Valley of Sinners Ch. 03byEgmont Grigor©
SO FAR: A jobless and sensitive young man becomes innocently associated with a bubbling woman in her late forties who lives alone on a vineyard out of Auckland, New Zealand. Nash is attracted because she drives a beautifully re-built and upgraded 1939 Chevy pick-up and draws him from his ‘shell’ with ease. Hope Honeybun’s interest in young Mr Carson is that he writes a little and seems to have a worldly sense so installs him downstairs as resident author and commissions him to write a novel based on her colorful and turbulent life, much of which spans the time she has lived in the valley. Nash hears without interest the development of the valley and about her lusty father and his women and reasons he must probe to find out about Hope’s sex life. It appears this is a Valley of Sinners.
Still out in the orchard, Hope continued to give background to her young ‘biographer’ who has been listening to the development of the valley into a wine-making area with sordid tidbits of interest as well.
The story of the Honeybun Chevy is treasured by Hope and she knows it well, having heard it told by her deceased father many, many times and read and reread the vehicle log and entries in Cedric’s diary as she’d loved hearing about how the charismatic vehicle, as her father used to call it, came into the family.
When Cedric Honeybun went into Te Henui Valley in February 1969 to find a piece of land to buy, it was logical to call on farmer Trevor Hopkins, whose land encompassed much of the valley and beyond it for some distance on both sides. The men knew each other quite well.
During a break in yarning and downing whiskies, Trevor suggested they take a drive over to the back where he had an ailing horse grazing in a sheltered area beside a stream that ultimately fed into Te Henui River to the north-west.
They drove off in a 1956 Holden ute (Australian for utility vehicle), with Trevor admiring the aging vehicle, commenting that it must be almost run into the ground. Trevor disagreed, saying that ‘the old girl’ would last him out. In fact he’d traded it in for a new 1965 Ford pick-up, but within three weeks had traded it back in to the dealer and Trevor re-purchased his Holden. It seemed that glamour and horsepower was not everything to Trevor.
Cedric could find nothing wrong with the horse except it was slowly winding down as it was well into its twilight years, approaching thirty.
On the return back to the whisky bottle, Trevor diverted and stopped at collapsing hay shed. Inside they looked at a vehicle that had been Trevor’s father’s pride and joy – a 1939 American Chevrolet pick-up, built in Oakland, California. Trevor recalled when he first saw the Chevy it was beautifully painted in Boatswain blue with black mudguards.
Cedric couldn’t take his eyes off the rusting vehicle despite it looking almost as decrepit as the shed housing it. It was dusty, infiltrated with bits of hay and rats’ nests, the tires were perished and falling off the rims and one detachable headlight was missing. Trevor noted Cedric’s interest and said nothing until they were seated in the homely kitchen again, with his wife Katie pouring tea and handing them freshly-made scones, still warm enough to melt the thick covering of butter.
Trevor asked what Cedric had been thinking when he’d been ‘kicking tires’. Oh, just what an old beauty she’d look if she were rebuilt, was the reply.
They commenced discussing Cedric’s search for a suitable piece of land to build a house incorporating a clinic with a couple of acres for a big garden, fruit trees and room to graze the pony of his daughter, Hope. Trevor then made the suggestion that Cedric should buy the choice piece at the south-eastern end of the valley but take a larger slab as an investment as it was becoming fashionable for city folk to want to live in the country not too far from the city.
That sounded a good idea to Cedric but he couldn’t decide how much land to purchase. Aware that the conversation was bogging down, Katie suggested two hundred acres sounded a nice size so the men negotiated a price and shook on the deal. Trevor then added that if Cedric were interested, he could cart away the old pick-up for the price of a couple of bottles of whisky. Cedric didn’t know if he were that interested. Katie also sorted that one out, saying if he removed the vehicle she could torch the shed, as it was an eye-sore.
The next day Cedric arrived as a passenger in a truck towing a vehicle retrieval trailer. The men, assisted by Trevor and his two farmhands, hauled the Chevy aboard and it was taken to a friend of Trevor’s who’d already restored two veteran cars. This friend was always in perpetual motion, something that retirement and creeping age had not yet managed to inhibit. Maurice Agnew was a former motor mechanic and with a complete restoration and a recent rebuild under his belt, looked over the Chevy with interest. His prognosis was that the motor would be seized and would need rebuilding, but the chassis and bodywork of the vehicle was in surprisingly good condition. As it would need rewiring it would be best to convert it to 12-volt.
After the lengthy inspection with not too many tut-tuts, the beaming Maurice and Cedric sat in the garden sipping beer, with Cedric thinking about which way to answer Maurice’s question – a complete, authentic restoration or simply a refurbishment with a complete modernization under the bonnet and right through to the back suspension.
Cedric couldn’t decided, so Maurice asked him what were his plans for the vehicle – to enter it in veteran and vintage vehicle events, to use it for Sunday drives or to use it for everyday driving? Well, Cedric thought he’d like a grunty, reliable vehicle with a comfortable interior to use every day, so chose the modernization option but leaving the exterior still looking authentic. He thought he’d like the exterior painted fire engine red and the seat covered in tan leather.
Right, said Maurice, rubbing his hands with glee, asking Cedric for a check for two thousand dollars, adding he’d begin the round of wreckers’ yards in the morning. Come back in a year’s time, or sooner if he wanted to view progress and not to forget to bring some beer, Cedric was told.
Cedric waited for a month before returning, a crate of beer in the tray of his year-old Holden ute. He boggled at what he saw – everything was in pieces. In the middle of the workshop was just the chassis of his vehicle. It had been sandblasted, repaired, rebolted with new bolts and repainted. The cab was in one corner of the garage, the pick-up box in another and between them were stacked various bits and pieces. On one wall were a series of photographs of the vehicle as it had been received, and recording progress as it had been stripped down. Many of the photos were extreme close-ups. But what caught Cedric’s attention was a colored enlargement of one of 15,500 Chevy pickups that were produced in the 1939 model year. His eyes lit up as he said the image was better than he’d imagined.
Maurice was pleased, asked for a beer, and said it was time to talk of about replacement motor to drop in and whether it was Cedric’s desire to have one that could be mated to a three or a four-speed manual gearbox or did he want auto transmission. Um, replied Cedric, saying he’d fetch the crate of beer from the ute.
Cedric eventually left the mechanical decisions to Maurice. The original 216 cu. in. 6-cylinder engine was replaced with a 1963 Corvette 327 cub. in. small block Chevrolet V8 engine, producing 340 hp, mated to a four-speed Borg Warner gear box.
The months passed and finally the long awaited phone call was received by Cedric when he was at a farm gelding a stroppy young stallion. The Chevy was ready to be handed over.
In years to come, Hope and Cedric would be sitting on the deck or in the orchard during summer evenings or in front of the fire during winter time after dinner and if conversation lapsed, he would occasionally re-tell the history of the Chevy. His eyes would glisten when he’d come to this part.
Being driven to Maurice’s home by Natasa Bronkovic, Cedric could not remember feeling happier since the birth of Hope. He felt very excited as he’d not seen the vehicle for many weeks; Maurice had called him in to view the first of six coats of red paint that he’d spray over the cab and pickup tray and over the inside of some of the cab. Coats of lacquer would then be applied, but Maurice warned that it was a bad choice of color as it would require redoing every few years because red paint faded quite quickly. He conceded, however, the Chevy would look wonderful when the project was finished.
Maurice had done almost ninety-five percent of the work himself – choosing to use experts to do the transmission and align everything up and to replace the upholstery.
Cedric recorded in his diary, which Hope still had, about coming face to face with the completed Chevy. She read to Nash the extract she’d written out:
‘My heart skipped and my eyes misted. She looked so beautiful, just like a new bride. I resolved then and there that she should remain in our family forever. When I’d last saw her the cab and pickup tray were being painted before being placed on to the chassis. Now she was complete, right down to new shoes (the white wall tires). My hands shook as Maurice tossed me the keys. I walked around her twice if not three times. I can’t remember as I was so overcome. I knew Maurice was almost wetting himself watching me – he was making cracks to Natasa and they were both laughing. I opened the driver’s door – it felt heavy, and opened ever so smoothly. The smell of new leather hit my nostrils and I almost passed out with emotion. Reluctantly I closed the door and went to Natasa’s car to get the beer and my check book. I felt ever so happy.’
After inheriting the vehicle, Hope had that power unit replaced in 1984 with a small block 350 Camero V8 engine from a wrecker’s yard. It came with a five-speed manual gearbox and she had disc brakes fitted and upgraded the heater, rather than installing air-conditioning. She preferred maintaining the original hot weather ventilation – both side windows wound down and the windscreen opened from the bottom by a hand crank mounted in the centre of the dash. Quite a gale could be created with this system when moving along under speed.
Hope finished the recollection with tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I’m unable to recall ever seeing daddy so happy when I arrived home late one afternoon. He charged out of the house and said that he had something to show me. Pulling up the middle garage door – we didn’t have auto-openers installed then – I saw coming into view the most beautiful ute I’d ever seen. He’d backed it out so I could see her full frontal. I told him what I thought. He was pleased but asked me never to call it a ute again. I could call it a pickup or a half-tonner; being American, the Chevy was not a ute. I recall screaming with delight when I saw her. I begged him to take me for a ride, and he said he’d not put on such a presentation without inviting me for a ride – it was the icing on the cake.”
Hope wiped her eyes, smiling beautifully, saying that this was perhaps her best memory of her father. “We drove down to the village like show-offs – we really were. Other drivers tooted at us and people came out of their shops and waved or cheered. Dad had told some people that he was getting a 1939 Chevy half-tonner rebuilt and the word had spread through the district. People were genuinely pleased to have something old to look at as the village itself and everything around it was very new. Trevor Hopkins had the agricultural centre and saleyards behind the shops and he’d built first five shops and I guess they are still owned by Catherine, Trevor’s only child.”
Hope continued: “Dad let me drive the Chevy home from the village and when we stopped in the garage he put his arm around my shoulders and kissed me on the head, saying, ‘I’m so happy darling. I want you to keep her in the family for as long as she can turn those wheels of hers’. I was excited as I knew by what he was saying the Chevy would pass on to me.”
Nash loved watching Hope’s face – she looked as years had slipped from it and she was reliving that day with all her heart. He said it was a lovely story and he’d have pleasure incorporating the story in his book.
“But you give me a problem. The Chevy’s name is Rupert, isn’t it, and yet you consistently call the vehicle she; how am I going to explain this eccentricity?”
Hope smiled. “You won’t have to bother for the benefit of women readers. Just mention that my first vehicle when I was a little girl was a red pedal car that came to me with the name of Rupert. They will understand. Of course men won’t understand but there’s no need to spell it out as they’ll still not be able to comprehend as that’s how men’s minds work.”
“Oh really?” Nash said politely, looking a little baffled.
* * *
The Sydney harborside at the ferry terminals was swarming with tourists, workers actually working and people lunching. To be technically ‘hair color correct’, the red-head artificially turned chestnut Lisa Honeybun was a lunching worker. She loved the buzz generated by the people, the colorful odd characters in this area that many locals called ‘the pulse of the city’.
Nibbling her salad roll on a bench seat, she was sandwiched between a burly man who obviously believed the soft-sounding passing of wind was socially acceptable and on the other side lolled a giggling young office worker using a mobile phone to update her listener about finding a suitable date for the office picnic on Sunday. Farts or loud phone usage? It was a toss up as to which was worse but the office worker moved off back to work – having announced that imminent intention into her phone – so Lisa moved into the vacated space.
Finishing her salad roll and capping her half-full bottle of spring water, Lisa pulled from her shoulder bag the latest letter from her mother. It was a chatty three-pager; the only really interesting item was that her mother bribed a truckie preparing to haul her illegally parked truck for impounding. Fortunately, this ‘rather nice young man with a whimsical smile and obviously an excellent brain’ induced her to offer the tow-away guy money for his back pocket, and the rogue accepted it, releasing the Chevy. In a whimsical frame of mind mother suggests that perhaps Lisa should come home and with her specialist skill find this poor unemployed man a decent job.
Lisa could not believe her mother wrote that last sentence in a sane frame of mind. Not only has her mother become involved with street riff-raff but she wanted Lisa to help her repay the rat-bag for his kindness. What a ridiculous notion, that she, Lisa Honeybun, should cross the Tasman to find a job for some street bum who her mother had temporarily befriended.
Really! It’s a wonder her unbelievably grateful mother hadn’t taken the deviously-minded street bum home to bed him. Lisa smiled at the thought of the district gossip Maggie Tait walking in and finding her best friend screaming as she repeatedly impaled herself on the little stiffy of a bewildered street bum. Mother, you usually do better than that, she admonished, being aware of her mother’s interest in keeping her sexual mechanisms in working order.
Oh mum, sighed Lisa. Why can’t I experience the satisfaction from a man that you seemed able to do without even appearing to try? Lisa grinned, thinking of the hot summer’s day when she returned home early from university, wringing in sweat from the long bus ride, to find Monty chained up and mother nowhere in sight. Up in her bedroom she looked down into the orchard and saw something straight out of a French novel – a man lying still obviously plugged into his mother, with deep scratch marks on his back, and she lying also soundly asleep and also totally nude, with her hair ringed by three daisy chains.
Lisa had quietly opened her windows and took a couple of photographs. She waited for a quarter of an hour and they stirred. If they were going to do it again, she would not watch. But no, they kissed and both stood up, her mother’s heavy breasts displaying mid-age droop. As she was taking a series of photographs – goodness knows what for – the man turned his head, allowing Lisa to recognize him instantly: the almost non-communicative Basil Tait; oh my, what an obliging neighbor!
She still has those photographs in the storeroom off her old bedroom. She’d kept them because they are quite lovely, really. Not at all obscene which is why the local chemist agreed to print her negatives after calling her in to ‘discuss this rather embarrassing film of yours’.
Lisa had no trouble convincing the chemist.
“They’re not obscene, Ed, and if you ever visit my mother again for a similar purpose, I promise to take no photographs.”
“Er, your mother and I were only discussing her medication.”
“My mother only takes aspirin, Ed, and one does not normally have a consultation lying nude on our kitchen table with your customer, in this case my mum, who I spied lying nude and exhausted beside you.”
“Lisa, Lisa, of course I’ll print your photographs, free of course. Now, about that lovely afternoon I had with your mother. As you know my wife Norma is a lay preacher and…”
“Ed, that afternoon occurred more than two years ago, and Norma did not know then and does not know now, so that afternoon belongs to history, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, quite, but what if your darling mother should call me again to attend to her desires?”
“Go to her Ed, no self-respecting daughter would deny her mum of simple pleasures. Your lustful secret will be safe with me.”
For some weeks – ever since Tim had left her – Lisa has thought more and more about having distanced herself so adamantly from her mother. It now seems so bizarre. They never really argued; it was almost impossible to argue with someone who is so placid and confident about herself. Her mother simply believed she had to right to watch over her youngest daughter closely, even though Lisa by this stage was a young woman about to graduate from university. The red-head decided the only way to rid her of this perpetual interference was to say that they must separate and keep separated.
Lisa had regretted being so heavy about that. Her mother had looked as if she’d been stabbed through the heart; there was no other way of putting it. Lisa had screamed and ranted, but still she could not force her mother to repent and break into tears. She screamed at her mother to say something, but all that her mother would say was, “Do what you think is best dear, but as a mother I believe I have a right to assist you through life. I must remain involved.”
To this day Lisa remained aware that had her mother cried, Lisa would have extracted satisfaction and perhaps would not have excommunicated herself. She would have found another way out – after all, she’d studied psychology and received near to top marks in tutor appraisals, submission of papers and in examinations. Yet her mother, perhaps being unable to spell psychology correctly, had completely out-psyched her daughter over this confrontation.
My guilt over this has at last dissipated. My guilt has gone! Lisa clenched the edge of the green wooden seat, feeling as if she’d been exorcised. That’s enough of melodramatics, my girl, she sighed. You were a stroppy, self-opinioned and selfish bitch – a typical out-of-control redhead. Go visit your mother!
Go home for a visit? Oh dear. Go home for a visit?
Tears came as she whispered, “I love you mummy.” That thought has never deserted her, but she’d worked hard to block the thought, to make it easier for herself. Sydney summer flies were darting at her eyes to sample the excess moisture, so she wiped them dry, knowing she should be wearing sunglasses.