The swinging doors suddenly opened and a black face appeared. “’Ese Ere!!
There was a loud chorus from inside. “Welcome teacher Trevo?”
A deeply tanned tall wiry man with red face appeared at the door with outstretched hand. “I’m the local police officer Paddy Morgan, call me Paddy. This is my assistant Jacko!” He pointed to the black man in front of him.
Trevor accepted outstretched hands and winced at the vice like grip of the two men. He made a note not to cross either of them.
Glancing around he saw an assortment of interesting characters gathered around the bar. They were not looking at him but gazing hopefully at the pub owner. The owner’s eyes swept the room and a grin of recognition lighted up his weather-beaten face.
“Drinks on the ‘ouse!” He shouted the invitation as men rushed to the counter and smiled at Trevor.
“Most of the men are in town to meet the new teacher. Rod over there travelled ninety miles to meet ya. The last teacher from the coast stayed one week so they want to make sure you feel welcome and stay on to teach the kids. You’ll probably ‘ave fifty or sixty depending on whether the blacks are on walkabout or not. Their kids average twenty, the rest are white’s kids from within twenty miles of town. Some ride ‘orses and some are dropped off by the Missis of the ‘ouse. ‘Ave a beer Trevo! Me names Shawn”
Trevor held up his hand. “Thanks Shawn, but I don’t drink.”
There was a loud collective gasp as everyone in the room turned to study him. They looked at each other in alarm.
“Are ya sick?” Trevor turned to see another tall aboriginal man and looked to Shawn for an introduction. This is Jacko, e’s the foreman on Ted Sullivan’s station about fifty miles from ‘ere. ‘E’s a good bloke.
Trevor spun around to look at the entrance guarded by his black greeter with same name then turned to face the questioner. “No, I’m not sick, very tired perhaps but not sick. I just don’t drink!” Trevor smiled and shook Jacko’s hand warmly.
He turned to Shawn who was studying him thoughtfully and looking disappointed at the rejection of his offer.
“I’ve had a couple of difficult days on the way and wonder if you can tell me how to get to the school house so I can unpack.
Shawn nodded toward Paddy. “’E’ll look after ya. Shawn returned to filling outstretched glasses. The mood had turned and exuberance of that initial greeting had died up. They’d drown their disappointment with a few more beers and return home to report on this event. The report would circulate far and wide within a few days.
Paddy steered him to the door followed by his assistant Jacko. Trevor sensed the mood change and looked for a way to re-establish communication. “Why do the aborigines have the same name Jacko?”
Paddy turned to study him. “That’s their name!” He said matter-of-factly.
The school house was next to a one teacher school and not far from the pub. Paddy and Jacko walked there and waited while Trevor drove his car there. The house and school was built on wooden stumps to hopefully prevent termite infestation. Paddy pointed under the house and Trevor understood it was built high enough for his 1949 Holden to fit underneath. He switched head lights to high beam to inspect whether there were things stored under the house which could damage his car then drove in carefully.
Paddy raced upstairs to unlock the door then returned to hand the key to Trevor. He and Jacko hauled luggage upstairs and waited for Trevor to join them. Paddy pointed into the darkness of the night to a series of dimly lit sheds in the distance.
“We have a bore over there that supplies a hot pool the locals use. Good on winter nights! Sheila cooks and cleans your house. She’ll be here at 6 am to cook your breakfast and look after meals each day. She’s Jacko’s wife.” Paddy then did a quick inspection of the house and noted light globes missing in some rooms.
“Get Sheila to replace those Jacko!”
“Trevo come to the Police Station in the morning and we’ll talk about your other duties in town.”
Trevor looked up in alarm. “Other duties?”
“See you in the morning Trevo!”
Paddy and Jacko raced each other back to the Pub.
Trevor sighed. The house was quite primitive by standards of urban areas in the nation but it felt good to be at the end of that tiresome journey and know he’d have his first administrative role in education no matter how humble. He locked doors and stripped off heading for the bathroom where he discovered a pipe protruding from the wall in the shower alcove was missing its shower head. He turned the tap a notch and quickly turned it off when a spurt of water gushed out. Returning to the bedroom he retrieved soap and headed back to the bathroom. It felt good for the tepid water to hit his body like a jackhammer massaging as he turned from side to side. He luxuriated in that water massage for some time. Perhaps he’d not replace the showerhead?
He’d just finished towelling himself when lights began to come on in the rest of the rooms. Surprised he hung the towel carefully and headed back to the bedroom to make up the bed. This was a strange occurrence? He discovered the reason for the lights suddenly coming on. Standing on a chair replacing the last light globe was an aboriginal woman. She glanced at Trevor in his nakedness and returned to her work.
“Hello, I’m Sheila your housekeeper.”
Trevor raced to the bedroom. His clothes had been hung up and the bed made. He quickly put on clothes and returned to where Sheila was getting down from the chair. He was too embarrassed and unsure of his new environment to be angry.
“How did you get in?” He stammered.
Sheila shrugged and pointed to a key hanging from a string around her neck.
“I found your dusty travel clothes. I’m taking them home to wash and will return to make your breakfast at 6 am.
Trevor nodded in embarrassment. He was a private person and realized that from now on his life would be an open book with even his private moments discussed around the district. He wanted his life back and understood why the last teacher had fled back to conventional society. So, this was the outback!
To be continued.
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