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OEDIPUSSY BLUES - BOOK ONE: BLUE HORIZONS


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Although Book One of Oedipussy Blues is a work of fiction the story conveys a raw and gritty honesty. It is the story of Matthew up to the age of twenty-six. He was born to middle class parents whose lives were circumscribed by notions of duty and religion as they went about their lives in the small town of Palmerston, in the country of Stateland, in the last half of the twentieth century.

With an expansive, almost epic quality the first chapters unfold in a series of diverse scenes, united by the thread of Matthew's coming of age. Gradually, the real interest of the story devolves on Matthew and the sexual compulsions that subvert his most cherished ideals.

The theme of the story is Matthew's sexual awakening and his struggle to overcome the torments of his conscience. The book is ultimately a celebration of his sexuality as the transforming power that enables him to escape the machinations of his mother's suffocating love and the bewitching spell of the old, ancestral home.

The book ends with Matthew's return from the United States, his subsequent journey to the San Juan Strait in the north of Stateland and the promise of a new and liberating experience of love.

The author plans a further two books to complete the story of Matthew's life.

In Store Price: $39.00 
Online Price:   $38.00

ISBN: 978-1-921731-12-9    Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 399
Genre:  Fiction


Cover Photo: The author, photo by Shane Eecen.

Author: David Wallace Mathison
Imprint: Poseidon
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published:  2010
Language: English


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CHAPTER ONE: 

AN INTRODUCTION

 

The inspiration for this story arose from the lives of ordinary people. Unfortunately, up until the final draft, the author wrote with a verisimilitude that, while morally admirable, prevented him from giving full reign to his imagination. The modest successes, the disappointments and failures of his main character were described, as faithfully as possible, within the context of complex reality. I told him, sometimes to express the truth you have to tell lies. That skill is the heart of good fiction writing. He finally agreed with me and even invented a name for the country in which the story takes place. I also impressed upon him the imperative of starting the book in a way that immediately captures the reader’s interest.

The author is a modest, retiring man. His instinctive approach to any contentious topic is to consider it from several points of view before making a decision. This innate caution made it difficult for him to find an emphatic way to begin his book. When he first began to write the novel, his opening chapter had nothing to get the reader’s adrenalin going. He started the book describing the property where he'd grown up. Then, he went into details about how his maternal great-grandparents, Siegfried and Christiane, met.  It seemed to me, as I read the draft, as if he was writing a sort of genealogical record. I told him to start his book with an event in his life that would draw a reader in and, hopefully, tempt him to continue. I remember that he thought for a while and then started to tell me about a misjudgement he'd made which nearly killed him and three other people.

I thought he was going to admit to some ghastly misdiagnosis because I knew he was a doctor. The near-accident, however, occurred over twenty years ago, long before he got into to medical school. He said he'd once owned a light aircraft which he used to fly in the remote, north of the country. In the novel he calls this region the San Juan Strait.

He describes the narrow strait as a scattering of islands in a shallow sea, swept daily by immensely powerful tides. It divides Paduras to the north, with its vast rainforests and fetid swamps, from the enormous island continent of Stateland. In the novel, the islands of the strait fall into three distinct groupings. To the west are the mangrove fringed Western Islands. In the middle lies the sandy Central Group. The rich, volcanic Eastern Islands define the eastern limits of the strait. The author takes his inspiration from the novel by RJ Simmons, 'The Warriors of Mekea', and describes Mekea, the most famous of the eastern islands, as being dominated by a large hill in the form of a sacred dugong. The eyes of the dugong are shallow caves twenty metres above the sea and the dugong’s head forms the easternmost point of the island. In the early mornings, the shadow of this evocatively shaped hill falls over the village which is situated close to it on flat land near the beach. In the rugged, central terrain of the island, an airfield was bulldozed out of the bush and black volcanic rocks in the late nineteen sixties. It was in his plane, flying a few feet above the ground, not far from the grassy slope of the dugong’s back, that the author thought he was going to die.

It was with this story that he decided to begin his book.

 

**********

 

Over the weekend, before Sunday's near death plunge in the plane, Matthew felt as though he was living a dream. He was on the most famous island in the San Juan Strait! He'd flown out to Mekea on the Friday afternoon, landing on the airstrip just before last light. There were three other people in the plane: two young, dark-skinned islander girls who were studying at Brubeck High School and Matthew's wife, Tammy, who taught art at the school. Brubeck Island was a small island near the mainland but it was the administrative centre for the whole strait. The girls boarded with relatives on Brubeck. Their home was on Mekea which was over a hundred and fifty kilometres away to the north-east.

When Matthew said he wanted to fly out to Mekea, he asked Tammy if she knew of any students who might want to go with them. Tammy was particularly fond of two girls from Mekea, Daisy and Beryl, who were in her junior art class. When she took them aside and asked them if they'd like a trip home for a weekend they could hardly contain their excitement! That afternoon, from the phone at the boarding college, they made a call to the one and only telephone box on Mekea. The father of one of the girls was chairman of the Island Council and Matthew automatically got the permission he needed to land there.   

 

The impression Matthew and Tammy had of the San Juan Strait had been restricted mainly to what they'd seen on and around Brubeck Island. Like most other visitors to the strait they were curious to see how the Islanders lived on the outer islands. But most people didn't get the opportunity to travel away from Brubeck and its surrounding ring of islands. Matthew and Tammy were, however, more fortunate. Not long after they'd met and at the beginning of the first term holidays they were offered the chance of a trip through the Western islands. The vessel they sailed on was called the Lady Orchid.

This ship was a small vessel that usually operated as the main ferry between Brubeck and nearby Marina Island. Through his job Matthew got to know the skipper, Ted Shipwright. He had the look of a veritable old salt, an authentic, ancient, man of the sea.

The Stateland government regularly hired the Lady Orchid during the year to take school children back to their islands for the holidays. It was April and the south-east trade winds were already strong. The ship left on a Saturday and, in the rough seas, the trip took longer than expected. Tammy became violently seasick on the voyage home. She spent most of that third day of the trip lying on a bunk in the cabin with a metal bucket by her side. Matthew felt almost as ill. He sat up on the top deck and tried to keep his nausea at bay by concentrating on the unwavering line of the horizon. The Lady Orchid didn't get back to Brubeck Island until late on Monday afternoon.

Matthew worked as an assessment officer for the government on Brubeck Island and he missed a full day's work. If he hadn't got on so well with the office manager he'd have been reprimanded for his slackness.

That trip had been over a year ago. It was one of the last school trips for the old ship because the Stateland government funded airstrips on many of the Western and Central islands. The days of long and dangerous boat voyages for passengers were coming to an end. 

It wasn't long after the voyage on the Lady Orchid that Matthew left his job and started working full time in the screen printing business Tammy had started. She got the idea of renting a little shop in the main street and selling fabric that she and Matthew screen printed by hand. It was fortunate they enjoyed screen printing together because the demand for their materials began to exceed their wildest expectations. They found they had to print most nights during the week and often on a Saturday and Sunday. A lot of the material was used by the Islanders to made dresses for the women and lava-lava's for the men. The Islanders loved to wear bright colours.

Matthew was so motivated by the success of the shop that he wanted to expand the business to include Islander arts and crafts. It was with this in mind he got the idea of buying a plane. Matthew already had a pilot's licence. With a light aircraft, he told Tammy, they could sell material on the islands and buy arts and crafts directly from the people. There was no need for a middle man. Not only did it seem like good business but they could also get away to some of the most isolated and scenic islands in the whole country.

This trip was their first flight to Mekea. They left, after school had finished, from the airfield on Marina Island where Matthew kept his plane. Brubeck Island was too small for an airfield and Marina, larger and flatter, was only a ferry boat ride away. In the late afternoon light the flight out to the east, over the scattered islands and the blue waters of the strait, was smooth and uneventful. The sun was setting behind them. The horizon was saturated with translucent blues and pinks, the sea calm and the islands shone like jewels in brilliant enamel. They could make out the hills of Mekea dimly in the sea mist about twenty minutes into the flight. Matthew was on full SAR as the strait was a designated remote area and he needed to be in constant radio contact with flight service. 

In the slanting rays of the sun, the airfield on Mekea looked like a green scar through the hills. The earth plunged down steeply over one hundred metres to the sea at the western edge of the strip. Matthew had never landed on anything like it. He circled the strip. The wind was from the east so his attention was focused on the western edge where the plane would touch down. Over the sea, he turned onto the base leg of the circuit and then onto final. A few seconds later, the plane passed over the black sea rocks at the base of the precipitous cliffs and touched down. It bumped along the grassy runway. To his right, Matthew could see a row of people standing near an old, red tractor. Matthew braked and brought the plane to a stop. Then, he revved the motor, stood on the right brake and swung the plane around to taxi over to where the people were waiting. By the time Matthew shut down the engine the sky had become noticeably darker. It was easy to forget how quickly day turned to night in the tropics.

“That was cutting it fine!” he muttered to himself.

Men, many of whom wore traditional lava-lavas, and women in modest knee-length dresses started crowding around the plane. The girls in the back waved eagerly to them. The girls said the people who were in old work clothes had come from their gardens in the hills while those who'd come up from the village were better dressed.  Most of the people were their relatives. They'd been towed up to the strip in the trailer behind the tractor.

Daisy and Beryl were happy to be home and, after introducing Matthew and Tammy to their families, they vanished into the company of their friends and relatives. Matthew and Tammy were put up in the guest house. This was a tin shed beside the beach in the middle of the village and they were free to roam about wherever and whenever they wanted. The people of Mekea were, without exception, friendly and hospitable. Every mealtime, food was delivered to the guest house.

On Saturday, Tammy suggested they walk around the island. She wanted to collect shells from the beaches and Daisy and Beryl had told her the island could be comfortably circuited in half a day.

When they got back about midday, it was hot and the sun was beating down from a clear sky.  They lay down for a rest in the guest house and didn't get up until late afternoon. That night, it rained heavily and it wasn't until about midnight when they could hear, once again, the sound of the waves hissing over the sandy beach just outside their door. 

Matthew had arranged with the Chairman, Mr Mauir, to leave about mid-morning on Sunday. Matthew said he and Tammy were prepared to walk up to the airstrip but Mr. Mauir wouldn't hear of it. He was a small, wiry, fine boned man of fifty with white hair but his authority on the island was unquestioned. He insisted that they be taken up the hill in the trailer. Matthew explained that he wanted to get away early so the sun would be behind the plane all the way back to Marina Island.

The tractor, towing its trailer, arrived punctually outside the guesthouse door at half past ten. The driver was Beryl's brother and he'd already picked up the girls. The four of them, sitting and bouncing around in the trailer, were slowly hauled up to the strip. It took over half an hour. The road was very steep in places and, every now and then through a gap in the trees, they could see the blue ocean way below them.   

The weather was fine. The rain during the night had left muddy pools scattered along the edge of the strip which was tinged with the bright flush of fresh, green shoots. It was obvious the grass hadn't been mowed for a week or more.

When Tammy and the girls were safely in their seats Matthew started the engine, radioed his flight plan to Flight Service, and then, revving the engine, steered the plane towards the western end of the strip. He stood on the right brake and turned the plane towards the sun.

The airstrip on Mekea was short, situated as it was between the peaks of the hills. In fact, it was a severely truncated strip. The day before he flew out to the island Matthew called into the office of Air Tropic to speak to Sam, one of the company's two commercial pilots. Sam had flown with the company in the San Juan Strait for over a year. He knew the local conditions well. Air Tropic had two Bandorantes which were based on Marina Island and Sam flew regularly to Mekea. In a serious and pragmatic tone of voice Sam told Matthew the airstrip on Mekea was too short for the twin engine Bandorante when it was fully loaded. In the rainy season, the flights often had to be cancelled because the unsealed strip became waterlogged. He said the conditions there posed a real danger to an unwary pilot. Matthew had these thoughts in his mind even before he taxied out onto the strip.

The shortness of the airfield was playing on his mind. He had two alternatives: a normal or short field take-off. He didn't want to risk the propeller sucking up stones but, even with the risk of chipping the propeller, Matthew decided on the short field take off. In the circumstances, he thought it was probably the safest thing to do. 

He put down full flap, stood on the brakes and pushed in the throttle. The engine roared creating a powerful slip stream that shook the aircraft. The nose of the plane dipped. Matthew pushed down on the brakes more firmly, holding the plane as steady as he could until the engine was nearly at full power. Then, in one rapid motion, he took his feet off the brakes. The plane lurched forward. As it quickly picked up speed Matthew turned and waved to a few people who'd come to the strip to see them off.

For the first two hundred metres the take-off went as Matthew expected. Then, of a sudden, and against all logic, he noticed that the speed wasn't increasing! Unless the plane's speed reached the take-off threshold there wouldn't be enough lift to keep it in flight! Matthew, immediately tense with anticipation, listened for something that would indicate a problem with the engine but its throaty roar was loud and unfaltering. He looked again at the speed indicator. No change! The needle was in the same position, just below the green arc. Was something wrong with the indicator itself? He pushed hard on the throttle for maximum thrust but it was in as far as it could go. Automatically, with the fingers of his right hand, he tightened the screw that held it in position. He was at a loss to explain what was happening! The strip’s eastern boundary was looming up fast in front of them!  His instincts urged him to pull back on the control column but he knew such an action was premature. The plane wouldn't have enough lift! The speed was still below threshold. Should he abort now? He was confused. Why wouldn't the speed increase!? Beyond the end of the strip Matthew could see nothing except blue sky! With a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach he realised it was too late to abort! He had no choice! He had to lift off! Everything in his training told him the needle should be creeping into the green line on the dial. But it wasn't happening! There had to be some calibration error! But what was causing it? Nothing but blue sky ahead! For a moment longer he held the control column forward to keep the nose of the plane down. With the authority of experience, Matthew pulled back sharply to lift the wheels off the ground. The plane trembled like a frail bird and rose a few metres. Then, it sank back onto the runway! The dial was right! The plane wasn't at take-off speed!  Nearly all the strip was behind them now! A silver flash momentarily distracted him. Was it a reflection from the perspex or engine cowling? He had no time to think about it! Matthew held the nose down in a last effort to build up speed. The sky at the end of the strip was a huge, pale blue dome over the engine cowling. There was almost no strip left! The speed would not increase!! Abruptly, terrifyingly, Matthew could see the individual stalks of the long grass at end of the runway! Lift! Lift now!! Matthew jerked back on the control column and wished the plane into the air! It leapt up over the last few metres of the grassy strip. He urged it into the sky! In an instant he realised the futility of his hopes as he felt the plane plunge downwards!  He waited, frozen with shock and fear, for the inevitable impact with the ground! It seemed inconceivable that he was waiting for his own death! The moment stretched on and on. He waited for the blackness to consume him! But, as if a miracle had taken place, they were still in the air! The eastern slope was steep and the plane was flying parallel to the immense, incline of earth! The nose of the plane rose as it picked up speed.

The plane was flying in a great bowl of air. They were in a shallow valley, lined on the far side by a grey, stony ridge. Directly in front of them was a wall of jagged stone! They were trapped unless the plane picked up more speed and started to climb! To try to turn back would be fatal! Even a gentle turn now would wash off speed and send the plane spiralling to the earth! To the right, over the grassy slopes of the dugong's back, Matthew could see a strip of blue ocean. But he couldn't turn in that direction! Nothing would save them except more speed and lift! A thick barrier of trees lined the top of the hills ahead. They were flying towards the rugged slope so quickly that the green mass of vegetation on top of the ridge was resolving, moment by moment, into the shapes of individual trees! Matthew could see the gnarled, twisted trunks! Then, suddenly, in front of him, a thick web of meshed branches!

On the slopes, just metres below them, what had been a curtain of grey rock a few seconds before was now a series of jagged, threatening masses of stone embedded in the earth! He was staring at his own grave! He mustn't let the nose of the plane rise too soon! A voice from deep inside him urged him not to pull back on the control column!

“Don’t turn. Keep going,” it said, “Without speed there will be no lift.” 

Without lift they could not hope to clear the valley rim! The plane bore down towards the line of trees! The earth was rising up beneath them! Huge, rugged rocks scattered over the slope seemed to leap up from the left and right! The interlaced trees ahead were full of shadows! Their leaves and branches moved in the wind. The earth was closing in, about to swallow the plane as if it was a metal coffin! Matthew felt a cold chill run through him! They were barely level with the highest branches of the trees. At that moment, an inexplicable and overwhelming sense of confidence infused Matthew! Something in the way the plane was handling, a certain sensation of buoyancy, gave him the assurance it would pass over the trees! He began to pull back on the control column, gently, firmly, slowly, fighting the instincts screaming along every nerve fibre for him to yank the nose up.

“Do that and the plane will stall,” the anonymous voice inside his head kept telling him. Matthew continued to ease back on the control column pulling it resolutely towards his chest. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the foliage of the trees. It was as if they were floating over the tree tops in a balloon! A wave of relief flooded over him! They'd almost cleared the valley rim. The wide, blue sea to the east loomed up ahead and below them. Suddenly, a 'thump' on the thin, metal skin of the aircraft brought Matthew out of his trance! They'd hit something! He could do nothing but wait for the world to explode! He expected the plane to disintegrate! He imagined falling through the sky to his death! As he waited, the plane kept soaring upwards. The engine didn't falter! The sea stretched out before them, broader and deeper blue in the distant horizons. The speed dial showed eighty knots. His speed and attitude were correct for the optimum rate of climb. The plane was behaving normally! Had they really survived!?

Matthew glanced sideways and downwards. In the sea, just off the island and in a direct line with the strip, a group of black rocks jutted above the blue water. Their dark forms temporarily mesmerized him. The rocks seemed to embody the dangers of the past harrowing moments and, in his mind, they morphed for an instant into the shapes of sinister demons. Matthew felt a sudden dragging sensation in his stomach! If the plane had crashed it would have dissolved in a ball of fire! Its fuel tanks were over half full. The impact and the fire would have killed them all! But they were alive! The whole episode had taken only a few seconds, and, for the first time in what had seemed an eternity, Matthew chanced to believe they'd made it!

He looked out the window again. It seemed to him now that the world had coalesced from a jumble of visual fragments into a recognisable whole. Just to the right was the dugong’s head, its dark, stony eye just below the summit. Strung out along its body, and clinging to the ribbon of white beach, lay the village, its houses half hidden by palm trees. In the hills he could see the light green stripe of airfield. The slope at the end of the strip held his attention now. That had been their downward path to almost certain death! He shook his head and glanced towards the small, satellite islands of Doudi and Waiteer that were lit up like green jewels in the morning sun. The plane was moving steadily upwards. They'd finally broken free of the island.

Matthew gradually reduced flap to zero degrees and trimmed the ailerons so he could let go of the controls. His hands were sweaty and he wiped them on his shirt. He was aware of himself breathing. He looked at the altimeter, eight hundred feet and climbing rapidly! He started a slow turn to the right over the stretch of water between Mekea and the other two islands. As the plane banked, Matthew looked down at the wheel on his side of the aircraft. Wrapped around it, and trailing in the slipstream, was a three metre length of liana vine! The vacuum created by the propeller as it skimmed over the tree tops must have sucked up the vine from the tallest tree! He'd come so close to killing everyone on board! The embarrassment of explaining what had happened to Tammy and the girls began to colour his thoughts. Matthew looked out the window again. He scrutinized the wheel and the strut for any sign of damage. He tried the brakes and felt resistance. The brake line was intact. There appeared to be no serious problem. In fact, no damage had been done to anything except his pride! The vine had slapped harmlessly against the fuselage as it coiled like a snake around the wheel. The comprehension that he'd successfully negotiated the crisis surged through him as a violent thrill!

 “Shit!” he said quietly to himself.

Matthew climbed to cruising height and set the plane on a course of 210 degrees for Marina Island. When that was done he began, methodically, reviewing his actions before and during the take-off. He remembered doing all his checks. He'd even looked in the engine for wasps' nests. (He'd got into the habit of looking for them because the plane was always parked out in the open). The tyres looked intact. The edges of the propeller blades were smooth and unchipped. And, anyway, the plane was now performing normally. There was no doubt his decision to do a short field take-off saved their lives. A normal ground run wouldn't have given the plane the lift to clear the hills. He silently congratulated himself that he'd made the conscious choice to be cautious. That decision had meant the difference between life and death.

As Matthew thought about the take off, he became more settled on the cause for the sluggish ground run of the plane. He remembered the sound of the rain on the tin roof of the guest house. It had become so loud at times they couldn't hear the sea surging in over the beach a few metres away. Matthew recalled the silver flash as they were half-way along the strip. That was probably a shallow pool of water! And the grass was long. The airstrip hadn't been mowed because the ground was too soft for the tractor. The combination of soft soil and long grass dramatically slowed the ground run of the plane! He turned to Tammy and told her what he thought had gone wrong. He hadn't been negligent, he said. The conditions had tricked him.

 

********

 

After Matthew had spoken to Tammy and explained what he thought had been the problem with the take-off, he didn't speak again for a long time. The island of Mekea slowly disappeared behind them as the plane continued in a south-westerly direction. In front of them, the deep, blue sea was dotted with islands as green as emeralds, each one surrounded by a turquoise halo. It was a stunningly beautiful sight! Matthew's senses were heightened by the tension of knowing that all four of them were lucky to be alive. He pictured their broken bodies floating in the sea or bleeding on the black rocks that ringed the island or tangled in the branches of the trees on that wild and stony ridge. He made some minor adjustments to the trim. The plane's altitude remained constant without any effort. He had plenty of time to think. The steady beat of the engine assumed the dynamics of the blood pulsing through his body. This could have been his last day on earth. If it had, he thought, it would have been good to die on an exotic island at the edge of the world. He was surprised by the sense of fatalism in his musings about his own mortality. The events of the last hour seemed to resonate inside him as some profound, personal truth. What was it about the islands that attracted him so much that he was willing to risk his life flying out to them? From the air their beauty was entrancing and the remoteness, the isolation, of those tiny fragments of land fascinated him. They were little worlds, each one unique and full of mystery, floating in the infinity of the ocean. Matthew recognised that he was looking at them with a vaguely proprietorial feeling as if he understood the islands connected him in some way with the past; to the memory and history of his mother's family. The sight of the islands brought to the surface of his mind a nostalgia for the old home and the land of his childhood. His grandmother's property had been like an island to him when he was young. As a child, he always thought of that place as separate and removed from everything else. There, safe and protected on his little piece of paradise, the rest of the world didn't matter. It lay far beyond the horizons of the paddocks like a faraway country. 

CHAPTER FOUR:  (PART SAMPLE)

CRISTINA

 

By the time Matthew was in third year at university he was coping fairly easily with the work. Living in the caravan during the week and going home of a week-end was a good balance for him. He still didn't make close friends and he was competitive enough to want to do better than others in his course. He was less tense about trying to do well but he hadn't lost his fear of failure. The idea of flunking university, though, didn't terrify him as much as the possibility of a poor report had tortured him in high school. Matthew didn't want Luke to go through the same experience and he tried to do what he could to make life easier for his little brother.

When Luke was only about six years old Matthew started encouraging him to learn general knowledge. Matthew regularly quizzed him on all sorts of topics from geography to astronomy. He often insisted Luke write the answers to his questions on a clean sheet of paper then Matthew would correct his answers with a red pen as if Luke was a student who'd just completed a serious exam. Luke liked the challenges Matthew gave him. In a couple of years Matthew had a stock of nearly a thousand questions on a multitude of topics that he could ask Luke. Luke was quick to learn and he had a good memory. He rarely forgot anything. He liked to show off to his big brother. Matthew was immensely pleased to see his self-confidence developing.

One day Matthew suggested to his mother that Luke should learn music. Mini was half-hearted about it but Matthew insisted. He didn't want Luke to grow up like him with no musical ability. He remembered how capable his parents had been on the piano and the violin. It made Matthew feel as though he'd missed out on something special. Luke, he said, should have the chance to play an instrument.

When Stuart and Mini were courting they often played music together in the lounge room of the old home. Their shared love of music continued for years after they married. Matthew remembered his mother at the piano singing, his father absorbed in the graceful arrogance of the violin. He remembered, too, how he'd felt shut out, extraneous to their happiness. Music seemed like some beautiful, sacred task that bound them in an unnegotiable harmony of two. Matthew always wanted the music to stop. He wanted to run away from it. It was an invisible power that took his parents away from him. Once, when he was six years old, he became so upset with his parents as they played music together that he angrily packed his school bag with a few pieces of fruit and left home to wander along the creek bank. He thought of running away forever! Even down beside the creek, the sound of the music followed him like a ghost. Now, his attitude was very different. He saw music as an ally.

Matthew couldn't understand why his mother was so reluctant to find a music teacher for Luke. Surely she held fond memories from the years when she and Stuart played music together. Did the memory of the unpleasantness in the church still colour her thoughts? Though he didn't know all the details Matthew understood some people in the church had grown jealous of them. Musically, both his parents were multi-talented. The family photo-album was full of photographs taken at church functions. Stuart and Mini stood out as especially good looking. They were a handsome couple. It wasn't difficult to imagine the jealousy that enveloped them. Matthew didn't know what motivated his mother. He didn't care. He thought Luke deserved a chance to learn music. It wasn't his place to go looking for a music teacher. He wouldn't be paying the fees. All he could do was try to persuade his mother. Mini finally gave in to him.

“Alright, if I come across someone who teaches music I'll ask about it. If I don't meet anyone then that's it,” she said, with a note of exasperation in her voice.

Less than a week later, when Mini was downtown shopping for groceries, she met Shirley, an old school friend. She hadn't seen the woman for years. Shirley was a piano teacher and Mini remembered her promise. Shirley said she had a vacancy and that Luke could start piano lessons that Saturday.

Luke was ten years old when he began learning to play the piano. He had a lesson at Shirley's place every Saturday during the school term. Mini was glad that Matthew was usually home on a week-end and could take him. Matthew would drive Luke over to Shirley's house on the other side of town and wait outside in the car until he finished his lesson.

At first Matthew was excited by Luke's attempts at scales and simple tunes resurrected from a bygone era but, gradually, he couldn't overcome a sinking feeling in his stomach as he drove his little brother to another lesson. He got into the habit, as he waited in the car, of turning on the radio to drown out the sad, dreary tinkle of the piano keys. On occasions, he'd go for a drive rather than sit outside the house waiting. He wondered if he'd done the right thing in pursuing music lessons for Luke. Perhaps his mother had been right all along. After nearly a year of piano lessons Luke gave up. Matthew consoled himself with the thought that at least he'd given his brother the opportunity to learn.

About the time he gave up music lessons Luke became a fan of a rock group called 'Zrojin'. Two men, Ben and Billy, and two women, Anna and Amber, formed one of the most popular rock groups of the time. Like so many other boys he was infatuated with Anna and Amber. But Luke was also inspired by the story of how the group had come together. Ben and Billy became role models for him. Luke began to play the piano again. Soon he was playing tracks from the group's albums. He had no written music. He played everything by ear. Matthew was astounded! Luke's piano playing was so good the music sounded as vibrant as that on the records! Luke was excited, too, because he could play like his heroes. Over the following months Luke played the piano so much that, for hours at a time, the little house literally shook with a storm of tuneful noise!

Matthew was enthralled by his little brother's talent. He'd drive home from Thorntonville of a Friday evening wondering what new pieces Luke had learnt. Before he'd even parked the car on the back lawn Luke would be beside the driver's door impatient to tell Matthew about his music. Every week, for many months, Luke mastered at least one new tune. In Matthew's happiness for Luke there was also a sense of relief and atonement.

Late one afternoon, when Luke was just a toddler, Matthew was playing with his toys on the front path near the concrete front steps of the old home. Luke was being mischievous by running up beside Matthew and kicking over the toys. It was getting dark and Matthew wanted to finish his game. He got angry and picked Luke up. He held him around the middle with both arms and started to walk up the steps. He tripped and fell. Luke's little face was smashed into the concrete! His mouth began to bleed. He howled in pain. Matthew didn't know what to do! He ran inside and met his mother and father rushing in the opposite direction. Mini asked him what had happened. He told her he'd fallen up the stairs with Luke in his arms. Stuart held Luke and tried to see where the blood was coming from. They looked for Luke's teeth but couldn't find them anywhere. Stuart said he thought Luke's baby teeth had been knocked into his gums. Possessed by anger and panic Mini came up to Matthew in the lounge-room and, with one sweep of her arm, knocked him flying under the piano stool.  

Stuart rang the dentist, Bill Bundall, who was a friend of the family. He told them they were probably correct in thinking that Luke's baby teeth were still in his gums. He said for them to go to his surgery and he'd meet them there. It was after working hours but Bill said he didn't mind. Mini and Stuart drove into town with Luke immediately. Matthew stayed at home with his grandmother. When his parents got home they were calmer. Luke was still whimpering and miserable. A dental x-ray confirmed Luke's baby teeth had indeed been driven up into their sockets. He said there was a chance the adult teeth would be damaged. There was nothing he could do about it. Only time would tell.

When Luke got his adult teeth Mini and Stuart's worse fears were realised. The incisors and eye teeth were stained with yellow and the surfaces, chipped and broken. Whenever Matthew looked at them he felt a pang of remorse for what he'd done. They reminded him of his guilt. As Luke grew older Matthew often noticed the self-conscious way he restrained his smile. A searing stab of guilt would wound him again. In giving Luke the chance to play the piano Matthew felt as though he'd gone some way to compensate him for the suffering he'd caused.

 

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