore in the waterways.
It's all in its natural and original state and there's no signs of man anywhere. With the thick rain-forest everywhere, every river you go up has a picture-postcard scene around every bend. Its best seen on a sunny day and you've got a great day for it."
"It is a great day, isn't it? Blue sky, calm water, clear air and not a breath of wind. Even the town looks good."
"And didn't we tell you that it would?"
"You did, but – wow! Such a difference."
"Now you see why we like it here. All this and the people of course. Someone's coming. Your eyes are better than mine; is that Cassie or not?"
"Yes! That's her, coming at last." Tyler put his mug down and stood up.
"Been waiting for a while, have you?"
"For ages. I was awake before dawn."
"That early? You need to get out of that tent and into the house where you can sleep in the mornings."
"One day maybe, but not yet. I'll put the life-jacket on."
"There's no hurry, finish your coffee. It will be a few minutes before she gets here. It's hard to judge distances over the water you know."
"I guess you'd know." He sat down again and drank. "Shame that Bevan's not coming too."
"Oh?" she smiled. "You said he'll be here after school. Don't go encouraging him to skip school. He takes far too many days off as it is."
"How does he get away with that?"
"The fact that he is far and away the brightest student they've got has probably got a lot to do with it.Also, nobody makes Bevan do what he doesn't want to. He's a stubborn as a mule."
"Don't you like Bevan, Grandmother? I do, I liked him a lot."
"I got that impression," she smiled. "I knew you would. I do like him, I like him very much, but I'm glad that I'm not responsible for him."
"Maybe he's just responsible for himself, like I am."
"Maybe you're right. I hope he doesn't stuff his life up. I hope you don't too. I've seen far too many kids who've never reached their full potential."
"I think that the best thing in life is to be happy and content with what you've got."
"Could be. It's very true that money doesn't buy happiness, it helps of course, but you need more than that."
For today, I'm happy and glad to be here. Thanks, Grandmother."
"Thank you, Lad. We're very happy to have you here."
When Cassie arrived Tyler was kitted-up, in the kayak, in the water and waiting to go."
"What, don't I even get a rest?" she protested.
"Rest if you want to," he replied. I'll start and you can catch up. Which way do we go?"
"We go this way," she started moving. "Bye, Auntie. We'll see you later."
"You'd better! Have fun, Kids, and don't drown him, Cassie."
"We'll try not to," she waved and they went.
Kathleen stood smiling and nodding as she watched them paddling obliquely along the lagoon, a ruffled V shaped wake trailing behind and spreading over the flat water.
'Good choice, Cassie,' she thought. 'You're taking him to Otatoki Creek, up at the top-end. That's probably my favourite place. Enjoy it, Kids, and take care.'
She went inside to clean-up, (again!)
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