…..well, ‘aint this the life!
The Voyage Part Eleven – The Boat Docks
Posted on January 31, 2014 by brucemccorkill
The Voyage Part Eleven – The Boat Docks. Bruce McCorkill
Brian has confessed to Carol, but it hasn’t been received well.
As usual Carol has gone to see Jan to get more advice.
Brian wants to help Samira get into the community more.
Well, I’m getting tired of this trip. I reckon the boat’s getting near the harbour, and I don’t think it’s going to actually sink. The only problem is that I’m not sure which port it’s going to finish up in, and who’s going to be left on board. So maybe it’s time to start furling the sails and tying up ropes, and hoping for a gentle onshore breeze. This might encourage the passengers to get ready to disembark. That’s if Jan doesn’t huff and puff and blow the boat back to sea.
I reckon the first rope to tie is that of Brian and Samira. They seem to be getting along well now. Let’s see if Brian can help to get Samira into the Aussie community.
Brian had been stunned by her story, and it made him grateful to Samira for making him realise that his problems were not so bad after all. Also, he realised that just talking seemed to help, and he was gearing himself up to tell her his story. He was convinced this would help him get off his guilt trip. Samira really wanted to be an Aussie, and he wanted to make this happen. He still couldn’t get over her love of football. Also, something had been niggling in his mind about this. He suddenly had an idea.
‘Samira, tell me about this Sergeant Smith back home? You said he organised football games for the young ones. What did he look like? Did you know his first name?’
‘He was a big tall man Brian, like you. He said in Australia his name was “Sticks Smith.” In our village he was really gentle with the women and children. He told us that before he joined the army, he could have played for your big competition, your AFL. He told us that he was going to play for your Collingwood. He organised football games for us. After we played footie, he would take us into the camp and show replays on the big army screen. That is why I developed a love of football, and why I like your Collingwood. He did say that he would soon be returning to Australia, but we had to flee quickly, so I never said goodbye.’
‘Did you have a proper ball and oval?’
Samira just laughed.
‘Brian, all we had were some old footballs, and we played on the stone ground. The footballs never lasted long; they broke up on the hard rocks. I used to really enjoy the fun. I was older than the other youths, and because of my education and teaching role, I was supposed to act in a responsible manner. But when I played football, I forgot this, I forgot all my problems. I became a young girl again, and just enjoyed myself, kicking the old ball. And guess what? Sergeant Smith said that I was a, what do you call it – a natural. He used to watch me jump up for the ball, and said I was good at taking marks. He said if I ever reached Australia, I could watch Collingwood play. He also said that in Australia there are some female footie teams, and I would be a star.’
Then she smiled at Brian.
‘You remember I had a favour to ask you? Well, it is this. I would like to go to a proper AFL game. I would dearly love to see Collingwood play. At the Detention Centre, we could never go out on the weekends. I even tried to start football games, but the guards refused to get balls for us. Could you take me to the football please? That would help to make me a real Aussie.’
Brian just laughed in amazement.
‘That’s it, that the favour? I thought it was something difficult. That’s an easy one, leave it to me.’
But he also made a call to Lenny.
‘Mate, have you any old contacts from army records? I need you to track down someone.’
Lenny was desperate to help. He had to make up for his bad advice to Brian about confessing to Carol.
In the meantime, Jan was having a restless time. She was doing much serious thinking. About herself and Carol. She thought back to their days in school, mostly the fun they had on the camps sharing stories. She knew she had always had a crush on Carol, but in those young days, she didn’t fully realise what this meant. But now as a grown woman, she knew the full meaning. Remembering how she liked watching Carol get undressed in the tiny tent. Realising that her real sexual preferences had been dormantly in place so long ago. But then smiling when she remembered catching Carol taking furtive glimpses of her also. She wondered about Carol, what were her real preferences, did she even know? What was her friend thinking at this time?
She did a lot of mulling over the situation. Apart from wondering what life with Carol would be like, and how she could convince her friend to share this, she thought about friendship, love, affection, trust, lust, partnership, deceit, the future, and Brian. She thought with some bitterness about her wasted years with guys. And then with optimism about her new direction. But her thoughts always returned to what being a true friend really meant. But she couldn’t adequately define this. Could she be selfish and a friend at the same time?
Carol was confused. After Brian’s confession, she had met with Jan and told her the story. It felt good to get all her pent up frustration with Brian out of her system. And of course Jan was extremely sympathetic and listened closely. Carol fondly remembered the adventures she had shared with her friend. Jan had always been the daring leader, but Carol had always been the willing follower. She wondered what it would be like committing to Jan. She had enjoyed sharing the little tent in such a close way, and she admitted to herself she had enjoyed taking surreptitious peeks at Jan getting undressed. And she also suspected her friend had deliberately supplied a ridiculously tiny tent. But then Carol wondered if she was quite ready to follow her friend in this escapade.
Brian wasn’t sure what was going on. He was happy with his new friends and he hoped Carol had noticed. But his wife had been somewhat strange since his confession. Sometimes friendly like the old days, but more often distant as though her mind was elsewhere. And he wondered what was going on between her and Jan. They were always out for coffee and talking quietly on the phone. In his usual way he muddled along and hoped it would all be sorted out somehow.
Myself, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with these people. Why can’t they just get on with it? Is the boat ever going to land? But I suspect Brian and Samira may be just about sorted out, and I’m the one to do it.
Samira kept pestering Brian about the football, and when they would go. Brian had to put her off, waiting for Lenny’s call. It came shortly.
‘Yep mate; glad to say I still have some mates left in the forces. Tracked him down, it’s the same guy we knew in the local team a long time ago. There aren’t many soldiers with that nickname in Afghanistan. He made the Collingwood draft, and then he goes off and joins the army. And guess what? Talk about a fluke, he’s here! Still in the army but based locally. Arrived back home a while ago. I’ve spoken to him. He remembers Samira and wants to help.’
‘Thanks a heap Lenny, you are a real mate. Make the date. You better come along too.’
Brian told Samira that night.
‘Sorry for taking so long, a few things to sort out, but we’re off to see Collingwood this weekend. Got tickets for the members, Lenny’s coming too. Oh, by the way, another guy is also coming.’
So of course on Saturday morning, there was a knock on the door and Brian looked out to see a tall soldier standing there.
Just as he was about to open the door, Samira peered out, but drew back in alarm.
‘Brian, there’s a big soldier there, is he coming to take me away?’
But then she took a closer look, flung open the door and hurled herself into the guy’s arms. Brian just winked at the soldier, but he had a little tear in his eye.
‘Smithy, Smithy. You found me. Brian, this is my friend Sergeant Smith. This must be your doing, how did you manage this?’
‘It was hard, but Lenny did it. We both reckon you’re worth going to a lot of trouble for. More talk later, time now to go to the footy.’
Now, I bet you suspected that was coming. Myself, I reckon it’s a bit too cute and convenient. Way too much of a coincidence, but honestly I just have to get this boat home, and I’m not in a mood to apologise for taking short cuts. In my opinion, a fixer is entitled to pull a few strings when necessary. Anyway, it looks like Brian and Samira are all sorted, and all because of a little leather ball.
But now for the difficult part, sorting out Carol and Jan. No easy shortcuts here, just a lot of hard slog. And I’m now pretty tired, so I’m just going to let them sort it out somehow. Put it this way, they’re no longer young girls, but mature women who know their own minds. I hope.
It came to a head when they met the next week, and Carol brought along Brian’s army letters.
She angrily flung the tangled pile on the table.
‘Brian was leading a double life in Vietnam. Look at the letters. They’re all lies. Why did he do this?’
Jan glanced at some of the pages, and then started to read. She asked Carol to go order more coffees, while she intently studied the writing.
‘Carol, have you really read these letters? Properly I mean. Have you looked behind the happy clichés? Because I can see the man was trying to tell you something here, he was not very happy at all. Of course it’s all made up, he was trying to shield you, make sure you had a happy peaceful time at home while he was having a lousy time serving his country. He really did love you deeply.’
A little spear went through her heart as she said this, because she realised that for all his faults Brian had truly loved her friend, and still did. She silently wondered if she could love Carol like Brian did. She contemplated whether her feelings were love, passion, friendship, or just lust.
‘Not really, Jan, no. I used to just quickly glance through them and put them in the box. Maybe the first few, but they kept arriving almost every second day. I actually got a bit tired of them. Finally I stopped reading them, into the box they went. At the end, the only one I really read was his last one. And now I think about it, that one was different, Brian seemed more vibrant when he wrote about our future, not just what he was doing in Vietnam.’
She looked at her friend and blushed as she considered her next sentence.
‘To be truthful Jan, I have a confession to make. I had no time to really work out what they meant, much less read them properly. All the time he was overseas, I was having fun going out with a lot of other guys.’
Jan blinked and stared at Carol in surprise. Her Carol, the shy timid Carol, the one man in her life type of Carol. But now Carol with a twist.
‘But why Carol. You and Brian were sweethearts since school. We all knew you would get married and raise a family.’
‘That’s true Jan. I knew when I met Brian we would marry one day. He was the only boy I went out with. As soon as he was called up, we started to plan the wedding for when he came home. But don’t forget, I was still very young. I knew the marriage would be a good one, but a very long one. And I realised that Brian was a good man and would be a decent husband, although a predictable boring one. So I decided to have a bit of fun while I could. Remember, you were always the one to lead us into adventures, so I decided to have my own adventure. I made the most of this opportunity. Mind you, I was still faithful him, although there was a lot of heavy breathing at times.’
But then her face clouded, as she considered Jan’s comments about the pain Brian must have been going through, and how she had not sensed his true feelings about his war, despite the cheerful pages.
‘I guess Jan that Brian’s sad war was my good time war. But I just didn’t know. I was too selfish. But I made it up to him when he got home. We got married, I became the dutiful wife and raised a family and ran a home. I guess in retrospect it has been a successful marriage. He is a good man, and is capable of change. I’m amazed now at how he gets along with Rashid and Samira in particular, when I think about his reaction to when I told him about them coming to live with us. But now I am confused, I need to know what direction to go. Help me.’
She looked into her friend’s eyes.
‘I guess it’s decision time my friend. What do I do?’
Jan sighed. Another side to Carol she had not suspected. She thought about her thoughts over the past weeks, Carol’s revelations and her friendship and love for Carol. Also, the chance of a new direction for her best friend and soul mate. She made her decision. Giving Carol a long hug, she told her what she should do. After that, Carol could only whisper emotionally that yes that was the best for both of them, and that Jan was indeed her true friend.
Hang on a minute. What’s going on? This Jan lady is causing me great angst. Nobody is any the wiser. What did she advise Carol? Why won’t she let the boat get into the harbour? There are way too many unanswered questions.
Anyway, as far as I’m concerned I’ve had a gutful and this voyage is now over. The boats close enough to some harbour; I just don’t know which one. They can all scramble on shore themselves. They had better thank me for keeping the boat afloat, because it was hard work. Although I did have use of a few good props. Using blokes and tools and sheds, together with Aussie rules, with a bit of sex thrown in, and it all finally falls into place. But I do need a rest. Actually, the boss is sending me on a cushy assignment. One on a new cruise ship, where all I have to do is make sure wealthy people don’t fall out of their deck chairs. I think the name of the ship is the Titanic. Sounds like fun.
Sorry, I almost forgot, there is one last rope to tie off.
Brian received a call from Jan. The night after her talk to Carol.
‘Just to let you know, I told Carol what she should do. You got off. She’s still yours. Sticking with you. You know that Carol means the world to me. She always has. I just want for her to be happy. I reckon she will be happier with you, than with me. She’s not quite ready. But heaven forbid, it was so tempting. I could have had her you know. I could have convinced her to leave you and sail off with me. But I’ve realised she’s vulnerable and confused. If she comes to me, it must be after thinking things through clearly, not because she needs a shoulder to cry on.You gave her a hell of a shock with your crazy confession. But I guess you were just trying to be true to her and be honest for the first time in thirty five years. That went in your favour. You can also thank your mate Lenny. He put in a good word for you, and he’s a convincing little guy.
I know you love her and for some reason she still loves you. But you need to change. Work on the marriage, talk to her, tell her your problems, because she is part of them. Get good counselling for yourself. Stop trying to teach her to bowl, take her into the city for coffee. Trade in that stupid big Ford for a fancy little sports model. But don’t forget, I’m still around. Still watching out for Carol. So remember – if you foul up, if you don’t treat her well, if you don’t make her happy – I’ll be coming. Not for you, but for Carol.’
Brian and Carol managed to live happily ever after. Brian did change and Carol compromised. They did a few more voyages, but made sure to stay in calm waters. Brian developed a liking for inner city latte’s, and to her surprise, Carol developed a liking for bowling. In fact she won the ladies veteran first place, which pissed off Brian no end.
Rashid and Samira’s permanent visas were finally granted and they managed to move into government housing. Rashid obtained a job as an air conditioning mechanic, which pleased Brian because he got free servicing for his old unit. Samira went on to get the best and fairest in the Northern Suburbs female football district league. The local footie club raised money for plastic surgery on her scar, and she looked a million dollars.
Lenny, with a bit of help from Jan, managed to get himself together, and started a Vietnam Vets counselling service. Surprising herself, Jan developed a certain fondness for Lenny, and decided to give guys one more go.
The fixer was last reported being seen rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic in a valiant attempt to stop the vessel foundering. He was just too weary to see the iceberg.
The Voyage – part four – the Dinner Disaster Bruce McCorkill
Rashid and Samira are coming to the house for a welcome dinner to their new home.
Carol is concerned that Brian will misbehave and ruin the evening.
To introduce Rashid and Samira to Brian and their new home, Carol arranged a welcome dinner. This would be a good start to their new living arrangements. Judging by Brian’s initial reaction at having his territory invaded, she was extremely nervous about how he would react at actually meeting his new tenants. Having a tasty meal would hopefully break the ice. Her thick headed husband might realise these people were decent folk needing help. She was fairly sure that her promise to Rashid that he and Brian would get along over the tools fixing things could be kept. But she still had doubts about her husband’s reaction to Samira. Carol just hoped it would work.
She aired her concerns to her best friend Jan at their weekly coffee meeting. Carol and Jan had met in the kinder sand pit. An instant bond formed and they stayed best friends, through school, even after their marriages. Neither quite understood this, they were different. Jan flamboyant, Carol quiet, Jan a business career, two marriages and messy divorces, and Carol doing admin work, in a dull but steady marriage to her first boyfriend.
These differences didn’t matter; they had stopped querying their friendship. It just was. They enjoyed being together, the companionship and talking. They had no secrets from each other. Generally it was Carol listening to Jan’s issues with her disastrous relationships, and giving advice, which her friend rarely heeded. Carol would proclaim “we are soul mates,” and after the third wine, Jan would joke “no, people must think we are gay mates.” Then they would just giggle and have another drink, although Jan would often think about their school camps where they shared a little tent, and then a speculative look would come into her eye.
‘Jan, I’m so nervous about this welcome dinner. I really want this to work. I’m hoping it may bring Brian and me together again. He’s such an old fogey at times and we used to have fun together. Since the job loss he’s been unbearable. He’s started having these mad nightmares, he shouts in his sleep, something about being sorry, but he won’t talk about it. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s worthwhile going on. But Rashid and Samira are such lovely people. They deserve a better place to live, and we can help them. Samira is really sweet, and Rashid, well, he is incredibly intelligent and we have intelligent discussions. It will be great to have more time to talk outside the resource centre. And by the bye, he is also a very handsome man.’
To which Jan drily replied, sipping her latte thoughtfully.
‘Yes Carol, I am sure you and Rashid will have lots of deep and meaningful intimate chats on the patio. Very nice, I’m sure. Will you ask Brian to serve the drinks and join in?’
‘Jan, don’t be silly, we are just good friends and I want to help him.’
However she did lightly blush, because sometimes watching Rashid fix the photocopier, Carol would imagine his smooth skinned hands stroking her face, neck, and back, and wondered what it would feel like to have a man other than Brian touch her. It reminded her of the time, long ago, when she had what she called her ‘little fling’. But then she would quickly put these thoughts aside, that was the long forgotten past and this was the present. However, the image would still subtly steal into her consciousness at times, generally when Brian had done something in his unthinking way, or was insisting on his predictable dull sex even when she was either clearly not in the mood, or would have liked to try something a little different.
Her final words to Brian the previous night were,
‘Brian, make sure to behave yourself tomorrow night. Remember, these are people who have greatly suffered, are still anxious and fearful about their future. They are not like your crowd, so for my sake please be patient and understanding and make them welcome. Remember the rules – don’t get drunk, don’t make fun of Samira’s clothes, don’t sneak off to watch the footie, and definitely no Muslim jokes.’
To which Brian cheerfully replied,
‘Sure luv, no worries, she’ll be sweet.’
Despite Brian’s positive response, he was also quite nervous and not looking forward to the encounter. He would have preferred to be watching Collingwood thrash their opponents on the big plasma. He confided to his mate Lenny at the club.
‘I’m a bit nervous about this whole bloody thing mate. This is the first time these sort of people have been in the house. Carol reckons they’re really nice. Now I have to live with them. But this seems to mean a lot to Carol. There’s all these weird smells coming from the kitchen, seems she’s cooking up some special meal. She gave me a talking to last night, told me to be on my best behaviour. I don’t know what to say to this girl, what if she wears that funny thing on her head. Funny part though, Carol says she likes footie. What’s a Muslim girl doing following the footie? Not sure about the bloke, Carol reckons he’s a dab hand at repairing things, maybe he can fix the air conditioner. But we do need the money. Just have to see how it goes.’
Strangely enough, Rashid and Samira were the least nervous. After all, they had endured a long period of hardship, were living in appalling conditions, and had become resigned to suffering discrimination and persecution. An evening with blokey Brian would be easily bearable.
Myself, I’m getting somewhat nervous. But I think it’s going to go reasonably well. Carol has worded Brian up; she’s cooked a lovely meal, and is determined to make the evening work. Brian has promised to behave himself and stay sober. Rashid and Samira are just waiting to see. But there’s still this niggling thought about Carol, what is this ‘little fling’ thing. She’s supposed to be the steady crew member, keeping the boat upright, but she suddenly springs this out of left field. Can’t deal with it now, the front door bell is ringing, so let’s bring it on.
The evening started fairly well. After the introductions, they went on the big house tour, Carol chattering away trying to make everybody at ease. Samira saw the veggie garden,
‘Brian what a lovely garden, Carol said you grew vegetables but this is fantastic. What rich soil, much better that our rocks at home. Can I work in your garden? I can show you how to garden with less water.’
When Brian opened the door of the big shed, Rashid’s eyes lit up,
‘Brian, I have never seen so many beautiful tools in the one place. If I had this equipment I could have repaired so many more things in our villages. Would you like some help in fixing anything?’‘
Even Brian had his big chance.
‘This is my ‘baby’. Fifty two inch plasma, full 3D, 1080 high definition resolution, triple tuner, inbuilt blue ray, surround sound, can record three shows at the same time. Great for watching footie.’
Unfortunately, once they sat down to eat, the evening went belly up, just like that. It started unexpectedly when Samira sat down opposite Brian and smiled at him. He abruptly changed from affable Brian to loud mouthed bogan Brian. With every course he became worse.
The entre comment was,
‘Hey Samira, why aren’t you wearing your heebejeeby dress?’
‘Brian, I choose to not wear the burka, I only wear the hijab or scarf.’
The main course jokes related to food.
‘Hey guys, next week we’ll have a bar b que. I’ve been saving some special pork chops for you. Ha ha, only joking. But look, Rashid, I have some great home brew, very potent stuff, how about a stubby. Don’t worry mate, still joking.’
Dessert deteriorated to water,
‘What I’ll do is to take you guys for a ride in my speedboat; I know you like boats, ha ha.’
This was only a sample of his behaviour, and over coffee Carol savagely kicked him under the table to cut short his favourite joke about the Muslim, the Arab and the Rabbi. Brian gradually succumbed to the drink and slept with his head on the table, and Carol’s worst meal nightmare wound down. He had even made fun of her special dish.
Can you believe this man? I had no idea he could be this crass. I suspected the evening would be difficult, but what was Brian thinking, or rather not thinking. It was maybe a big ask, expecting everybody to be best buddies. The others were all right, Rashid and Samira were tolerant and Carol really tried to make it all work.
But Brian, it’s as though he deliberately wanted to scuttle the boat. Funny thing, it happened so quickly. One minute he’s fine, and then when Samira smiled at him it all changed. Maybe something strange happening here. Any more of this behaviour and he’s off the boat, over the side and eaten by sharks. Then I can have a rest, because this man is becoming hard work.
I mean, I’m good, really good. One of the boss’s best fixers. I get to sort out all the hard cases. The boss hears about a tough voyage and who has to go – me of course. Keeping friends safe in boats is my speciality. I do trains and planes, but they’re easy. Water is the challenge. I mean in one major event I even had to make the hero walk on water, a tough gig, but I finally managed it with the aid of flotation devices. How good is that?
Anyway, I’m off to see the boss to give a progress report and to explain how this thing went wrong. With any luck he may reallocate me to an easy river cruise, help the old ladies up the gangplank. But when I’m gone, I’ll hand over the boat to these people, give them a chance to see how hard it is keeping a boat on course.
Issues for the fixer to sort out.
Should Brian be tossed off the boat, or given a second chance?
What made Brian abruptly change?
Has Carol got a few little secrets?
To be continued.