Anton left this morning. He was up before me and he cooked bacon and eggs and we were both still rugged up in dressing gowns waiting for the small bar heater to kick in.
He pulled up the blind and stood looking out across the mist to the chimney stack of the long ago defunct whisky distillery and around to the tall TV antenna on a house in the cross street where the magpies sat and launched themselves in an avian replay of World War One dogfights.
“Have you got a penny’s worth?” I asked.
He shook his head awake, “What?”
“A penny for your thoughts, mate.”
“Sorry John. I was miles away. I was thinking about Becky. My parents came from Sarajevo. . . .”
I told him I didn’t know that but he wasn’t listening.
“. . . and ever since you wrote that post the other day I have wondered just where it was that our family lived. What street? We could have been neighbours.”
He said he wanted to go and see his mother but I knew his mother had died when Anton was only two. I didn’t interrupt him.
“Sorry mate. I meant Marie. I want to go and see Marie. It’s been eighteen months.”
Marie was his elder sister and had been a surrogate mother to him for all his life. She lived in Maryborough about sixty kms north of here but we were still in lockdown and I wasn’t sure it was a good idea.
“It’s early, there’s never any traffic on the road and if I get stopped I’ll tell ’em my mum’s sick. It’s for care or caregiving. I’ll tell ’em she’s alone and needs care.”
If you haven’t seen her for eighteen months I started to say…
“. . . all the more reason.”
Was this something to do with Becky’s story I wondered but he seemed to know what I was thinking.
“It is all your fault Johnno. I knew when I read it first it was true but I never knew how you knew. How did you find out?”
“Just one of those blogging things. You read a post and comment and that provokes a comment in return and pretty soon you become friends and swap stories.”
“But how many stories do you get?”
“Not many. Most people are just like nosey neighbours who catch a glimpse through the front window or people just walking by.”
“How many of the stories are true, mate? Some of ’em are a bit far fetched!”
“All of ’em are true. To a certain extent.”
“Well whatever it is I don’t care. But Becky’s story is true,” he said and I nodded. “It is, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I sad. “Yes it is. What has Becky’s story got to do with you going to see Marie?”
“Too complicated to explain.”
“Try me,” I said.
“Come on mate, It’s easy. She wrote a book about going back to try and find out how her grandmother had coped. I want to ask Maire about my real mother. I never asked her before.”
Why would he have not asked his big sister about his mother.
“I never thought I could ask Marie because she might think I hadn’t liked her being my effective mother. But now I know that was bloody stupid. I guess I was frightened. I was always told my real mother died but I never was told anything more. Maybe she just didn’t have the guts to look after me and cleared off. But I need to ask Marie before it is all too late.”
There was nowhere to go from there. He really did need to go.
“Okay Anton mate. Let’s go see if your car has oil. It doesn’t look too happy sitting out there in the street.”
“That’s not my car. I don’t have a car. I came up on the train. I am going to take the Ballarat/Maryborough coach.”
We rang the station to check on timetables and any effect of Covid. There was no coach on Wednesdays but a train ran late tonight. Anton wasn’t too pleased.
“Take my car. I don’t need it while we’re in lock down. You can bring it back later.”
Anton said No. We argued. I won. He left fifteen minutes ago.
I hope Marie can tell him what he needs to know.