A Dreaded HomecomingbyEgmontGrigor2011©
Barbara Thompson came close to panic as she read the email from her daughter on the eve of Nikki's homecoming after spending the last two years in England finishing her Fine Arts Degree at great expense. Barbara and husband Bass (Basil) had used the money set aside to buy another commercial property in their town of Lynch to ensure their eldest received the education she desired.
The email read: 'Hi mom, my degree with honors is in the bag and I'll be home in two weeks. I have fantastic news. Another Australian was doing the same degree and I don't think I mentioned Elam Langley, I guess because initially he didn't appeal to me. Anyway we were at the same party recently and sleeping arrangements were pretty tight and he landed on me, pretty much as what you can imagine. Mom he's a wonderful lover.
Elam's parents who live in Sydney are on a long holiday in South Africa and so Elam has accepted my invitation to come home with me and spend the summer with us. I've explained our farm environment and he thinks it sounds wicked and can't wait to get painting landscapes. Um he is a little embarrassed at imposing on you and so is couriering you one of his paintings as a gift. It should arrive at Barney's Depot within the next few days. Love Nik."
Bass arrived for lunch at 2:30, tired and hot and having shot one of his best bulls that had fallen into a gully and suffered severe internal injuries.
"Where's the Herald?"
"It hasn't arrived. According to Sue, Pike's Rural Delivery is paralyzed because of a strike by its warehouse people demanding a 20% increase in pay."
"What! Those bastards sit on their bums for most of the day playing cards... I've seen them. I'll call some of the guys together and we'll do down and kick ass, giving them something to really protest about."
"God and you and the boys would do jail time attempting to disrupt a labor strike by old methods," Barbara said. And without thinking added, "I've received an email from your little darling."
"Nik?" he said, as if there were other little darlings and Barbara groaned to herself oh shit, she hadn't wanted him to see that email.
"Come on Babs, where is it?"
"Um I didn't print it out."
"Then go and print it out after handing me a cold one," he said and expelled wind.
Bass had finished the beer by the time Barbara returned and dropped the printout in front of him and she sheltered behind the kitchen divider.
"Ah she will receive an honors degree, that's my girl. What the fuck, she's bringing home a jerk who's been screwing her. And what kind of dude would have a name like Elam?"
"I guess it's a little like the name Bass," she offered and thought she saw her husband grin. God why had she said that?
"Well he can stay here two days and then he's on his way. I want my little pet to marry Tony Humphries and that's that."
"Doesn't Nikki have any say in who she will marry?"
"Nope and if I've told you that once I told you twice woman."
"Thirty times, you've told me thirty times."
"That's enough of that backchat woman. You are here to cook and clean and raise our kids, not to interfere with my plans for our eldest. Where's my grub?"
Barbara was tempted to go out to the fowl house and get one of the resident snakes and serve that. But she mashed the potatoes and added that to the four thick slices of ham and lettuce salad already on the plate and her grateful husband said, "You do know how to feed a guy Babs and you certainly still fuck like the little beauty I married."
She sighed. Well what else could you do, admit she wished there were more guys who were fucking her? That really would go down well with Bass.
At 4:00 Barbara collected Kate and Kim from the school bus drop off point thirty-three miles away and she handed them the printout.
The twins, high-school seniors, began giggling and Barbara knew they'd reached the part referring to sex.
"Good lord, how will dad cope with a pansy named Elam?"
"Kate how could he be a pansy if he's screwing Nikki?"
"Mom what's the painting about that he's sending you to attempt to make you like him?"
"I have no idea Kim. We'll just have to wait and see."
On Saturday morning Barney's wife at the depot called and the three females piled into the Toyota SUV to collect the package and reached the depot forty-six miles away in record time.
"Let's open it," chorused the girls.
"Okay but I'll have to tell your dad you girls opened it?"
They sped home with the package and went twelve miles out to the Lone Rock stockyards when Bass and the boys were drenching yearling black cattle (Angus heifers).
"You guys carry on and don't let me catch you eyeing my daughters," Bass said to the three farmhands.
The family gathered around the tailgate of the SUV and Bass used his knife that probably hadn't been washed since castrating bull yearlings to cut open the ties and wrapping.
"This better be fucking good."
Barbara just sighed.
The 40-inch by 30-inch framed painting was of a six galloping wild horses.
"Omigod, it's astonishingly good."
The girls agreed with their mum.
"No it isn't," Bass growled. "They're wild American Mustangs, not Australian Brumbies (feral horses)."
"What's so great about Brumbies?" Barbara asserted. "Chips your favorite stock horse is a registered American Quarter Horse."
That was enough to tell Barbara she'd won that round and she heard the girls giggling and knew they shared her opinion.
"Tell me Bass, ignoring the origins of those horses, is this a good painting?"
"It's a damn fine painting and will go pride of place on the main wall of our lounge."
"But that's where our wedding photo hangs."
"That photo will now hang, er, in pride of place in the family room. It's a mighty fine painting Pussy, don't you agree?"
"I do," Barbara sighed and wish he wouldn't use that pet name within hearing of the girls.
"Mom, why does dad call you Pussy?"
"Shut up Kate or you'll get to clean the toilets."
Barbara felt sick, dreading the homecoming. Why hadn't Nikki kept it simple and come home alone? She pictured this guy Elam as being a little effeminate in being a painter and would by teased by her husband and goaded to try things he'd be incapable of doing, such as riding Ruffian who would only allow Bass to ride him. But if Elam painted horses perhaps he could ride and would be a hero and ride Ruffian into exhaustion?
The time for the homecoming loomed and Barbara developed her nervous rash that affected her wrists. Usually only Bass brought that on.
Nikki called from LA.
"Greetings my sweet mother."
"Hi darling, it's great to know you are on your way. I'm not the person you have to butter up."
"He's nice, a good guy. Dad will like him."
"Dad saw your email."
"Oh then he will know what I do with my friend?"
"Darling you build a reputation in this district by doing it with your male friends. Your father doesn't like the thought of you doing it with a guy called Elam."
"Oh. And is dad still going on about me marrying that dork Tony Humphries?"
"Tony is the eldest child of wealthy graziers darling."
"God dad married you and your father was a school teacher."
"You father believes he's moved on since then darling."
"Well not to worry. I have briefed Elam about dad. He thinks it's hilarious that dad calls himself Bass."
"Mom we'll have a couple of days in Syders..."
"Please call it Sydney darling."
"And then Elam's brother Darcy will fly us out to Kelly Airfield where you guys can pick us up. Their parents run a charter aircraft business and flying school. Elam and their two sisters are also fully qualified commercial pilots."
"God and hooray for that. I won't tell your father. That will have even greater impact when he finds out."
"Well the aircraft will have Langley Aviation emblazoned on its side."
"Omigod darling. Hopefully that will cushion any adverse impact of your homecoming."
"Don't worry mom. Just be there to greet us. Any problem about this is dad's and it's all in his mind. You know that with dad, you're guilty unless you can prove your innocence. I bet dad thinks the guy who's screwing his oldest daughter is a poof because he paints pictures instead of painting barns after repairing them."
"Yes dear. God that's so right. You sound as if you have matured."
The family was gathered at Kelly Airfield and the twins saw it first, a tiny dot approaching low to the northwest.
The twin-prop Cessna landed and as it taxied to the small terminal Barbara noticed Bass reading the owner's name on the fuselage, Langley Aviation.
"What's the surname of this guy Elam?"
"What is his family into?"
"I think aviation and property development."
But Barbara was not letting him get away with that.
"This will be only one of the family's charter aircraft. They also run a flying school and Elam or his brother will by driving this airplane."
"You mean piloting this airplane."
"Oh do I?"
Bass grinned and said, "I smell a rat. His parents are millionaires aren't they?"
"I really have no idea darling. Oooh look, there's our big daughter waving. God she looks fabulous."
Barbara was excited to see Nikki again after such a long absence and was excited about her guy. She knew her daughter wouldn't have hooked up with a Drongo (Aussie slang for an unintelligent person).
She caught her breath when the broad-shouldered guy emerged. He was handsome and blue-eyed and looked almost as tall as Bass. Oh god, she thought. Don't allow him to be taller than Bass.
Nikki came running at them and the twins grabbed her, getting in first. But Nikki managed a hi mom and dad before being smothered. Elam stepped clear and the engines roared and the aircraft moved off.
Barbara and Nikki kissed and hugged excitedly and Nikki said, "The pilot is Elam's brother Ned. He has to get back to Sydney to prepare for an executive charter. Here's my Elam."
"Hi Mrs Thompson. I can see where Nikki gets her great looks."
Barbara jumped him and they kissed and he laughed and said he bet she was a great mother.
It was love at first sight for Barbara.
The two guys shook hands and Elam looked up at the blue sky and said, "I guess you are wishing for a dump of rain. Nikki told me to say that.
Bass laughed and said, "Call me Bass mate and call my wife Barbara. Those two eyeing you are our daughters Meg and Susie."
Elam looked surprised. "I understood the twins were called..."
"That's just dad," Kate said. "There's nothing much to amuse him in these parts. Are you going to kiss me and Kim?"
"You sound like an Aussie," Kim said, lining up for her kiss. "I thought living in England for some time would have had you saying, "Yes by joves, I'll kiss you providing pater approves."
"Um I don't believe even the English talk like that these days," Elam smiled.
The 17-year old Kim kissed him back and said, "If my sister drops you may I have you?"
"I'd have to think about that," Elam replied diplomatically.
They watched the Cessna take off and gain height smoothly and then bank gracefully to head back in the direction of Sydney.
"Nikki, why don't you ride with your mom and she can talk about me without being embarrassed and your dad can talk to me about the international beef trade and horses?"
"How did you know we'd come in two vehicles?" Bass sniffed, pulling at the brim of his Acubra (Stetson). "Nikki wouldn't have known that."
"Six people and all our luggage adds up to more than one vehicle in my book."
"Yeah mate and I'd thought the same way," Bass nodded. "Did Nikki tell you about my horse Ruffian?"
"Yeah she did. I figure if you get me to ride that horse and it throws me I'll have to shoot it and then come looking for you."
"Er I wouldn't get up to a damn stupid trick like that Elam. I think we should load up and head home for a cool beer."
"I suppose Nikki told you I won't touch beer?"
Bass looked devastated.
"She'd be lying if she did mate. Beer is my substitute for water, tea and wine. I only drink beer and coffee."
"Elam, you're not as silly as you look," Bass said, and the two guys smash their right-hand fists together and laughed.
Barbara's fears of a dreaded homecoming had proven groundless.
"Mom have you birthed any more kids since I've been away?"
Barbara was shocked and yelled, "What are you talking about your silly girl?"
Elam grinned and said, "Ah so this is how the real family interacts? I like it. Bass would be too busy out there praying for rain to get your pregnant, right Barbara?"
She smiled indulgently but quickly lost the smile and as Kate asked, "How does one get pregnant mom?"
Then everyone laughed and it was all okay again.