After I had disconnected from Shi-Anne I finished my coffee and my, now cold, toasted sandwich, then decided to look a few things up on the web using my phone. It had only been five minutes since I had spoken with Shi-Anne, but when I got up to leave a few minutes later and stepped back onto the sidewalk my telephone rang, with her number displaying on the screen.
‘Yeah?’ I said.
‘How about Randy Thompson for your nom-de-plume?’ she asked.
‘Oh dear!’ I laughed. ‘How the hell did you come up with that?’
‘Well, you’re on something of a randy sort of a mission, aren’t you? And you’re in Thompsonville, which is where the story idea originated. So it kind of fits together, doesn’t it?’
‘Yeah, I think it fits pretty good actually,’ I answered, although in the back of my mind, I had to admit, there was this niggling feeling that there was something about it that didn’t quite fit. Still, it was a good start, and gave me food for thought. ‘I’ll have a think about it. Just don’t go telling the boss, okay? If you come up with any names for the characters just email them through for me, will you?’
‘Mums the word. And yeah, I’ll send something to you later on.’
‘Thanks. I owe you,’ I said.
‘You have no idea!’ she replied, while laughing, before then disconnecting.
I set off down the street with a new spring in my step, thinking that even if Harry ended up trying to put a downer on my new story idea, things were going to be okay. Shi-Anne was right, of course. I was on a mission, but it was more than just the mission to get Aaron back in my life. It was also about getting my entire life in order as well, and along the way helping out those I cared about.
The more I had thought about it the more I had come to realise that I wasn’t happy living where I was. I had few real friends there, and the only person that I cared enough about to want to love wasn’t anywhere in sight either, so really, what was the point in staying there? With my relationship with Aaron now seemingly back on track, or at least heading that way, the plans that were formulating in my mind certainly looked like they would fall into place. I took great comfort in that, and for what it would mean for the future, for all of us.
It didn’t take me long to recall where the Writer’s Centre was, but while I had satisfied myself that I knew where I had to get to, it was my other errand that I decided to tackle first. I continued past the old Council Chambers and then the town library and turned left at the next corner. This put me on one of the streets that ran parallel with the main shopping centre and it was here that I knew I would find what I was looking for.
As I strolled along in the morning sun I quite enjoyed the walk, with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. It didn’t take long before I could feel myself breaking out in a light sweat, although I knew that if I had been in Brisbane today the sweat would have been pouring from my body, due to the humidity of the place, which was yet another reason why moving back here wasn’t such a bad idea.
Just four blocks down I found my target, a yard surrounded by a high steel fence and with a large Toyota sign on posts out the front. What was in the yard were by dozens of new and second-hand vehicles, of all shapes and sizes.
I walked through the open gates and wandered amongst some of the vehicles, before I finally spotted what it was I was after.
Aaron’s old truck, Old Bessy, was an early model Toyota Hi-Lux. It was a four-wheel-drive with a tray back for carrying stuff, and a tow-bar for pulling his trailer around, laden with lawn mowers and other gardening tools. As a part owner of AA Mowing I figured it was about time that he finally upgraded, so I decided that a new Toyota Hi-Lux would be the order of the day.
As I headed for the commercial vehicles, which were all parked against the far fence, a young salesman bustled out of the main showroom, which had Killen Toyota plastered across the front of it, and intercepted me. He looked to me to be in his very early twenties, at a guess.
‘Hi, can I help you with anything in particular, sir?’ he asked.
He seemed to have a casual manner, which I liked. He also reminded quite a lot of Matt, with the same athletic build, dark hair and disarming smile.
‘I was just seeing what you had in the way of four-wheel-drives,’ I said to him. ‘For a work vehicle.’
‘Well, we have quite a few that would suit, I think. New or second-hand?’
‘New, I think.’
‘How about one of these Hi-Lux utilities,’ he said, pointing at a row of three vehicles, which were all cab-chassis model, meaning that they hadn’t yet had the tray put on the back of them. The first of them was a white model, with a crew-cab, meaning the cabin was slightly extended and there was a bench seat in the back, although not with a lot of leg room. The next one in line was a charcoal grey model, and wasn’t a crew-cab. Then beyond that was a dark blue model, again just the standard cab-chassis model. They all looked shiny and new.
I looked them over. Kicked their tyres. Took a look under the open bonnet. I even sat in the seat of one and wrapped my hands around the steering wheel.
‘Quite nice,’ I said to the salesman.
‘Yes, and they have manual transmissions, with three litre diesel engines, very economical but still with enough power to carry a load or pull a trailer.’
‘What about the trays for the back?’
‘We can have a tray put any one of them this week for you if you wanted, and to whatever specifications you required.’
‘Do you have a demonstrator model at all, one we can take for a spin?’
At this the young salesman’s face broke out into a broad grin.
‘Of course, sir,’ as he stepped around the blue model and slapped his hand on the silver bonnet of the next vehicle in the line, which I had already noticed standing there. ‘Just let me grab the key and let the boss know we’re taking it out.’
‘Sure thing,’ I replied.
While I was waiting I took a closer look at the three new models, specifically to check out their prices. The first one in the row, the white crew-cab, was priced at almost forty-nine thousand, while the other two models were priced just under forty-four thousand. These prices were roughly the same as what I had found in the newspaper that morning with various car yards, and also about the same as I had found on the internet just a short while ago, so they didn’t seem too far off the mark. I also checked the price on the demonstration model we were about to take for a drive, which read just under forty thousand dollars, which seemed reasonable considering it did have a few hundred kilometres on the speedometer. It also had the metallic silver paint job, which was usually another extra cost, was already registered for the road, and already had the tray and tow bar as well, which was perfect. If this one drove all right I had pretty much already decided I would take it. I would just have to try and beat him down a little more on the price.
My salesman returned a few moments later, holding onto a key ring and jiggling a key around. ‘All set?’
There was something about the way that he did that which suddenly had my gaydar twitching.
‘As ready as I’ll ever be,’ I replied. He tossed me the key and we climbed in.
‘It’s diesel, of course, so you’ll have to just glow the plugs before you can start it.’
He must have thought me a right chump when he took a look at the expression on my face. ‘Errr … sorry,’ I said. ‘I haven’t actually driven a diesel before. My last vehicle was only petrol.’
‘Ahhh … no problem. I thought that might have been the case. You have driven a manual vehicle though, right?’
‘Oh yes. That I do know,’ I said, while laughing.
‘That’s good,’ he said, while sounding quite relieved. ‘Well, just turn the ignition around just to the first click, until you see that orange glow plug light up on the dash …’
I did as he said and soon saw a little orange light come on. It had a picture of a squiggly line on it.
‘Now, when that goes out, just make sure your foot is on the clutch, then just turn the key the rest of the way to start it.’
Once more I did as he asked and the engine started first time. It sounded pretty sweet. While my foot was still on the clutch I quickly just ran through the gears, so I knew where they all were, then put it back into first.
‘Yes,’ I answered.
‘Well, what are you waiting for?’
With a grin on my face I let the hand-brake off, eased out the clutch and pushed the accelerator down slightly. The vehicle inched forward and on giving it a little more gas … or diesel I should say … we made our way down between the rows of cars and were at the edge of the road.
I waited for a couple of oncoming cars to pass, then once it was all clear I turned out onto the road and we were on our way.
After a couple of blocks my companion said, ‘If you turn left at the next intersection that is a good road for a test drive. It’s the road up to the lookout and it has some good hills, which will show you how much power the motor has, plus there is a gravel section as well.’
That seemed a reasonable idea, so I put the indicator on and we made a left turn.
‘Pretty smooth for a four-while-drive, isn’t it?’ he asked.
‘Actually, yes, it is. I’m impressed.’
‘What sort of business are you in then?’
‘Oh, it’s not actually for me. I’m a partner in a small garden business and we need a new vehicle, so I decided I would start looking. I’m more of a silent partner, actually. My mate does all the work. I actually live in Brisbane, so while I’m here for a week or so I’m doing a few of the jobs he hasn’t had time for.’
‘That’s fair enough,’ he replied, although by the tone of his voice I suspected that he had just come to the conclusion he wasn’t going to make a sale today after all.
As we came to the outskirts of town the road started to rise and we started to climb the first hill. I pressed the accelerator down slightly and the vehicle climbed the hill smoothly.
‘Nice,’ I said.
The road levelled out, then before long we came to another much steeper hill. Once more I pressed the accelerator down and the vehicle responded.
‘The gravel section is at the top of this rise,’ he said.
When I topped the rise I took the foot off slightly and slowed, and just in time it seems, as almost right away we were bouncing along on a stretch of rough, corrugation filled, dirt road.
‘Wow, even on this it still feels pretty good,’ I said.
‘Yeah, they’re not bad at all. There’s a little spot just up here where you can turn around, rather than go all the way to the top.’
I took the hint and slowed and we soon came to an area where we could pull off to the side of the road. I came to a stop, then after checking there was no other traffic coming in either direction I turned around and headed back the way we came.
‘You seem kind of familiar,’ the salesman said, once we were back on bitumen road. ‘Have I seen you around before?’
‘I doubt it,’ I replied. ‘I’ve been living in Brisbane for about five years. Before that I spent about five years around this general area, but this is the first time I’ve been in this town for a long while.’
He gave a nod and returned his attention to the road ahead.
When we pulled up at the car yard a few minutes later he directed me to a spot where he wanted me to park the vehicle and after turning off the ignition we climbed out.
‘So, what do you think?’ he asked, still half hopeful that he hadn’t lost a sale entirely.
On the way back I had noticed again that this one had a few hundred kilometres on the speedometer already. I also noticed that the registration label on it was going to expire soon, both of which I figured would have to be in my favour.
‘Actually, I quite like this one,’ I replied. ‘It goes well, it’s already registered, and it already has a tray and tow bar, so it’s ready to go.’
‘Well, yeah, I guess it is.’
I had already made a point of checking out the sales information sheet hanging in the passenger side window, which gave the price and all the vehicle information.
‘I tell you what,’ I said. ‘It says close enough to forty thousand on here. The rego is about to run out, and it’s a demo model, which I’m guessing you’ll need to move soon anyhow for newer models, so, what do you say to say to thirty-nine thousand, with twelve months registration and a full tank of diesel thrown in?’
Judging by his expression that was about the last thing he was expecting to hear from me.
‘I … errr … I’ll have to run it by the boss,’ he stammered.
‘That’s fine, mate. You go do that.’
I watched as he disappeared inside the office, then I soon spotted him through a window talking to an older man that looked very much like he did. Father and son, perhaps?
Presently the two of them re-emerged and came over to me.
‘You drive a hard bargain, Mr … errr …’
‘Scott. Tony Scott,’ I replied, while holding out my hand to him, which he duly shook.
I heard a sharp intake of breath suddenly come from the salesman. Obviously the penny had just dropped.
‘I’ll tell you what,’ he said. ‘Thirty-nine five for everything you ask, or thirty-nine and you handle the rego. You’ll still have another month or so to run on the interim rego we have on it, as it is. And we’ll still fill up the tanks for you.’
‘All right then. Thirty-nine and I’ll do the rego when it runs out. That sounds fair enough to me.’
‘Good. Good,’ the man said, then we shook on it. ‘Young Adam will fix up all the paperwork for you. It’s been a pleasure.’
‘Likewise. And thank you,’ I said.
I followed them inside and Adam and I went into a small side office, while the elder man returned to his spacious, corner office, where he could survey his kingdom.
‘I thought I recognised you,’ Adam said as we sat down. ‘Sorry, I guess you must get that a lot?’
‘A bit,’ I replied, while giving him a wink.
‘Your books are great.’
‘You’ve read them?’
‘Errr … yeah,’ he blushed.
‘But dad doesn’t know?’ I asked, while nodding my head in the direction of the corner office.
With my gaydar on high alert almost from the time I first met him, it was obvious to me now that young Adam was going through the same stage that many young men go through, just trying to figure himself out, while still trying to keep it from the rest of the world, and especially his family. I had no intentions of being the one to burst his bubble, but I did think that if he was ever in need of someone to talk to, or to help to him in any way, I decided I certainly wouldn’t turn him away. I liked him, and before I left I would be sure to let him know that.
‘H-h-how did you know that?’
‘You have some of the same features. We writers tend to notice those kind of things. So … ummm … what have we got to do here?’
‘Oh, yeah. Well, how did you want to pay?’ he asked. ‘Do you need to organise a bank cheque or something?’
‘Actually,’ I said, while digging my wallet from my pocket and opening it. ‘Can you guys handle one of these cards?’ I asked, as I handed him an American Express Platinum card.
‘Oh, wow, I don’t think I’ve seen one of these before. I guess the writing game pays better than I thought?’
‘Oh, sorry, I know I shouldn’t say things like that.’
‘It’s perfectly okay.’
Finding something with which to change the subject he opened the drawer of the desk and pulled out some forms. ‘We’ll need to fill these out, so if you can start on those I’ll just double-check that this card is okay. I guess we’ll need to call for an authorization code or something as well. I’ll go and see Miriam at the service counter.’
‘That’s fine, Adam. You just go and do what you need to do,’ I replied.
After placing the forms on the desk in front of me and handing me a pen he picked up my card and walked out to speak to the lady behind the reception counter, then showed her the card. Adam pointed my way and I noticed her look at me, her eyes going wide in surprise, then she looked at the card. I saw her nod then pick up the telephone.
While she was doing that Adam came back in to the office.
‘She’ll just be a minute,’ he said as he sat back down behind the desk.
The form was a standard Bill Of Sale, and in the short time while he was away I had filled out the details they had required from me; name, address, telephone number, drivers licence number. I pushed the form back across the desk to Adam as he sat down and he started filling in the rest of the blank spaces, like the vehicle details and the agreed price.
Moments later Miriam came into the office where we were and handed me back my card, saying, ‘Everything is fine Mr Scott. That has been approved. We just need a signature on this slip of paper, please.’
‘Thank you,’ I said, before then signing where required.
‘And a signature on this one as well, please,’ Adam said, while turning the Bill of Sale back around to face me, ‘and then it looks as if we’re all done.’
I scribbled my name on the dotted line where he indicated, then put down the pen and slid it all back toward him.
‘So, that’s it then?’ I asked.
‘Yes, I guess it is,’ Adam replied. ‘Although I probably should just remind you about the servicing requirement, for the warranty. It doesn’t need to be our workshop who service it, but it does need to be done by an authorised workshop and carried out according to the specifications in the hand book, which you can find in the glove compartment.’
‘Of course. I’ll see that Aaron brings it back in here when required.’
‘That would be great. Thank you.’
‘Ummm … actually, would you mind if we got a photo before you left, Mr Scott?’ Miriam asked.
‘Not at all.’
‘I’ll just get the camera and someone to take it,’ she said, before hurrying back over to her desk.
Turning back to Adam I said, ‘You’ve got my number on there. I’ll be moving back down to Thompsonville shortly, so if you’re ever out that way and want to pop in just give me a call. I’ll introduce you to the rest of the gang. We’ll see if you can figure out which characters are modelled on which ones of my friends. Or even if you ever just want someone to talk to about, you know, stuff.’
‘Thank you very much. I think I’d like that,’ he said, while reaching out his hand for me to shake.
‘Any time,’ I said, and meaning it.
Miriam returned a few moments later, carrying a small digital camera and with Adam’s father in tow, as he seemed to be the only other person around at the moment. He looked slightly bemused, as if he was trying to make out what all the fuss was about.
‘Mr. Scott is quite a well known writer,’ Adam said to his father.
‘Ahhh … all right then. I guess I’m not much of a book lover,’ he said.
‘Not a problem,’ I said to him.
‘All you’ve got to do is point it at us, hold it steady, and press this button,’ Miriam explained to him. ‘And you can see in this screen here what it looks like before and after.’
Mr Killen looked a little unsure of himself, but nodded, then Miriam took charge of us all and positioned me against a wall, with Adam on one side and her on the other side. I also placed a friendly arm around Adam’s shoulder.
‘Okay, how’s that look?’ she asked.
‘Fine, I think,’ was the photographers reply.
‘Okay. Take a couple of shots then.’
We saw the button get pressed a couple of times and heard the sound of the shutter, then Miriam walked over and took the camera from her boss, then reviewed the resulting photos.
‘They look quite good,’ she said, turning the camera around for us all to see.
Adam and I exchanged glances and smiles.
‘Okay then, you better take one with Mr Killen in the shot,’ I said to her.
‘Oh, all right. Yes, of course,’ she said, then pushed her boss in our direction. He gave me a slight scowl, but when I winked at him it turned to a smile.
Once more we smiled for the camera and Miriam took a couple of shots, then it was all over.
‘One of them will look good on the wall of your office, Adam,’ she said. ‘Your first celebrity sale.’
Adam seemed to blush, which I found to be quite cute. I would have to find out if he had a boyfriend, I thought, and if not then maybe I should try and find him one, I thought.
With the sale and the photo op all wrapped up we said our goodbyes, and a few minutes later I drove out the gates in Aaron’s new work truck. I wondered what he would think when he saw it.
I drove back around to the old Council offices where the Writer’s Centre was located, and after parking on the road I walked inside. The old varnished timber reception desk was still there, but the carpets were wearing quite thin these days. The lady behind the counter looked up as I entered and asked, ‘Can I help you?’
‘I was looking for Anne Rummery, from the Writer’s Centre,’ I said, then pointing toward a long corridor that led off the entrance I asked, ‘Is it still down at the end of the hall?’