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Clement's Corner: Strange Coincidences

…Feeling the dull ache move from his chest to down his arm he realized that out here in the late evening completely on his own, his situation could be dire…

Has someone connived to put Frank’s life at risk. All kinds of thoughts run through a man’s mind when he is in dire straights, as Owen Clement’s story reveals.

Frank looked up in dismay at the grassy rise ahead. Squeezing his eyes shut he bent over and, placing his hands on his knees, fought for breath. His angina attack was not unexpected as exertion and chill winds inevitably brought on the tightness. Lowering himself onto the damp hillside he turned and looked below and could just make out his abandoned car pulled over by the roadside.

Feeling the dull ache move from his chest to down his arm he realized that out here in the late evening completely on his own, his situation could be dire.

He thought back to the strange coincidences that occurred earlier that day.

Why, for instance, had Bradley, his wife’s sixteen year old son, been so concerned about Frank’s mother. The boy had always refused to join him when he visited her, even when he knew that there was plenty of open space on her property for him to ride his off-road motorbike?

Today, he was adamant that Frank answer his mother’s phone call to visit her, even though he knew that he had done so only a few days earlier. Frank had found her managing quite well, as she always had done. And why for instance, did his mother not contact her daughter instead. After all, she lived closer, in a nearby village?

There was another coincidence at not being able to find his Nitro pump spray that he used whenever he had an angina attack. He always kept it in his jacket pocket. And finally, why had his car run out of fuel? His wife Marion and Bradley each had their own transport. Neither, to his knowledge had used his car recently?

Self-pity was not in Frank’s nature. Although, lying alone on a wet hillside on a drizzly cold autumn evening, a couple of miles from his mother’s old farmhouse and feeling decidedly unwell, he could be excused for being very concerned at his plight.

His mood changed to one of hostility when he wondered if indeed young Bradley, whom he had tried so hard to understand, had engineered these circumstances. In trying to be understanding and sympathetic to the boy, to gain his affection, Frank had bought him an expensive new motorcycle. He knew that the boy resented his mother marrying him, but to consciously carry out these acts to remove him permanently from the scene, was far too unbelievable. Or was it?

If only the boy had talked to him man-to-man, instead of hiding in his room hour after hour. Marion had long since lost patience trying to get her son to accept Frank. As far as she was concerned, Frank was an important part of her life, if the boy did not like it, too bad.

Annoyed with himself for blaming Bradley for his situation, he tried to fight back his feelings of impotence and of being alone at such a critical time.

When the pain dulled slightly he became aware of the night sounds around me. Crickets’ mating calls, scuttling insects and the rustling grasses brushing against each other in the nippy breeze. Looking up he could see with dismay the lights from the windows of his mother’s cottage beaming out through the shadowy silhouettes of two huge and ancient gum trees.

The acute pain returned causing him to slowly slump over onto the ground. He knew he had to calm down if he was to survive. Taking in deep breaths and forcing himself to relax the pain eventually eased. While he lay quietly he decided to recheck his pockets which, to his relief, he found that the lining in his jacket pocket had developed a hole, slowly shoving his fingers through, he was delighted to find his spray tucked in a corner.

It was while he was trying to extricate it, that he heard a motorcycle roar up beside him and a distressed voice call out, “Frank, Frank -”

He looked up and saw Bradley anxiously peering down at him.

“Hang on,’’ the boy said, and before Frank could tell him about finding the spray Bradley quickly pulled off Frank’s jacket and after covering him with it called out, “I’ll be right back.’’

He jumped on his motorcycle and sped off up the hill.

Frank’s feeling of shame increased when he remembered deferring filling his car when he found he did not have enough cash on him at the time.

Bradley soon returned to say that help was on its way.

Any attempt Frank made to speak was immediately shushed by Bradley.

With the boy sitting beside him in the ambulance he found out from Bradley that his mother had wanted to see both him and his sister, as, with Frank’s changed marital circumstances, she was rewriting her will and wanted them both there to discuss it with her

“How did you know to try and find me?” Frank asked.

“Your mother rang us to say that she was worried at your turning up.”

Frank seeing the boy’s anxious expression said, “I’m sorry, Son.”

“Sorry. Why should you be sorry? I’m the one that should be sorry; I’ve been a pain in the ass.”

Frank laughed as he reached out and rested his hand on the boy’s arm.

© Clement 2006

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