Lost Friends Meet
“I feel your pain,” said a voice behind me.
I looked around to see who had spoken.
I had been standing there with my hands on my hips staring at the price of the different cuts of meat on display.
“No, you don't,” I snapped, before I found the person who had spoken. An elderly ma slumped in a wheelchair stared at hunger at the meat.
“I wasn't born in a wheelchair, Lassie. I had a life before disaster struck.”
“Know the feeling. I feel like I've been kicked in the guts,” I turned toward the meat. “We spend hours out under the boiling sun to keep our stock healthy, and fed. And what do they give us. The dregs from the bottom of the teapot.”
“You at least have a teapot. We had to boil the billy over an open fire under the sun, and stars. Swat flies from our food to put it into our mouth before they had time to blow it.”
I sat on a stack of boxes of long life milk next to the wheelchair.
“I'm Karen,” I said, holding my hand toward the man.
“Clarey.” We shook hands.
“Pleased to meet you, Clarey. “Sounds like you know a thing, or two, about the hard slog on the land. Where did you work?”
I started out droving when I was a young lad. We sat in the saddle for weeks to move the cattle to either market, or a place on a leased place, where there grew green grass. I finally settled on Pancake Station.” I drew in a shocked breath. Clarey raised his faded blue eyes at me. “Have you heard of the station?”
“Sure have, Clarey. So you're, thee Clarey,” I said, standing from my impromptu seat. “What are you doing for the rest of the day, Clarey?”
“I'm shopping with my wife. She forgot to grab something, and went searching for it. I'm suppose to be deciding what meat I want. Why?”
“I have a suggestion.” Clarey stared at me wondering what to expect next. “Do you know if your wife would like to go on an adventure with you?”
“Adventure to where?” Suspicion clouded his eyes.
“I mean you no harm. I know this nice old gentleman who will be pleased to se you.”
“Who. Most of my friends have died.”
“Not this one. If my guess is right you will have a lot of catching up to do. You game to trust me?”
“Trust you to do what, young lady,” said Clarey's wife, coming to a stop beside the wheelchair.
“I'm promising to take the both of you to visit an old friend of Clarey.”
“He doesn't have any old friends. They all deserted him after his accident.”
“I promise to cook you dinner while you catch up on old times.”
“Are we having real meat,” asked Clarey.
“Sure. What's your choice?”
“Clarey,” chastised his wife. “You can't ask people to buy you a steak.”
“Sure, he can. I'll even send him a box the next time we kill a beast.”
“Why would you do that for a complete stranger,” she asked.
“I've heard these stories all my life about a man by the name of Clarey. No one seemed to know where he disappeared to. Or if he was still alive.”
“How do you know you have to right one?”
“Because I live on Pancake Station.”
“You do,” asked Clarey.” I nodded. “Who owns the station these days?”
“I'll let you keep guessing while I buy us some juicy steaks.” I looked at the prices. “Even though they are charging like a charging wounded bull for the meat.”
“How do you know this young lady, Clarey,” quizzed his wife.
“Karen. I don't know her. But she seems to know about me.”
“Are you sure you can trust her?”
Clarey looked at the steaks being weighed. “At least, I'll die happy if she feeds me steak.”
I came back to them with my selection of steak. “You ready for you adventure.” Clarey nodded. “Do you have to take your car home?”
“No. We don't drive these days,” answered Clarey's wife.
“What about your shopping?”
“I didn't buy any cold food, today,” she replied.
“Right. Let's start your adventure into the past.” I took up position behind the wheelchair to push Clarey toward the checkout.
I waited for them to pass through with their small collection of food.
I helped them into my car.
Both of them sat, quiet, enjoying the changing scenery,
Or were they remembering what to tell the police if their promised adventure turned sinister.
I finally drove beneath the arches of the gateway then up the driveway to the front of the house. I parked in front of an Edwardian designed house.
I walked around to the boot to retrieve the wheelchair.
I helped Clarey into the wheelchair to wheel him up the ramp to the front door.
“You weren't too long, Miss Kate,” said the maid who opened the door. “Oh. I see you've found some friends.” The door opened further for me to wheel in the chair.
“I'll bring in the meat, shortly. Where's Grandy?”
“I believe he was last seen in his study, Miss Kate.”
“We'll have guests for lunch. Clarey will have a big juicy steak I promised him one for a bribe.”
“Did you say, Clarey. Thee Clarey, Miss Kate.” I nodded.
“Oh. The master will be ever so, pleased.”
“Will someone tell me what's happening,” asked Clarey. “How does everyone know me?”
“The answer is waiting down the hallway. Ready to find out who is there, waiting.”
“The suspense is killing me. And my steak is waiting to be cooked.”
“Clarey,” warned his wife.
I began to push the wheelchair toward the study.
I knocked on the door.
“Come in,” said a gruff voice. “If you must.”
I opened the door.
“Yes. I must, Grandy. You have a couple of visitors.”
“I don't want,” Grandy turned sideways on his chair to see who had come to disturb his peace.
“My god. Clarey,” said a surprised Grandy.
“This is a surprise.” Hugh stood to walk toward Clarey. “Why are you seated in that contraption?”
“An accident. Why have you left the station. I thought you'd have to be carried out in a coffin.”
“Nearly was. How did you find me?”
“I ran into this sweet lass at the supermarket. She promised she'd cook me a steak.”
“The steaks.” I rushed from the study to collect the steaks from the car.
“How did Kate find out who you were,” asked Hugh.
“We were both at the meat counter. She wasn't very pleased with the price of the steak. We got to talking. She seemed to make plans for us to meet while we talked. Hence, we were brought on an adventure, so she told us. We didn't know where were we being taken.”
“Kate know how to keep secrets. Let's have chat to catch up on old times while we wait for our steaks. You can start by introducing me to your wife.”
Introductions were made.
Years of catching up began.
Feeling superfluous his wife found her way to the kitchen.