During the year I lived away from Swansea I called Keithie regularly. In fact, we got into such a routine that I’d say at the end of a call: “Call you next week?”
And Keithie’d say: “Usual time?”
And at 6.30pm, on the nose, I’d dial Keithie who would’ve fed the dogs, put the canaries to bed and had his tea – usually meat and three vege. He would’ve seen a news bulletin and be nursing a glass of Kelvedon Sauv Blanc or Pinot, depending on his mood, and after no more than two rings he’d pick up:
“Hello?” he’d inquire, always with the same air of surprise. And I’d retort:
“So, what’d’ya know?”
That’s why last night when I telephoned from Kellie and Jim’s place in Sydney, I got a surprise when the call went to voicemail after four rings. I left it a few minutes before trying again since Keithie was probably just taking an order for some of his marino marbles. The thing is, when Keithie has a scheduled call, to his favourite nephew in Brighton for example, he lets you know so that you don’t call while they’re chatting.
When my second attempt went to voicemail I had a gulp on my chardie (Cloudy Bay…Kellie has expensive tastes) and re-ran my last conversation with Keithie: I was certain we had arranged to talk so I dialled again. By now it was 6:45pm and I knew he’d have got rid of the previous caller in anticipation of my call. But no! I went to voicemail. I decided it must have been his nephew with some news that couldn’t wait, so I killed time trying to guess if the news was good or bad. Probably bad, since good news always seems to wait until morning.
It was 7:15pm by the time I tried again and when the call went to voicemail I started to get anxious. I decided to call Brucie who was just sitting down to tea and who informed me that he hadn’t seen Keithie make his usual visit to the Swansea Corner Store at 10am sharp to collect his freshly baked bread and newspaper.
We agreed to leave it another half hour and I decided to use the time to call Greg our handyman who suggested I call Elvin our postie because Elvin reads the wether meter, which is located in Keith’s top paddock, twice a day and he may have some information – just as an aside Elvin feeds the weather meter readings to the Bureau of Meterology who publish it on the telly every evening where we, the town, scrutinise the report to see if Elvin got it right, but that’s another story.
Elvin was in his PJs but offered to get dressed and wander over to Keithie’s.
I told Elvin not to worry because Brucie had already offered to go but that I’d keep him informed and rushed him off the phone because a call was coming in from Greg. In the interim, Greg’s wife had called Lauren who walks passed Keithie’s place every morning, and Lauren had said that Keithie’s dogs hadn’t coming steaming down the driveway to greet her this morning as usual.
I called Brucie back and we agreed that everything about Keithe’s routine, not to mention his absence this evening, was highly irregular. So Brucie jumped into his UTE and drove up to Keithie’s. I skulled a wine while I waited anxiously to hear from Brucie. I knew it could be a while since he doesn’t have a cell phone and if there was trouble up at Keithie’s, calling me probably wouldn’t be a priority.
But 10-minutes later my phone rang! Instead of sounding sheepish for not replacing the receiver properly after a call with his brother earlier in the day, Keithie had the gall to be pissed at me because I’d kept him waiting for, by now, over an hour!
It was another 30-minutes before we finally talked because that’s how long it too me to call back half the town and stand down the National Guard!