by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 9


In a bedroom of a somewhat pretentious Mediterranean style villa on a plot of land far too small to display it's doubtful charms, a slim young man gazed at his reflection in the mirror. Olive complexion. Sharply defined facial features. Dark, angry eyes. Hands clenching and unclenching as he prepared himself for confrontation. In an unbuttoned white shirt, slimness accentuated by black drawstring trousers, a gold chain at his throat, he could have stepped out of the Arabian Nights. 'Fuck him,' he snarled, eyes mere slits, lips a thin line of determination. 'If he makes a fuss, I'm out of here.'

So engrossed was he in his thoughts that the call to dinner made him jump.

Corpulent, sedate and cunning, Hassid could not have been more different from his lean impulsive and forthright son. He was a proud father, eminent businessman, upholder of cultural and religious rectitude, and single minded in his determination that his son would become a suitable ornament to crown his financial and social success.

'Do up your shirt,' he snapped. 'How dare you come to the table naked?'

'I'm not naked.'

'A decent man does not show more flesh than necessary.'

With a sigh he knew would irritate, his son complied. His mother brought in the meal. Hassid said a blessing and they ate in silence; Cador astonished that neither parent could hear his thumping heart.

After what seemed an age, Hassid put down his knife and fork, wiped his mouth, congratulated his wife on an excellent repast and asked if Cador was ill because he hadn't finished his meal.

'I'm not hungry, Papa,' Cador said softly, 'I'm sorry, Mother, it's delicious as usual.'

She smiled appreciation, but remained silent.

'How is school?'

Cador was relieved to have at least some good news. 'Good, Papa. I topped the class in Maths and I'm in the First Eleven cricket, the only guy from year ten. All the rest are in years eleven and twelve.'

Hassid's smile was smug and self-satisfied. 'Every day you do something to make me more proud. When I think of Mehmet's delinquent son I offer prayers of thanks.

'Do you love me, Papa?' Cador asked nervously.

'More than my own life,' Hassid said grandly. 'Why do you ask?'

'Because I have a secret that might upset you.'

'I'm sure nothing you do could upset me.' Hassid's smile was strained.

'You see…'

'Well, out with it!'

'I'm gay.'

Silence. Cador hung his head, waiting.'

'You're not.'

'I'm sorry, Papa, I am. I can't help it.'

'You're fifteen. You have a girlfriend. You are my son. You are not one of those foul perverts! I would know if you were. What makes you think such stupidities?'

Already deeply regretting his decision to confide in his parents, Cador was torn between truth and deceit. He took a deep breath and chose truth.'

'I've had sex with another student.'

His mother gasped, put her hand to her mouth and hurried from the room. This was between the men and none of her business.

'You will never speak to that person again, never again say you are queer, and not leave your room until you swear to put all such evil from your head.'

Foolishly, Cador shook his head. All he had to do was wait a few years until he was independent, but internet friends had persuaded him he had to 'come out' otherwise he'd become an emotional cripple. 'I can't, Papa! I'm gay! I know I am and I can't be different. In every other way I'm still the same, I haven't changed.' He closed his eyes and prayed for understanding.

Hassid rose to his feet and stood over his cowering son as if undecided what to do, then suddenly slammed his fist into the side of Cador's head, knocking him to the floor.

'Papa, you said you loved me,' the lad whimpered, cringing in fear of another blow.

'I loved the son I thought you were. That son is dead. A monster that I despise has taken his place.' Reinforcing the words with a brutal kick to the shuddering young man's ribs he hissed, 'Get out! Get out of my house and do not return until you are a son of whom I can be proud.' Grabbing a handful of thick black hair he dragged Cador to the door, opened it and threw him onto the steps.'

'Papa, please! Please don't do this to me, I'm your son, I'm…'

'If I see you near this house again I will kill you.' The voice was low and menacing and anyone who heard it would not doubt he meant what he said. 'You are not my son. I am not your father. We are strangers!' He slammed the door and Cador dragged himself out onto the street; dazed, shocked and terrifyingly alone for the first time in his life.

The following night, it being Friday, Edgar visited an attractive widow prepared to augment her meagre income by pleasuring discreet, clean and healthy men. Afterwards, standing on the bridge over the river to admire the full moon, he glanced down and saw something dragging itself out of the water onto the muddy bank. Cautiously curious, because it just might be a crocodile, even though they were so far from the sea, he wandered to the end of the bridge then descended the steps to the water. The muddy heap was shuddering and emitting faint whimpers as if in pain. Edgar squatted beside it, touched it lightly on the shoulder and, imagining it was one of the local drunks, said softly, 'Can you stand?'

'Go away,'

'No. Not till you're standing and I can see you're OK.'

When the body remained silent, Edgar cursed his caring heart, grabbed hold of the surprisingly light bundle, hauled it vertical and turned the head towards him. The full moon gave enough light for him to realise this was no old soak. The kid looked no more fifteen. Ignoring the mud that filled his shoes and was being transferred to his best suit, he supported the young man up to the bridge, then the few hundred metres to his car, ignored by passers by who imagined they were just another pair of Friday night drunks.

The sun was barely up the following morning when the Noble's telephone rang.

'Stephen! It's for you!' Mrs. Noble snapped brusquely. 'It's Edgar,' her tone suggesting she'd prefer it to be the devil. 'What sort of person telephones people at this hour of the day?'

'Coming, Violet.'

'Well, don't talk too long!'

'No, dear.'

Ten minutes later Edgar ushered Stephen into his front room and closed the door.

'Last night I fished a kid out of the mud under the bridge. He looks about fifteen. No smell of alcohol. Either couldn't or wouldn't speak. I brought him home, stripped off his clothes—expensive stuff ruined by the mud and water, and shoved him into the shower. He just sat on the floor so I stood him up, washed, dried and put him to bed in the spare room. He's still there. Refused to get up, eat breakfast or speak. If he's a local kid he'll go to your school and you'll know him. Even if he isn't, and doesn't, you'll know better than me what to do. The last thing I need is a father on my doorstep suing me for child abduction.'

'That was very fine of you, Edgar. I mean that! Few people would bother. They'd just think it was another crazy junkie or drunk.' Stephen sighed deeply. 'OK, lead me to him.'

Cador was lying on his back staring sightlessly at the ceiling, covers clenched tightly around his neck.

Stephen studied the face for several seconds until he could place him. 'It's Cador, isn't it?'

No response.

'Cador,' Stephen said softly, drawing up a chair and sitting beside him, 'it's Mr. Noble from school. You're perfectly safe. No one knows you're here. The man who looked after you is my best friend and only wants to help. I promise to listen carefully and not do anything you don't want me to. So, how about telling me the trouble?'

'I'm evil,' Cador whispered.

'In what way?'

' I can't tell you…it's too bad.'

'Try me. If I'm shocked I'll wear a silly hat to assembly next Monday.'

Despite himself, Cador's lips twitched slightly. 'Promise?'


The youth rolled on his side to face the wall. 'It's too embarrassing. I can't look at you.'

'You're not the only one, I'm not a handsome man.'

Cador gave a tiny grunt that suggested, if not appreciation of the joke, at least a relaxation of fear. 'But you're nice. Everyone says you're fair and good. Not like me.'

'Let's make a deal—you tell me your woes and I'll give you fifty dollars if we can't solve them.'

'And then you'll let me go away?'

'If that's what you want.'

With a little prompting Cador's tale was told, from his expulsion for being gay, a night and a day hiding in back streets terrified of being recognised, to deciding to kill himself and jumping off the bridge into mud instead of drowning in deep water.

'I'm so useless I can't even kill myself.'

The principal sat in silence for a minute. 'It's a sad tale, Cador, but I'm still waiting to hear what you've done that would shock me.'

The young man rolled over, his face soaked in tears and said in a voice hoarse from anguish, 'I told you! I'm queer! I deserve to die. Allah hates me! Especially as I did it with someone.'

'What did you do?'

'The… the other boy and I touched each other and… you know…'

'You jerked off with another lad? So what? Half the boys at school are jerking off right this minute, some alone, others with their mates. It's normal for boys your age and no big deal.'

'It is to my father.'

As if to convince himself he really was evil, Cador explained that he didn't like kissing and touching girls and kept thinking about boys when he "touched himself" as he delicately put it.

'All boys or particular boys?' Stephen asked, not from morbid curiosity but from a genuine desire to understand. Popular wisdom had it that gays were indiscriminate in their lusts, while heterosexuals were more choosy. In his experience observing his peers and as a counsellor, there seemed to be no difference between them. Plenty of so-called straights were very choosy; others would fuck anything with a hole – a tree if that was the best available option.

Cador looked slightly shocked. 'Oh no! Most other boys repel me! They're fat or stupid or unhealthy… This boy's slim and fit and all the girls have the hots for him. That makes him laugh because they haven't a hope.' He paused, blushed and suddenly blurted as if relieved to unburden himself of a secret too painful to bear 'There's one other guy at school I really like, but I'd never dare approach him, he's a year older than me in year eleven.'

Stephen smiled. 'Well, I congratulate you on being discriminating.'

Cador sighed and smiled nervously. 'Thanks.'

'So stop all this nonsense about evil and wrong, you're a fine young man.'

'I'm a faggot and that makes me evil!'

'Really? Tell me, Cador, what other things do you reckon are evil?'

'Murder, stealing, torturing, sadism, child molesting, wife-beating, kidnapping, slavery…'

'So… for an activity to be evil someone must be badly hurt either physically or emotionally?'


'How badly did you and the other boy hurt each other?'

'Not at all! We're not like that!'

Mr. Noble let the silence drag on until Cador felt impelled to speak.

'So… Mr. Noble... Sir, you really don't think I'm evil for being queer?'

'Let's get this absolutely clear! You're not evil; you're not 'queer' as you call it. You're exactly the same handsome young man you were last week and the years before. Nothing has changed in you. You were born with dark brown eyes, black hair, golden skin, straight eyebrows, a slim body and healthy constitution. You were also born with a discriminating mind. You don't like all music, you don't like all sports or every person you meet; and when it comes to sex you seem to prefer males. That's how you were born. If your father doesn't object to your dark eyes and black hair, why should he object to any other part of the way you were born? It makes no sense to me.'

'It's Allah who hates me.'

'I thought he made you?'

'He did.'

'Isn't Allah perfect?'


'So he doesn't make mistakes. Therefore the way you are isn't a mistake. Only humans make mistakes, so obviously it's your father and whoever is interpreting Allah's wishes who've made a mistake.'


'You've a very important question to decide about this, Cador, and I want you to decide now. Are you ready?'

Nervously, 'Yes.'

'Who has decided that you, who are Allah's creation, is evil? Allah or the men who think they know what Allah wants?'

Cador frowned, looking for the trick in the question. Slowly he looked the Principal in the eye and said firmly, 'Papa is mistaken.' He smiled wanly, sighed and lay back on the bed.

'How long since you ate?'

'I had a bit of dinner Thursday night.'

'Well, unless you think you need to punish yourself by fasting longer, I suggest you join Edgar and me for something to eat. You'll have to wear some of his clothes until we can fit you out more attractively, but you're the lucky sort who looks good in anything'

Later that evening after a long talk with Edgar and Cador, Stephen Noble called at the home of the owner of the local supermarket and a chain of discount stores along the coast. Feeling somewhat awed by stone balustrades, broad steps and portico, he pressed the bell and was ushered into a lounge-room literally stuffed with deeply cushioned couches, arm chairs, small tables, oriental carpets, knickknacks, souvenirs and colourful daubs of minarets and camels silhouetted against desert sunsets. After introducing himself to Cador's father, they shook hands, sank into the cushions of opposing armchairs and exchanged pleasantries.

'Your son, Cador, wasn't at school yesterday. I was wondering if he is ill?'

Hassid frowned, stared into his guest's eyes and stated firmly, 'I have no son.'

Feigning shock, Stephen said, 'Surely he's not dead?'

'Physically, no. To me, yes.'

'What happened?'

'Family business. None of your concern.'

'Where is he?

'I neither know nor care.'

'Surely you want him back?'

'Not unless he changes his ideas.'

'What ideas?'

Hassid stood and turned on the Principal with a snarl, 'Cador has joined the devil. He is no longer welcome in this house, I disown him.'

'I don't understand.'

'Not that it's any of your business, but that person insisted he is queer!'

'There's nothing wrong with that. Why did you disown him?'

'It is the law of Allah.'

'It's not the law of Australia.'

'Allah's law overrides that.'

'No, it doesn't. Other people of your faith are able to accept homosexuality as normal for some people, why can't you?'

'Those people are not real Muslims.'

'If you want to live by religious laws, shouldn't you live in Saudi Arabia, or Iran or Indonesia, or any other country so governed?'

'Enough of your questions!'

'Will you tell the police your son has disappeared?'

'I have no son and do not care whether he lives or dies. It is no concern of mine, but if he comes back here unrepentant, I will kill him.'

'You shouldn't have said that.'

'Ha! There are no witnesses, only you, a stupid old infidel who is perverting the minds of his pupils. If I could have sent Cador to a Muslim school he would have remained pure.' Hassid stood and moved to the door. 'Goodbye, Mr. Principal. Please don't bother to call again unless you bring news that Cador has rejected your European perversions.'

Stephen nodded and left, saddened by the man but satisfied that the plans he was already hatching were in the best interests of his new responsibility.

That evening while Cador watched TV in his room, Stephen made a proposition to Edgar. After initial reluctance, he embraced the idea with enthusiasm.

'If it gets you out of the clutches of that woman, Stephen, then I'll do anything.'

'Thanks, Edgar, You've always been a real friend.'

Seeing no point in raising Cador's hopes of a reconciliation with his father, Stephen repeated verbatim his interview with Hassid, including his threat to murder his son for disgracing him. Cador was visibly shocked. His voice shook as he proudly thanked Mr. Noble for his help, and announced his departure for Brisbane the following day.

'What'll you do there?'

Cador shrugged. 'There are blogs on the internet about kids like me. I'll go to 'Twenty-Ten' and stay for a while, see if I can find work… must be something in a large city.'

Stephen gazed thoughtfully at the young man's symmetrical face. Flawless skin. Straight black eyebrows above large dark eyes. A strong, slightly hooked nose and sharply defined jaw were countered by full lips suggesting vulnerable sensuality. Tall for his age, slender, but a posture that suggested unyielding toughness. There is plenty of opportunity for youngsters like you who know no one in the city, thought Stephen sadly; rent boy, sexual abuse, drugs and misery, followed by a short life of crime.

'Why are you looking at me like that?' Cador demanded.

'Because I'm thinking; working on a proposition I hope you'll accept.'

'I'm not going to beg my father to take me back!'

'Of course not. If you remember the bet I made, you'll realise that if you go to Brisbane I'll have failed to solve your problem and that'll cost me fifty dollars. So how about this. You stay here with Edgar and continue at school till the end of the year. It's not far to school. You can jog and get fit or use the bike in Edgar's shed.'


'Hang on till I've finished. This is my last year as principal. I'm retiring at the end of the year, and what I'm about to tell you is top secret you understand? My wife and I have drifted apart, so I am going to transfer the ownership of my house to her, clean out my life insurance policies and all bank accounts, then when school finishes and my retirement starts I'm leaving. If you're still estranged from your father, I'd like you to come with me. I've no children of my own and will miss teaching, so your company would be appreciated. We'll find a good school, you'll complete your schooling and go to university if you like. What do you reckon?'

Tears were streaming down Cador's face. He was intelligent enough to realise he stood no chance alone in the city, but he also knew he couldn't accept charity from someone he scarcely knew. 'I can't, Mr. Noble. You are too good, but I would feel too… too obliged. I'd think I had to do whatever you wanted, even if I hated it. I'd never be able to disagree with you. I'd feel guilty if I wasn't constantly feeling grateful. It's different with parents, they owe it to their kids, but you?' He sighed, relieved at daring to tell the truth. 'Sir, I'd rather wash dishes for the rest of my life than be forever in your debt.'

'Fair enough,' Stephen said lightly, hugely relieved at the young man's response. 'I understand. You're a strong-minded young man who needs to be independent. I admire that.'

A nervous flicker crossed Cador's brow as he realised what he'd thrown away, but it was too late now and cold fingers clutched at his entrails as he thought about his future. Already he was regretting his hastiness.

'So, how about a legally binding business deal, drawn up by a lawyer, in which we both state the conditions under which we will live. For example, you can promise to repay every cent of the money I spend on your upkeep and welfare when you've a job, and I can guarantee your total independence from any form of obligation, your own room and privacy—on condition you don't become a raving lunatic…that sort of thing. The contract will state it is for our mutual benefit. I get to experience the joys of living with an intelligent adolescent, and you get security until you are able to provide for yourself. The contract to be renewable every year, so you don't feel trapped.'

Cador frowned in disbelief. 'You want to help me, and yet want nothing from me?'

'Cador. I have plenty of money, I will have freedom from a wife I've begun to detest, and I have always wanted a child so I could watch him grow, mature and develop into a man. School pupils leave and are seldom seen again. Perhaps if you spend the next few years under my roof we will retain enough interest in each other that I'll be able to follow your life as you mature and age. I assure you I have no desire to replace your father, nor, in case you are worried, have I the slightest sexual interest in you.'

Cador visibly relaxed.

'It's late and I've been talking too much. Go to bed, think about it, and tomorrow tell me exactly what you think of the idea.'

Cador stood and gazed in astonishment at Mr. Noble for several seconds before moving unsmiling towards him, putting out a hand and gently stroking his cheek, then silently going to his room.

A shopping spree on Friday provided Jarek and Zeno with a week's food for a dozen hungry males, a well-stocked first-aid kit, a dozen small backpacks, buckets, soap, glass and putty to repair the three cracked windows, a supply of batteries for small torches and their mobile phones, three new pressurised kerosene lamps, three powerful torches, a couple of fluorescent lamps, six compasses, a mirror for the washroom, and a ball of thick white twine.

As they were shopping during school hours, Zeno wasn't worried anyone would see him with Jarek and guess he was helping with the camp. The supermarket was jammed with apparently deaf, large-bummed housewives who parked their trolleys to gossip in front of all the shelves he and Jarek needed to access. Peering along an aisle he was surprised to see Ms Medlar, Bindi's friend and stout defender of Ms Nimffo, take something from a shelf and furtively tuck it down the front of her dress. She jiggled a bit to make it drop lower, then tossed her head and wandered around the corner to the next aisle. Fixing his eye on the spot Zeno ran over and checked. She'd taken a bottle of hair shampoo. It made no sense. He followed her to the checkout. The shampoo wasn't paid for. She was just walking away when Jarek joined him and she turned, looked directly at Zeno and Jarek, then disappeared onto the street.

'Fuck! She's seen us. Now she'll guess I'm not expelled.'

'Better warn Stephen.'

'I'll do it. I saw her steal some shampoo.'

'You're joking.'

'No. What's the school number?'

Zeno laughed when he disconnected.

'What did Stephen say?'

'He was delighted, as you can imagine. Where to now?'

'The National Park to see Greg and Hazel. Greg's a Ranger and I sometimes stay with them and help out when I'm staying in the forest on weekends. They rescued me when my truck got bogged once and we've been friends ever since. I want to take the boys there. It's a great walk and Greg loves talking to kids. I hope he'll let them climb the lookout tower.'


An hour later, Irma Medlar stalked into the Principal's office, plonked herself down in a chair and demanded to know why that young rapist was working with Jarek Schwartz when he had been expelled. Stephen merely smiled pleasantly and asked why she had not paid for the hair shampoo she had dropped down the front of her dress in the supermarket.

'I won't lose my job for giving a young man a chance to redeem himself, Ms Medlar, but you will lose yours and your reputation if your shoplifting habits are exposed. Good afternoon!'

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