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fight til you win

River Gum - Chapter Six

Posted by omnipredation on 2007.11.08 at 17:34
Current Location: Home, office.
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: MUSE - Hoodoo
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Look what I got. Yeah. And there's four more chapters to post, too. I'll space 'em out a little. :)

Previous Chapter


Nat found that he did not need his uncle right away, and he acknowledged that even if he did need 
the man, he would be reluctant to give the clapperless bell a shake to summon him. Not only would 
such a summoning be unwarranted, he strongly suspected it wouldn’t work at all, and that old 
Teddy was pulling his leg with the clapper-less little bell. Instead of dwelling on things that for the 
moment overstretched his understanding, Nathaniel set about moving boxes from the couch, which 
he assumed was going to be his bed for the time being. Thankfully the boxes were light, and he 
was able to relocate them to other stacks and sweep aside old newspapers and piles of dust in 
order to clear away a space for him to relax.

           Unfortunately, no matter how many boxes he moved, more appeared to take their place and 
thwart his excavation. He would roll his wheelchair forward, pick up another and drag it onto his lap 
and move it aside only to find that another had taken its place on the couch. When he had moved 
half a dozen boxes, he noticed that it was a rather nice couch, and decided then that even if it took 
him all day to remove the boxes from it and its environs, he would do it and make himself a space 
in the lounge. Half of him trusted uncle Teddy’s promise, that he would have someone in to move 
the junk out of the way, but the other half disputed the promise and egged Nat on, spurring him to 
action despite his disability. He knew that when (or if) his legs healed he would be able to do more, 
but until then, he resolved to do what he was able.

           Another box – this one full of crockery, by the sound of it. Nat pulled it onto his lap and 
wheeled himself a few feet away and deposited it on a stack of similar boxes, all unlabeled. If “kitchen 
items” were to go into a designated area, he had yet to factor that designation into his efforts. Most 
of the boxes were plain brown cardboard, unlabeled, and thus without clues as to where they should 
be stacked. With that in mind, he paid no particular attention to those that happened to have a 
designation scrawled on them, simply hoisting them if he was able and moving them to other locations. 
The newspapers were another story. Most of them were falling apart and were crumpled beyond help, 
so he gathered them and folded them and stacked them in a corner created by a family of particularly 
large and heavy boxes. Finally, the couch was unearthed.
          “Phew. Wish it was lunchtime,” said Nat aloud. He examined the couch, which proved to be a 
plushy mass of plaid under the layers of dust. If he had a rag, he would have endeavoured to dust 
it, but there were no rags at hand, and no blankets either apart from the one that he had covering 
his legs in their obnoxious stiff casts. He resolved to sleep on the dusty and musty-smelling couch 
regardless, as it was better than trying to sleep upright in his chair.

           Then, to Nat’s great surprise, his uncle Teddy kept his word and returned late in the 
afternoon and wheeled him to the kitchen, having made honestly impressed noises upon seeing 
Nat’s progress with the boxes.

           “I’ll still have my man in. He does the garden work and sometimes lends a hand with heavy 
lifting. We’ll get those boxes up to the attic and bring down a bed for you. Sound agreeable?” Teddy 

           “Sure does,” Nat said, “but are you sure you need to go to the trouble of bringing something 
down when I can just sleep on the sofa?”

           “I won’t have it. I had myself a good think about it and realised I’ve been less than 
hospitable, all things considered. You’ll pardon me for being a bit ah, rattled, or shook up. I never 
expected to lose Oliver like that. Not that I expected to lose him at all, and neither did you, but 
murder…” Teddy trailed off and shook his head, parking Nat’s wheelchair at a long wooden dining 
table set up in the kitchen. 

           “What do you mean? It wasn’t murder, it was an accident,” Nat said, craning his neck to keep 
an eye on Teddy as he fetched over a covered dish and loaded a trio of shortbread cookies on a 
passably clean china plate. There were towering stacks of dishes piled in the sink, and Nat twisted 
around the opposite direction, watching Teddy raid the fridge and return with a bottle of puply-
looking orange juice.

           “Here, drink up. What I mean is this,” Teddy said as he whipped open a local newspaper. He 
opened it and fanned the pages, gesturing. “Look.”

           Nat looked, though at first he did not comprehend. The article’s headline read “Driver of van 
sought for questioning following hit & run.” Beneath that, “Man killed, child critically injured. Family 
offers reward for information leading to apprehension of suspect.”

           “Is… is this about me? About us?” Nat asked sceptically, scanning the article. There were no 
pictures, just reappearing names, names that were unfamiliar to him.

           “No. Your ‘accident’ was not reported. This is either a plant, which you can thank your crafty 
mother for, or an entirely separate incident. I’m not sure which it is. But believe me when I tell you 
it’s very likely your brush with death was a deliberate attempt on your lives. In your father’s case, 
the attempt was successful. Eat some cake. Would you like some milk instead of the juice?”

           Nat shoved the paper away. “How can you be so calm about the idea that my father – your 
brother – was murdered? Do you even notice how mad that sounds?” he demanded, his 
voice heated and his eyes stinging with the need to shed tears. He denied them, rubbing his face 
hard and grabbing one of the cookies on his plate, biting into it to keep himself from saying 
anything regrettable – or worse, finding that he had started screaming and there was no way to stop. 

           Teddy’s face relaxed into an expression of sympathy, his brows creasing in as he got out a 
glass and poured milk into it, handing it to Nat, who took a grateful gulp to wash down the cookie 
that polluted his mouth with crumbs and robbed his tongue of consonants. 
           “I’m sorry, Nathaniel. I’m sorry, but there is more going on in this ugly world than you could 
ever imagine. There was a freak storm, wasn’t there?” said Teddy, and Nat could hardly bear his 
tone of understanding. He swallowed the rest of his cookie, which tasted like sand, and drank the 
milk carefully. It was fresh and cool and satisfying, and he set the glass down to nod.

           “Yes. How did you know? Nobody knew. It wasn’t on the radar or forecast or anything.”

           “That’s how I knew. I watch the weather. And I knew when my brother died. Being an only 
child, there’s no way you could understand the bond that forms between brothers. Especially 
brothers,” said Teddy softly, sadly folding the newspaper, “who were like your father and me.”

           “So you were watching the weather and the radar was clear,” Nat took a pause for another 
bite of another cookie, “and somehow you intuited that my dad died in a car accident in 
the rain?” He was aware that he sounded sarcastic, and that it was obvious that he very much 
doubted his uncle’s sanity. 

           “You think me mad, don’t you?” remarked Teddy plainly.

           “A little, but it seems to run in the family, doesn’t it?” Nat countered.

           Teddy threw back his head and laughed, then topped off Nat’s milk, still chuckling to 
himself and wiping tears from his fleshy pink cheeks. Nat thought he saw the resemblance, then, 
between his father and his uncle, despite Teddy being short and overweight and suffering from an 
inability to comb his blonde hair, which was the exact same shade as Oliver’s had been. It was 
almost the same as Nat’s. Nat was going a bit red in the face as well, but from fury rather than 
mirth. He knew not if his uncle was laughing at him or with him, or maybe just at the absurdity of it 
all; that his life, that their lives, should have come to this grim standoff-style discussusion 
of his father’s death, as though the car accident had been somehow premeditated –

           “You are crazy,” Nat said, grabbing the wheels of his chair and pushing back from 
the table. He was too angry to eat, and the one and a half cookies he had managed to put away 
were turning in his belly. 

           “Whoa! Hold up, hold up!” called Teddy, his expression shifting in an instant from 
amusement to concern. He chased Nat down easily and caught hold of the handles of his 
wheelchair, using his weight to drag it to a stop.

           “Let. Go.” Nat glared up at his uncle.

           “I’m not laughing at you, Nathaniel, or at your pain, which is surely as great as mine, or 
greater! You lost a father. You don’t want to hear about it – ”

           “Too right, I don’t!” shouted Nat, rocking the wheels uselessly and trying to tear himself free.

           “Please, Nathaniel. I’m truly sorry,” said Teddy quietly, and the softness of h is voice had a 
surprising effect, calming his nephew, who left off wrenching at the wheels to grip the armrests 
instead. His fingers drove imprints into the plastic, then relaxed.

           “Yeah,” muttered Nat, “me too.”

           “I won’t bring it up again,” Teddy pledged, steering the wheelchair back round to the kitchen 
table, parking Nat by his half-eaten cookie and the glass of milk. “Let’s just have a snack and put it 
out of our minds, shall we?”

           “Yes. We shall,” said Nat. Privately he wondered how he was going to be able to think of 
anything else, and he wondered if he was as mad as his uncle for entertaining – with a sweet, futile, 
vengeful hope – the theory that the madman had cooked up. 

In the days that followed, Teddy and Nat discovered they had something in common: they each had 
a fascination with the workings of the weather. Teddy promised to get Nat upstairs when he was 
healed and show off his amateur observatory. True to word, he had his man in and a bed brought 
down from the attic chambers, of which Teddy hinted there were many, and mysteriously cluttered 
all. A professional was brought in to repair the lounge’s ensuite bathroom, and the boxes, so neatly 
and labouriously stacked, vanished completely in a short span of time. The musty couch on which 
Nat had slept his first night had been pushed aside, and a table with stereo and amplifier and an 
old but large television appeared and were set up for Nat’s convenience.

           “I’ve got satellite, though it doesn’t always work,” Teddy explained, sweating through his 
white dress shirt even after he had shed his jacket. Summer was having one last brave go at it, and 
the house was seething with heat, but still Teddy insisted on doing his best for Nat; he was 
crouched on the floor connecting the satellite receiver to the DVD player attached to the television 
unit. “Which means premium weather channels for us, when we can get them. Maybe by the time I 
get this hooked up – ” Teddy gave a grunt and nearly toppled over on his side as he twisted a plug 
into place and switched the receiver on, “ah, there we go! Maybe the sun’ll be out, what do you 
think, Nathaniel?”

           “It might, but more important – ”

           “What’s more important than sunshine!”

           “You should really start calling me Nat, seeing as how I’m allowed to call you Teddy,” said 
Nat, unable to help a smile. Teddy had grown on him considerably after their inauspicious and 
awkward first day, but despite Teddy’s insistence on Nat using the informal version of his name, 
sans even the title of “uncle,” he had not yet got into the habit of calling Nathaniel by the preferred 
abbreviated version of his name.

           “Blast it, that must be the twelfth and fiftieth time you’ve told me,” grumped Teddy. He 
hooked his finger in his jacket and pulled it over, fishing his sticky notes and sparkly pen from its 
depths, and began to write, muttering to himself. “Remember – to call Nat – Nat.”

           “See, was that so hard?” asked Nat with a grin.

           “What? Oh. Oh, well, no; these notes are so much more effective than my poor old memory, 
though,” said Teddy as he stuck the note to his sweaty forehead. It soaked through and stayed a 
moment as Teddy crossed his eyes, seeming surprised that sweat alone could cause it to remain 
plastered there when surely his perspiration should have caused it to fall off. Thankfully his surprise 
needn’t linger overlong, for the neon blue sticky note peeled itself away and flopped down Nat’s 
uncle’s nose and fell off his face. 

           “Slippery as a memory, those notes,” said Teddy sadly, picking up the soggy paper and t hen 
his dripping self. He squatted and collected his jacket and then pushed the TV’s power button as he 
dropped himself over onto the plaid sofa, which groaned in response to the tremendous sigh he 

           “Looks that way,” Nat replied, amused by his uncle’s antics.

           “Catch,” said Teddy, tossing Nat the remote control.

           “Catching,” Nat said as he extended his arm and caught the device. “So what channel’s best?”

           “There’s at least three stations I pay for on the premium package that are devoted solely to 
weather forecasting. Three times three times three more are news with weather reports and 
forecasts thrown in. D’you like news with your weather?”

           “Depends on if it’s good news or bad news,” said Nat wryly.

           “Ah hah! I thought so; you’re a connoisseur, then… you’ll want local news 9 for your 
appetiser – a meal of channel 121, perhaps, and for dessert, and to complement the earlier 
flavours, our national report on news 2, showing at six daily,” said Teddy gleefully, gesturing at the 
telly, which was playing some silly series of cartoons for the set-upon who craved nothing else.

           “So you’re an epicure of weather stations.” Nat thumbed the remote button down several 
stations, setting it to channel nine just as Malina Campbell the meteorologist walked on. “Oh, I like 
her. She doesn’t have a face that can lie to you,” Nat remarked.

           “Hm, I quite agree. And before long, my boy, I’ll have you schooled into a proper gourmand 
to rival myself. Well, in tastes, that is. Preferably not in girth!” laughed Teddy good-naturedly as he 
patted his considerable belly. 

           Nat chuckled along, secretly thinking that his uncle wasn’t really that fat, though he 
could stand to gain (or rather, lose) by laying off the sweets.

           Malina was cheerfully announcing that the dog days of summer now lay across most of the 
kingdom with rising but moderate temperatures, and that finally a break in the rain was expected – 
though how long the break would last was anyone’s guess as they headed into September. Good 
news, all right. Nat and Teddy heard out the rest of Malina’s report in a companionable silence; 
thus an easy accord began to build between them that was far easier on their hearts than they 
might have expected.

Chapter Seven--->


leoclanalpha at 2007-11-09 08:08 (UTC) (Link)
I cant believe the diversities in the mental states between the characters that you have created.. I love it..

I cant wait until you have the other chapters posted. Thank you for sharing.
omnipredation at 2007-11-09 09:34 (UTC) (Link)
I can hardly believe it either. Sometimes characters just spring out of nothing... or it seems like they do. Obviously they have to have a basis in something in one's subconscious, but I'm damned if I know where Teddy came from. I'm beginning to like him quite a bit, though, even if he is a bit of a nutter.

I just broke 20k on the River Gum document I started when NaNoWriMo began. I'll finish chapter eleven tonight and then post seven so you can read it! Thank you so much for sticking with me and reading. :)
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