Though some would no doubt leave this detail out of their versions of the story, Grant did in fact tell Sue that he would be coming to town that Christmas. Braydon and Kassie both had parts in the Christmas pageant and he wanted to be there. It was all arranged quite politely, if a little awkwardly, with the kids buzzing about expectantly and nervously, in the days beforehand.
Yet for most of the town the first sign that Grant was back was the sight of his car coming down the main street.
Come, they told me, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum...sang his stereo, and everyone nearby turned and looked.
“It can’t be,” said Trish.
“He’s got a nerve,” said Ethel.
“Who does he think he is?” asked May.
“I know a few people who wouldn’t mind putting a few dents in that car,” said Bernie.
“He still owes me a hundred bucks,” said Rob.
Grant must have known that tongues would wag, but he did not seem to mind. A new-born king to see, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum, his stereo continued, unabashed through the open window.
“Thinks he owns the place,” said Kev.
It wasn’t exactly true. He owned half the house which he was driving to, and owned the car he was driving in, and had an equal share in the children he had come to see. That was as far as his perceptions of ownership stretched. But his window was open, which was a sure sign if ever there was one that he didn’t care at all about the townspeople who cared equally little about him.
“Do you reckon Sue knows?” asked Trish.
“Probably not,” said Rob.
“Typical,” said Ethel.
“Who does he think he is?” repeated May.
Her question was so pointed that none of them felt they could respond.
Our finest gifts to bring, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum, the stereo persevered. Kev bent down to pick up a weed. The car moved out of view and they all went back inside.
In the afternoon, the town was buzzing with the news. Newcomers, which meant anyone who had moved to the town since the second world war, who knew nothing of Grant or the reasons he had left town in 2008, had to have the whole thing explained to them, much to the delight of the Ethels and Mays of the community. The Kevs and the Bruces, meanwhile, served a clarifying role, correcting everything their wives had said and generally making the whole story more confusing than it had been at the start.
“No, you’ve got it wrong. He moved to Ballarat first.”
“No, it was Bendigo.”
“I heard he lived in a caravan.”
“In Warrnambool, wasn’t it?”
“No, that was after he moved into that hippy commune in Benalla.”
“Benalla? I heard it was Shepparton.”
“It definitely wasn’t a caravan. It was a bus.”
And so on.
The details, however, on which the community agreed were as follows:
That Grant, husband of Sue, father of Braydon and Kassandrah, had walked out on his family one day in early 2008;
That before leaving he had begun to go, to use the technical term, crazy, and had taken his craziness to various parts of Victoria before settling in Melbourne as a place where his craziness could pass unnoticed;
That the children had grown up with little or no contact with him;
That no-one had heard from him since.
That was the simplest form of the story. In more elaborate versions, Grant had started a cult; some said it was based around reading people’s energy through Thai massage, others that he predicted life events based on how people spoke while running. In other stories, Grant had had a vision of the Virgin Mary and had gone to live in the desert in obedience to her but had been stopped in Portland because his car wasn’t roadworthy. One recurring theme was that Grant’s mania had been of a religious kind. Most people also agreed that he was a loser.
Everyone, that is, except for Braydon and Kassie.
Go to Part Three