Brownsville Tales, Robin

by Kiwi

Part 2

Robin Hedges lived with his dad on what they liked to call 'the Ranch', a few kilometers east of Riverston, in the river valley, at the foot of the hills. They were up a gravelled side-road near Crushingtown.

Their postal address was simply, 'Crushingtown, via Riverston', but there was no mail delivery anyway. They had to collect their mail, such as it was, from the Post Office in town. The real town that is, in Riverston.

Crushingtown was no town. It used to be, it was fairly big once – way back when – but it wasn't now, it'd gone. The gold mines had closed, the quartz crushing batteries shut down and the town faded away. All that was left now was a few houses scattered along the highway, some scrubby farms and a lot of old rubbish lying around – mostly crumbling building foundations and old rusty iron.

Their farm was the scrubbiest of all. The stony paddocks grew more blackberry bushes than anything else. They had some sheep, but mostly dry-stock cattle bought cheap as new-born bobby calves and sold for meat when they were old enough.

What they had most of were sandflies – flying, biting insects. Vicious little sods they were, and there were millions of them there by the river in the long shadows cast by the hills around them.

Robin's dad, Bryan Hedges, made some money from his farm, but not much – not enough to live on. It was just a hobby farm really. He worked, 4 days a week, shovelling coal at Alborn's mine, just up the road a bit and on the other side of the valley.

Robin had no brothers or sisters, and he wished that he did. He had no mother either. He used to, of course, his dad didn't find him under a blackberry bush! But no longer, she got sick of the country life and buggered off with another guy, years ago.

She was married with more kids now and living in the city. Robin had nothing to do with her and didn't miss her at all. He never liked her anyway – old misery-guts she was. His dad was a decent guy and he didn't know why he'd ever hooked-up with her in the first place. Probably because they were young and stupid, but just as well for him that they did!

So, there was just Robin and his dad, living with a few animals, (and a lot of blasted sandflies!), and that was how he liked it. It was a good life, they had enough money and he, pretty much, did what he wanted to. He travelled to school and back on the bus each day and when he got home his time was his own until his dad came home on working days – at about 6pm.

Even when he wasn't working, Bryan usually left Robin to his own devices, except for when he needed an extra pair of hands, and fit young legs. Robin did all the running around when they were mustering the stock for shearing or slaughter and did all the fetching and carrying when the roof blew off the old barn – again. He had to help too whenever the bloody animals broke through the run-down fences and got out on to the highway. Embarrassing!

He did well in school and was naturally gifted but not very interested when it came to playing sports. He was popular and got on well with the teachers and most of the kids. He had friends, some closer than others, and he enjoyed his life at school. Life at home was different, but he liked that too.

Every year, in the summer, he went for a holiday with his grandparents. They lived in a very cool house at Paraparaumu Beach, north of Wellington, and they spoiled him rotten. They were retired and had lots of money and plenty of time to give their only grandson, but not a lot of energy really.

He always had a great time there, but was always happy to go home again. He suspected that Gran and Gramps were glad too – they'd be able to rest-up for the rest of the year.

All together, it was a pretty good life and he liked it. There was just one thing missing. He wasn't exactly lonely – they were only 7k's out of town and he could bike in there for company if he wanted it – but he wished that he had a brother, someone to share his world with.

But he didn't and it was too late now. Even if his dad did have another kid, it'd just be a baby and not much company for him, he was far too grown-up for baby stuff. So, he had a good life, but no brothers.

And then his dad wrecked it.

At breakfast on a Thursday, Bryan was sitting with a big cheesy grin on his face and Robin had to ask him why. "What's up, Dad. You're looking very pleased with yourself. Have we won the lottery or something?"

"We? Whadda ya mean we? No, we haven't won the lottery."

"What then?"

"I'm getting married and I'm going to be a father."

"You already are a father. You've got me, remember?"

"Sure I remember. How could I forget? But this is different, I'm going to be a father again. There's a baby on the way and we're getting married."

"We? Whadda ya mean we? I'm not getting married to anybody, I'm a kid. Hey, hang on! You've got someone pregnant? Dad, how could you? Old People sex – eww!"

"Watch it, Boy. We're not that old. I'm just thirty-one."

"You're thirty-one? I thought you were much older than that. I'm nearly 12, so you were 19 when I was born? You've got a long history of getting girls pregnant!"

"It's only happened twice!"

"How many times didn't you get caught?"

"None of your business. Anyway, Deb's not just a young girl, she's the same age as me, I think. Close to it anyhow."

"This 'Deb' is the mother? Do I know her?"

"You should do. Debbie Hughes, she lives in town and teaches at the Pre-school."

"What would I know about pre-school people? So she's a glorified baby-sitter then."

"Hoo Boy! I wouldn't let Deb hear that if I was you. You'll know her soon, she's going to be your mother."

"Is not! I don't need a mother."

"Is too, and yes you do. It'll be good to have a woman around the place – might help to civilise you a bit."

"I'm civilised enough."

"Sure you are. At least you might stop walking around the house naked."

"Damm. I'll have to, won't I?"

"You will and good job too. You'll meet Deb soon enough, they're coming out on Saturday."

"THEY are coming out? Dad, please don't tell me that she's got a mob of snot-nosed kids."

"No, she hasn't. Well, there is at her work I guess, but she's only got one boy of her own. Darren Hughes – you must know him. He's the same age as you are."

"Darren Hughes. That weedy, booky, little wimp! Dad, he's a sissy-boy. I've often wished that I had a brother, but not him. Can't you do any better?"

"It's not the boy I'm marrying, it's the mother, but it's a package deal and he comes attached. You'll just have to get used to it."

"I will not get used to it. Dammit-all, Dad! You're not a couple of dumb kids. Haven't you ever heard of condoms?"

"Didn't think we needed them. Deb is on the pill, but, apparently, if you miss taking it just one day it stuffs-up the contraception for the rest of the month. I don't mind. We would've married anyway, this just speeds things up a bit."

"Just a bit! You should've waited until you got married. Isn't that what you're supposed to do?"

"Would you buy a pair of shoes without trying them on for size first?"

"For size? Eww, Dad, you're totally disgusting! I don't want to hear any more. Gross! I'm going to catch the bus."

"I'll see you after school then. Have a good day, Son."

"I might. Maybe I'll try a few on for size?"

"Get outta here!"

He did. He wrapped his sandwiches for lunch and stuffed them into his schoolbag and walked out to the highway to wait for the bus. A mother? No, he didn't need a mother – too late for that now, but a woman in the house? That'd be different. There'd have to be some big changes. But, it could work?

Could be quite good actually – like coming home to a nice warm house with cookies baking in the oven and all that sort of thing. As long as she wasn't too bossy – he wasn't having that she was not his mother and never would be. He didn't need no mothers.

Standing by the road, waiting for the bus and stamping his feet to stop his toes from freezing, he got to thinking. Darren Hughes, did he want him for a brother? No, he didn't. What did they think they were doing to him?

He decided that he'd see how it went. If he couldn't stand the changes in his comfortable life, well – he didn't have to put up with it. He'd run away. He could go and live with the grandparents, they'd have him. Wouldn't they? Yeah, sure they would. They loved him, of course they did. What was not to love?

The bus arrived, finally. He got in, and out of the cold, and went off for another rivetting day at school.

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