Although Albie Lyle wasn’t the smartest kid in his class, or even in the class below him, he didn’t care. His roughly ambiguous outlook on life seemed to deter any anxiety that would eventually face him. Through tough parent-teacher conferences, multiple groundings and restrictions for his foul-mouthed attitude, and even kisses from his fathers belt on his behind, he could never muster up the need to care. 

 

Sure, he cared about what his hair looked like on most days, carrying around a fine-toothed comb in his front pocket, along with his semi-automatic cigarette lighter and a packet of gum – just in case his Mama caught him outside with Peter and Mikey smoking, standing against the tall chain-link fence that separated his house from the lonely, overgrown sports field with grass almost as tall as he was. 

 

No, for a regular seventeen-year-old boy, Albie Lyle was completely normal. He would wake up late for school, conveniently forget to do his assigned homework, steal the lunches from the younger classes because the ham and cheese sandwich his Mama made him was too dry and the bottle of milk too warm. Then, he would ditch his final few classes, grab his boys, and they would sit in the old cool room behind their local grocery store downtown, smoking their cigarettes and passing around a single flask of whatever liquor one of the boys had stolen from their parents that morning. 

 

Of course, when he’d get home he’d be in for a mouthful from his Mama, ranting and raving about a phone call from the school about his absence in class. He’d roll his eyes, ignoring her jibber-jabbing, and hide out in his bedroom. It was a small thing, just large enough to fit his bed and his desk. The walls were yellowed and fading, the ceiling full of cracks and water damage. He knew he shouldn’t complain; it was an old house, anyway. But Peter and Mikey’s parents worked in the city, in expansive offices that looked over the skyline, discussing things like marketing schemes and corporate law. Albie didn’t want to admit it, but he was jealous of them. His Papa worked in real estate and, although it wasn’t terrible money, with his Mama having to stay at home to take care of Baby Jane, expenses like comic books or a new pair of fancy shoes that all the boys were wearing didn’t fall high on the list of important things. 

 

When he was sixteen, Albie came up with the brilliant idea of becoming an architect. He couldn’t draw, wasn’t very good at maths, and didn’t give a rats about technicalities such as engineering and structural integrity. No, it just sounded cool at the time. So, after months of begging his parents to buy him proper paper, measuring tools, and special graphite pencils, Albie finally sat down at his tiny desk, in his shoebox of a room, and began sketching. None of them were very good and, after a while, he grew tired of it. Similarly with the piano lessons he was forced to take as a child, the sculpture classes he attended only twice, and even the acting lessons he did for six months. His Mama thought that acting would be good for him, as she always claimed his personality was ‘bright and unfiltered’. He hated it. He hated memorising lines and pretending to be somebody he wasn’t. Like most things, he only stuck around for the girls. Miss Mandy King was a fine young actress, so sweet, with hair the colour of butter and freckles dotted along her nose like a constellation. Sure, she had buck teeth and a high-pitched voice that tended to grow quite pitchy when she got too excited, but that was what Albie liked about her. When they were caught by the drama teacher making out in one of the prop rooms, Albie was asked to never come back again. He simply shrugged his shoulders, fixed his hair, and walked out of the theatre. It was true, he was over acting, and wanted to find a new hobby anyway. Plus, the kiss with Mandy King had been less than worth it. She slobbered a lot, and was a bit too grabby for his taste. 

 

Nothing really stuck for him. He wasn’t good at anything except mouthing off and telling wildly absurd stories to his friends. He had this one story he loved to recount all the time. Peter said it was his favourite, but Mikey tended to think it was borderline ridiculous. It was about a man who shrunk to the size of a flower petal and managed to get eaten by a big fish. Of course, the man survived, but not before going through many trials and tribulations. Mikey claimed it was a rip-off from that one story from the Bible, but Albie insisted he made it up. For starters, Albie had never sat in a church a damn day in his life. His Mama was raised Catholic, but didn’t like the way his grandparents preached about ‘the reckoning’ and all that. When his Mama married his Papa, and Albie was born, they didn’t even get him baptised. A form of rebellion, his Mama always said. As expected, Albie had only met his grandparents a handful of times, and each time had not been pleasant. While most people had a classic look of disdain whenever they laid eyes upon Albie, his grandparents bore no emotion. Like they didn’t even recognise their own flesh and blood. When Baby Jane was born three years ago, his grandparents sent a postcard. He can remember seeing his Mama hunched over in the living room with her face in her hands, her back moving violently with sobs, the postcard ripped in half at her feet, and Baby Jane crying in her bassinet. Since then, he didn’t think his Mama had even spoken to them. She never replied to their postcard, never suggested they go visit them. Not even when his grandpa got sick a year ago. That was when Albie wanted to be an architect, and convinced his parents to pool together their Rainy Day Fund for a hobby that would only last three hours. His grandpa died not too long after that. They said it was lung cancer, but Albie had never known the man to smoke. Sure, he didn’t know much about cancer in any regard, but that was what he assumed. The more you smoke, the more likely it is you’re going to end up with cancer. Although, once again, Albie didn’t care. He liked the taste, and if he was going to die of anything, it may as well be from something he liked to do. 

 

Another story Albie would often tell his boys was about a girl. At seventeen years old, Albie was, obviously, infatuated with any woman that passed by him. Although they never gave him so much as a second glance, he kept on trying to find ‘the one’. For a long while, ‘the one’ had been Hailey Stringer. She took ballet classes in the city, and smelled of fresh lilies and clean clothes. She was mighty pretty, too. Hair so dark it was almost black, and cocoa skin that seemed to match every colour she ever wore. When Albie met her on the first day of school, he nearly dropped to his knees. Her amber eyes barely glazed over him, but a twitch in the upper corner of her lip left Albie feeling more full of hope than anything ever had before. He’d asked her out a few times, but was always shot down. She claimed to have dancing lessons every weekend. He knew it wasn’t true, as he’d see her at the movie theatre with her gaggle of screaming girlfriends nearly every Friday night, but he kept his distance regardless. In due time, he’d tell himself. He would admire from afar, not cause a bother. Maybe one day she’d look at him differently, too. 

 

He knew he wasn’t ugly, no. He had dark hair and blue eyes, and was tall and unusually lean for a young man. His Papa gifted him a dimpled smile, and helping his mother garden during the summertime gave him a nice tan that lasted most of the year. Similarly to every boy in this town, Albie was praised for his good looks. All the old ladies at the farmers markets loved to get a good look at him. It made him slightly uncomfortable, of course, but the way some of his boys reacted to the advances made Albie ignore his hesitations. It wasn’t until Mrs Galley from across the street invited him in for lemonade one hot afternoon and ended up kissing him in her overly bright kitchen did he simply start avoiding those scenarios at all cost. 

 

But when he met Sandra Oberton at the local pool during his summer holiday, Albie forgot about Mandy and Hailey and Mrs Galley. She was a lifeguard, sitting high up on her chair, a whistle hanging from her mouth and a cigarette dangling from her fingers. She almost always had to save some dumb kid from drowning, simply because every boy that stepped into the pool wanted to be close to her. Albie debated doing it many times, but he didn’t want to seem incompetent. So, instead, when she rescued a fifteen year old boy from the shallow end of the pool one day, her lit cigarette now extinguished in the chlorine, Albie swaggered up to her, a fresh smoke in one hand and his semi-automatic lighter in the other. She smiled at him, said thank you, and climbed back up to her seat. Although his boys saw it as a major fail, Albie didn’t. Because he knew her eyes lingered on him. She was a year older, maybe two, but that didn’t matter. She admired his confidence, his coolness, the personality he’d spent years perfecting. And when her shift ended that day, she approached Albie and his boys, and asked them if they wanted to go to a party. 

 

So, the boys loaded themselves up in her hatchback and were chauffeured to the other side of town where an older boy was hosting a huge rager. They drank a lot of beer, smoked a bit of weed, and ended up passed out on the lawn, staring up at the stars. Albie knew, as his summer holiday was drawing to an end, that in the next couple of months, he’d have to find a hobby worthy of turning into his future. He didn’t want to be a real estate agent like his Papa, or work in the big city like Peter and Mikey’s parents. He didn’t want to act, or sing, or draw. In truth, he wanted to do what he’d always done; hang with his boys and drink. But he knew that would never make him any money. 

 

Albie Lyle turned eighteen on the fourth of February. His boys got him a packet of cigarettes and a bottle of fine whiskey stolen from Mikey’s parents’ personal bar. His Papa got him a savings account, Baby Jane (although, only three, couldn’t buy him much) gave him a hand-made card with a few five dollar notes stowed away inside. And his sweet Mama gifted him a typewriter. She told him it was for his school assignments, and when he went off to university he could write them letters and such. After blowing out his candles and bidding everyone goodnight, Albie took all of his gifts up to his tiny shoebox of a room. He sat them all in a line across his bed, a tinge of sadness creeping over him. He probably wasn’t going to go to university, but Peter and Mikey were. This was the last birthday he’d get to celebrate with them for a long while, he thought. And it had been great, sure. He felt loved by those around him. But he couldn’t get past the thought of disappointing them. His Papa would be ashamed at his lack of ambition; his Mama would feel guilty for not raising him right, and his boys would be embarrassed at what a bum their old high school friend had turned out to be. 

 

He stared at the expensive typewriter, stared at it so hard he hoped it would burst into flames. No dice. He’d never actually used a typewriter before. Had no idea how to operate the damn thing. So, in an effort to feel at least a little bit productive, he hauled the machine over to his tiny desk and loaded it with his old architecture paper. First, he typed his name. It looked good, so he wrote his Mama and Papa’s names, Baby Jane’s, his boys’, and every girl he’s ever fallen head over heels for. 

 

When he looked at the alarm clock on his desk and saw it was nearing midnight, Albie pulled out the page from his new typewriter. He hadn’t even realised what he was writing, but when he looked at the architecture paper and saw his words, his stories, smeared across it, his chest heaved. He finally knew what he was going to do with his life. Whether this plan would stick, he didn’t know. Maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe he’d move on to the next idea. Maybe he’d become a poet, or a banker, or, hell, a dog walker. All he knew, as his eighteenth birthday drew closer and closer to an end, was that for the next however long, Albie Lyle wanted to be a writer. And maybe it’d stick this time.

Hannah Quilty

Hannah Quilty

Hi there! I’m an English Literature student at UON, with a passion for creative writing. I started writing for OPUS to originally get feedback for my work, but now I just want to write as much as possible. I aim to have my work traditionally published, so maybe you’ll see some of my stuff out there in the world one day!

Hannah Quilty

Hi there! I’m an English Literature student at UON, with a passion for creative writing. I started writing for OPUS to originally get feedback for my work, but now I just want to write as much as possible. I aim to have my work traditionally published, so maybe you’ll see some of my stuff out there in the world one day!