Author Palantir email@example.com
Subject One Semester.
The author retains copyright (2016) to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.
This story is fiction.
Thank you Nifty for the opportunity to post this story.
Joel feels he's going nowhere with his life and leaves his rural locality to acquire some qualifications.
This story is a snapshot of one semester of his time at College and details some of the challenges, people, and experiences he encounters in his new world of study and activities.
ONE SEMESTER Chapter 1.
"How's it all going?"
"Not too bad."
"What did you think of orientation day yesterday?"
"It was okay."
"Last year they talked too much. That's what I thought anyway."
Joel nodded his head in agreement. As a new student he'd been assigned a guide for the start of his course and now after only five minutes he quite liked Morgan, who was friendly and easy to talk to.
"Have you got a timetable yet?"
"Yes. It's only temporary though."
"Ha. They take ages. You'll probably have a new one each week for a while. Let's have a look and I'll tell you what your lecturers are like."
Joel flipped his folder open to the pocket on the front cover and watched Morgan check it through.
"They're mostly the same as last year."
"The lecturers I mean. The subjects are exactly the same."
"Did you do this course?"
"I did in first semester. After that I left out the programming stuff. It's fairly hard."
Morgan gave a laugh.
"Well, probably not, if you're interested. And it's all easy if you keep up with the assignments and exercises."
"Are there many assignments?"
"Stacks. Don't worry about them though because they walk you through them really carefully."
For the next while Morgan talked about the different lecturers and subjects. It didn't really mean much but it did ease Joel's feelings about the complicated sounding subjects.
"What's this `Prepare To Study' module about? It says I should finish it by the end of next week."
"That? It's nothing. How about I do it with you now? It'll only take half an hour."
It took more than that but Joel found that logging in to a computer in the library and navigating to his subjects page was very helpful.
"Is that it all?"
"Yes. You've passed your first subject. I told you it was nothing. Hey, are you into any sports?"
"Not really. Except for swimming. I like that."
"Fair dinkum? So do I. How about I show you the College pool after we've had some lunch?"
That was a surprise. Morgan's guiding time was officially meant to finish at midday.
"Ah.. It's okay, Morgan. I know where it is. They took us there yesterday."
"I meant we could have a swim."
Joel hesitated. He was keen to try the pool but felt awkward about using Morgan's time.
"I would, but I don't have any bathers."
That wasn't true, but it was an easy way out.
"No problems. I've got a spare pair."
Lunch was fun and put on by the Student Council in an outdoor area with seats and tables near one of the College cafes. There was a choice of a hamburger or a hotdog but with Morgan's wheedling they each ended up having both.
Joel was just finishing his burger when his eyes nearly popped out. Two guys were coming through the cafe door, about five meters away, holding hands. They stopped for a moment, looked around, then came straight toward the table.
"Hi, Morgan, who's your cute friend?"
"Hi, Peter. Working for the cause today?"
"Working? Hardly, scouting the new talent's more like it."
He looked at Joel and blatantly raised an eyebrow. When Joel realised the implication his eyes flicked to the other guy, to Morgan, then away, and not knowing what to say or do he picked up his hotdog.
"Oh my, this I have to see."
"Get lost, Peter. Camp it up with someone else."
"What? Greener pastures you reckon? Okay, see you."
Morgan laughed and shook his head as they moved away.
"Idiots. They're having fun though."
"Fun? What do you mean?"
Joel was feeling somewhat left behind.
"It's just an act. Peter's gay but Martin isn't. They're seeing what reactions they can get. Just as well you didn't put the hotdog in your mouth. He would have loved that."
Understanding registered. Joel blushed, cursed himself for being a country bumpkin, then laughed when Morgan lifted his own hotdog and chomped off one end.
"Do you know them very well?"
"Yes, they were both in my class last year. Peter got High Distinctions for every subject and I reckon he must have helped at least five people get through the course. Martin couldn't stand him for a while then something happened and they changed to best friends."
"No one knows."
"Doesn't being gay get him into trouble?"
"Not at College. Martin would just about kill anyone if they hassled him, but everyone likes him anyway. Want another burger?"
"Another one? No... Not if we're going swimming."
"So, Joel, where do you come from?"
"Um... It's a little place in the country. You wouldn't have heard of it. It's near Wycheproof."
"I've heard of Wycheproof. That's way up near Mildura isn't it?"
Joel had to smile. Nearly everyone said that.
"It's the right direction from Melbourne, but Wycheproof 's only halfway to Mildura."
"Wow, that is in the middle of nowhere. You must come from a farm?"
"No, there's one shop and five houses. My mum runs the shop."
"Five houses? What's it called?"
"Titty... Are you kidding?"
"I know. Weird isn't it?"
"A shop? How can you have a shop when there's hardly any people?"
"The local farmers make it work. It's the Post Office and the Bank as well as a General Store and they come in from everywhere."
"Boy, it must be lonely. I bet you're pleased you're in the city now?"
"I don't know yet. I only got here the day before yesterday."
"So where're you staying?"
"I've got a room at the Campus Residence."
"Truly? How'd you wangle that? They're really hard to get."
"It's because I'm a rural student."
"Tittybong! What a name. Do you want to see the pool now?"
Joel couldn't get over how good the pool was. It was heated and that was a first, though he wasn't going to mention that. Morgan was a great swimmer, it was easy to tell, but after a few laps they mucked around then got dressed and headed for the entrance.
"What d'you reckon? Do you like it?"
"I'll tell you what you should do. Join the Swimming Club. It's only $20 for a whole semester and then you can use the pool whenever you like."
"A club? Does that mean training and stuff?"
"Only for the ones who want it."
Joel wasn't interested in any training programs but he'd just paid two dollars entrance fee and that made the club fee for half a year a real bargain. He signed up and paid the money on the spot.
Joel flopped on his bed. It looked so much better with sheets and a doona. Morgan was a nice guy and he'd driven Joel to three different op-shop's and there was now cutlery for the kitchen area as well as two extra towels. What a great idea that was. As cheap as too. Tonight he'd cook his first meal instead of eating at the College cafe.
The image of the two guys holding hands at lunchtime came into his mind. God, how different could things be? They'd have been dead meat at Wycheproof, where calling someone a queer was just about the strongest way to put them down. Morgan didn't seem to care one bit, and from what he'd said neither did other people. That Peter guy was scary. Did he mean that about talent? No, it would just be part of his act.
Joel stood up, opened the cupboard and looked at himself in the mirror on the inside door. Not too bad. He stripped to his jocks, had another look then laughed at himself and sat down with his laptop. For an hour and a half he played an online game before reluctantly finishing. No more games till the end of the year. It would be the only way. They hooked you in so much you could spend all your time on them.
He logged into the College site and went to his results page. There it was, just like that, his first pass. He clicked back and looked at the HTML course. That was interesting. There was already an assignment posted. Hmm. It didn't look too bad. He already knew some of this.
Time for tea. Joel opened the little fridge, which the previous student had conveniently left behind, grabbed the T-bone steak, three eggs and a couple of tomatoes, and started a hot plate on the electric stove. This kind of cooking he was used to, and soon the delicious smell was giving him hunger pains. Wow, he could eat whatever he liked. Trouble was he now had to pay for it himself. After cleaning up he worked out roughly in his head what he'd do for the next two days. His classes officially started on Monday so this weekend was the last chance to relax.
Tonight he'd read.
Tomorrow morning he'd walk to the town center to buy food supplies.
In the afternoon he could definitely have another swim and maybe go for a walk.
On Sunday he'd spend quite some time having a proper look through all the course outlines. Joel opened his novel, it was a really good one, and relaxed. Hmm? The pillowcase had a funny smell. Perhaps he should wash it? He checked the sheets and decided they had a slightly musty smell as well. Yes, it definitely made sense to wash everything from the op-shops. He'd get to figure out the communal laundry too. With all his new linen in a big bundle Joel wandered past the next four units and hesitated outside the laundry. Well, he wouldn't need his utility key. The door was slightly ajar so he pushed it open and went in.
"Next time you're asleep I'll put pegs on your nipples."
"And I'll stuff these jocks down your throat."
Joel stared open-mouthed at the two figures on the concrete floor, one with a knee in the other's stomach and rubbing a pair of blue jocks over his face. Their heads swivelled. The changing light from the opening door must have alerted them.
"I've just come to do some washing."
Wishing he hadn't said something so blatantly obvious, Joel had another jolt when he recognised the two guys from lunchtime.
"Get up you great birk. He'll think we're having a quickie. Hey, it's the man with the big hot-dog."
"Peter, you're so embarrassing."
That was the Martin one and he smiled at Joel.
"Don't take any notice of him. He's totally hopeless."
Joel relaxed as they got up, both grinning in a friendly way.
"So? You're one of the newbies?"
"Hi, I'm Martin and he's hopeless, well that's what everyone around here calls him."
"Yes, this is my third night."
"Welcome to the madhouse."
"Peter, you're the one who makes it mad."
"Hey, look, use this machine. Martin's pinched the best one. What's your name?"
"Neat. I like that. Here, give us those."
Without waiting he took Joel's linen and dumped it into a machine while a grinning Martin kept shaking his head.
"Got a dollar? You stick it in there if you want soap powder, and it's another dollar for the drying machine."
Slightly bemused at this takeover, Joel watched as the machine was set working. "See, it's easy when someone shows you. I spent half an hour reading the instructions last year. Which unit are you in?"
"Really? So you know all the answers?"
Joel had to laugh. He knew this.
"Just for the universe."
Martin looked puzzled and now it was Peter shaking his head.
"He's just a dumb jock. All he's good at is flexing his muscles. You must be doing Websites then?"
Joel wondered how he knew that.
"Yes... I'm trying Programming too."
"Listen to that, Martin. He's got more sense than some."
Martin gave him the finger sign.
"He's pigheaded, Joel. Reckons he knows everything."
The thrumming noise from one of the drying machines slowed and stopped. Martin collected all his clothing and shoved it in a large plastic bag.
"Next time Butt-head."
"Next time what?"
"Jocks for breakfast."
"See you next weekend."
"Make sure you forget the shark repellent."
Martin gave another finger sign then grinned at Joel.
"Don't believe a single word he says."
He walked out and when Joel looked back it was Peter who was grinning.
"He's going surfing."
That explained the shark comment. Joel watched as Peter transferred clothes to the drying machine.
"Are you doing Certificate Four or a full Diploma?"
"I'm not sure. What's the difference?"
"Certificates is one year and a Diploma is two."
"Diploma. ...I hope. And they told me I could go further if I do well enough."
"Hey, that's exactly what I'm doing."
"How did you know I was doing websites?"
"Aha! I'm a smart cookie aren't I. ..Not really, you were with Morgan so that's what it must be. How come you're doing the Programming? Not many people do."
"I liked it when I was at school."
"When you were at school? ...Not last year?"
"No, I got sick of school. I've been working for a couple of years."
"Geez.. How old are you?"
Both the washing machine and the dryer stopped and clothes and linen were transferred out and in.
"Hey, want to have a drink with your next door neighbor?"
"Um.. I guess. Sure."
"Too polite. I embarrassed you with the hot dog thing didn't I?"
"No. ...More like a shock. No one talks like that at home."
"It's in the country."
"What? Way out Woop Woop or something?"
Instead of the usual embarrassment, Joel suddenly knew he was going to enjoy this.
"It's better than Woop Woop."
"Yeah, it's called Tittybong."
Peter looked at him, went to say something, then rested a hand on Joel's shoulder.
"It is? That's perfect. I'm so jealous. All I can say is Geelong, and how boring's that?"
Joel was smiling. Yes, he was enjoying this. The dryer stopped, and gathering all the washing they left the laundry and walked to number 43.
"Bring your stuff in."
"I should change into something better."
"Forget it. I'm not."
He took the key from his pocket. A key? Was this his unit? Well, he wasn't likely to be taking his washing to someone else's.
"Yep. We're neighbors. Come on in."
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