south – home. story 10
The old Ute, the old man, the boy and his harmonica arrived back at the lagoon about mid-morning on a cloudless spring day. Alf and the other two dogs had heard the car long before they reached the house and had met it about half a mile along the road from the gate. Alf then ran all the way back alongside the passenger window barking with great enthusiasm, occasionally leaping up against the door for a glimpse of his little friend to be sure that it was he who was come home.
When they were within a hundred yards of the house they saw that the pup too had waddled his way down the rutted track to meet them.
‘ We’ll have to give that bloke a name pretty soon Tobes, ‘ said Tom as he parked the Ute by the fence, ‘ got any ideas? ‘ But the boy had opened the door and Alf leaped up and planted both of his big paws on the seat.
‘ Go away Alf! Stop licking! ‘
The big dog’s tail thumped loudly on the chassis as Toby pushed his way past and in a moment he and all the dogs were haring down by the side of the house and to the beach. The still unnamed pup in fat pursuit.
Tom picked up the abandoned harmonica from the car seat and after lifting Toby’s bag and a box of books from the tray he followed, noticing that two perfect Black Cockatoo tail feathers were lying on the ground beneath the seed dish.
When the boy returned from his travels both he and his grandfather sat on the verandah with the books that Harry had insisted that the lad should have read to him. Six years is old is enough he had said. The Jesuits have it all done by seven he had said. More than enough time.
Tom didn’t argue, since the death of his wife books had been his most constant companions.
‘ Here we go Tobias. This one is called Just William. ‘ Tom bent over the box and took out one of the red covered Crompton novels. His grandmother had bought him one for each of his birthdays when he was a boy and he had read them all several times.
‘ You will enjoy this. ‘
The boy slid his hand over to the harmonica,
‘ It’s about a boy in England during the war, ’
and grasped it.
‘ who was in trouble almost all the time, with everybody, ‘
He lifted it to his mouth,
‘ and who pleased himself as to what he did despite what anyone else expected of him, ‘
and blew a soft note out,
‘ and he would not listen to any body. ‘
then sucked a soft note back.
Alf loped up the steps and flopped by the boy’s side, the puppy followed. Tom silently commenced reading page one. Toby sat leaning against the dog’s flank and blew through all the instruments’ scales. The lagoon glittered and occasionally wrinkled its silken surface as a mullet swerved through the clear waters. A grasshopper clicked once then whirred through the long grass that grew through the fence.
The day rested itself all around them.
‘ Ben granddad! We’ll call him Ben. ‘
Tom awoke with a jump. He looked down at the book on his lap and saw it was opened at page fifty-five. Toby was playing with the pup named Ben. Alf thumped once. It’s Ok Boss.
‘ Lovely, ‘ he said, and he lent his torpor another victory.