Pageant Part 6

Perhaps a word needs to be said here to clarify the past. Difficult though it always is to untangle the truth from everything that everyone else has said, it needs to be recorded that, though Grant had seemed to all intents and purposes to become what is commonly called a nut, he and Sue had never divorced. This may seem strange, given their five-year separation, but that is how it stood. Is it enough simply to say that they were Catholic – at least, Sue was – and that divorce never crossed either of their minds? Perhaps. Or perhaps there are deeper reasons which we cannot see or understand. Perhaps Sue simply never knew what his address was and so could never send divorce papers to him. Perhaps she did not want to disrupt the children more than the separation had already done. Perhaps she believed that one day he might become “normal” again. As always, it is difficult to say. The town had a variety of explanations, ranging from Sue being in denial to her having secretly pursued Grant into the desert and murdered him. Most, however, simply did not know, and the absence of knowledge drove them mad.
What, however, had happened to Grant? The town insisted he had become a religious nut, but many of them said that of the local priest or of anyone whose religious beliefs extended beyond Christmas and Easter. Grant’s religious convictions, moreover, were more fringe than the term “religious nut” might suggest. If he communicated with deities, they were usually ones with unpronounceable names that rhymed with Chakra. Most of his beliefs could be summarised by collating all the works in the “New Age” section of a bookstore and then throwing them into a blender and seeing what came out the other side.
All this, however, made little sense when set against the man who now kicked rocks out the back with his son and listened to Christmas carols in his car. The townspeople saw the difference through their curtains and it annoyed them. Sue saw the difference through the back window and it made her wonder.
*
The decision to make Braydon the star on the Christmas tree was met with approval by everyone except for Kassie who quietly insisted that, even when bound up in a costume that was as close to a straightjacket as could be legally placed upon a student, her brother could still cause trouble. But Braydon was happy enough with the decision, couched as it was by Craig in such flattering language that even he believed it was an honour rather than a punishment. And so it was agreed that Patrick, who had previously been playing the somewhat redundant part of an angel sitting on a haystack, would take the place of the First Shepherd and Braydon would become the star on the tree. Everyone was happy except Kassie.
“He’ll be stupid on the night,” she forewarned. “Just wait.”
History, of course, would prove Kassie right, but in the meantime expediency made everyone else deaf to her warnings. As far as Kim and Craig were concerned, Braydon had been contained. His role would have sufficient attention drawn to it for the father’s visit to be justified, but the scope for trouble seemed to them to be dramatically reduced.
An unexpected problem, however, came when parents arrived to pick up their children at the end of the night. When Grant had dropped off Kassie and Braydon at the start of the night, he had been early and no other parents were around. At the end of the night it was different.
At first, most parents simply nodded at him or said, “Grant. Haven’t seen you in a while.” Some were vaguely polite. But when Tayla’s mother, who had been holding her daughter’s hand through the rehearsal, came out of the hall toilets to see Grant leaving the hall with his children, she called out to him, “I hope you can control your son better now.”
Grant turned around. “I’m sorry?” he said.
“You know he punched Jordan?” She indicated Joseph, whose black eye was still slightly visible beneath the red-and-white-checked tea-towel.
Grant looked at Braydon. “Is that true?”
Braydon stared at the ground. “Only because he was wanker.”
“Braydon,” said Grant. “Don’t swear. It’s not necessary.”
“Well, it wasn’t necessary for him to call you a useless shithead.”
Joseph shuffled his feet.
“Come on, Jordan,” said his mother. “I think it’s time to go.”
Tayla’s mother didn’t move.
“He just said what everyone else was thinking,” she said.
Grant paused, then said, “I see.”
“Come on, Jordan,” said his mother.
Jordan seemed stuck to the floor.
“We’ve sorted out what happened, Mr McKenna,” said Kim, hurriedly. “Your…Braydon’s mother has…already been spoken to. And Braydon understands what he did wrong, don’t you, Braydon?”
Braydon was also stuck to the floor.
“Braydon?” said Grant.
“Yep,” said Braydon.
A pause.
“Well,” said Tayla’s mother. “I bloody hope so.”
She took Tayla’s hand. Tayla looked tentatively for Kassie who, at least before tonight, had been her best friend. But Kassie had run to hide behind the stage.
 
Go to Part 7

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