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by Robert Moore
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: A puppeteer and two brothers get into a tangle on the island of Tasmania. Hard Pressed is set in Tasmania over the four days of Easter, 1969. The spectacular island topography is a brooding giant, imprisoning all who inhabit the wild landscape. It is the story of two brothers. Homosexuality is taboo. David Mason is being groomed to take over the family hop farm. He is about to announce his engagement to Bronwyn Hiscock. David's brother Guy is a teacher at Zeehan on the West Coast. He meets puppeteer, Paul Curtain, who is touring with a traditional version of Hansel and Gretel and preparing for his new show Black Hansel. Unbeknown to Guy, Paul is David's lover.
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: October 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [312 KB]
Reading time: 195-273 min.
Wednesday, March 26
Zeehan, Tasmania 1969
The puppeteer walked onto the veranda of the Hotel Abel with a can of beer. He picked up a cassette recorder that lay on a cane table underneath a set of loose-fitting louver windows. He rested the recorder on the balustrade and steadied it with one hand while he finished drinking. An occasional gust of wind strengthened into something more persistent, making the louvers rattle.
He looked along Main Street and watched a man hurry away from the hotel. Distorted shadows splashed across the bitumen each time the man passed beneath the glare of a swaying goose neck. He noted that the man didn't look back and wondered if he would.
The puppeteer felt a sense of both loss and longing as he strained to catch the last glimpse of the man who had passed in and out of the final bosom of orange light, but apprehension oozed inside him as the wind increased its intensity.
He shifted his gaze across the street to the facade of The Gaiety Theatre, knowing that the next day would see the last performance of his current production. It was appropriate for Hansel and Gretel to bow out in a theatre, which less than a century ago was the largest in the country. Only The Gaiety could boast a permanent chorus of pigeons to guide a brother and sister back to their rightful home.
As he looked across at the old theatre, he wondered what his future might hold. He wrestled with the decision to finish this tour and embark on a bold new direction, but that was not all. Right now the balustrade was an unstable support that shook with each gust of wind, highlighting the anxiety he couldn't let go of. He mused on the fact that he felt more like a puppet than a puppeteer.
The combination of rattling louvers and a faulty street light, which briefly lit up the elegant arches of the old theatre, prompted the puppeteer to look back down Main Street one last time. He needed confirmation that he couldn't see the man. The duel emotions of relief and loss stirred within him again.
He told himself it was for the best that nothing had happened earlier that evening.
He finished his beer and switched on the recorder as fork lightning prodded the swollen clouds, illuminating their buxom fluff.
* * * *
Maundy Thursday, April 3
"Doing anyone over Easter?"
Guy Mason jumped suddenly, hearing his boss's voice. He corrected his balance and turned awkwardly while straddling his brief case.
Rod Godfrey looked about, hoping younger ears hadn't heard him, before hurrying to catch up with Guy.
Struggling with a stack of exercise books, Guy steadied the half-open case between his legs. A solid timber door was ready to slam, thanks to a stiff westerly wind. It was halted by the combined efforts of his shoulder and the last minute intervention of Godfrey's right arm.
Guy was about to side step onto an asphalt playground pock-marked with dozens of craters that had filled with water. He lifted his case and did a complete turn to protect his books. The wind and rain lashed the back of his duffle coat.
"Doing anything?" Godfrey asked again, looking up and down the corridor once more. A leering expression slid across his face.
"Nothing special. I've got my brother's engagement Saturday and that's about it," Guy said, fearful his boss could read his mind.
"Don't go working too hard. Got a bird lined up in Hobart, I bet," Godfrey winked, delivering a restrained pat to his new colleague's left shoulder.
Guy blushed instantly, glad that the weight of the books and his bulging brief case disguised the real reason for the rush of color to his cheeks. The added distraction of two large psoriasis scales tumbling across the open pages allowed him further refuge.
There was no bird lined up, but...
"And you too," he said, desperate to ensure that his words of farewell had removed any lingering embarrassment.
Once outside Guy tried to run across the playground and nearby oval. A sudden downpour of rain became horizontal needles courtesy of the gale force wind. His education department flat was on the school boundary. Halfway across the oval, he stopped. He fought to control the two piles of cross-stacked books that were ready for takeoff, while his coat flopped about like a grounded parachute.
Kicking the back gate open and shut, he made a final dash to his car, which was outside the carport. His keys dangled from his mouth, and for a fleeting moment, he imagined he must have looked like the Arnott's parrot perched above the Sao biscuit.
Guy had to make an instant decision He baulked momentarily. Opening the driver's door while his hands were still loaded required extra care. His arms ached with the weight, so he rested the books on his raised knee and fumbled with keys.
His other foot slipped, forcing him into a juggling act. He made a series of unsuccessful grabs at the paper wings and ended up doing the splits. The pages of books flapped like injured birds as they fell around his feet. His brief case came to rest upside down against the car door.
Desperately, he grabbed the unfinished origami. He wondered what his students might think as he shook flecks of dolomite from the fluttering pages.
Shit.Godfrey's to blame for all this.
A spray of psoriasis scales tumbled over everything as he clutched at the remaining books.
Thoughts about Rod Godfrey persisted. All Guy could see as he salvaged his students' work was Godfrey adjusting the glasses on his rodent face. His boss did that whenever he had something serious to say.