Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sons of Orpheus Chapter 6

6 The Rocks and the Park. The two young men wandered across to an area of seedy, run-down buildings. They looked like they had seen better days. The windows were shuttered, as if a storm was approaching. The rusted fastenings indicated that they had not been opened for quite some time. Outside on the rutted footpath, gaudily dressed ladies were wandering up and down, challenging anyone within hearing with lewd suggestions. Even in the early afternoon, the prostitutes were vying for the attention of prospective clients. They did their very best to attract the attention of the two new arrivals. ‘What ya reckon----do ya want a bit of that then?’ Jack said. Adi’s face was a mixture of curiosity and confusion. ‘Very colourful----I don’t understand. What they doing?’ ‘Oh my God---don’t you know what they are?’ One of the prostitutes closed in on the two boys. ‘Want some fun lads. Bet ya haven’t seen a pair of knockers like this then eh.’ Adi’s eyes were drawn to the woman’s breasts which were barely contained within her flimsy top. ‘Wana feel luv?’ the prostitute taunted. Ya can do it for free---but the other---well that’ll cost ya.’ Jack could no longer contain himself. He burst out laughing as he watched Adi. Adi finally understood. ‘I have no money,’ he lied. ‘Then you better piss off eh, and stop wasting my time. All you youngins are the same----wantin’ a bit of me for nothin’.’ She crowed. She turned her attention to a couple of sailors, while Adi and Jack wandered off towards a nearby park. While the exchange with the prostitute was going on, two men who had followed the boys from the tavern were watching from a short distance away, concealing their interest by pretending to chat with other prostitutes. This had not gone unnoticed by the waitress who had served Jack and Adi’s table. She had gone off duty just as Jack and Adi had left the tavern. Her name was Eileen. While she was serving, she had overheard some of the conversation. It had been quite obvious to her that Jack and Adi had been followed. It wasn’t the first time Eileen had seen the two men lurking around the tavern. Eileen was not much older than the boys and when she saw the men leave the tavern, her suspicions were aroused. Jack and Adi continued to explore the area and quickly came to the conclusion that they needed to go into the town to find shops or markets selling clothing. Jack decided to ask a constable, who was patrolling the street. ‘I think you may find what you need up in Paddy’s Market in George Street, boys,’ the constable offered. ‘I’d steer clear of this area tonight, if you want to avoid trouble. There’s some pretty rough characters out and about lately.’ ‘Thanks Sir,’ Adi replied. ‘Let’s go through the park,’ Adi suggested. They left the street and wandered along a pathway lined on either side with bright flowers. A few down-and-outs were sheltering from the hot afternoon sun. Jack suggested doing the same for a while. As they rested in the shade under a huge spreading tree, a couple of men approached them. ‘What ya doing lads?’ the taller one asked. ‘Just resting,’ Jack replied, noticing the other one moving to the other side of Adi. ‘So how ‘bout you young fellas help us out a bit eh? Come on, we seen ya get that money from that guy in the pub, so hand it over or we’ll kick ya dumb arses so hard you won’t sit down for a week, and that’s if you’re lucky.’ Eileen had followed the boys and became concerned when the two men from the tavern shadowed them when they entered the park. One suddenly stood up and drew a knife from his jacket. ‘Hand it over—now!’ he yelled. At that moment Adi kicked out and his foot connected just behind his assailant’s knee, causing him to fall heavily to the ground. Eileen rushed forward screaming. ‘Help! ---These two have got a knife!’ She continued screaming, attracting the attention of a wandering constable, who immediately ran to the scene. As he neared, the two thieves fled from the park, one hobbling as a result of Adi’s kick. ‘You need to be careful around here boys,’ he offered. Eileen moved forward and introduced herself. ‘I saw them fellas watching you in the pub and then they followed you here, so I thought I would warn you. I guess I was almost too late, but you’ve got a mean kick there,’ she laughed looking at Adi. ‘Thanks Miss,’ said Adi. ‘I’m not Miss. Call me Eileen. Where you going anyway? ----cause those two knew you had money. They were watchin’ you in the pub.’ ‘We were headin’ to Paddy’s Market. We heard that there’s some good bargains there,’ said Jack. ‘True enough, but I think I better come with you. From what I’ve seen, you two need a minder and I reckon the stall-holders will rip you off real good,’ she said laughing. Just before they arrived at Paddy’s Market, they heard a shout from across the park. ‘Hey Jack! We’re you going?’ Dick hurried over, puffed and slightly under the weather. They informed him of the events of the last thirty minutes. ‘Damn,’ Dick said. ’It didn’t take you long to find trouble, did it?’ He agreed to accompany them all to the markets, although the numerous beers he had drunken took the edge off his initial enthusiasm. Eileen observed his condition and suggested that they all go back to her house and perhaps visit the markets the next day. There was no disagreement from the others and twenty minutes later they arrived in front of a run down cottage not far from the Rocks. ’It ain’t much, but its home,’ said Eileen. Tiles were missing from the roof and the front porch had a distinct lean to it, giving the impression that little had been done in the way of maintenance for many years. ‘Well, come on in and make yourselves at home. I’ll chuck on a batch of scones and make us a nice cup of tea----Sound good?’ ‘Sure does!’ the others responded and trudged into the tiny front room and combined kitchen. The room was tidy but sparsely furnished. There was a small table, three rackety chairs and a patched sofa that looked like it had been handed down several generations. Whatever colour it had once been was but an indistinct memory, only partly hidden by a colourful rug. In an offset alcove, a blackened wood-burning stove stood in a corner under the only window, with a few pots and a skillet hanging above. A door led to a small backyard where there was an outhouse and a well tended vegetable garden. Eileen’s cottage. Dick and the boys settled in around the table while Eileen rekindled the stove and mixed the ingredients for the scones. Eileen retrieved some butter and milk from the safe on the southern side of the house. Eileen gave it a sniff. ‘May be a bit sour but that will just make it taste better. It’s so hard to keep anything cool in the summer.’ She mixed the soft butter with the flour and baking powder and added the milk, along with a pinch of salt. Then she rolled the mixture out on a floured side board and cut a dozen squares which she put on a baking, ready for the hot oven. The room filled with the warm yeasty smell of baking scones, while the kettle boiled on the stove top, emitting a puff of steam every few seconds. A short time later, Eileen removed the scones from the oven and arranged them on a cooling rack in the centre of the table. She then rattled about the cupboard and added four cups, milk, sugar and a jar of home-made plum jam on the table where everybody could access them. ‘What d’ya reckon boys? Tuck in.’ They needed little encouragement, and demolished the scones smothered with the sticky jam and melting butter. Adi was particularly taken by this new experience. ‘You gona make someone a good wife eh,’ he joked, as the butter ran down the side of his mouth. ‘Like hell,’ Eileen laughed, perhaps a little uncertainly. ‘That ain’t gona happen to me if I can help it mate,’ she added. ‘Anyway, I’ve got plans to leave ’ere soon. I’m sick of these bloody hot summers and that crazy place where I work.’ ‘Doesn’t look so bad to me,’ Dick suggested. ‘At least it pays the bills, and you must get the odd tip or two.’ ‘Easy for you to say-----It’s not your arse getting pinched or worse, is it?’ Eileen retorted. Dick’s face turned a bright red, much to the amusement of the two boys. ‘So where you gona go Eileen?’ asked Jack. ‘I got this mate. He’s a Maori fella from New Zealand. He’s on a schooner that trades corn and vegetables from the Waikato and they are due to leave for the return, the day after tomorrow. I’m going to be on that boat as the cook.’ ‘That’s a bit sad,’ replied Adi. ‘We just make friends and you leave us already.’ ‘A girl’s got to look after herself and think of the future. Maybe I’ll miss this town, maybe not,’ she added ruefully. They became quiet. ‘Well, maybe we will meet you again sometime then,’ said Jack, hopefully. ‘Ya never know, do ya,’ Eileen replied. ‘I think we better get back to our ships boys,’ said Dick. ‘You can see Eileen tomorrow when you check out the markets. Better make it early eh.’ The three left for the short walk back to their ships. Eileen tidied up the cups, deep in thought. She was quite taken by the two boys and looked forward to guiding them the next day.

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