Friday, November 2, 2007

Mossy's Backpackers #11

“Wow, mate!” Greg said as he came in the front door. “Have you seen those…?”

“Couch,” Max replied flatly, sticking his thumb in Jay and Diego’s direction. They were sitting on the couch chatting with the last five guests who had returned to the hostel that afternoon. Max was already regretting his decision to take them in.

“Everything copasetic?” Greg asked suspiciously.

“Oh yeah, grand. I’m just pining for the days when people said ‘hello’ to me when they came through that door. You know, back when people still had manners?” Max let loose an overly dramatic sigh and returned to his paperwork.

“Don’t worry, Princess – you’ll be the favorite child of the hostel again soon enough,” Greg patted him on the head then went to join the animated discussion around the couches. Max stuck his tongue out at his retreating back.

As he watched the American and Mexican start their tale over once again, Max heard the hostel’s office phone ring. Cate answered on the fourth ring, sounding a bit out of breath since she had run from the clothes line out back. He was seated about ten feet away, but it had been her turn to answer so he continued to twirl his pen between his fingers. Rules were rules, after all.

Just as he heard Cate say, “He’s right here, just one moment”, the pen slipped off his fingers and went under the table. Max bent to fetch it, contorting his body awkwardly to fit between the bench and the table top.

“It’s for you,” Cate said from above the table. Max grabbed the pen and straightened hurriedly, slamming the back of his head against the solid wood of the table in the process. He paused for a couple of breaths for his vision to stop blurring, then swore loudly.

“Who is it?” he asked her through gritted teeth.

“Your mum,” she replied, struggling to keep a straight face as she continued to hold out the cordless for him. Max grabbed the phone and turned so that his back was to her. He thought he heard her snicker as he lifted it to his ear.

“Hi mum.”

“Who was that?” the familiar voice asked, sounding much closer than the half a world away she actually was.

“Who?” Max’s head was throbbing, making thinking difficult.

“That girl. She sounded pretty, where’s she from?”

“Aren’t you even going to say hello? Nobody says hello anymore.”

“Hello. So, son, who was that? Have you finally found yourself a girl?”

Max sighed. He briefly considered telling her that Cate was fifty and a mother of two, but knew it wasn’t worth the bother. Mum always knew when he was lying. Always. It kind of creeped him out, if he was honest about it.

Instead he glanced over his shoulder to verify that Cate had gone back outside and said, “That was Caitlin, she started working here a couple of weeks ago. She’s from Victoria, actually.”

“Oh, just a ferry ride away! And to think you had to go thousands of miles from home to meet her!”

“Yeah, that’s traveling for you. How are things at home?” Max asked, attempting to move the conversation to more comfortable ground.

“We’re fine dear. Why are you changing the subject? Is she within hearing distance?”


“What was that? I’m getting a lot of static at this end.” He thought about crumpling up some paper to add to his story but decided that would be a bit much.

“Oh my, she’s really gotten into your head hasn’t she?” the all-knowing voice replied. “I bet you haven’t even told her how you feel yet.”

Max leaned back and stared at the ceiling for a moment. How the hell does she do that, he wondered silently.

“I’m your mother, dear.”

He almost dropped the phone. This was too much, how –

“You can talk to me. What’s the problem?”

“It’s… complicated,” Max said weakly.

“She’s a girl, Maxwell – of course it’s complicated,” she told him with a hint of laughter in her voice.

“Now isn’t the best time mum. I’ll send you an email about it later.”

“Always more comfortable with the written word instead of the spoken,” she sighed. “Alright. But I’m calling on Monday if I haven’t received that email by then.”

“Fair enough,” Max cringed. Now there was no way out of it. It was either an email with a proper explanation or repeated phone calls until someone started asking questions. With his luck that someone would be Cate.

“So I guess we will be mailing your Christmas presents again this year?” Max could hear the sadness at the edges of her voice.

“Yeah, looks like it,” he replied, trying to ignore the sudden tightness in his throat. Simple words, spoken plainly from a great distance, can trigger great emotions he reflected.

“This will be the second year in a row, dear. We love that you’re out there seeing the world, but we do miss you so much.”

“I know mum, I know you do.” Max blinked away the moisture at the corners of his eyes. “I’ll be back before spring, I promise.”

“I will keep you to that promise young man!” She was trying to sound stern but he could tell she was smiling.

“I better get going. I’ll drop off another postcard soon. And I’ll get presents for everybody in the mail by the end of the week.”

“And that email,” she reminded him, the smile definitely gone now.

“Right, that too, of course. Love you lots, give my love to everyone for me.”

“Home by spring, right? Don’t make me send your sisters to come get you.”

“That might be fun, actually…”

“Not once they get you back here, it won’t. I love you son.”

“Bye mum.”

Max hung up just as Mossy came through the door. He could tell he was about to ask about the painted cars parked in front of his hostel, so he cut him off to save them both some time.

“Couch,” he said, then gathered his things and went to his room to be alone for a while.


Anonymous said...

Storeys still going good, easy read and keeps the interest, looking forward to next chapter.

Isle man

Anonymous said...

really liking story,so interesting , good humour too