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Safe in the Garden

Page 3

It seems that other young people, like me, were feeling the same way, because one day my father asked, “You know Peter Moore, up at Karingal? His Mum was saying today he’s got his licence now. She thought you and he might like to play ten pin bowls down in Colac some time. You know, just for something to do”.

This was something of a strange suggestion. In the first place, I couldn’t see why my father and another lady should be arranging my friendships in this way, and second, Peter was someone who, in the main, puzzled me. He was in the year up - hence the driving licence – tall, with curly black hair, wiry build, and a doted-on only child.  His parents both worked at Karingal, a classic Western District homestead just outside the town, his father as manager and his mother as cook and housekeeper, the property owned by an elderly bachelor, Mr. Crane, who similarly adored and indulged the boy. Peter’s privileged position and easy confidence sometimes made me aware of my embattled middle-child status, our large family and straitened resources. So why was he seeking my friendship? And no, it wasn’t just some arrangement of our respective parents; one day he and I met in the main street, him on his bike and me walking, and he repeated the offer.

So I pondered it, then began to recall what had happened years before. When I was about ten, six or seven years before this offer, his mother had suggested something similar, that I come over one day to play with Peter. I felt complimented, my father agreed, and my mother characteristically observed, “Enjoy your day with the squattocracy, dear”. I made the long walk through the town, then into the avenue, lined with stately old cypress trees, which led to the homestead.

 

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