Goody was bored. Bored to buggery. Stella had gone to the city to lunch with friends. Not that her presence would make him less bored, just that the emptiness of the house, the silence ... well, it got to him.
What would he be doing now, if he were back in the old town? Probably meeting mates in the pub ... the old Stagecoach Inn, ‘the Stage’ they called it. It had been more like home than home had ever been to him.
Staring out the windows of Villa Two Elm Street, Goody visioned up the Stage bar. He could see them arguing about the weekend footy match: Gasper Wilkes with his shirt buttons bursting over his gut waving his glass in the air and spilling froth about; Harry the Hat trying to look suave and quietly wise, waiting to get in what he thought would be an astute remark; Bloo Kelso with his thinning red hair and nose-to-lip moustache, his skinny frame, dragging on his cigarette and coughing and laughing, trying to say what he was thinking.
Goody’s chin sank on his chest. Old Gasper gasped it a year ago; Harry the Hat went off with a heart attack a couple of weeks later. Bloo? Wonder if he’s still about. Thought he’d be first to go with his skin and bone, wheezing cough, always boozed. Bones dressed up as a man.
With a sense of hope Goody leapt to his feet and looked up the home town phone book, which he kept in case of needing old contacts. Yep, there was Kelso’s number, still there.
He phoned. A recorded voice informed him that Kelso’s number had changed to ....... Goody wrote it down, noticing that it was now a city number. Great Scott (he laughed at the appropriate term) Bloo might be just a suburb away. Swine, not letting him know.
He phoned the new number, waited and waited - almost gave up when a groggy voice said ‘Ullo. Who’s that at this hour?’
‘It’s me. Goody. Mate, where are you?’
‘In bed you idiot where d’y think at this time of day.’
‘Lissen, what’s your address. I’m comin’ to see you. We’ll go down to the local. Beer and lunch. How about it?’
‘Now y’talking. My illustrious abode is at Eight Medley Court Richmond, flat two at the back. Two storey red brick, vintage fifties. Pretensions of old England. I shall arise and go now to my Roman Bath and don my robes and await you. I’ll leave the door unlocked, so just walk in.’
With which he hung up and left Goody smiling. Typical of Bloo, he thought. Always erudite, touch of the theatre with the occasional Scottish accent - he was proud of his ancestry. And of course, an architect, so you got used to his proclamations about style or about anything for that matter. A good mind gone to booze they always said of Kelso, whose early years as an architect were relatively successful, he had his own style. But when his marriage broke down and he lost touch with his two daughters, he went to pieces.
Mind you, the breakdown was largely his own fault. Always at the pub. Always boozed. A woman would get sick of that.
Goody had always admired Bloo, more than ten years his senior. Bloo had been a fighter pilot in Vietnam. When he got back he became the centre of a group of Viet-vets who met up at the Stage. Took one end of the bar as their own and were joined, on the other side, by the publican Bill Yates.
Checking maps and trains, Goody found Bloo’s place was a fifteen minute train ride and two streets from the station. He put on his jeans and a cornflower blue cotton shirt that suited his eyes, not that Bloo would notice. Come to think of it, Bloo’s eyes were blue, pale booze-blue. Watery.
Medley Court was a small cul-de-sac, five double storey homes and three two-storey blocks of flats; number eight was at the end where the road curved for the return.
‘Two, at the back,’ Goody whispered. Two down and two up, so four’s not so bad, better than these multi-storey impersonal places.
He checked letter-box-two and picked up a handful of advertising brochures, four window-faced bills and a hand addressed letter, walked confidently to the door and went in.
‘Hey Bloo - I’m here.’ He walked down the hall and gasped at sight, through the open bathroom door, of what looked like bodies in the bath. ‘Christ Bloo, murdered someone - you’ve got bodies floating in the bath.’
‘M’jeans soaking mate. Easiest way to clean them. Leave them there a few days and rinse them out. Keep coming. I’m in the kitchen. More precisely, in the fridge getting us a cold one.’
Bloo turned around with two in hand to face Goody as he entered. Still holding the cans, he spread his arms and stood across the narrow stretch of the room. ‘See, can almost touch the walls with my arms outstretched. Christ you’d think the bloody architect would have been more humane wouldn’t you? Could have added a foot or two to the width. Oh, suppose I should say a metre of two, but I still think in feet.’
He handed Goody his drink and they pulled the rings and drank as they stood.
‘Ah. First for the day. Always the best.’ Bloo lowered the can and gave Goody a playful punch in the gut. ‘Not in bad shape are you? Not putting on a belly like most of ‘em.’
‘All very well for you. You’re hollow, man. Just a bag of bones.’
They laughed and fell down on the chairs, sighed and fell silent. Comfortably.
‘Not much of a place is it?’
‘For an architect, I’d say pretty hard to accept as your home Bloo. Hey, when did you move to the city? How do you like it?’
‘Six months ago. When Gasper and The Hat went to heaven, well, place wasn’t the same. They started modernising the bar and the dining room and ... just not the same place any more. Then my old Auntie Helen died and left me this flat. Just an investment she had, but I thought, well, no rent to find so I packed up my diminishing belongings and moved in. I suppose a bloke can make his home anywhere.’ He gave his wheezy chuckle. ‘As long as there’s a decent pub within walking.’
‘Have you found the right one?’
‘Just around the corner. It’s not bad. In fact the bar’s not unlike the old Stage. That’s the trend these days, to reconstruct the old country town bar ... and country town bars are making up as trendy city bars. Typical. Anyway, met a few locals of my own vintage - age and drink - chummy barmaid, Like to get off with her, but she’s younger than my daughters.’
‘What could you do if you caught her anyway, you old soak. Bet you couldn’t raise it.’ Goody took a drink by way of pause. ‘Which reminds me, how are your daughters? Have you seen them?’
‘That’s the good thing that’s happened, amongst most that aren’t good, especially about getting old. Amanda and Sue are married now and producing grand children and ... well ... that makes me a grandfather and it seems to have patched things up.’
‘Hey, that’s great. Great.’
‘How about you? In a retirement village at your age. Cripes! You’re still a youngster. That’s relative of course. Anyway, never for me. Never. I’ll die with my boots on thanks. And in my dirty old jeans. I tell ya, one day they’ll come and bash the door down and there I’ll be, rotting away ... with a can of beer locked in my hand.’ He fell about with laughter and a mighty bout of coughing.
‘No seriously, Goody, I don’t know how you stick it. Must be bloody awful. I know what those places are like. Architecturally. They’re chicken coops. Slicked up versions of workers’ terraces in old Blighty’s mining days.’
‘Oh, fair go Bloo. Not that bad. Small, yes. All the same, yes. Smart kitchens and bathrooms ...’
‘I said slicked up versions,’ said Bloo a little testily. ‘I’m not an idiot. I know they’ll have all the mod cons.’ He threw his empty can into the rubbish bin near the sink. ‘Look at that, spot on, right in the bin.’ He pulled himself up out of the chair and pushed the legs of his jeans down to meet his brown leather dock-siders. Despite his dismissal of most forms of luxury and pretensions, Kelso had a preference for designer jeans and quality shoes.
Rising, Goody noticed an easel over by the window beside a small table with brushes and paints.
‘Hey, are you painting these days?’
‘Modestly so. Modestly. That’s one of mine over the fireplace.’
Goody was impressed. It was a finely drawn water colour of Portsoy, a small town on the north coast of Scotland. There was something quite loving and perfect in the cottages and tiny township, the church and its steeple, the stone quay with fishing boats tied up. There was delicacy in the water colours that flowed healthy green in the gently rising land beyond the town. It reached even Goody.
‘Gee, I like that Bloo. My kind of painting. I can see what it is. Not like these modern canvases that idiots pay millions for. Stella goes for those - not because she knows anything about painting, she just likes the colours and of course the approval given to them by people she thinks know about painting.’
‘Yair. Well. I’m an architect and it’d go against the grain to paint something you couldn’t honestly build. Something like that anyway. I enjoy it, even when I’m not exactly sober. Matter of fact, having a small exhibition in a couple of months. Little gallery in Richmond. Might sell a few.’
‘I’ll buy one for sure.’
‘Stella will probably make you hang it in the lav, so make sure you hang it above the flusher so you can think of me every time you have a pee.’ He chuckled.
Bloo threw an arm over Goody’s shoulder and headed for the door, which he slammed behind them.
The Court Jester was, literally, ‘just around the corner’ and had over its doorway 1928 carved in the stone lintel. Two bay windows on to the street had diamond shape glass in lead and today, being warm, were pushed up so that you could hear the jolly sound of drinkers talking and laughing.
‘G’day Bloo. Yer late.’ This came from Charlie leaning on the bar with its shiny red surface. A mere glance over the shoulder when he saw Bloo was in company. The regulars had their unwritten code of behaviour: give space and wait for an introduction.
Bloo ordered a couple of beers. Goody, leaning with his left elbow on the bar, looked the place over. At a table in the nearby bay window there were four tradies in khaki overalls and cement-covered boots; three were hunched over pies and tomato sauce, beer on the side. The fourth sat upright, eating ham and salad sandwiches from a lunch box.
‘Gawd, Richo, you’re missus has you on a string don’t she? Makes up yer little lunch box every day. What’s it terday? Rabbit food?’ The other two laughed.
‘One day, Gary mate, you’ll wake up with a heart attack - or maybe you won’t wake up.’ He laughed. ‘Wot you’re eating mate, is killin’ yer.’
‘Nice way ter die. Isn’t it guys?’
‘Well, your oughta read the papers. Read the statistics.’ Richo thumped the table. ‘Yeah, read the statistics.’
‘Yer don’ wanna believe all y’read mate.’
‘Despite that enlightening little tête à tête,’ Bloo said. ‘We are going to have pie for lunch. They make the best pies in the world here. And nothing goes with a beer like a pie.’
‘You’re on,’ said Goody. ‘Stella drives me nuts with all this healthy living stuff. Haven’t had a meat pie since I can remember.’
They moved over to a corner table and had their pies, eating in silence, allowing the general rumble of conversation to fill the background until an almost dozy mood overtook them.
‘Tell you what Bloo: I have to dash into the city to the bank. Suppose I do that and we meet up later?’
‘And while you do that, I’ll go home and have a snooze. Usually do after lunch. Need a rest before the coming of night. Around sunset this place comes alive. You’ve got to meet my drinking mates - and mate-esses. We have a few regular birds. One’s a fair riot of a dame I can tell you. Wait till you see her.’
‘Speaking of the fair sex, have there been any in your life since ... well since married days?’
‘Not sure if that shouldn’t be the unfair sex. Only joking. Flings of course, going back a few years. But, serious stuff? Only one.’
‘Go on, tell us.’
‘You probably wouldn’t have met her - being younger and mixing in the married crowd. Remember our country radio station?’
‘Oh yes, always in the news. Took on the tough issues and didn’t hold back. Who wouldn’t remember it?’
‘Then you’d remember the feisty lady who ran it. Must have heard her speaking. Nice voice. Sort of no-accent voice, good level tone. None of those high notes that spoil so many female voices on radio and TV.’
‘So. She was the one? What was her name now ... Trish wasn’t it?’
‘Trish. Yes. Greene, with an ‘e’.’
‘Well? Go on’
‘She’d slip into the bar sometimes, catch up with the locals, listen for gossip or news. Good writer and good reader. I beguiled her to have a drink on me when I could catch her. White wine was her drink and she’d only have one or two. She liked my mind; told me so. But I’m not too sure she liked my habits, boozing, careless of attire and person and so on.’
‘Like those couple of missing lower teeth? Yeah, that figures. And you look grubby in a way. But I can see that your laconic attitude and turn of mind would be attractive to someone like her.’
‘Mind over matter. I think she could overlook the matter sometimes; we’d have long discussions over all sorts of issues. Her face was full of expression when she got serious or argued a point. I used to set her up just for the joy of watching her face. And I grew to love her. Very much. But I’m shy with women. Huh, huh. I know you can’t imagine me shy about anything but I am, around women, well, around women who matter. And she mattered. To me.’
‘I thought I was getting somewhere with her. Never stepped over the mark mind you. No more than a hug and kiss on the cheek on parting. Couldn’t bring myself to say anything - afraid if I told her I was deeply in love with her, she might have knocked me back and refused to see me again, so rather than lose her altogether I kept it to myself.’
‘So you never got around to telling her how you felt?‘
‘As a matter of fact, I did. But only by letter when I was the other side of the world. Decided to take the big trip abroad before I karked it, so off I went to England, looked up relatives in Scotland; wound my way through Europe and found myself in Greece; wrote an enormously long letter to Trish in the minutest architectural handwriting on paper fine as tissue that I knew would be almost impossible to read. Related all my travels and then, in a drunken state (I think I was drunk) declared my love on the last page. But, woe is me, for some reason I was overcome with a desire for honesty and added a footnote about a brief passionate affair I was having with a red-head but which was sensibly finishing.’
‘That was a bit mad.’
‘And I think it’s why ultimately she didn’t respond to my declaration. Anyway I finished the letter making a date with her on my return: my birthday coincided with the tennis club Christmas party and I couldn’t think of anything better than having her come to that dinner with me.’
‘Funny thing, I can’t remember if we ever had that date. Not sure if I got home in time.’
At which they parted, Bloo for his snooze and Goody to the city on the tram outside the pub, agreed to meet at the pub around five.
Back at his flat, Bloo kicked his shoes off and lay on the bed, smiling as his mind went back ... back thirty years. Within two minutes he was asleep and dreaming.
He was stretched out on the deck of an inter-island packet taking him to the port of Khania on the island of Crete - Kriti - he liked to say things in Greek.
Bob Warner, ‘Barb’, as the American introduced himself to all with his ‘Hi there I’m ‘Barb’ Warner from Oakland, California, U.S. of A.’, had advised him strongly to go first class on ‘these here packets’.
Bloo accepted his advice and went third class, which meant travelling on the top deck, no bed, difficult access to toilets and bar, and had one of the best nights in years. Most of his fellow travellers were university students from Thessalonika, who started singing and playing guitars and bouzoukis soon after dark: Greek peasant songs, popular songs, protest songs, German and Italian folks songs, even Australian folk songs, in which he’d added his voice with gusto. It went on all night, refreshed with continual glasses of Rentzina.
He’d written in his letter to Trish: ‘Khania, more correctly Xania, pronounced hhharnya, proved to be interesting, scenic, moving at night as is all Crete, but generally dull. Beautiful hotel, lovely pool, nice tourists, mostly German, everywhere women riding side saddle on motorbikes, thousands of them. Below the pub I could hear emotional outbursts in an area where the young couples promenade, usually finishing, after unbelievable raucous jabber, in everyone kissing each other and buying a lottery ticket from the inevitable vendors who carry thousands of tickets stuck to a pole, shout loudly something that sounds like “Hoya” - they’re everywhere, at all times, day and night - indefatigable - they have a concession from the government, being returned soldiers injured from the war/s or dependent sons thereof (that last word sounds wrong - wish you were here to correct me - je t’aime). What a letter, it’s the first one I’ve written in about five years.’
He chuckled in his sleep as he saw ‘Barb’ Warner, standing beside him looking up at the Parthenon: he was telling ‘Barb’ Warner, facetiously, that he was convinced that Frank Lloyd Wright had designed the building. In turn, ‘Barb’ made no bones about passing on to Bloo that Athens had been named after Athens, Minnesota. And he was serious. Waal.
‘Everywhere I turned, there was ‘Barb’,’ Bloo wrote in his letter. ‘Not filling my ear with the glories of ancient Greece, but with the present ones of the States. He gave me his address three times. I rather think he fell in love with me.’
He turned on his side and hugged himself into a comfortable state. Yes, it had been an enlightening journey and the letter to Trish had set it in his mind, as writing things down tends to do.
He’d never been much on languages but enjoyed having a stab at foreign words. Some were confusing. Take the Greek words for yes and no.
‘This is the only country in the world where no means yes,’ he wrote. ‘A dreadful trap for unworldly female travellers. “Nai”, pronounced as any other sensible language would have: “no” with a nasal accent means “yes”; “no” is “oxi”, pronounced “orchi” - a word, this latter one, most essential to have in Greece. I have got along very well with this. The Greek words I am saving for you “Sagapo” (I love you) “poli” (very much). God I am digressing but it is now 2am ‘Gleek’ time, and if I don’t get something off to you now, God knows when - because I want to.’
His dream took him two hundred kilometres west of the island to Iraklion, ‘Heraklion’ he muttered in his sleep. From there he’d gone on some twenty kilometres to Knossos Beach and La Belle Helene hotel.
‘Anything less “belle” would be hard to imagine. The tariff was cheap - ninety drachma per night (about A$2.50) and for the room I got, expensive at that price. Hygiene I think was an American term heard on television - there was none. All the family and resident guests, about twelve on each side, used two toilets and one shower, none of which was cleaned during my stay. The stench was unreal. However, the kitchen set-up was spotless, the food fabulous and the warmth of the people almost overpowering. Cretans are fantastic in their own country. I can understand why our Ockers don’t get on - “just a bunch of bloody wogs”. Certainly some of them look as if they had belts full of knives and other cutting implements, but some of the blackest, wildest looking turned out to be the most charming, generous, natural people one could wish to meet.
‘Anyroad, as they say in Anglais, with view to having a good hot shower, I headed back to Heraklion and wandering around, it became inherent upon me to find a convenient place of public nature. None to be found. Anywhere.
‘Turning a corner I came upon the sign Hania Hotel - Hania for Hospitality. This has got to be the place, methinks. When on arrival at the door I found two door mats, one with the word WELL and the other COME I thought my problem was solved. Not so - but in their place was the extraordinary piece of coincidence. Having brushed my dusty feet carefully on the two mats, the next situation was a minute patio. Here were situated on the one hand, standing, the proprietor, and on the other hand, at the one table the area was able to sustain, a fairly sunburned lass of some twenty-four summers. Naturally, if one wishes to ask a favour in this area you are expected to make it worth while. “One biera,” said I. “No biera,” said he. “You Australian?” “Yes!” “She Australian,” he said pointing. “First I’ve met over here. What part?” (me). “Melbourne” (she). “Me too’’. What part?” (me). “Well actually Gippsland” (she). “Not Bairnsdale?” (me). “Yes” (she).
‘How about that for a TV script? Bairnsdale is where I spent most of my childhood. I went to school with this girl’s father - he was a bit older and of course it was old family week. She’s a school teacher, intelligent, not very attractive, but pleasant company, helped each other enjoy the remainder of my stay in Crete.
‘Athens time now 3am, have early call for 6am to go to Mykonos tomorrow - will try to finish this on the boat. God I wish you were here.
‘No chance to write on the boat - talk about overcrowding. I have purchased some small trinkets you may enjoy on my return and am quite homesick tonight as I ran into your Swedish double, named Kiki.’
In his dream, now, Bloo saw himself embracing Trish, feeling her warm response to his confession, at last, of his love. Until the letter, he hadn’t even hinted at it, fearing it might scare her off.
He turned to his other side. His fists tightened as the final pages of his letter broke into his dream.
He had addressed the first page of the letter Dear Trish and when he’d finished, decided to add a separate page, which he headed, oddly, Trish Greene - friend - read this first. The form of address suggested a friend to friend letter, whereas it was an intimate confessional, explanation of himself.
‘I have just tried to decipher what I have written. I can, but the odds are that you can’t.
‘However, for what it is all worth, I am bundling it all up and sending it home (?) to you - as most of what I say gets pent up and overflows sometimes.
‘I had dinner on Friday night with a divorced red-headed South African London resident who has the same failing: that is, my affliction, an ability not to commit the most fascinating, erudite, witty, epigrammatic and altogether brilliant epistles to paper. Most people’s best work is done in the imagination and the realities are the hardest things to face.
‘However, I am now facing the reality of coming back to Australia and am looking forward to it with some degree of relief and thankfulness, for, although travel broadens the mind, one does cleave a little to one’s own - and some degree of trepidation and reluctance.
‘Reluctance because I think essentially I am a drifter and unable to be anything but a little itchy to seek new people, new experiences, new sights - to dabble in the arts - self-indulgence would probably be the most apt definition. Trepidation, because after six months away I am out of touch with the local scene, although it does achieve some newspaper comments over here and trepidation because I have become out of touch with you after being so positively attracted - which I still am - but you see I’m still, regardless of the travel and the extraordinary number of people I have met, painfully shy with women. A real show off but a paper tiger - the great Bullshito and I haven’t written many letters at all since I’ve been away but every time I try to write to you, I expose some weak part of myself - forgive me.
‘It is impossible to encompass in a short letter the plethora of experiences that have been my lot over the last six months, but I hope to have the opportunity to relate the more interesting parts first hand.
‘It happens to be my birthday on December 19th, which I think will also be the tennis club Christmas party. Would it be possible for me to be with you that night? I hope so.
‘Will finish this tomorrow when I know exactly what day I shall be home.’
Bloo rolled on to his back, spread his legs and arms, like a man opening himself. A form of submission, as the last page of his letter pushed forward in his dream.
At the top, in a dark pen, he had written ‘Read this last - if you can.’ From this note an arrow pointed to the top right where he’d written Hotel Timor, Arenel, Mallorca (si) and in dark pen Majorca.
The letter began, ‘Dear Trish Greene’ which was scratched through and replaced with ‘Darling’, a term never used by Bloo.
‘I am in a mood. And thought of all the people that I knew that I’d like to talk to - it happens to be you ... I’m not full but I’ve had a couple (yes??)
‘I have just found a new friend - Pedro - a black dog (male) with whom I have walked about eight to ten kilometres in the pouring rain. Pedro doesn’t speak Australian - nor I Spanish, but we talk the same language, which I’ve found to be universal. Smiles, laughs, eyes, sounds - all things that come from the heart.
‘So I spoke dog to Pedro (God knows what his name actually is) and he was a bit hungry. Well, it so happened that I had an unused roll in my pocket and a wee bit of inedible steak from the dinner at the beautiful Hotel Timor - Arenel Majorca where I am currently staying. This bloody dog (Doberman?) saved my life, if not my life, at least about a hundred Australian dollars which I had in my pocket.
‘God lass, I’m doing what I did with the first letter which I never posted - I want to write too fast - I’ve got so much that I’ve seen, heard and drawn - it all wants to spill out and I’m writing (intelligibly I know) to you because you are real... Are you real?
‘Anyhow, as I said before, you are the person to whom I would like the outspilling to be done. Trish - you know, I’ve had an extraordinary time since being away, but in all my time away, only 1, 2, 4, 5 - yes, five women I’ve found that have had any attraction but none as much as you. God - I’m getting maudlin again.’
Bloo moved his arms and legs in agitation as the last sentences came back to his sleeping mind.
After his declaration of love - a painful release if ever there was for the soul of Bloo Kelso - he found it necessary, it seemed to round up with complete honesty. In the bold pen he wrote -
‘I’m stuck here in my South Ken geriatric hotel waiting on news from Singapore airlines re departure date, so don’t know if I’ll make it for the aforementioned dinner. Therefore I don’t want to inhibit you from other engagements as I’ve no right to that - except affection for you.
‘The South African red-head I mentioned, who is here now in London, has been a tremendous help and has sorted me out more than anything else on the trip. Must confess that a raging affair is current and I even find I can write poetry ...
‘However, we both realise it is en passant and are handling it maturely.
‘I think now I am more real and more relaxed and confident than I was back in Australia and am looking forward eagerly to seeing you again, which will be on the Xth? December, on which date or sooner I will be in touch. My love, Bloo’
At which he woke up, sighed, stared at the ceiling and felt tears dribbling down his temples. What an idiot. Why in God’s name did I put in that bit about the raging affair. That’s why she was cool with me when I got back. It wasn’t because she didn’t want me. It was because I stuffed up the whole thing with that confession. How many bloody times had he cursed himself over the lonely years for that stupidity. He rubbed the tears into his temples with his clenched fists, growled like a dog and leapt from the bed.
Back at the bar the evening crowd had started to gather as Bloo fronted the bar for a glass of white wine. Evenings he switched from beer to wine.
‘Hey Bloo. Where’s y’mate from this arvo?’
‘He should be here any time, Charlie. What’s yours? I’ll buy you one.’
Charlie accepted as he always did. Rarely shouted. But they tolerated him, partly because he always had a bag full of gossip and jokes. Good natured, but a skinflint and couldn’t help himself.
‘Hey have you heard this one? Charlie rapped out the latest joke.
Bloo wheezed himself into a laughing cough. ‘That’s a good one Charlie. Sort of catches you unawares.’
Down the bar a bit Alan Marshall and Russ Farmer were having their usual argument over likely players in the coming footy season. Next to them Ben ‘Bowyang’ Willis was chatting up Heather McMaster, who’d been knocking him back for several years now, but Bowyang fancied himself a lady’s man and kept up the act for act’s sake.
In swept Goody, confident and beaming. All eyes turned to stare at this stranger in the midst, even Charlie took a good look this time. Goodwin was a tad younger than the gathered mob and looked even younger. Smarter in dress and brisker in movement, you could see his interest lay beyond the bar room ... more your bedroom sort of bloke. He wasn’t likely to find any quarry in here but he had a love of easy company where he could show off.
‘Where’s this fair riot of a dame you were telling me about?’ he said as he joined Bloo.
Bloo looked up at the clock over the bar. ‘Comes in around seven, so half an hour I guess.’
Five minutes later she arrived to loud greetings from all
‘Rosie,’ Bloo yelled. ‘Come here. Want to you meet one of my home town mates.’
Rosemary Fisher was something to see. Around five feet ten in high wedges, she was fleshy, large breasts that squashed at the cleavage inside a low cut blouse of crushed velvet. Three long strands of various collections of beads swung across the breasts as she strode in.
Attention to her ankle length patchwork skirt was brief, because the eyes were drawn to her hair and head-dress: a bright pink streak, alongside a yellow one, ran through the top of her frizzy hair which stood out wildly and reached her shoulders. Atop the pink streak sat a yellow canary, lifelike and securely clipped in place.
Her bag was a sack of crushed velvet hanging on her shoulder by a long handle of plaited wool. Her full lips were painted bright red and shiny; cheeks dusted with pink powder; eyes heavily outlined in black and lids creamed, ascending from green to blue to mauve.
Like a leading lady making her entrance, she waved both arms and called: ‘Hello all. Let the party begin. And yes, I’m doing dinner as usual, since it’s Friday night. Big leg of lamb and roast vegetables, My place ... when it’s ready.’
Embraces and catching up conversation followed as Rosie moved around the bar.
At sight of Bloo she stopped in her tracks. Well, it wasn’t Bloo, it was Goody.
‘And who’s this handsome young fellow you’ve got Bloo?’
‘From my home town. Meet Goody.’
‘Oh, Goody, goody,’ She proclaimed, and claimed him by stretching her arms forward and clutching a hand on each of his shoulders. Pouting her lips to form a kiss, she said ‘Where have you been hiding this gorgeous man, Bloo?’
‘Steady on Rosie. He’s married. To a very wealthy woman. Hands off,’ warned Bloo.
‘You are coming to my roast lamb dinner, aren’t you Goody?’
‘Sure. Love a roast. Love to Rosie.’
‘Be wary of her Goody,’ Bloo said when she had moved on. ‘She’d lay anything. Over the hill, but still goes for it. Drags blokes in and then drops them when she’s had what she wants out of them. It’s all about showing she can win.’
‘Don’t worry Bloo. I can handle myself. I’ll go along with the roast dinner anyway.’
Two hours pass and Rosie is still doing the rounds of the bar crowd, inviting all to her roast dinner.
‘Say, how about this roast dinner?’ Goody asked Bloo. ‘When’s it going to be cooked if she’s still here?’
‘Haven’t you noticed how she gets on her mobile phone now and then? She invites people who aren’t in the bar group to go to her place for dinner. They arrive and walk in (she leaves the door unlocked) and sit around drinking. She phones and says “Look you guys, will you turn the oven on and put the lamb in. And peel the vegetables and put them in too. We won’t be long.”
‘Later on she phones to tell someone to make the gravy. I tell you it’s a circus. We all turn up eventually and someone carves the roast and divvies up the vegies and the gravy - if you’re lucky you might get a bite.’
Bloo gave a derisive laugh. ‘To top it all, she has the gall (no one can beat her for gall) she has the gall to ask all present to drop in a donation towards cost of the dinner, by which means I reckon she makes a fair cop.’
The mourners were a mixed lot. A couple of relatives, old Bill Yates the Publican from the Stage, Charlie and a few familiar faces from the Court Jester, Rosemary Fisher brightly garbed, Harry Maynard, an old architectural colleague from the home town.
Goody felt sadder than he usually did at funerals. He accepted death, as a rule, as, well, just inevitable. He supposed he felt this way because Bloo had opened up to him about his unrequited love. Perhaps it was that. And perhaps it was because he died as he said he would ... alone in his flat and rotting away with a can in his hand. With a bath full of soaking jeans.
Goody was glad that, at least, Bloo’s exhibition of his drawings and water colours had been a success. Just about sold out and Bloo shouted the bar for several months. Goody bought the one Bloo had hung over his mantelpiece at the flat. And true to prediction, Stella wouldn’t have it anywhere but in the lav, above the cistern.
At the modest gathering in the reception room at The Court Jester, Goody noticed an ash blonde woman who had been wiping her eyes at the service. Of course! It was Trish Greene, looking not much different from when he knew her in the old home town.
He walked over to her with his glass of wine. ‘Trish. Recognise you from the old town, I’m Goody Goodwin.’ They shook hands.
‘Ah yes. Remember you. Married Stella whatsaname didn’t you? And you had a jazz band. Right?’
‘Right. And you were a big note in town, running the radio station and writing all the stories. Moved on to a city job?’
‘Yes. Landed a senior job with the ABC and have lived here ever since. Marriage broke up - managed twenty years - three kids grown up, grandchildren, all that.’
‘Well, you’re looking pretty good for someone who’s no longer a chicken.’
‘And still writing, and will to the end I expect. Novels. Fascinating and I love it.’
‘And Bloo? You knew him pretty well didn’t you?’
She pressed her lips to hide a sad swallow. ‘Yes. I knew Bloo. I feel very sad about it. Kind of a wasted life. A good mind. He was talented. I’m glad I bought one of his paintings at the exhibition. He wasn’t there when I went to the gallery, so he mightn’t have known I’d bought one.’
‘Let’s go and sit down at that table. Y’know I only caught up with Bloo a few months ago. Went to his flat ... to this pub. And, um, I feel compelled to tell you this Trish: he spoke a lot about you. He uh, he was deeply in love with you. Did you know that?’
She looked down at her glass and then into Goody’s eyes: ‘Look, I knew he was keen on me. But honestly, he wasn’t my cup of tea really. Sure, we had great conversations, there was something so likeable about him. I was fond of him. But it never went beyond a kiss on the cheek - as you might with any good friend. He didn’t say anything. Wisely so, I might add.’
‘He told me he’d written a long letter to you from Greece and opened up a bit. Declared himself a coward when it came to that sort of thing, but said he found he could, open up that is, by letter from the other side of the world.’
‘Oh, I know. I got the letter. The writing was so minute and the paper so thin it was impossible to read more than a few lines here and there. When he came home he brought me some rather nice shish kebab skewers, long metal shafts with different Grecian heads in brass on the ends. I still have them. I saw him a few times after that, but moved on to my city job.’
‘So you didn’t ever read what he wrote to you?’
‘Tell you something Goody: I have only just read the letter through. When I read of his death, something prompted me - I scanned and enlarged the pages so I could finally read them. Awful isn’t it, to read such a heartfelt letter after he’s dead. I was moved by his confession, felt immensely sad.’
‘Oh no, no regrets. The reverse perhaps. If I’d read it initially, I’d have openly rejected him and that would have hurt him - for the rest of his life perhaps. As it is, he was never quite sure why nothing came of it.’
‘I think he felt you turned him down because he confessed to a brief passionate affair he was having - he actually said that to me.’
‘Then I’m glad, now, that he thought that.’
They both stood, ready to go.
As she was leaving, Trish Greene hesitated. ‘Say, Goody, what was Bloo’s actual first name?’
‘No one ever knew him by anything but Bloo.’