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Clement's Corner, Clement's Corner: Sunday Best

A brother is not always pleased to see his sister, as Owen Clement's tale reveals.

It had been a particularly trying week for Geoff Halliday. He had had to cope with his loss, deal with testy clients demanding the virtually impossible and take care of the staff’s complaints about their additional work load. After managing to coerce both his partners into allowing him a fortnight’s break he was more than ready to escape into an alternative conscientiousness One which required little physical or emotional involvement. The old black and white Sunday afternoon movie on television, one that he had not previously seen, was ideal.

Wearing a well-worn tracksuit, a pair of thick cotton socks and nursing a cold stubby of light lager he had stretched out on the couch, the remote ready to fast-forward through the commercials. Usually he was able to guess the ending, but not this time.

It had been building up to exciting climax when his sister Georgiana strode into the room. Completely ignoring the fact that he was totally absorbed she cut in, “If Henry were here he would like to do exactly what you are doing. He used to love those old Hollywood propaganda movies.''

Geoff looked up and acknowledged her with a fleeting grin and pointedly returned to the film.

Taking no notice of his obvious absorption she said, “Geoff, do you mind if I interrupt?”

“Is it important?” he asked keeping his eyes on the screen.

“You’re not really interested in this are you. You must have seen it dozens of times?”

“No I haven’t actually. It shouldn’t take long though.”

She stood fidgeting beside him.

“What is it you want?'' he asked.

“I’m bored. I want to go out somewhere.''

“This’ll take no more than half an hour. Think about where you want to go in the mean time.”

“Oh! Never mind. I just can’t see what’s so wonderful about this ancient American bullshit,'' she said marching out of the room.

Geoff’s concentration having been disrupted he had missed a vital scene, as the character he had thought was the villain was found murdered, and the supposed victim was now very much alive. He was extremely annoyed at not only losing the plot of the story. His quiet relaxing afternoon was now completely shattered. He snapped off the television, swilled down the remains of his beer and left the room to find his recently widowed sister.

Since his divorce had come through she had moved in with the intention, she said, of looking after him. All that had happened so far, as he was concerned, was that one stressful situation had been replaced by another. He found her sprawled in a deck chair on the back veranda sulkily staring into nothing.

“What do you want to do?” he asked testily.

“Your film finished already?”

“Bugger the film; what do you want to do?”

“With you in such a cranky mood I’d rather just sit here.”

“Listen Georgie there are times...''

“What?''

“Never mind, go and get changed, we’ll go down to the beach. The tide should be right out and we can do some beachcombing.”

“You go. I’ll just sit here.”

Controlling the urge to crack her across the head, as he had sometimes done as a boy, he said, “I’ll be in the car in ten minutes. If you’re not there I’m off.''

He went to his room, changed into a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. Slipping on a pair of thongs he grabbed a couple of beach towels from the linen cupboard, opened the garage, then climbed into his car. He checked his watch, sat back and waited. A few minutes later she climbed in beside him not saying a word. He glanced at her and saw that she had been crying.

As a child she had burst into tears on call as it were to get her own way. Without comment he started the car and drove off. She sniffed loudly a few times while searching unsuccessfully in her handbag for a tissue or a handkerchief.

“Here,'' he said digging out his own handkerchief and handing it to her.

“It’s not right you know.''

He frowned as he answered, “What’s not right?”

“You and me, that’s what.''

In all their growing up years she had not changed with her unfathomable statements.

“For heaven’s sake Georgie, I’m no mind reader.''

“...both of us losing our partners of course.''

Geoff sighed and dreading where she was heading pulled over to the side of the road and switched off the motor.

“Listen Sis, please don’t think I am not grateful to you for coming over to be with me, but I’ll be fine. I’ll have to start managing on my own sooner or later anyway. I’m sure you miss the kids and your friends, why don’t we arrange for your return flight?”

“I’m being a pain aren’t I?”

He sighed once more, “We always seem to end up squabbling. We always have ever since we were small children. Right at this moment I need time on my own. In a few months we could get together again. Maybe I’ll be in a better mood by then.''

“You’ve never liked me, I thought if I showed you that I cared enough to be with you at this time, matters would improve, but I see nothing’s changed. Turn around and go back, I’ll see if I can get the next flight home.''

He could see that the more he tried the worse it was going to get. “If that’s what you want,'' he said turning the car around.

That was when she began crying in earnest. He pulled over again, stopped the car and put his head back onto the headrest. Eventually he turned to her and said, “I agree that we have rarely seen eye-to-eye on many things. You’ve always been able to push my buttons, especially when we were kids, but it’s different now. We are both adults and both going through a hard time. Grieving is a process we have to go through on our own. As I said a little while ago, I do need time to myself and it has nothing to do with my feelings for you. You are my sister and I care about you. Please try and remember that.''

“Nobody wants me. The kids, you, nobody, I wish I was dead.”

“Look, you’re just grieving for Tom. It’s going to take time but it will pass.''

They arrived back at the house. As they entered the phone was ringing. It was Brett, Georgina’s eldest son.

“It’s for you,'' Geoff said handing her the phone.

She found him sitting on the back veranda.

“They are all wondering when I’m coming home, the little ones keep asking for their Nan. Would you really mind if I went home?''

Geoff pushed himself up and taking her elbow said, “Come on, why don’t I arrange the flight while you pack, eh?”

© Clement 2008


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