Okarito - Tyler

by Kiwi

Chapter 12

Tyler biked out of the driveway and down the narrow back-road which led into town. Cycling was easy! Usually he was fully laden and towing the heavy trailer, but not today.

He still had to wear the stupid cycle-helmet though – perched on top of his head like a polystyrene mushroom. He hated the thing and hated everything it represented. It was meant to be a free country, wasn't it?

In many ways it was and people were free to risk their lives as they pleased. They're allowed to climb dangerous mountains, jump out of aeroplanes and do all sorts of dumb things and the Accident Compensation scheme would cover them and bury them if necessary. But let them get caught riding a bike, just once, and it's a traffic offence and it costs $63 for the first charge and more every time after. Even if they're just a kid and supposedly not responsible under the law, it still costs them – how is that fair?

It had cost him once and he wasn't getting caught like that again. He had better things to do with his money than giving it to the cops.

So, he hated it but he wore the stupid thing. 'Anyway, if you do fall off a bike, it's your knees and arms that get hurt not your bleeding head!'

Time to think about something else. Cycle helmets and the stupid law just made him mad. What will they think of next, banning fireworks? 'Oh, right! They've all-but done that. All the fun ones are banned. Having fun will be against the law soon.'

He rolled along the quiet and empty road. At least it was sealed; gravel roads are hard work on a bike. Facing north, the scrub-covered dunes and the Tasman Sea were on his left and some busy-looking life-style blocks on his right.

It was easy to see where his grandparents' property ended and the others began. His granddad's place was mostly empty with no junk lying around at all and a bit too much scrub taking over – gorse, manuka, blackberries, lupins, bracken ferns and other rubbish.

That was something he could do to pay the grandparents back – he'd get hold of a bush-whacker, or a slasher, and he'd chop the lot down and burn it. Fun too. Ashes put potash back in the soil and more grass would grow to feed the sheep – not that they were short of feed anyway, unlike the neighbours'.

Those guys were obviously amateurs – townies trying to live the Good Life on their 10 acre sections. As well as the tell-tale junk lying everywhere – drums, building materials and discarded toys – they were all running far too many animals on their properties. Sheep, cows, horses, pigs & other pets. His granddad's place had too much growth on it, the others were all like bowling greens – what were their animals eating?

They had nice houses though, much more flash and modern than the Rodden's comfortable old family home. They didn't all have water up close to their houses though. The land was, roughly, shaped like a 'V' between the sea and the lagoon with the Rodden's place near the point and the others all spreading out and getting wider as the road went along.

After the last life-style block, the road did a right-hand turn and headed East with the town's airport on his left-hand side. Their security fences were really high, it was a wonder that planes didn't clip them when they were landing.

The road into the airport was on his left, next to the bridge over the narrow arm of the lagoon. He turned right and headed South, back along the narrow spit of land that led to the road bridge over the river and into town. The land along there was nothing more than a wide causeway really. The water of the lagoon on both sides was largely screened-off by the roadside trees.

It was a long bridge, the river was quite wide there. It was a long way to come for a short distance. The bridge was in the wrong place – if it'd crossed the river near the Rodden's place, they would only have needed one bridge. But then he guessed, it would've interfered with operations in the small port – not that it seemed to be in much use anyway.

The wooden wharf and old sheds were quiet and deserted and there was no sign of a boat anywhere.The old crane was probably rusted-up from lack of use.

Shame really, but road transport was quicker and easier and it was killing off the older, slower and inefficient modes of transport. It was the same all over the country, except in city areas, coastal shipping was all-but dead and railways were shrinking and dying.

'Cost of progress? Maybe. Those old wharf sheds – I wonder?'

Over the bridge, the road joined the main road into town. It was wider and better maintained, but not much busier. 'A real Sleepy Hollow here!'

Heading west now, towards the sea, there was a row of suburban properties on his right, after the wharf ended. One of them must be where Bevan lived, but he didn't know which one and couldn't see him anywhere. Couldn't hear any lawn-mowers going either!

The main street, known as the Strand, was around the left-hand corner. It ran North-South, parallel to the beach. (Tyler quite liked the compass mounted on his bkie's handlebars – it was one of his favourite toys).

So, he was 'in town'. As he'd seen the other night, most of the buildings were old, wooden and a bit run-down. A lot of them were boarded-up and empty. No buildings that he could see were more than 2 stories high, and most weren't even that much.

Wide verandahs sheltered the sidewalks on both sides of the street. It did all look better than when he'd seen it in the rain, but not much. The place had the look of an old cowboy town, which was fitting really – they were living in the 'Wild West'. No cowboys in sight though, or horses, or dance-hall girls. They would've looked right at home there.

The effect was spoilt by the modern signs, street lights and the garish colours that some buildings were painted, whenever it was that they were painted – it sure wasn't yesterday. Everything looked tired, faded and worn.

He followed the signs, around the corner to the Police Station on a side street and left his bike in the carpark behind there. As he'd told Jeffrey, the cop, there was no safer place to park in any town. He still locked it up though, just to be sure, and then he walked back around to the main street.

The waitress who had rung his grandparents was standing outside Dinah's Diner, sucking on a cigarette. "Well, hello, John Junior! How're you today?"

"I'm fine, thanks," Tyler answered with a smile. "Really fine."

"I thought you would've moved-on by now."

"Nope. I'm not going anywhere, I decided to stay."

"Permanently? Just what the town needs – another bleedin' Rodden!"

"It's got one whether it needs it or not."

"Just kidding you, Boy. They're good people – there's just so bloody many of them."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. Just standing here, I can see 3 Roddens – 4 counting you. Welcome home, John Junior."

"Thanks. My name is Tyler – Tyler Rodden. Thanks for phoning the grandparents the other morning. I wouldn't have met them if not for you."

"Glad I did then. Whatever happened to your father, Tyler?"

"He died, a long time ago, in a carcrash. I don't remember him, I was just little."

"And now you're big? I remember John. I remember him well. I had quite a crush on him at one stage – we even went to our Highschool Prom together."

"Of course! I've seen the photos, you haven't changed a bit."

"I wish! Nice of you to say though. You're quite a charmer, aren't you? Even better looking than your father too, and he was easy on the eye. I'll bet those grandparents are delighted to have you here."

"They say that they are, so far. I'm delighted to be here too. Thanks again, Amy."

"Ahh. So you did remember my name. I was wondering."

"Of course I remembered. I've got a memory like an elephant you know."

"Well I know now. Okay," she flicked her butt into the gutter "Nice to see you again, Tyler. I'd better get back to work before they fire me."

And you wouldn't want that! 'Bye, Amy, 'til next time."

"Yeah, next time."

She went back into the Diner and Tyler carried on walking along the street, taking it all in and getting to know the place. He ambled along, a curious observer, (and there were a few), would've thought that he was aimless, but he was not. He had a plan and he was on a mission.

The shop verandahs stopped abruptly at the end of the business district. He crossed the street and worked his way back up the other side, to the far end. Then he retraced his steps, walking with purpose now, and went into the Sports and Hunting Goods Store.

There, he was surprised to find that no kayaks, helmets or gear, for sale. They did have surfboards, wax and wetsuits and stuff for repairing them and a couple of inflatable kid's dinghies which weren't much good for more than playing around in puddles.

He thought it incredible that there was a whole big water-world out there and the locals took no interest in it – apart from fishing, of course. There was a lot of fishing gear there. His grandfather had most of the gear he would need to get started, but he needed to find out how much it was worth.

He spoke to the owner, a middle-aged woman – at least 30, but she wasn't very interested and no help at all. "We just don't get any demand for that sort of stuff around here. Sorry, but I can't help you."

Okay, he'd have to switch to plan B then. He'd go to the library, get on the internet and see what he could find there. His next stop was the Department of Conservation Office.

There, for the first time, he found that what Bevan had said was true, his name really did open doors around there. He told the guy that his name was Tyler Rodden and, yes, he was related to the local Roddens, but he was new here.

"Which branch of the family would that be? There were 4 brothers, none of them ever left here and they all had families, big families."

"My grandfather is Bob Rodden."

"Bob and Kathleen are your grandparents? Great people!"

"Yes, they are. I'm staying with them, for now."

"Well that's good. What can we do for you, Tyler Rodden?"

Basically, the DOC people could do nothing much for him and that was good. The guy, Stuart Menzies, said that while DOC controlled most of the reserves and undeveloped land around the lagoon and rivers, they had no jurisdiction over the water or the Queen's Chain around it.

The Queen's Chain, dating back to Victorian days, was a 20 meter strip of publicly-owned and freely-accessed land around most of the shores. They had no control of or interest in the water below the high-tide mark and, as long as he didn't disturb the reserves or the protected wildlife, he could do what he liked out there.

Policing kayaks and their operation was nothing to do with DOC and he doubted whether the District Council would be interested either.

He had that right. Tyler's next stop was the Council offices and the lady there said the same thing – he could do as he pleased out on the water. She also said that she personally, and the Council, would help him in any way they could and she wished him luck with his venture.

"I don't know why no-one's thought of it before. You should do well."

From there he went to the I-Site, tourist information centre, which was small and amateurish – probably a community-run concern. He picked-up a handful of brochures about various activities in the wider district. Some had prices shown in them, those that didn't he took to the counter and got prices from the lady there. She was pleasant and helpful, obviously interested and knew the area well. He was tempted to tell her what he was scheming, but didn't – that would keep until he had all the details sorted and loose ends tied-up.

After the library, he made a couple more calls into other places, then figured that he had enough info to be going on with. He went back to the Police Station to get his bike, go home and have a think.

Jeffrey, his favourite policeman, was standing outside the backdoor, talking to a couple of kids. Tyler smiled and nodded and headed for his bike, but Jeffrey stopped him and called him over.

"Come here a minute, Tyler. I want to talk to you."

"Ah, yeah. Hello, Mr. Plod. I'm not in trouble, am I?"

"Why? What've you been doing that you shouldn't?"

"Nothing, I think. My bike's okay there, isn't it? It doesn't take up much room."

"No problems. Your bike's fine where it is. That's not what I wanted to talk to you about. Stop looking worried, you're not in trouble – not yet anyway. How's it going out at your grandparents'?"

"It's going fine, thanks. Really good. I'm going to stay here for good."

"Yes, Cassie told me that. You've changed your tune. When I last saw you, you couldn't get out of here quick enough."

"Yeah, well, the sun came out. I've learnt a bit and seen a lot and I like it here, so I'm staying."

"Delighted to hear it. Now that you're staying, I've got someone I want you to meet. This is my nephew, Logan, and his good friend, Lorne. Guys, this is Tyler, the latest addition to the Rodden family."

"Like they needed any more?" The darker-haired boy said. "Hey, Tyler. Nice to meet."

"Of course it is," Tyler grinned. "Are you guys in the Highschool?"

"We are," Lorne replied. "We're both in Year 10."

"Do you know Bevan Rodden? He's in Year 11."

"That he is – when he's there," Logan replied. "Everybody knows Bevan. He's one of a kind."

"He certainly is," Tyler laughed. "I really like Bevan. He's great and he's my mate."

"Oh good!" said Jeffery. "Maybe you could get him to put in a good word for me with that sister of his?"

"I've already done that. I told Cassie she's a dumb-arse if she lets you go."

"Let's hope she listens then."

"Yeah, maybe. I've gotta go – stuff to do. See you around, People. Nice to meet you."

"Sure it is," Logan laughed. "See you then, Tyler. Enjoy our town."

"You'll see me. It's my town too now, y'know. Laters, Guys."

He got on his bike and started riding, but had to stop and put on the helmet that he'd forgotten all about. How dumb was that? In the Cop-shop carpark with one of them standing looking at him! Jeffrey was a good guy, but he was still a cop.

Helmet safely strapped on, he grinned, waved and rode away at speed.

Back at the tent, he sat outside with his papers, notes and brochures and had a good long think about his plan of attack. He cooked and ate his evening meal before sundown. After the flaming sunset had faded, he gathered up his papers and went over to the house to have a talk with his grandfather.

Bob and Kathleen, as usual, were sitting outside watching the day fade into night. They both greeted him with big smiles.

"Hello, Tyler. We hear you've been busy today."

"Hey. I was busy, for a while. But how on earth do you know?"

"It's a small town and word gets around. You're still a bit of a curiousity here and everyone is watching you."

"I'm not sure I like that."

"Oh, don't worry. It will pass and they don't mean any harm. They're all very interested in you."

"You're right. That will soon stop – I'm pretty boring really."

"You are anything but boring, Tyler," said Bob. "From where you've been and what you were looking at, I presume you were thinking about this business venture of yours?"

"That's it. I've been gathering information and working out some figures."

"And that's what you've got there?" said Bob. "Now you're getting into my territory. Come inside where the light's better, and we'll have a chat."

Bob was impressed with Tyler's information that he'd gathered, his figures and costings and with the way he presented his ideas. At the end of it all, he sat back and considered.

"You know, Tyler, the last thing I want to do is to chase you away from here, and your grandmother would kill me if I did, but I really think that you do not belong here after all."

"I don't belong here? Why not?"

"You should be in a big city, where the big money is. With the skills you've shown me here, you could make a fortune in a city."

"Granddad, I don't want to make a fortune. All I want is to earn my own living and be able to pay my way. I'm not moving to any cities. I like it here. This is where I belong and this is where I'm staying."

"Well, good! Now, I've only got one quibble with your figures – you say that you'll pay us 20% of your gross profits to lease our kayaks and gear and a motorboat."

"Is that not enough?"

"No, Tyler, it's far too much. I think that 10% of nett profits would be much fairer. We are your grandparents, Boy, we're here to help you not to rip you off."

"Well . . thanks, but are you sure that 10% is enough? How about 10% of gross?"

"I'm sure, and no – 10% of nett and we'll do quite nicely out of that. You'll need help with the accounts and tax systems. I'll look after all that, free of charge, until such time as I am satisfied that you can afford to pay someone to do it.

Also, you'll need some seed money for printing and advertising etc. I think about $10,000 should be enough to get you started. Give me your bank account number and I'll have it transferred in there tomorrow morning."

"$10,000?? Do you think it will cost that much?"

"Probably not, but if you're going to do something, do it right and it's better to have too much than too little."

"Thanks, but you don't have to lend me the money, I'll just cash-in one of my investments."

"You certainly will not! That money is working for you – use ours, it's just sitting doing nothing and we don't need it. And, it's not a loan, it's a gift – a homecoming gift. Call it an early inheritance if that makes you happy."

"No, it would not make me happy, not at all! Okay, I'll accept it, but as a loan not a gift and I'll pay you back as soon as I can."

"A loan then, but interest-free. That much, I insist on. If and when you form a company, I'll expect to be a shareholder, at a price of course."

"There's no-one else I'd rather have, but we'll talk about price when the time comes."

"We will.This is exciting, Tyler. This could be exactly what I've been saying for years that the town needs. At last someone's doing it – I'm glad it's you. One more thing. We do get quite a few tourists here, but it could be a lot more.

What you need is some way to draw them in from the main highway. Roadside billboards will be a good place to start. Your uncle, our son, Robert, has got a small farm north of the turn-off and old friends of ours have got a block, with their holiday home, some distance to the south. Both would be great locations for billboards.

You arrange some novel and eye-catching signs and I'll arrange for them to be displayed."

"That'd be great. But won't we need permission to erect commercial signs by the highway?"

"We will. We'll need permission from the same Council that I've been working for, for nearly 40 years now. Somehow I don't think that will be a problem."

"Granddad, you're a legend! Thanks. Do you want to be my business partner?"

"I do not. I want to be your grandfather and help you in every way that I can."

Tyler stood, wiped tears from his eyes and said, "I love you, Granddad. Can I have a hug?"

"Of course you can, Boy. Any time, any time at all." Bob stood-up and hugged him, and then kissed his forehead. "I love you too, we both do. Your grandmother and I love you very much. The day you turned-up in the rain was one of our best days ever."

"Thanks. I didn't know it at the time, but it was one of my best days too."

"And that's good. Come on now, we'd better go back to your grandmother before she dies of curiousity."

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