Fiction by Stephen Kimber
A country town, outside a dance, night.
There I was, gaga with all my recent speechlessness, crouched down with Geraldine and Natty seated on the gutter.
She scuffed out her cigarette against the gutter and looked at me after a while and said, “How’re you, Grif’?”
“Okay,” I said. “How ’bout you?”
Silence, dead, flat silence.
I said, “It’s nice to see you,” or something similar.
“Yep.” I was being casual. I wished I hadn’t.
“That’s very bloody decent of you.” She’d gone all frosty and English on me.
“That’s the longest sentence you’ve said to me in five weeks.”
I said nothing.
“It’s good of you to finally acknowledge me.”
“I said hello.”
She snorted contemptuously. (She’s the best contemptuous snorter I know.) “Hello, goodbye.”
I thought of The Beatles song. I couldn’t help myself, nor could Natty apparently. In the silence he, staring at something or other in the gutter, his head down, began to softly croon, “Why, why, why, why, why, why…”
Geraldine burst out laughing and my heart kick started. I started blurting. “ I didn’t know…I mean…It was so long…”
This was awful; this stumbling, bumbling, shambling, moron tongue. But it was all right, apparently. Out of pure ignorance I’d done something right. She smiled at me and patted the curb beside her. She took out another cigarette and lit it. She even offered me one then laughed and said she’d forgotten what a health freak I was.
But girls don’t let you off that easily. She sort of frowned, letting me know I hadn’t been completely reprieved. “I thought we were friends.”
“You’ve a funny way with friends.”
I’m a quick learner; I said nothing. I was all ears, no mouth.
“I’ve been back five weeks.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Why didn’t you come and talk to me?”
“I wanted to…” I sort of petered out…
Hello Goodbye was still playing in my head. I wished it would go away.
© Stephen Kimber. Stephen writes educational materials for the government when not writing stories. This story is from the novella ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock’nRoll, OR The cooling of Nathan Pearson’ published by Jacobyte Books over 10 years ago.