Reflections on the Town Bike
Kathryn Gossow
Break
Karen, behind the till in the town store —
Sharon... dead. It's hard to believe. She was too young, my age actually. I can't say we were friends, although we hung out when we were little. It's only a small school and there weren't many of us girls. I remember she was pretty smart. I went to boarding school after that. While I was away, I heard she was in a car accident. She was all right I think, but the driver was killed. But, yeah, I didn't know him. He was from out of town. Then I went to university and I heard she had a couple of kids. She was still pretty young when she had them. I saw her a few times, when she came into the shop, but I haven't been home long. Just since dad died. I won't be staying. I just came to help with the accounts and the shop, until Mom is settled and back on her feet. It was all right growing up here, but it's just not enough, you know?
Natalie, on the footpath outside the post office —
Yeah, we were mates once, but you know, I don't want to speak ill of the dead or nothin', but she was a slut. She stole my boyfriend, just like that. Click. We went through a lot together; skipping school, the accident and stuff. I was really there for her then. I mean, we were all sad and that, but Brett was her boyfriend and she made out like his dyin' was the end of the world. Then she just went and betrayed me, going off with Stewart. It's not like she couldn't had any other fella. I feel sad for them kids though.
Stewart, driving in his car —
Stupid cow—doin' such a thing. I should never a got involved with her in the first place— her ending up the town bike and all. Now I'm stuck payin' for these kids. She was a good Mom, I gotta say that for her. Me Mom reckons I should take one of them paternity blood tests, but I don't know, they're all right kids I guess. They think I'm their dad and they just lost their Mom. I wouldn't wanna put more on 'em. I'm headin' out west soon, to work in the mines. Good money and that, but it means I can't have 'em livin ' with me. They're better off with their gran, even if she is a bit of a bitch. She's the one shoulda known what was gonna happen, being Sharon's Mom and all.
Yvonne, behind the bar —
It really surprised me, she seemed all right, had lots of friends. Some said she was the town bike, and sure, she flirted a bit, but I only seen her go home alone. Stewart and her had a thing... years back, they're his kids. They still got on though. Used to have a drink together. Sharon was always good for a joke and a laugh. Sometimes she'd bring her kiddies in. They'd sit on the veranda with lemonade and some crisps. They were always well behaved. It's the kiddies I feel sorry for.
Dr Brown, in his office —
She was one of my babies. They grow up so fast don't they? One minute you' re weighing them in the grams and giving them vaccinations, the next minute you're weighing their babies. And then... well... you're writing a death certificate. She was a nice girl. She tried hard. She gave up smoking when she was pregnant, which is more than I can say for some. Yes, I do feel guilty, but it couldn't be helped. She said she couldn't sleep. That was a few years ago. She'd come in for her prescriptions and I'd try to get her to talk, but she just said she couldn't sleep. There was no other help anyway. It is not like the mental health service will come out here, and she couldn't afford to pay. In the end I have to tell myself you can only help someone when they're ready. I guess she'll never be ready now.
Lyle Jacobs, Link Line, 24-Hour Telephone Counseling Service —
Case Notes: 28th July, 12.55 am. Duration of call: 9.34 minutes.
Female caller reported feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with her life. She wanted to find a job or do some study, but felt the opportunities in her small town prevented the achievement of these goals. As the call progressed she became distressed. She said she was "sick of the pub and town gossip." There may have been some underlying addiction issues.
Referral Alcohol and Drug Counseling Service —
Regional Technical College
Outcome:
While the caller was concerned about the large travel time to these services she ended the call determined to make changes in her life.
General Notes for Supervisor:
Service provision in these small rural towns remains an issue. Is there somewhere we can take this?
Kathryn Gossow lives in rural Australia. She spends much of her time paying off the mortgage and making school lunches. She has some published fiction and poetry and was recently short-listed for the Australian Horror Writers Association Flash Fiction Competition.