Sydney/Taree Australia
Part 1

"You look just like Pop," I smiled as B and I shook hands at Sydney International Airport arrival's lounge. "Are you guys really twins? I can't tell you apart... 'cept you're not wearing a towel. Are you sure you're not Pop? I don't get it. Pop was at the airport in Miami to see me off. How the fuck did you get here before me?"

"G'day, mate," the old dude smiled, causing his face to dissolve into a million wrinkles. "Welcome to Oz."

"You're pulling my chain, right?"

"Let's go get your baggage."

"I'm travelling light... just my carry-on stuff. Pop said you'd take care of everything else. Hey, are you sure you're not Pop?"

"Name's B. I've got a limo waiting for us outside. Let's go."

Yeah, right. Limo? "This is a limo?" I asked as we boarded the bus.

"It's a Mercedes, and it's got a driver. What else do you bloodywell want?"

"So how come there's a whole bunch of other people on board?"

"It's in my nature to share things."

As B and I took our seat, he began to explain that he and Pop had known each other for a long time, but that they weren't related. "Just one of those freaks of nature, I guess. He's an American like you, and I'm an Aussie. I've never been to America."

"Holy shit!" I yelped as I looked out the window. "How come we're driving on the wrong side of the road?"

"It's a South Pole magnetic thingy. This is the southern hemisphere, Daniel. We do everything backwards down here... well, almost everything."

"Is that why you guys talk funny?"

"Yep."

From the city, we took a train to Petersham, where B lived. It was a pretty cool train... large, tinted, wraparound windows, airconditioned, quiet, comfortable... the works. Everything reminded me so much of the way it was back home in the States... the buildings, the people, the cars. But not the Aussie accent. It was soooo weird!

"If there's an 'r' in weird, how come you guys don't sound it?"

"Too bloody hard."

"Haah'd?"

As soon as we'd arrived at B's apartment, I was attacked by a six-foot praying mantis. "G'day, Daniel," he grinned, extending his long, spindly arm as he offered me his hand. "I'm Lindsay. B's told me all about you. Glad to meet you, mate. And this is my wife, Sue."

Fucking hell! Was this for real? I was looking at two people straight outa The Addams Family. He had hair reaching halfway down his back, and so did she. No way, man. This had to be some kinda fucking joke. Lindsay had just one upper tooth, and Sue's hands were kinda strange... slightly twisted.

Still in shock, I followed B to his room, where I dumped my carry-on bag on his bed. "You can sleep in my bed, Daniel. I'll bunk on the lounge."

"The what?"

"Sofa, settee, couch... whatever you blokes call it."

"Blokes? And what's with Sue and Lindsay? Are they going to some kinda Halloween thingy?" It was then that I noticed all the cardboard cartons stacked everywhere. "Just moving in, huh?"

"Out. Didn't Pop tell you? We're moving to Taree."

"Taree?"

"Up the coast about 300 kilometers... 200-ish miles in your lingo. I'm afraid this place will be quite a mess for about the next week or so. By the way, how long are you staying?"

"Jeez, I dunno. I thought... I mean... this was gonna be my vacation in Sydney. And now you're talking about going to... what was it?"

"Trust Pop to bugger up this whole damn thing. Wouldn't know if his bloody bum was on fire. I'm sorry, Daniel, but I won't have time to show you around Sydney. Too much packing and organizing to do."

Later that afternoon, a huge old lady, with boobs the size of prize-winning watermelons, and bare feet, squeezed through the open front door, and wandered down the hall. "Are you there B? I need some things down the road... Oh! Who's this?"

"I'm Daniel," I smiled, and offered my hand. "I'm from Tampa, Florida, and I'm visiting B."

"You've got an American accent like those people on TV shows. Are you American?"

"Yes, ma'am. Florida is a state of the USA."

The woman planted her enormous butt on the couch, then continued. "Why on earth would you want to visit a silly old fart like B for? Besides, you're too young. Did you know that B is gay?"

"Bloody hell, Nancy," B thundered as he taped another packing carton. "We're busy. And what the hell's gay got to do with anything?"

"I've seen some of those disgusting pictures on that damn computer thing of yours. You're a pervert, and you shouldn't be tampering with young boys like Daniel."

"It's OK, ma'am," I explained, "I'll be sleeping in B's bed."

Nancy's jaw dropped a couple of feet, and her brown eyes widened in absolute horror. "I've a good mind to call the police!"

"There's not enough room in my bed for the bloody police," B mumbled as he filled another carton. "And Daniel neglected to add that I'll be sleeping on the lounge. But not while you've got your big fat bum on it. Ask Lindsay to do your shopping for you."

It was early evening when I joined B in the kitchen, where he was preparing dinner. Lindsay was in the living room watching TV, and Sue was in the bathroom.

"Sue's been in the bathroom for like hours! Is she OK? And what are you cooking?"

"Sue constantly monopolizes the bathroom. I'm doing a beef curry. You like curry?"

"Not too hot! Can I help?"

"Yep. Count the rice. There are four of us, so I'll need 1,372 grains exactly."

"So what's with the Sue and Lindsay thing? They're kinda weird looking. How come you live with those guys?"

"I'm their carer."

"But you're not their type. How many grains did you say?"

"1,372. It's a long story, Daniel, but about five years ago they saved my arse."

"Arse?"

"Ass... butt. I was broke with nowhere to go. They offered to share a house with me. It was organized by their carer at the time. I took over caring for them about a year ago. Things are different now... I'm making a few bob and I can afford things."

"Bob?"

"Dollars."

"What's wrong with them? Sue's kinda spastic looking."

"She's got osteoporosis - a bone disease. She's a foot shorter than she used to be, and she's had a hip removed. And Lindsay? He's an alcoholic. They're both alcoholics. They're also both epileptics. They're on constant medication."

"So they saved your ass and you're saving theirs. Is that it?"

B placed a bunch of chopped onions, celery, and garlic into a pan and began to stir fry them with a wooden spoon in butter and olive oil. Then he added a heaped tablespoon of curry powder. "I'm not really sure why I'm doing this, Daniel. All I know is that if I weren't, Sue and Lindsay would be institutionalized, and I don't think I could handle the thought of that. Everybody deserves a decent life."

"But what about your life?"

"The fact that I've still got one is due to them in part, and also to people like Kyle. And you, of course."

"Me?"

"Sure."

Once the vegies were ready, B added a bunch of cubed steak to the pan, plus some chopped tomato, pineapple pieces, sultanas, shredded coconut, chutney, sliced banana, and diced apple. Whoa! The aroma was totally fucking magic! But I'd gotten so excited, I'd forgotten how many rice grains I'd counted.

"B? I think I've blown it. I was up to about three hundred and something rice grains, and..."

"Don't get your knickers in a knot about it, Daniel," the old dude chuckled. "When the water boils, throw four handfuls of rice in, plus another for good measure."

"But how will I know how many grains there are?"

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating, Daniel," he grinned with a wink. "If it tastes OK, you'll know whether or not you've done the right thing."

"But what if I fuck it up?" Well, I needn't have freaked. The curry was just too awesome for words!

Over dinner, I got to know Sue and Lindsay a little better. Sue showed me pics taken of her in England, where she was into horses big time, and rode them in shows. But now her body had been ravaged by osteoporosis, and she walked with a pronounced limp. Her fingers had also paid the price of the bone disease, and she had difficulty using a knife and fork.

Lindsay was a pretty cheerful kinda guy, with the world's goofiest, one-tooth grin. He told me about the time Sue went back to England to visit her folks. "We lost contact, and I thought I'd never see her again. That was about 13 or 14 years ago. I lost the plot totally, and just walked out of the house we were renting. I lived for 6 months in a city park, drinking metholated spirits mixed with boot polish. I'd scavenge for food in trashcans. I remember brushing the flies off half-eaten sandwiches or hamburgers. I'd sleep in the rain. I just didn't care anymore. When I was finally rescued by the Salvation Army, I was even skinnier than I am now. I was a minute away from death. I hadn't washed for 6 months. I was still in the same clothes I left home in. My beard was down to my stomach, and my hair was down to my waist. But the Sallies turned me around, and I became a counsellor for alcoholics and drug addicts. Don't dilly dally when you work for the Sallies," he laughed.."Meantime, Sue had arrived back in Australia. She spent months looking for me... phoning various places and organizations. One day, she just happened to phone the Sallies, and there I was. So we got back together and lived in the boarding house next door to where we met B."

"You brushed flies off half-eaten hamburgers you found in trash cans?"

"When you're permanently drunk outa your mind, Daniel, you don't care about a fucking thing. Besides, I didn't wanna live without Sue."

"It's all cool now, though. Right?"

"Better than cool," he grinned, flashing his single tooth. "Can't beat B's curry. He's a fantastic cook. And we're going to Taree! Woohoo! I can't wait!"

Sue obviously didn't share her husband's enthusiasm. She just chewed on her food and stared blankly at the TV screen, probably not absorbing a damn thing she was seeing.

"Sue? Are you looking forward to Taree?"

"Huh? Oh... I don't know. We're settled here, and.... I hate moving. We're always moving."

"That's why we're going to Taree," B interrupted. "We can afford to buy a house there. This is our second last move. In a year from now, we'll be in our own home. No more moving!"

"Well, it sounds nice, but..."

Sleeping - or trying to - in B's room was kinda weird. The vibe was cool, but it seemed crazy that it was half office, half bedroom. In one corner was his computer and a TV, and one of those ergonomic chair thingies with knee pads. So that's where all his stories came from? Didn't seem right. I'd expected something more glam... more sophisticated or whatever. It was normal for teens to do their homework and study in their rooms, but grown ups? Hmmm, maybe B wasn't grown up, at least not mentally.

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 Daniel's Diary Daniel Meets B Part 2