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Schoolie

Life in The Village, through the eyes of Tom Grant, the only teacher at the remote school.

This is an original work of pure fiction (just an expression of a fantasy)
by Robert A. Armstrong (a pseudonym)
(re-written from my 2013 version)

The resemblance of the characters by action, name, location or description to any real person is purely coincidental.

If it is illegal, or offensive, for you to read stories involving interactions of a sexual nature between adults and youths, then what are you doing here?

 

 

From Chapter 41

I manoeuvre into a situation where his every push and withdrawal rubs over my prostate. We synchronise movements and breathing. I moan. He groans.

“You”d better cum soon,” I gasp at him after many enjoyable minutes, “because I can”t hold back much longer.”

He increases his tempo to rabbit speed and begins to grunt. I stop breathing. I can”t hold on! I let fly into the towel. As my glutes contract and my anal muscles grip him vice-like, I feel him explode. His entire body spasms uncontrollably. I feel his fluid heat fill me. I reach right around behind me and him, grasping his glutes and I roll onto my stomach. He”s on me. He cries out, as if mortally wounded, continuing to spasm, and then he collapses his whole weight onto my back.

At some stage, I resume breathing. His nose and mouth are near my ear. His puffing slows.

OMG. Where did that passion come from? Who would know that love-making could be this beautiful?

Aware that my body has been able to provide him with such intense pleasure, I start to cry.

 

Chapter 42 – The Three Visitors

I wake. I haven”t moved through the night.

I remember the ecstasy of thrilling him.

I remember crying.

I remember him whispering, “Are you OK, Tom?”

I remember whispering back, “Hell, Yeah!”

I remember him nuzzling my neck, wiping my cheek, laying an arm across my chest and a leg over my lower body.

He hasn”t moved either.

I feel something begin to stir. I smile and think, `Who needs roosters or kookaburras? He has an alarm cock!”

I enjoy the feeling of him nestle vertically between my cheeks and I savour his every slight movement and his pre-conscious little moans.

He inhales deeply and lets out a long, low sigh. He”s waking.

I tenderly extricate myself from his entwining limbs and turn over to face him, pressing my body against his. I kiss his eyelids and then his mouth. Our cocks greet each other.

We cuddle. I run my upper hand all over the reachable parts of his body. If I wasn”t so spent from last night, and the fact that we have school today, I would willingly do it all again.

 

Then I remember. Today”s the day! Uncle Bill; Will”s Dad. On-site discussions about the house. Work possibilities for Marty and the twins” father, Jan. Will and I are the only ones who know that something is going to happen today.

“Need to pee!” I tell Will, and roll out of bed.

I pass Marty as he comes out of the bathroom, heading for the kitchen. He says in a low voice, “You guys need to learn to keep the noise down. It kept me awake for ages!” I smile at the thought of whatever prolonged, one-handed pleasure that he might have derived from listening to my fun with Will.

I shower and dress and while Will is `cleaning up” I speak with Marty in the kitchen. “Marty, I have a proposition for you.”

“You have my attention,” he says. “I”ve never been propositioned by a sexy young Schoolie before.”

“You wish!” I tell him. “No, this is a business proposition.”

“So, I get to have fun with you and you pay me as well?” He”s in fine form already. He and his hand must have had a really good night!

“I suppose you could put it that way,” I say, smiling, “if you can call eating a horse-shit pie, fun.”

Haha! I love watching his expression transform, his face drop, whenever that subject is mentioned!

“Marty, everything that Will and I told you at your Mum”s place about the property and the house is true.” I pause to let that sink in. “The only part that wasn”t true was the Monopoly game. And today, just so that you know, we are expecting the architect, our financial advisor and a local building inspector to pay us a visit to check out the site.”

He looks astounded, perhaps contemplating whether to shoot me or maybe he”s imagining the real taste of losing his bet.

 

Will drives. As we turn the corner at The Village, I notice that the front door of the pub is open.

“Stop,” I tell Will, laying my hand on his arm. He pulls over and I hastily get out and cross the otherwise empty road, even remembering my childhood training to automatically look both ways. No cars! Do meandering sheep have right of way? I stop in the doorway as I am greeted by a cloud of dust flying out.

“Oh, I am sorry!” I hear from a smiling but apologetic middle-aged female face. “I didn”t know that there was anyone here.” She places her broom against the door frame.

Even though I”ve been here for months, I”ve never made the effort to contact the staff at the pub. I feel somewhat embarrassed at doing it now, but I know that Will hates the place because of his mother”s drinking habits and it”s where she used to pick up men to bring home for `a good time”.

“Tom Grant,” I introduce myself. “I”m the school teacher.”

“Julie Smith,” she replies, extending her hand but then suddenly withdrawing it again to wipe it first on her apron. “Yes, we”ve all seen you coming and going with Little Willie.”

I make my apologies for not coming over before today and she acknowledges her understanding of Will”s reluctance to come in, and, hence, mine.

I still feel guilty! Snubbing the locals is not the done thing in the outback.

“We saw you the night of the fire with Little Willie. It”s wonderful that you”ve been looking after him,” she says.

I remind myself that this is a small town. Everybody knows what”s going on – well, not quite everything!

I bring her up to date with Will”s growth and change of persona from the `Little Willie” by which he used to be known by everyone.

“Of course,” she replies, and then adds, to keep the conversation going, “You may not be aware that my dad was the licensee here for many years but he died of liver cancer about two years ago. Now my husband and I do most of the work even though mum actually owns the place.”

Sudden silence. It seems to dawn on us both at the same time that there must be a reason for me standing in her doorway. “Oh, yes!” I say. “Do you happen to have any accommodation available for tonight? We”re expecting some visitors today but I”m uncertain whether they”re going to stay overnight or not. I”m just checking.”

“Oh, that”s OK,” she replies. “Yes, we have rooms. Just let us know later. It will only take a few minutes to put fresh linen on the beds. I”ll open up some rooms so that they are properly aired. How many might be needed?”

“I”m not sure,” I answer. “Maximum of three. Is that possible?”

“Certainly. Not a problem,” she replies. “As I said, just let us know.” Then, nodding in the direction of the car across the road, she comments, “It looks as though your students are arriving for the day.” I follow her gaze and see Karl and Kurt talking to Will.

I thank her and head back across the strip of red/brown earth.

“Hop in, guys,” I tell them. “We”ll give you a ride to school to save your legs!”

They, and Will, laugh. They”ve walked almost as far to the car as if they had taken the short cut across the paddock. Karl and Kurt clamber into the back and I resume my previous position. “You may proceed, driver,” I tell our chauffer. More laughs!

 

Everyone is out in the playground for morning recess when we hear a strange sound. One of the twins spots the source first and points. Everyone else”s gaze follows his outstretched arm.

The helicopter, at first seeming as though it”s heading straight toward us, veers off and flies in a broad arc almost out of sight down in the direction of Marty”s place and then returns in a series of diminishing circles. The children are ecstatic, jumping and waving their arms. It hovers high, almost above us, and then descends slowly, over past the earth-moving machinery, raising a huge storm of redness caused by the downdraft from its rotor blades.

It takes a couple of minutes for the dust to settle before anyone steps out. I know that it”s about 200m away but the person alighting from where the pilot should have been looks like Uncle Bill. Don”t tell me he also has a licence to fly one of those things!

The children wave and cheer. However, they are not the only ones enjoying the (for some) once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. The pub verandah is lined with staff and patrons, most probably stunned by this intrusion upon their peaceful isolation, or isolated peace.

The three travellers, all dressed in fawn-coloured trousers or jeans, two with shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbow, head straight for the pub. I”m not so blind as to miss the shape of the third one as womanly.

There is much hat-raising and hand-shaking before the throng, following the strange trio, pours back through the open corner doors. Then, after a bit, they come out again, each holding a drink. They are talking to some of the hotel patrons.

I ask Will, Jane and Jake to `hold the fort” for a few minutes while I `investigate”.

Will knows what is going on; the others don”t.

The relatively short distance takes me less than two minutes to walk. Uncle Bill, ever vigilant, spots me first. “Thomas!” he says, grasping my hand and hugging me to him. “How are you… son?”

He introduces me to the others.

“G”day, Tom,” young Ash effuses, warmly copying Uncle Bill”s physical greeting. His dress today is more conservative than when we saw him previously. His hoodie and skin-tight jeans have been traded for countrified dress, which doesn”t at all disguise his `cute arse” as Will had described it at the time. Also, his `strange hairdo” is pulled back and neatly secured under a new Akubra. His `bit of a beard” remains, but it looks somehow neater, perhaps trimmed. Today he looks more like an architect!

“Hello, Mr Grant,” the council inspector says professionally, settling for a hand shake. “I”m Helen O”Sullivan. It”s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Please call me `Tom”. Only the school children call me `Mr Grant”,” I say. She nods. She”s younger than I had anticipated (for a council inspector). My guess would be 30-ish.

Uncle Bill offers to buy me a drink but I decline. “On duty!” I tell him. “Come over to the school and say hello to my cherubs after you”ve all quenched your thirst.”

I return to the school and the children resume their lessons. I tell everyone that we will be having visitors, and we practise how to greet them.

Through the school”s western windows, I soon see the trio pacing from the pub, back to the machinery, over to the river and then past Jan”s place, continually pointing, with Ash and Helen taking photos and making notes. They return and stop in the street outside the pub. Uncle Bill points. Ash and Helen snap and write.

After they have begun heading towards the school, I see Marty”s SUV pull up outside the pub. He was obviously attracted by the mystery of the helicopter. Two people get out – Marty and Acacia. They firstly scrutinise the trio heading away from them then they both disappear inside. I”m sure that Mum O”Brien doesn”t want to miss any of the `local news”, and what better place than a near-full public bar to find out `stuff”!

The three pause outside the school gate, turn and gesticulate towards the river, back to the pub and across to the river gums beyond the parked machinery. Photos. Notes.

“Our visitors are here,” I say to everyone. They all jump up to look. “Continue with your work and I”ll go and bring them in. Do you remember what we practised?” I ask.

“Yes, Mr Grant,” they reply, as one.

“William, would you come with me please?” He”s doing exceptionally well to contain his excitement! Jake, on the other hand, cannot restrain his curiosity.

As he passes him, Will delivers Jake a restrained slap to the back of the head. “Payback time!” he chuckles, remembering the derisive treatment from Jake for his unbelieved, overt truthfulness at the `family lunch”.

Uncle Bill and Will hug and exchange father-and-son pleasantries then Will is introduced to Helen.

“Mr Grant number three?” she inquires.

“Actually, I was christened `William O”Brien”, but that could change,” Will says matter-of-factly. Apart from the new `WOBG” (William O”Brien-Grant) initials on his artwork, this is the first time that I have heard him mention a change of name. This invites further discussion, later.

Will extends his hand to Ash who clutches and uses it to pull Will to him and they engage in a serious round of close back-slapping. I give Will a surreptitious kick in the ankle for his enthusiasm then we both break into a hearty laugh. Remembering our first meeting, Ash may have an inkling as to why; I”m sure that the others don”t. Why would they care, or comment, about our juvenile display?

A quick glance back at the windows reveals that all of the children appear to be working diligently, except for one who is intent on seeing what is happening and whose eyes are almost bulging at the spectacle of the greetings by the gate.

As I turn to lead my guests up the path to the verandah, Jake scurries back to his seat.

Helen makes some unexpected conversation with “I”ve been with the local council for three years and this is the first time that I”ve been here.” Then she adds, “Since I left school, that is.”

“Did you visit here while you were still at school?” I ask, pausing at the single step.

“No, Tom,” she smiles, then pauses before adding, “I went to school here myself.”

Will and I both have one of those time-stands-still moments, staring at each other in amazement. I offer, more as a question than a statement, “Then you will probably know many of the locals.”

Looking to Will, Helen says, “The O”Brien clan and my family were very close when we were here.” Then she continues, “My grandpa and then my father used to own a property out of town,” indicating with a wave of her arm to the north, “before he sold it and we moved to the city, where I completed a degree in civil engineering. This is the second council for which I have worked since then. It”s weird being back here,” she adds. “I recall that there were a couple of more houses around then, now there”s only one left. It was always the best one – close to the river and the weir.”

“That”s Karl and Kurt”s place,” Will throws in. “Their dad, Mr Andersen, manages a property north of here. It”s about two hours” drive away.”

“Does the property have a name?” Helen inquires, with raised interest.

“I don”t think that I”ve ever heard it mentioned. Have you, Will?” I ask him.

“Whispering Gums,” he replies. “It”s a really unusual name, and nobody is sure why it”s called that. But that”s what it”s always been as far as anyone can remember, and it hasn”t changed.”

“That was my dad”s place and it was my grandpa who gave it that name when he was young, I was told,” Helen comments. “The story was told that he used to sit by the creek on Sundays and draw pictures of the wildlife. He left me the complete portfolio of his decades of drawings in his will. I still have it at home. It”s brilliant. He used to see so many things that other people missed, and he used to draw them. People didn”t have cameras in those days,” she says.

We all pause our walk to listen as she continues, “Grandpa used to tell people that, apart from the calls of the birds and animals, even the trees had their own unique language. He said that they used to whisper things to him and that”s how he knew everything about everyone. Mum always told us to behave ourselves or the gum trees would whisper to grandpa what we had been doing! I tried smoking at about the age of 10 with one of the farm hands and somehow grandpa found out. Mum said that my dad and my uncles ordu escort and cousins and brothers and I were too scared to do anything bad in case the trees told grandpa, and then we would be in big trouble! I think that the property was just given its name as a warning to all of the little kids to always be good, or grandpa would end up knowing about it!”

“Wow!” Will says. “I”ll bet that Mr Andersen would love to hear that story, and a lot more about the property as it was back in those days.”

As we enter the classroom, all of my cherubs stand as a mark of respect, as we had rehearsed.

As I introduce each of my guests to the class, they intone…

“Good morning Mr Cook,” to Ash.

“Good morning Mrs O”Sullivan,” to Helen who corrects me and them with `It”s Ms O”Sullivan, actually”. I look at the ring on her finger and she mouths, `divorced”.

The cherubs repeat, “Good morning, Ms O”Sullivan.”

“Good morning, Mr Grant,” to Uncle Bill.

Their confused stares, especially from Jane and Jake are accompanied by an outburst from young David to me. “Gosh, Mr Grant, he has the same name as you!”

I look at Jane and Jake. I can see the wheels of their minds spinning.

It”s time to let the cat out of the bag… slowly. “You”re right, David. Mr Grant and I are related.” I add, “And, he”s a very famous photographer too.”

Well! Jane”s gaze immediately swings and focuses on Will. I”m sure that she has heard that phrase multiple times previously, from Will”s mother, Lilly, and repeated in country gossip over many a dinner. However, I can tell from her confused expression, and the back-and-forth checking out of Uncle Bill and Will, that she isn”t quite able to reconcile the snippets of information… yet.

I introduce each of the cherubs by name to the trio. When I get to `Jane O”Brien and her brother, Jake”, it is Helen who immediately shows interest.

“What”s your father”s name?” she asks.

“Reg,” both Jane and Jake reply at the same time.

“What! Some lucky woman managed to get Reggie to the altar? I thought that you might have belonged to Jack O”Brien. He already had three boys and a baby on the way when we moved. What were their names?” she ponders. “Ah, yes… Sean, Chadwick and Martin.”

“Chadwick??” Jane, Jake, Will and I all blurt out together.

“Do you know him? Is he still around here?” she asks, encouraged by our dismay.

It is Will who gives the quick version of the O”Brien family tree. “Jane, Jake and I are cousins. So are Sean, Chad and Marty.” Then he repeats, “Chadwick?? Really?”

It”s difficult for the three O”Briens to contain their mirth. Jane and Jake keep repeating to each other, “Chadwick!”

“We all used to call him `Chad” of course,” Helen offers, “but when he was in trouble at home, his mother always called him `Chaaaaadwick”. We did too, sometimes, just to annoy him. He hated it and used to chase us and try to catch us.”

Will continues, “Sean and Chad live in Big Town. Sean runs the ambulance station and Chad”s the local police officer. Uncle Jack died about 10 years ago.” Marty”s still here, though. In fact, Tom and I live with him… at the moment. Jane, Jake and their mum and dad (Uncle Reg and Aunty Di) live at Thunungara Station, east of here.

“I know Thunungara,” Helen replies, looking at Jane and Jake. “I”ve been there.” The whole class looks at Helen and then at Jane and Jake, who can only shrug their ignorance.

“That was a long time ago,” Helen adds, “when I was going to school here.” There are gasps. “My parents were friends with Reg and Jack”s parents and we often had Sunday dinner together. I remember. Now, let me see, when I left here, I was eleven and the handsome Reggie was twenty. Jack was his older brother and Jack”s boys would have been about 9, 7 and 5. Lilly was Reggie”s and Jack”s little sister of about fourteen. “She adds, “It would be interesting to catch up with everyone again.”

Time for me to move the conversation on! “Let”s see what we can arrange. I saw Marty and his mum drive up to the pub a little while ago and Reg will be in to pick up Jane and Jake later. Maybe we can all have dinner tonight.”

I have not forgotten the purpose of the trio”s visit – to discuss plans for the new house and the possibility of building the row of cottages and the restoration of the pub.

“Now, children, is there anything that you would like to ask our visitors before they go and do what they are here for?”

Jake raises his hand and asks, “Can you please tell us, Mr Grant, why you are all here?” It”s a question that must be running around in many people”s heads at the moment; not just those inside the school room.

Uncle Bill keeps it simple. “Well, Jake, we”re here to investigate putting up some new buildings and fixing up an old one. Mr Cook is an architect and Ms O”Sullivan is an inspector with the local council.” There is a buzz in the room.

Jane is next, and addresses Uncle Bill directly. “What will the new buildings be, Mr Grant, and where will they be?”

Uncle Bill is good at this. “I can tell you Jane, that the new buildings will be over there,” he says indicating the ground west of the school,” but I can”t say anything else yet. The owners haven”t given me permission to tell you any more than that.”

Jane and Jake look from me to Will. The truth, as previously heard by them, is beginning to register. Will makes a fist with one hand and then slaps it with the other. Jake gets the message!

David politely asks, “Excuse me, Mr Cook. What does an architect do?”

Ash replies, “I design buildings; how they look, how they are built, and what materials are used in their construction. It”s my job to give all of the plans and drawings to the builders so that they can build it exactly as the owners want it to be. That”s everything from the foundations to the roof. And I have to include any council rules that have to be followed. That”s what Ms O”Sullivan”s job is as an inspector – rules.”

Helen takes up Ash”s lead. “It”s my job, as an engineer and council inspector to make sure that all of the council rules are included in the design and construction of the buildings to ensure that everything is done safely and properly. The architect, Mr Cook, and I will work together to make sure that the builders know exactly how everything is to be done. I will also come out and inspect the work, to see how it”s going and to check that the rules are being followed.”

She then switches into a motherly/schoolie mode. “Do you children have rules at school and at home?”

There are general nods of agreement. She directly addresses some of the little ones, “Can you tell me a rule that you have to follow?”

“My mum says I have to wash my hands before I eat anything. I don”t want to get bad germs,” is one response.

And from another, “Mr Grant says we have to push our chairs in when we get up so that nobody falls over them.”

“It”s good to have rules so that everyone knows what they have to do, and that they are safe,” Helen concludes, turning her gaze to me as a sign to `take over”.

David can”t resist asking another question, “Mr Grant, is that your helicopter? I”ve never seen a real one before.”

Uncle Bill: “No David, it”s not mine, but I borrowed it from a friend, and I have a special licence to be the pilot. Maybe…” he pauses, then whispers to me. “What are the rules for taking children for a ride?”

I whisper back, “We”d need the parents” permission. Are you planning on staying the night? I could send a note home today and, if parents are in agreement, they could go up briefly with you tomorrow.”

“OK. I won”t say anything to get their hopes up,” he replies. “What time do you finish today so that we can talk about everything?”

“I”ll tell you what,” I say. “Why don”t the three of you make yourselves at home next door in the craft room? There are chairs and a big table in there – plenty of space to work, and Will and I will be right here to talk with you about anything, instead of waiting until later.”

“Splendid!” Uncle Bill says. “I”ll just duck back to the pub and organise something for lunch. Also, Ash has some house plans in the chopper that he will want to fetch, so I”ll take him with me.”

Uncle Bill and Ash head off. Helen stays and busies herself talking to the children, especially focussing on the little ones. I picture her as the perfect motherly type and I can”t imagine why any man in his right mind would divorce her! Karl and Kurt seem attracted to her as well. They keep on watching her and tuning in to what she”s saying. I”m sure that the twins miss having their mum around!

Uncle Bill and Ash return, carrying a few things. They walk along the verandah, through the doorway and head straight into the craft room. Helen joins them and Will asks permission to `go and have a chat”. He has his dad here! I can tell that he likes Ash and who wouldn”t want to be with Helen? “Sure!” I tell my overgrown student for whom, I regret, this will obviously be his final year in the classroom.

My brain strays into another direction; to the questions that I have intentionally or unconsciously locked away and which now demand to be asked. Why would we bother to build a house together in this remote outback speck on a map if Will will no longer be attending school and be with me during the day? And, what if I”m only here for the obligatory three years and then the Education Department moves me to somewhere else in the state?

An answer comes. Because, even in such a short time, I”ve learned to like it here – the place and the people. Besides, Will and I would still live together. And, his family is here. He can continue to work his magic in the art studio – if he”s not touring the world. LOL. With the restoration of the pub and the construction of the cottages, this place could even become an activity and cultural centre in the outback for tourists. And, how many teachers would request to be appointed to this place? The Department should be happy (if a bureaucratic process could ever be `happy”) to not have to replace me if I opted to stay!

Extra thoughts run through my mind.

We could have horse riding (per Reg and Will), quadbikes (Jake), sheep shearing (Marty and Jan), accommodation (the pub and cottages), catering (the pub, Di and Acacia), working sheep dog displays (Reg, Jan and Marty), chopper flights to showcase the area (hmm…somebody). Then, of course, people can talk with the (famous) artist-in-residence, and have their portraits done by him and (perhaps) even purchase some of his other works.

I must inquire whether there might be a `local” aboriginal artist who, if he or she wanted to, could sometimes share space with Will, and who could add a truly Australian perspective to a tourist”s experience, talking to them about their art and culture.

The whole current community could benefit! Local men and women could sell their crafts and handiwork. There might even be opportunities for Jane and Anna, if they don”t marry and move away. Hmm, who knows what matrimonial prospects that tourism might bring to town for them! Karl and Kurt could grow into some of the activities too, maybe helping with the quadbikes or… who knows what skills they could develop. Then, there would always be cottage cleaning and maintenance and `outback gardens”, and…

Yes! It might work!

I snap myself out of my latest reverie as I notice Marty and Acacia emerge from the pub. Instead of Marty taking his mother home, his SUV is heading over this way.

I let the cherubs out for lunch, with Jane in her usual role as lunch monitor and playground supervisor.

“The two nice men that we met in the pub invited us to come and join them for lunch,” Acacia chirps to me. “I hope that”s all right with you, dear?”

“Of course,” I reply. “They are in the craft room with Will. And, there”s one whom you haven”t yet met. Come in and I”ll introduce you.” Did that sound as though there might be another man awaiting her scrutiny? She is bristling with enthusiasm. I think, `or is it because Acacia will now be the disseminator of so much new information around town”.

There is a large platter of neatly-arranged sandwiches in the middle of the table and multiple bottles of chilled water. Nobody is seated and no documents are open.

Uncle Bill assumes the role of host. “Ah, come in. Helen, let me introduce you to Marty and his mother, `Mum O”Brien”.” It”s obvious that the word `Acacia” is to be avoided. `Mum” it is! “Folks, this is Helen O”Sullivan, who is the local council inspector for the little project that I mentioned. You”ve already met Ash, our architect.”

Pleasantries are exchanged.

At this stage, Will and I have no idea what Uncle Bill has told Marty and `Mum” about himself! Ash, obviously adept at reading people”s faces as well as plans, takes in the uncertainty of my expression and then says, “Marty and Mum, what Bill didn”t tell you was that we are working for the project owners, Tom and Will, and that Bill himself is supervising the costs and expenditure, as their financial advisor.”

Acacia”s smile confirms that she understands the absolute truthfulness of Will”s and my story at that lunch. More information to tell people! Her grin and nod to me convey acceptance and a hint of her blessing.

Marty”s face is very different. Is it shock? Disbelief? Or, perhaps, the fear that something very unpalatable in his mouth will become a reality?

He croaks out some questions to Will and me. “So, you ARE partners?” He knows that we are when in bed, but, business partners is a different story.

“Yes, indeed,” Will replies. “Isn”t that what I said?”

“And you DO own the land?” he continues.

I can”t resist. “Yes. Isn”t that what he said?”

“And, you ARE planning on building a…” He can”t get the word out!

“Will fills in the pause. “Yeah. Well, I changed my mind about the castle. Hey, didn”t I tell you that too?” Marty still has the expression of having had a slap in the face with a monopoly board!

Uncle Bill raises his eyebrows at what conversation might have previously taken place, and says, “An art studio.”

“Sorry?” Marty replies.

“Ash has designed Will an art studio, with some living quarters attached.”

“A house to replace the old house?” Acacia inquires.

“Definitely bigger than the old one,” I tell her.

“And a few other bits and pieces around the place,” Ash adds, without giving anything away at this time.

Uncle Bill says, “Marty, Tom has asked that you be offered some work on the project. Are you interested?”

He looks at me as if to say, `What on earth is going on here? Who the hell are you??”

“It will pay well,” I tell him.

“What work?” he asks.

“We can give you a complete list of everything and the details later. Then you can choose which of it you would like to do,” Uncle Bill tells him.

“But we would be in a position to give you a rough idea tonight, if you like,” Ash contributes.

“And,” I add, “after you”ve considered it, I”d like to offer a similar deal to Jan Andersen, so that he and the twins can stay here after Whispering Gums is sold. It should keep you both fully employed for about four months and `cashed up” for a fair time after that.”

Helen O”Sullivan seems to be interested in this last bit of information.

Marty looks at Acacia. He stifles a nervous laugh. Actually, though, I think he could be about to cry with happiness and is trying to be very stoic.

Jan Andersen is new information to Uncle Bill. He asks me to step outside. We do, while the others continue to talk.

“Helen O”Sullivan,” Acacia says questioningly. “We had a girl here once by that name when my boys were all youngsters at school.”

“That would have been me, Mrs O”Brien,” Helen replies. “I lived at Whispering Gums but we left when I was eleven. I think that Marty had just started Kindergarten.”

“I thought that you looked familiar,” Marty says. “But you”ve… changed!”

“Grown up! Haven”t we all, you included, Squirt,” she laughs at Marty.

“What! How could you remember that?” Marty asks, shocked but osmaniye escort bemused.

“Well, it”s what your brothers, Sean and Chad always called you,” she replies. “Wasn”t it?”

“It really IS you!” Acacia jumps in, giving Helen a hug. “We often wondered what became of you and your family. I”d love to spend some time with you, chatting and finding out more.”

Uncle Bill and I return to catch the end of the conversation. Yes, Acacia always loves chatting and finding out more stuff, then `disseminating” the information.

“That”s all good,” Uncle Bill says, “because I”ve decided that we can stay the night, if that”s OK with Helen.” She nods. He continues, “I”ll arrange dinner for us all at the pub in their formal dining room. And we must invite Jan and his boys as well.”

“I”ve already checked out possible accommodation, just in case,” I tell him. “Julie Smith said that short notice wouldn”t be a problem.”

I do the mental calculation – Uncle Bill, Ash, Helen, Acacia, Marty, Jan, Karl, Kurt, Will and me – ten of us. Eleven, actually. I had forgotten Anna. I wonder whether she will take an instant liking to Ash, just like she did to me.

“This will be an evening to remember!” I say. “There will be lots of talk. Lots of questions and, hopefully, lots of answers.”

Acacia”s eyes sparkle. `Lots of information”!

Helen asks, discretely, “Will said that Reggie and his family live at Thunungara.”

She doesn”t ask the next most obvious question, but Acacia has the answer ready. “Unfortunately, my Jack was killed in an accident ten years ago and their young sister, Lilly, Will”s mother, left for `greener pastures” with some friends just recently.”

“Oh, I am so sorry, Mrs O”Brien. I remember that Jack was a really good man. And that Reggie was such a rascal, and handsome too!”

Well, that lightens the mood somewhat and everyone laughs.

“Would you like to say `hello” and talk with Uncle Reg and Aunty Di?” Marty asks.

Acacia jumps in. “Marty, why don”t we drive Helen up there now? We can have a chat over a cup of tea and then come back afterwards.” Then to Helen, “What do you say, sweetie?”

“You used to call me that when I was little!” Helen responds.

“Yes, I did. It suddenly came back to me,” Acacia tells her. “Come on! It will be fun.”

I think, `yes, fun for her to `share” her new knowledge with Di, and to gather more.”

Uncle Bill says, “You go on, Helen. Ash and I will talk with Will and Tom about the plans while you”re socialising with the handsome Reggie and the lady who stole his heart. Is there anything new that we should know from the Council”s perspective?”

“No, not really, Bill. Maybe some minor changes from the original design, but we can discuss those at any time,” she replies.

Acacia takes Helen”s arm and leads her towards the door. “Come on Marty,” she urges. “Time”s a-wastin”, m”boy!”

Marty smiles, shrugs and follows, dutifully.

I check on the cherubs, all hard at play, have a quick word with Jane who is supervising the little ones, then with each of the other `seniors” individually.

Then I return to the craft room.

Uncle Bill and Ash talk Will and me through the latest version of the plans. Three separate project elements. “We can suggest and confirm these with the relevant people tonight, but I think that the house could be under Marty”s supervision, the cottages, which Jan could oversee, and the pub, for which Ash is going to take control personally, with so many heritage requirements and the need for specialist craftsmen. Those men would be accommodated at the pub, and also lend a hand with the house and cottages.”

He continues, “I”m going to ask the pub owners to join us after dinner. We plan to do the entire pub restoration at no cost to them. I had a brief word to the Smiths while I was organising lunch. To say that they are excited would be an absolute understatement!”

He confirms what I can see and what I have heard: “I suppose the most notable feature of the designs that Ash has drawn is that all of the buildings will have similar period-design exteriors, consistent with the original style of the pub. This will create a rare consistency that will attract a lot of attention within his profession. At the same time, energy efficiencies will be included as well as state-of-the-art communications. I haven”t told the Smiths about those yet. I wanted to leave a bit of icing for the cake.”

During the conversation and briefing, Will and I lapse into a game of lightly kicking each other”s ankle when one lingers too closely to Ash. Uncle Bill observes what is happening but simply shakes his head at the juvenile display by his two sons.

Ash says that having now, personally, seen the pub, he would like to re-draw some aspects of the design for the house and cottages for styling consistency. Also, that he would like to take some more time to study the pub”s interior and its unique (by modern standards) roof design and to make an extensive list of those exterior parts that will need to be either repaired or, otherwise, replaced.

“Why don”t we both just go back over there?” Uncle Bill suggests to Ash. “I”ll arrange dinner for eleven of us and you could take your photos and make notes.” Then, to me, he asks, “What time will Jan Andersen be home?”

“That”s a question for Karl and Kurt,” I say. “It”s time that their lessons resumed, anyway.”

“I need to use the toilet first,” Will says, and disappears through the main door.

When I go outside to gather the cherubs, I catch sight of Will and one of the twins going into the toilet.

“Hello Mr Grant,” I hear. “Is it time to go inside, now?”

“Yes, Kurt,” I reply, noting which twin was asking the question. “I just need to wash my hands, first.”

“Me too!” he chirps. “And I need to pee.”

“You be very careful, young man,” I say to him quietly. “Don”t do anything to make people suspicious!”

“It”s OK, Mr Grant,” he replies. “I”m not stupid!” And he skips off ahead of me to the toilet, fist-bumping Will and Karl as they emerge and pass him.

“OK, children. Time to go in,” I call. “Go to the toilet if you need to, and wash your hands”

I wait for a respectable time, then walk. As I enter the toilet, Kurt flashes his gear at me by lowering the front of his shorts. Then he pulls them up again and giggles. I give his rump a hard slap as he passes me. “Cheeky devil!” I tell him and I can hear him running back towards the building.

I relieve my very full bladder and wash my hands then return casually to the classroom.

Will, Karl and Kurt are waiting at the door. “Karl said that his dad should be home about five o”clock,” Will informs me.

I say to the twins, “Boys, we are all having dinner at the pub tonight and would very much like you and your dad to join us at 6 o”clock. Can you please tell him that when he gets home?”

“Hell, Yeah! I mean… Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr Grant,” Karl responds. Will, to whose expressions Karl has been listening far too much, gives him a light slap to the back of his head. The three of them head into the classroom and I tell Uncle Bill that six o”clock will be ideal.

“Wonderful!” he replies. “Come on, Ash. Let”s go and talk to the Smiths.”

 

The afternoon session is quiet and productive. Almost. At least the four senior boys keep their discussions down to a whisper while I read a story to the younger ones.

There is a high degree of excitement when I disclose the possibility of them having a short ride in the helicopter tomorrow. I explain the need for a parent”s permission and I hand out a brief explanatory note that has room for mum”s or dad”s approving signature.

 

I hear the familiar grumble of Reg”s Land Rover and look up to see it and Marty”s SUV joining the couple of waiting parents” vehicles near the gate. Reg is earlier than usual today.

A 5-minute early mark is received with enthusiasm by the cherubs. No complaints. As if!

Having exited the building in their routine orderly manner, some children then dash to their parents, brandishing their to-be-signed permission slips. I hear excited babble.

I walk to the gate and tell Marty, Acacia and Helen that Uncle Bill and Ash are still talking at the pub. Marty decides that they should all go and join them.

That leaves me with the parents.

As I begin to explain the `helicopter ride” to one mum, the others all gather around. One asks whether she, too, might be permitted to take a ride. I see no problem with that. It would be a wonderful, shared family experience. And, it confirms my earlier thoughts about the attractiveness of such an activity for tourists… and, it seems, locals. I wonder how many people from Big Town might be prospective future passengers.

Reg tells me that he is thrilled to have been re-acquainted with `Young Helen” and at the prospect of her future visits as she inspects `the project”. He hasn”t heard the full story yet, but concedes the reality of discussions at `that lunch”. He apologises for expressing his doubts and that he looks forward to hearing whatever details remain untold by Acacia. I promise to fill him in as soon as all of the plans are finalised.

Jane and Jake assume their usual front- and back-seats. As they begin to drive off, I hear Jane tell her father, “Dad, Mr Grant said that he”s related to the other Mr Grant, the helicopter pilot, and that he (meaning the other one) is a famous photographer.”

I see the one still-functioning brake light on the `old girl” briefly illuminate while Jane”s words are taken on board, then Reg drives off. That comment will be well analysed over their dinner table tonight, I”m sure. Di and Reg may very well have the last laugh on Acacia if they correctly surmise the logical implications of THAT piece of information alongside what they had previously been told by Lilly.

The boys lock up. Karl asks me the reason for the dinner. I explain that I had already spoken to their father about a lot of work here and that the dinner was all about that, which is why he is invited, and them.

Karl looks at Kurt who nods excited approval at the prospect of not having to move away.

Will says, “I”m going to Karl and Kurt”s for a bit. Can you please pick me up when you”re leaving?”

I begin to correct his English, “May I…?”

“Yeah! Yeah! Of course you may come and pick me up!” he says cheekily, then the three of them take off via the `short cut” across the paddock.

I pull up my car alongside Marty”s SUV and head for the open doors. Nodding acknowledgment to the patrons as I pass, I follow the unmistakable sound of Acacia”s voice to find the group of them in the lounge area. Acacia, Marty, Uncle Bill, Ash, Helen, as well as Julie Smith.

At Uncle Bill”s offer of a drink, I settle for a lime juice and sparkling mineral water over crushed ice.

People turn to look at me, surprised. I guess that I”m just no longer a happy beer drinker – especially after the over-indulgence with Marty when I first arrived!

I merge into a non-participative role amid the buzz of general conversation, centred mostly around Helen and her recollection of life here twenty years ago.

I allow myself some moments of contemplation…

I”m sure that Di and Reg have chatted with Helen about the `old days” and what has happened both in her life, and here in The Village, since then. They know that the `project” is a reality, but Helen would not have disclosed the details to them. Reg has now acknowledged Will”s and my ownership of the land and that a house is to be built near where Lilly”s old one was.

Marty is facing the prospect of months of well-paid work related to the construction of a `super art studio” for his young cousin, plus Will”s look-alike, the city-slicker Schoolie. And a bit more.

And the prospect of having to eat THAT pie! I wonder whether he thinks that Will would not insist on the discharge of the bet. If I know Will, Marty is not going to be happy!

Jan has the promise of work and not having to send his twin boys back to stay or live with their mother.

Karl and Kurt will be very happy at being able to stay. So would Will be. So am I.

Julie Smith is thrilled at the prospect of the no-cost restoration of their pub. But she is yet to learn of the bonus to her business of providing ongoing accommodation for project workers and of the tourist plans.

Acacia thinks that she knows everything. She still has a few shocks in store!

Anna, at home, knows nothing!

Jane and Jake know that `something” is going on, and Jake, too, is in the process of being made to `eat humble pie”, although not as literally as Marty will be.

Jane has told Reg that `the other Mr Grant” is a famous photographer and related to `our Mr Grant”. Will they put the pieces together? Will”s sire was said to be a famous photographer. Will and I almost look like twins. And is `the other Mr Grant”, referred to by the other adults in Jane”s company as `Bill”, actually Will”s father of whom he spoke at the lunch, the `Big Willie” cause of Lilly”s pregnancy? Is that person now back here, in The Village?

Nobody has thought, yet, to ask what Uncle Bill is getting out of all this.

Helen will be making regular trips back to The Village as the project progresses. I wonder whether there is any chance of her and Marty striking up a friendship? Maybe she”s a touch too old for him.

And, what of Ash? Will he be merely the cause of much-bruised ankles for Will and me? Or should we take him into our circle of `close friends”?

“Another drink, Tom?” I hear. I realise that my glass is empty.

“Thanks, Uncle Bill,” I reply, but I”d like to go back to Marty”s and freshen up a bit before dinner. I”ll collect Will on the way.”

There is a sudden pause in Acacia”s current monologue. She and Marty stare at Uncle Bill and me. Oops! Now that slip of my tongue has provided her with a REAL piece of information! A family link! Wait until she `compares notes” with Reg and Di.

Helen says that she needs to collect her belongings from the helicopter and then head to her room and “change into something a little more comfortable.” Uncle Bill and Ash will probably follow suit.

I pull up outside Karl and Kurt”s place and immediately head towards the front door. I am suddenly confronted by three boys with poorly-disguised erections in their shorts; one much more prominent than the other two. I look from one to the other. Will smiles and shrugs. Karl, partly obscured by Will (or is he hiding?) has the decency to blush. Kurt, slightly behind the other two, frames his bulge with both hands then smirks provocatively at me. I shake my head and say to Will, “Come on. We need to clean up before dinner.” Then I add, “Don”t forget, boys, to tell you dad to come across at six o”clock. We”ll be in the dining room.”

“Yes, Mr Grant,” they reply together.

“Getting lucky, were we?” I comment to Will on the way home.

“Hey! They started it!” he offers as the lamest excuse that I”ve ever heard.

“As if!” I tell him, and we both laugh. “Don”t worry!” I continue. “We can get lucky tonight. Full on.”

“Hell, Yeah!” is Will”s response.

I add, “We don”t have to stay until the end. Besides, if I know your dad, he”ll be a bit of a night owl, especially with any kind of audience!”

Will and I, naked in our room, muck around a bit then shower. We decide to put on our matching clothes that we wore to Mr Verdi”s restaurant, and check ourselves out in the mirror. “Nice!” I say. Will echoes my sentiments, and we laugh again and head to the kitchen for a coffee.

After a reasonable elapse of time Marty arrives. “Bill decided to stay at the pub, but Mum invited Ash to visit her place and meet Anna, so we waited at the pub while he changed,” Marty says. He adds, “Poor guy doesn”t know what he”s in for! And you should have seen the look on Anna”s face when he walked in with Mum! I said that I”d be back to pick up the three of them as soon as I changed for dinner. I gave them half an hour, at most. It will take Anna that long to get ready, so Ash should be reasonable ostim escort safe.” He chuckles to himself.

`Cruel bastard!” I think to myself.

Will puts his hand out and wiggles his finger tips for the keys then he and I head for the pub.

In the car, we discuss Will”s dread of the place, and I suggest that he tries not to look directly at the men in case he recognises any as being one of his mother”s `visitors”. Instead, he should spot a distant object and head for it. He could always follow me and just focus on my backside, if he prefers.

His boyish chuckle is encouraging, for both of us.

It”s amusing to see the number of double-takes by patrons as identically-dressed Will and I walk through the public bar to the dining room. I don”t know any of them, and I”m sure that Will doesn”t want to.

I overhear various whispers to the `who is that?” question. `The new schoolie”, `Staying at Marty O”Brien”s”. `Little Willie”. `Lilly”s son”. `Hasn”t he grown?” `Which is which?” It”s all quite amusing.

My ears isolate the word `helicopter” from somebody, but I can”t tell whether it”s in the same context as Will and me, or part of a totally different conversation. For some of these folk, a change in the direction of the wind, or the time at which the kookaburras started laughing is a valid topic of conversation, let alone a helicopter, heavy machinery and two look-alikes! I think that the quality of discussions in The Village is about to be uplifted enormously!

Uncle Bill and Helen are standing, wine glasses in hand, with their backs to a blazing fire on a long side of the dining room. The walls are an off-white colour with panels and beams of dark wood. Oak? I look more closely and the wood appears to be hand-finished rather than machine-tooled. What a magnificent piece of history! Apart from the flames of the fire, the room is lit by multiple wall-mounted lights which appear to have been converted from gas lamps to electricity. One of the light bulbs is, conspicuously, not illuminated. Between the lights hang various pictures – most are historical photographs, a few are faded advertising posters from bygone days. All are fascinating.

Of most interest are some photographs that show The Village in its heyday, with a barber shop, a general store and the pub in all its glory. Ash should love these. Then, there are some houses, indeed, exactly where it is proposed to build the new cottages. I have a sudden surge of adrenalin to think that The Village will be partially restored, rejuvenated – in fact. It should be better than the original slab huts with their rough wooden roofs. I don”t know where Ash is going to procure the materials but he must have done some research to have drawn everything the way that he has, in stone, with shingle roofs.

Julie Smith appears and takes drink orders for Will and me, and we join Uncle Bill and Helen”s conversation which, prompted by the photographs, centres on the historic and future appearance of The Village. Helen shares her memories of the decaying little township before she moved away, but also her excitement at this unexpected re-development. Her opportunity for involvement, through her job, is a bonus for her.

Jan and the boys are next to arrive. While Karl, Kurt and Will quickly form their own discussion group, I introduce Jan to Uncle Bill and Helen. It only takes Jan and Helen a couple of minutes to be deep in discussions of Whispering Gums then and now, including the work that he has done on the property. Uncle Bill shows an interest in Jan”s espoused carpentry and management skills.

I pose a raised, inquiring eyebrow to Uncle Bill who acknowledges, with a discreet nod of his head, my suggestion that Jan should, indeed, be engaged on the project.

Marty, Acacia, Anna and Ash complete the complement of dinner guests.

“What have I missed?” Acacia asks as an opening introduction. How typical!

Jan has `bumped into” the O”Brien trio previously, but, despite living in the same village, they apparently don”t know too much about each other. I thought that in a small town, everyone knew everything about everybody else. Evidently, not so! Perhaps Jan”s preference for spending time at Lilly”s place in preference to frequenting the public bar, and his working so far `out of town”, has enabled some privacy to prevail. Marty, it appears, has done a bit of casual work for the owners at Whispering Gums, so he and Jan at least have had a brief, but positive, working relationship.

Julie Smith ensures that all have drinks, including the boys, then draws our attention to a chalkboard alongside the fireplace, with tonight”s offerings from the kitchen – predominantly a variety of meats with appropriate sauces and vegetables, plus an assortment of side dishes. Dessert will be apple pie, home-made of course. Yum!

Everyone makes his or her choice and Julie Smith makes no written notes, committing everything to memory. Before leaving the room, she politely indicates each person by name and recites their choices. Spot on! I am amazed. And I think that everyone else is equally impressed.

Around one part of the large circular dining table, Acacia, Uncle Bill and Anna take the seats which are nearest to the fireplace. Will, Karl and Kurt commandeer three seats on the opposite side.

Ash sits next to Will with Marty next and then Anna.

Kurt `reserves” me a seat next to him, then Jan and Helen (next to Uncle Bill) complete the circle.

So, running around the table, we have Acacia and Uncle Bill, Helen and Jan, me and, Kurt, Karl and Will, Ash and Marty, and Anna.

Will smirks at me and, with a slight nod of his head, highlights his proximity to Ash and the liberty of being away from my ankle-kicking foot.

I squint a warning to him to behave himself!

Discussions continue and Acacia strains to glean every snippet of available information.

The generously-portioned dinner is served. My choice of pork cutlets and spiced apple sauce with roasted vegetables is delicious.

Talk carries on over dinner and, from what I can pick up, it”s mainly personal information. You know, `who-I-am” and `what-I-do” type of stuff. Acacia is intent on missing none of it. I don”t know how she can tune in to so many separate conversations at the same time. Practice, I guess!

At one point during the meal, Kurt rubs his knee up and down against my leg. I look at him but can say nothing with his father on the other side of me. The little imp smiles up at me, all very innocently and, to any casual observer, respectfully.

Jan excuses himself to `answer a call of nature”. Uncle Bill rises too. “You”d better show me where it is,” he says, jovially, and follows.

A few minutes later they return, deep in discussion. There”s nothing like `hanging out” together to start a conversation! They stop just inside the door and Uncle Bill signals Marty to join them. More discussion. It”s hilarious to observe Acacia”s attempt at trying to hear across the room and having to settle for unaccustomed (maybe not!) lip reading and interpretation of body language. Uncle Bill shakes hands with each of Jan and Marty, who then shake with each other. It appears as though deals have been done!

A few minutes later Uncle Bill stands and taps his glass three times, producing crystal-clear bell tones. There is instant silence, except for the background noise of the patrons out in the bar. Julie Smith and her husband join us, obviously as pre-arranged by Uncle Bill.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he begins, sounding much as he would in addressing an international symposium of art gallery directors or those invited to a showing of his latest collection. “May I say, firstly, that it has been a pleasure to meet those of you whom I did not know previously. You have a beautiful little township here and I would like to share with you some information about its future.”

So smooth are his words that, if Uncle Bill was a visiting politician, an onlooker could be forgiven for being instantly suspicious of double-talk, perhaps surmising that the real purpose of the heavy machinery was to bulldoze the entire town.

I look around the table. Ash, Helen, Will and I know exactly that `the future” will bring about. Anna, Karl and Kurt don”t have a clue about what is happening. Jan and Marty know part of what is planned. Acacia has absolutely no idea, other than what she may have construed from the family lunch! This is not her preferred position on the information-sharing continuum.

Uncle Bill continues, “I”m sure that there have been rumours – good and bad – about the machinery and why a helicopter would bother to visit you all, and bring three strangers to your Village. Let me put as much of the speculation to rest as I am able to, at this time.”

He has everyone”s attention. His pause (either for dramatic effect or for his customary anticipated applause from an audience) only heightens interest. Acacia takes a deep breath in anticipation, or to re-charge her hearing and memory instruments.

Uncle Bill says, “The two fine young men here,” indicating Will and me, “now own all of the land between the school and the western stand of eucalypts at the bend in the river.”

Will smiles at Ash, nudges him and then pokes just the tip of his tongue at me.

Jan, Karl and Kurt look at each other, then at Will and me, suddenly realising that they are living on somebody else”s property, mine and Will”s. I lean towards Jan and confide, just loudly enough for the others to hear, “Don”t worry! We have no intention of increasing your rent!” which is met by nervous titters of amusement.

Uncle Bill is undeterred by the interruption. “While it is not my intention, nor my prerogative, to disclose to you how this has come about, I can tell you that they do have plans to build on the land, towards the western end. Ash, here, has, in consultation with Tom and Will, designed an art studio and residence in which Will can continue his creative work.”

Then he adds, “Folks, you may not realise it, but Will is going to become quite famous. I”m not sure whether you are familiar with his portraits and landscapes and animals, but some of the best art critics and gallery directors in the country have seen his amazing work and are excited at the prospect of his emergence on the Australian and global art scene.”

The locals all look at Will in wonder and disbelief.

Karl punches him on the shoulder. “Famous, eh?”

Will appears lost for words and sits in apparent humble embarrassment.

“Onya, Michelangelo!” Marty stumbles to get out. Laughter all around the table eases the mild nervous tension. There is brief, polite applause.

“And I am pleased to tell you,” Uncle Bill continues, “that Marty and Jan have agreed to oversee the work and to undertake a degree of it themselves. Not only that, but there are plans to build, at the same time, a street of Victorian-style cottages in the exact location as those which I see in some of these magnificent photographs.” He points out certain items on the walls.

There are gasps.

The unvoiced question, `Why?” evidenced by the inquiring facial expressions, hangs heavily in the air.

Uncle Bill doesn”t answer it. However, he does add, “In addition, this magnificent hotel in which we now sit, will also undergo a complete restoration to its original nineteenth-century glory, something which I shared with Mr and Mrs Smith earlier today – at absolutely no cost to them.”

There is spontaneous and generous applause and murmurs of commentary at this revelation.

“Mr Cook,” Uncle Bill says, indicating Ash, “will take primary hands-on control of the restoration of the hotel and ensure that it, Will”s art studio and the cottages are all consistent in style and appearance. I have no doubt that in twelve months” time, your Village will be the talk of western Queensland, perhaps even the whole state, maybe even farther abroad than that.”

I am accustomed to seeing Acacia”s mouth open but, never before, muted in bewilderment! Well, she has a clutch of new information to `disseminate” but there are many questions to which I am sure she would like to know answers. For example…

How can Tom and Will jointly own the land?

How can they afford it?

Why build a street of cottages?

Who would live there?

Who”s paying for all of the work?

And, why?

I smile to myself that the real `scoop” for her would be knowing the relationship between Uncle Bill, Will and me. She has already heard me refer to my biological father as `Uncle Bill”. What she doesn”t know is that Reg and Di now possess the vital missing piece of her puzzle.

Dessert is delicious, especially with a heap of ice cream and lashings of whipped fresh cream!

I”m busting for a pee, but am scared that Kurt would follow me! I don”t need any rumours or innuendo, thanks. Nor any of Marty”s `creative thinking” which could be far too close to the truth for comfort.

Saved by Will! He announces that he `has to go” and the twins join him. I”ll go as soon as they return.

Many have standard coffees. Some, like Uncle Bill, choose something a little more `exotic”.

Despite the fact that the conversation is healthy and continuous, Jan announces that it is way past the boys” bed time and that he needs to get them home. “We don”t want them falling asleep in class tomorrow,” he says, smiling at me.

I reply, “Will, too!” Then I add, “Besides, I need my beauty sleep as well.”

Will opens his mouth to comment but I direct a silencing finger at his face. His mouth closes, but everyone, surmising what was about to come out of it, laughs. I join them.

Will and I say `good night” to all of those who will remain, then we head out with Jan and the boys. I overhear Jan say to both Uncle Bill and Helen, “I”ll be back shortly.”

As I pass Julie Smith, I thank her for a wonderful meal.

More double-takes on the way out, this time from behind alcohol-blearied eyes.

I shake hands with Jan, Karl and then Kurt who holds on for much longer than is comfortable for me.

“Come on Superman. Let Mr Grant go home!” Jan admonishes jovially.

“Thanks, Jan,” I tell him. “I thought that he might have put super glue on his hand.”

“He does that to me some nights,” Jan replies. “I think that it is just to delay `lights out”. I usually find that a well-directed swat to his tail does the trick!”

I think, `Kurt would just love that!” He persists and hangs on. I bend down, rise with him over my shoulder and expose his backside to his father, who dutifully administers what is necessary to release the grip.

“Nice work!” I tell him.

“Any time!” he replies. “If there is a next time, feel free to take matters into your own hands.”

If he only knew how much I would enjoy that. And Kurt would, too.

Alone in the house, Will and I are mucking around in bed when I hear the dogs bark. Marty”s home after dropping his mother and sister at their place.

I hear his door close, which is unusual, seeing that he seems to enjoy listening to Will and me pleasuring each other. And spying on us. Perhaps he”s not in the mood tonight.

Will and I continue, and the rogue bed spring squeaks for another hour.

 

I wake to the sound of the toilet being flushed. It”s morning. What is missing is the usual smell of bacon cooking. Marty”s having a slow start after a long night, apparently. However, I do discern the aroma of percolating coffee.

I extricate myself from Will”s entwining grasp to head out for an early morning pee.

As I step into the corridor, I catch sight of his naked body take the final few steps before disappearing back into the bedroom without closing the door. Nothing unusual, except… that… it isn”t Marty!

What I have just seen is the unmistakeable and ultra-cute, but bare, arse of architect, Ashley Cook. Ash!!

 

(to be continued)

 

There is a parallel version to this story, told through the eyes of Kurt.
Find it at https://www.//gay/adult-youth/kurt-series/

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