White Rabbits & A Haunted Postbox – Part III

And here’s the third instalment of the story…

Arthur Judd ducks his head as he enters the little terraced house in Goat Street. The old family home stands in a line of hunched up cottages in the lower part of King’s Port. Until now, Arthur’s not been back to Black Island since he ran away fifteen years earlier. Inside, the house is even smaller than he remembers. It looks gloomy and a slightly shabby too.

He smiles at his younger brother. ‘Nice to see you taking care of the old place.’

‘Really?’

‘Course.’

‘Remember you were keen enough to leave.’

‘Hmm. True.’

Arthur grins. He had stuck it out on Black Island until he was nineteen. The night he left, Arthur threw their father in the harbour. The water was out at the time. A bucket of fish guts followed. Before storming away, Arthur swore he’d sooner swim to Australia than be forced to spend another hour working in the same boat or living in the same house as his old man.

Arthur never made it as far as Australia but he did get to Canada. He also stayed true to his word. He never laid eyes on his father again. It isn’t choice that brings him back to Black Island now: more a matter of need.

‘Anyway…’ Arthur straightens up and looks around. He has grown tall for a Black Islander: almost six foot. Which leaves the top of his head pressing uncomfortably against the ceiling of the house he never really expected to see again. ‘So where’s… the wife?’

‘Out back probably.’

‘Oh yeah. Keep Sally in the yard do you?’

George shakes his head. He still isn’t quite sure what to make of his brother. Arthur had arrived on the boat barely half an hour ago. They recognised each other straightaway but, greetings over, neither is quite sure how to deal with the other. There is a lot of history here: too much to gloss over in a few polite exchanges.

George turns away. He opens the parlour door and leads the way through into the narrow hall that connects with the kitchen and the back yard. ‘She’s probably with the lads. They’ve got some rabbits out back. Mad about them they are.’

‘Oh yeah. How many you got.’

‘About a dozen.’

‘What!’

‘Give or take.’

Arthur is confused. He gives his brother a quizzical stare. ‘How long you been married?’

‘Oh… fourteen years.’

‘And you’ve got a dozen kids?’

‘What? No. I got three. Told you before.’

‘You just said you had a dozen.’

George shakes his head. ‘That’s the rabbits, Arthur. That’s the rabbits.’ He’s still chuckling as the back door bursts open and five children burst through, followed by Sally Judd. She gives a start as she sees the two men and then her eyes widen as she sees Arthur Judd. The sight startles her memory and a brief flush colours her cheeks.
Arthur spots it and turns smoothly to look at the children who are shaking the rain off like excited pups and haven’t taken any notice of the two men.

‘Hold on. Thought you said you had three young ‘uns.’

‘I can count.’

Arthur makes a show of counting. ‘One, two, three, four…’

‘Not all mine, Arthur. Not all mine.’

George grabs a curly headed eleven-year-old who’s tussling with another, slightly smaller lad.

The boy wriggles and looks up. ‘Hey, dad. Me and Nathan been cleaning out the rabbits. The girls just been sitting there cuddling them. And we fixed the fence. Three of them had got out. They were eating your plants. The special ones.’

‘Were they?’

‘Yeah. Think they liked them though. They were all happy… like you get.’

George scowls. He wraps his fingers around the stocky lad’s shirt collar. Without any obvious effort, he lifts the boy up with one arm and turns him towards Arthur. ‘This is my eldest. Davey: meet your Uncle Arthur.’

* * *

Margaret looks at the water coursing down the window. The unpleasant brown stain has disappeared. She can also see the first glimmer of brightness breaking through the clouds. ‘Look, Keziah. I do believe it’s going to clear again.’

‘Humph.’

‘Yes, I have a feeling the sun will be back with us soon.’

To be continued…

Tomorrow we return to the boardroom – and to the unfortunate Ned Hawkins.

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