Blue Skies

Blue Skies by Helen Hodgman Read Free Book Online

Book: Blue Skies by Helen Hodgman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Helen Hodgman
Tags: FIC000000, FIC048000
with me at all, I couldn’t answer. He bent my little finger back, hard. But nothing came to mind. So that was that.

    This was not the usual Thursday evening behaviour. It spoilt the Thursday pattern and was the first of the signs that Thursdays were ending. It proved to be the penultimate Thursday. I blame myself.
    Usually Thursday evenings were much nicer: good food accompanied by lots to drink, and faint surprise that alcohol worked as well as anything else— and let you talk at the same time.
    â€˜I can’t get off on words,’ Ben would say. ‘Pictures are more my thing.’
    Somewhere out there in the dark, the bus was always getting closer. Usually I tottered down to the gate and stood swaying as it pulled up. I could just make it up the steps and into the front seat.
    If I wasn’t already hovering mothlike in the head lights, the driver would honk his horn and hang about till I appeared, which was nice of him. Perhaps he was lonely. Not once was there anyone else on the bus for the Thursday night trip back to town—just a lot of objects: bags of potatoes and pumpkins, boxes of eggs, leftover newspapers, mail sacks, things like that. I wondered whether he was lonely on other nights, or whether each night he had a different lone passenger.
    I used the homeward journey to sober up. He used it to make conversation. He told me once how, in his youth, he had been a big number-one Eddie Cochran fan. ‘You know Eddie Cochran?’
    â€˜I’ve heard of him,’ I said, humming through a few bars of ‘Summertime Blues’ to be nice.
    â€˜Yeah, well, you’re maybe a bit young,’ he said kindly. ‘He was killed. Went out on his motorbike. The best way there is. All over the road. He was the greatest, no question. ‘
    â€˜Like James Dean,’ I said, anxious to please.
    â€˜No, he was a film star. It’s not the same thing. An American film star. Jesus Christ.’
    For a while he drove on in disgusted silence, making the bus hit all the ruts and ridges in the road, to teach me a lesson. Something dark, furry and forgotten scuttled along the bus, in the shadow of the seats.
    Then he resumed our chat.
    â€˜For five whole years after Eddie bought it, me and the other real fans used to hire a charabanc and go to the place where he died and put flowers on the road. We’d have a motorcycle escort out in front. In black leather gear like Eddie wore. Those were the days, like they say. The good old days is right. It’s all changed now. The whole country’s gone down a lot. No sense of direction. To think, we used to lead the world.’ He sighed regretfully, squashing a headlight-dazzled possum under the nearside front wheel. ‘That’s why I’ve come out here. It’s the country of the future, no question.’
    â€˜Oh, for sure.’

    On the night of the sad domestic drama, he unexpectedly ground to a stop with a crash of gears and a scream of static from his transistor. He switched it off. Eerie night noises started up in the bush.
    â€˜How about it then?’
    â€˜How about it then?’
    â€˜How about what then?’
    â€˜How about that then? You know.’ He gestured with his greasy head towards the long back seat of the bus, leering prettily. ‘No one ever comes along here, this time of night. Or I could pull off the road behind them trees, if you’d rather.’
    I don’t remember it clearly. A lot of free-range eggs didn’t make it to the breakfast table that morning. I was covered with chicken feathers, egg yolk and news print when I got back to town. I tried to get some of it off in the taxi going home. I didn’t attempt the news print. most of it was it was in places that didn’t show.
    I always took a taxi home from the rank opposite the GPO, it being too late for a bus. I left the cab at the top of the road and tiptoed down to collect Angelica. I could never

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