Westpoint Tales

by Kiwi

Entangled Tales - 96 - Justin

(Okay - this is IT. Please don't hate me - it's not over.)

Life was not good. Life was horrible; it was ratshit! How could it be any worse? Westpoint's brightest shining star had gone out - Superboy was dead.

Justin Reynolds was gone - smashed in a flooded river, swept out to sea, and gone without a trace. Superboy was dead and a whole town mourned.

Nobody delighted now in Jonathan's amazing resemblance to his twin brother; not even Jonathan - especially not Jonathan. Every time he saw his stupid face in a mirror, or a sheet of glass, he saw his lost brother and he burst into tears.

He shaved his head, but that didn't help. Sunglasses made it even worse. Billy tried, he really tried, to support Justin's twin, but the face made it so hard!

Superboy was gone and they didn't even have a body to bury.

It started simply enough, with rain up in the hills away up inland far behind the town. It rained steadily, heavily, up there all week. There were a few passing showers down in Westpoint, but no more than usual - hardly even enough to keep anyone indoors. But, even as the sun shone on the town, they could see dark storm clouds around the inland horizon and even an occasional flash of lightning over the hills.

The port was closed to all traffic as the river rose steadily. Unbelievable as it was, While Westpoint was soaking up the sunshine, the river was approaching record flood levels.

On Wednesday, a fishing boat with a sick crew member; a kid fresh out of school and taken ill on his first trip out, heroically, stupidly, tried to make it in to the safety of the port. Struggling in the mountainous waves at the river mouth, they were struck by a semi-submerged log, holed and rolled. Two of the crew were later rescued by helicopter. The body of the third, the sick one, was not found. Such tragedies happened all too often on this wild and stormy coast.

The wind blew, but the sun was shining! The surf was up - bigtime! But no-one was game to try that. The sea was full of debris swept down the river.

On Friday morning, the News reported that the railway line was closed. A coal train had gone into the flooded river in the early hours of the morning. Scouring had undercut the track, the rails collapsed under the weight of the train, and everything had slid down the hill into the raging river. There was no loss of life as the driver had, somehow, managed to scramble to safety. The line would be closed for weeks.

Later on Friday there was chaos at the schools when it was announced that all of the south and east bound buses were cancelled. The bridge over the river was closed. It was still intact and, (just), standing in the flood, but Civil Defence had decided that it was too dangerous. They had closed the bridge shutting off all access to any direction except north out of the town.

All of the country kids would need to stay in town for at least one night. Billets were found all over town. Hotels and motels gave up every available bed. The Carvers looked after their own, except for Brian who gleefully stayed at John's house - so it wasn't all bad. Mrs. M., Denise and Margaret all shared Jonathan's large bed while he slept with Justin and Billy. But the sun kept shining.

Saturday morning, they woke up to rain - thunder and lightning and torrents of wind-driven rain. The storm had finally come to town. At breakfast time in the crowded kitchen, Dick Seaton came in, with water dripping from his wet-weather gear, and announced that the bridge was still standing.

"A lot of the wharves are under water. I've never seen it so high. The merchandise wharf is just a lake and the cement company wharf is under. There's a boat in too - perched up there in the flood, sitting in the middle of a lake! If it gets much worse, we'll be sand-bagging this old place too. I suppose we could all move upstairs though."

"That doesn't sound good," said Jonathan. "What time is high tide?"

"Not until nearly lunchtime, Lad. Not that the tide makes much difference when the river's running this high. You'll be surprised at how fast it drains away once the bloody rain stops. If it stops."

The rain did stop later in the morning. Jonathan left them to go and help Claudette's father clean out his flooded basement garage. He didn't want any help.

"Good chance for me to get on side with the old man."

When high tide was about due, Justin and Billy wandered over to check out the flooding at the wharves and to see if the bridge was still surviving, (which it was). It seemed like half the town had the same idea as the flooded riverbanks were crowded. People were everywhere, oohing and aahing and marveling at the extent of the dirty water. They were chatting and socialising with friends and neighbours and kids played in the oversized puddles.

The crowd was thinning and running for cover as the bloody rain started again. They were about to leave for home, when they froze at the sound of yelling out on the water. A raft came racing down in the flood - a bit of a raft. Apparently, one of the entries from the raft race had been abandoned on the riverbank and had now been refloated in play by three young boys.

They were all lying sideways, half in the water, and yelling, (laughing?), and kicking frantically as they tried to push it out of the current and into the calmer waters in the lee of the cement company boat. They almost made it, but then their yells turned to terrified screaming as a surge in the water pulled them back and the raft smashed into the prow of the boat.

Bits of polystyrene went spinning everywhere as they clung to what was left and one of the boys was stretched-out, clinging to the front ridge of the boat and trying desperately to pull them back out of the current. The boy was holding them, for now, but he didn't have the strength to pull them back to safety.

Everyone there froze in horror, but Justin didn't hesitate. He ran back to the water's edge, kicked off his shoes and shed his big raincoat.

"Justin, what are you doing?" Billy yelled. "You can't! You can't swim that good."

Justin looked back and spoke his last words, his obituary. "I have to, Sunny. I have to! It's expected of me. If not me, then who?" He plunged into the muddy water.

Billy stood, knee-deep, in the water. "Be a hero then! Be careful, Justin. Please be careful. Come back to me!"

Justin surged out through the water, dog-paddling, (his strongest stroke)). He reached the high wall of the hull and the calmer waters inside it, swam forwards to the front and pulled himself around on to the ridge there. Pressed back against the boat by nothing but the force of the on-coming water, he reached down, grabbed the boy's wrists and slowly maneuvered him and his crew back around to the safer waters inside. When they were passed beneath him, he shoved the remains of the raft to send them on their way.

The same shove pushed him backwards at exactly the wrong time as a half-submerged tree reared up and smashed into the prow of the boat. The horrified spectators, safely on the bank just a few meters away, all saw Superboy momentarily spread-eagled on the hull as the tree smashed into him. He peeled off, slid down, and disappeared into the swirling water.

"J. . Just. . tin!!" Billy screamed. He ran along to the rear of the boat and further along the flooded wharves.

The bare tree merrily bobbed its way along on the waves, heading out to sea, but there was no sign of Justin - he had gone. Billy fainted.

The people searched every inch of the riverbank, all the way to the sea, with little hope and no success. In the days that followed, even before the weather cleared, volunteers scoured the beaches and the coastline for miles and miles, but they never found any trace of their lost hero.

Billy was helped home to the Adelphi where he sat shivering and crying in the kitchen until Jonathan lifted him and carried him upstairs to bed. Kathleen, ever capable, even in her own misery, had Dr. Miller come and give Billy a sedative.

In the days that followed, the town was in shock as they mourned for their lost son. The Highschool was closed for days. It wasn't official and it wasn't planned, but nobody came. Most of them were busy searching the beaches for some sign, any trace, of Superboy.

Billy stayed on at the Adelphi. His mum wanted him to come home, but he wouldn't, he couldn't.

"I know he's gone, Mum. I know that, but all I've got left of him is right here and I can't leave that."

Kathleen and Bob were more than happy for him to stay. As long as he was there they felt like they still had some part of their boy. Billy could go home to his family when he wanted to, if he wanted to, but they were dreading the day.

Jonathan, on the other hand, was avoiding the place. He called in every day for a few minutes, but he spent every night with either Claudette or Lana. They were talking about buying a house and all moving in together, someday, one day - not yet.

Billy was never left alone. He was constantly surrounded by siblings, cousins and friends. Every night, on Bob's suggestion, either Peter and Jay or Daniel and Tony, came to stay with him.

People cried, buckets of tears, oceans of tears as every single soul realised what a gem they'd had and lost.

There would never be a grave, Justin was lost and gone, but there was already talk of a memorial statue, in the square - a small, bronze statue of a laughing, running Superboy with his hand pointing west to the sea. Collection boxes for a public subscription appeared everywhere, even before the Council had discussed the idea.

After several long days, all but the most desperately hopeful searchers had given up. Everyone knew the long history of this wild and stormy coast. Lives were lost almost every year and bodies were rarely found as the hungry sea took its toll. Entire boats had been known to disappear without a trace.

On the seventh day the Coroner's Court held a special sitting on the case of Justin Reynolds. They passed a verdict of accidental drowning and also recommended that the Royal Humane Society should award him posthumous recognition of his heroism in saving the three boys from drowning. Westpoint wept.

The Westpoint News carried a full report of the Coroner's Court with a laughing portrait on the front page and the headline, "If I don't, Then Who Will?" The entire paper was full of stories of Justin ("Don't call me Superboy"), Reynolds and the editorial called for everyone to pick up the baton and continue in his example.

Photographs of him, edged in black, appeared everywhere. Everyone who could claim even the slightest relationship was wearing a black arm-band.

Mayor Craddock brought a delegation to the family in the Adelphi. Dr. Miller, Mrs. Lowry, the Catholic Priest and several other ministers and town councilors were there.

"Bob, Mrs. Reynolds, Jonathan, we need to have a memorial service for Justin. The town's in shock and we're verging on mass hysteria. We can't have a funeral, so we need to have a memorial service, to say goodbye and to say thank you. The town needs to have some closure from this terrible tragedy."

Kathleen said, "No. I don't think we should. Justin would hate that. He never liked being the centre of attention, he always tried to put others first and fade into the background himself."

"But he never stayed in the background," Bob said. "He couldn't. He didn't like it, but he was a star and he belonged up front. I think we should hold a memorial to him, even if he would hate it."

"Well I don't", Kathleen replied. "I know my boy and he wouldn't want it. Billy, what do you think?"

"Ma'am, Justin always did what he knew was right. Always. He loved Westpoint and, if the town needs closure, then we have to give it to them. Justin would."

"From the mouths of babes." Kathleen looked at him. "You're right, Billy. Exactly right - Justin would. We will hold a memorial service and we'll do him proud, just as he would have done for anyone else. Billy will be with us, up front and centre, where he belongs."

"Oh no! I couldn't, Ma'am."

"For Justin, you can and you will."

"Well, okay - for Justin."

"Good boy, Billy. Be strong and be gracious - for Justin."

"The next question," said the priest. "Is where do we hold it? Much as I would like to have it in our church, I don't think that it will be big enough and St. Jerome's is the biggest church in town. The Community Centre, perhaps? Would there be room enough there?"

"No, there wouldn't," said the Mayor. "It will have to be outdoors and pray that the weather is kind to us, or postpone it until it is. I think that the Square would be appropriate."

"No! Not the Square," Jonathan spoke for the first time. "We can't have it there. Justin loved the Square. He nearly lived in the Square. We can't have it there, it wouldn't be right. Not the Square."

"Okay," said Mr. Craddock. "Not the Square. Where then? The school perhaps, Mrs. Lowry?"

"No, I don't think so - for the children's sake, we shouldn't. I think Pattinson Park would be the best place."

"Pattinson Park, the race course. Yes, that sounds fine, "Bob agreed. "It's neutral ground and it's the biggest venue in the town. The grandstand alone should hold most of the crowd."

So it was agreed, a memorial service for Justin would be held at Pattinson Park Raceway, on Saturday the 17th at 11am. Ministers from all denominations would participate, along with the Mayor, the Principal, his friends from Whozzat and anyone else who wished to speak. The Municipal Band would play as well. All expenses would be covered by the Westpoint District Council and Mayor Craddock would be pleased to announce the Council's approval for a memorial statue in the Square. They would do him proud. The radio and newspaper would publicize the event and someone should see that the TV cameras were there as well.

On the Saturday, the weather was perfect, it couldn't have been better. The late Autumn sun shone in a cloudless sky. The town was almost deserted as its people assembled at Pattinson Park to say goodbye to Westpoint's favourite son.

Billy and Justin's family were seated in a cordoned-off section near the front of the grandstand. The band played in front of the make-shift stage out in front. The crowd was somber and dressed in suits and skirts, jeans and shirts and hundreds of school uniforms. Black armbands were everywhere.

West FM broadcast the whole service, live, for the few people who couldn't be there.

At a special request from the Carver family, the proceedings began with a recording of Justin singing 'Danny Boy' at Jeremy Carver's funeral. This was followed, as the participants filed onto the stage, by the recording with Jonathan and the school choir singing 'Pachebel's Canon'. The crowd wept as the speakers played Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven'. ("Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?")

The service started with a hymn and a prayer and a welcome from the priest.

"We are gathered here today to say goodbye to Justin, the boy we knew as Superboy. Many people are given familiar names, or nicknames, by friends and family. When Justin first arrived here, he was known only as 'the Reynolds' Boy', then, as we got to know him, he was known in quick succession as 'the Mouse',' Mighty Mouse', and finally, forever as 'Superboy'.

I think that none will argue with me when I say that never was a name more richly deserved because that is exactly what he was. He was a boy and he was super - through and through.

However, in his own shy, but forthright manner, he never asked to be known as anything other than Justin. Justin Jonathan Reynolds, grandson of Bob and Kathleen Reynolds and twin brother of Jonathan. A special and beloved friend of many, especially Billy Mathieson. A student in our school, a runner, a fighter and a friend - a damm good friend to all of us.

He was here with us for just a short time, but a lifetime as well. Like the brightest of comets he flashed across the skies of Westpoint. He lit up our lives and changed this town for the better, but now he is gone like a comet into the night. It is time to say, "Goodbye Justin. Goodbye and Thank you."

There were tears and there was a procession of people coming forward to say a few words. Even Ma Carver spoke. The Mayor, in his speech announced the approval for a memorial statue and then, "On a personal note. Not as your Mayor, but as a family man, a husband, father and grandfather, I have one more thing to say."

He beckoned to the side of the stage and Dulcie Craddock came out and stood with her grandfather. With his hand on her head and a tear in his eye, Tom Craddock leaned forward and, in a husky voice, he said, "Thank you, Justin."

The music played, Andre Bocelli's 'Goodbye".

Finally, Claire Lewis came forward. "So many things I would like to say about this wonderful boy, but I can't - it's just too hard. I will just say this, I loved you, Justin. I loved you very much and I always will. Thank you for being in my life. This was Justin's song, the first song he ever sang to us. His song to Westpoint, the town he found over the rainbow.

Everyone wept as they listened to Justin singing, 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'.

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