In an era when same-sex love is a crime, what is an ex- army major to do when he falls for a sexy young coalminer?
Run out of the country town because of his illicit relationship, former army major Dr. Damien Bouton flees to the relative anonymity of a poor, inner-city suburb where he deals with the loss of his lover, Josh, ministering to the needs of a startlingly eccentric mix of supportive characters. Josh, his eyes and his heart newly opened to love, chases after his lover but, in his innocence, falls prey to con men and the razor gangs that abound in Depression-era Sydney. When Damien and Josh’s paths finally cross again, they are almost strangers and their social circumstances make any sort of relationship impossible. Until fate steps in. But is it too late for them to rekindle their love?
I went to lock the surgery door to discover a young man reading an outdated magazine. What I noticed immediately was not that his lips mouthed the words he was reading, but his beauty surpassed even that of the surrounding coastal landscape: his hair was the color of the fine sand on the beach, and his eyes bluer than the waters in the bay. My breath caught in my throat. I must have given an audible gasp because the young man smiled.
“Hello, doc. You got a moment?” he asked.
I ushered him into my office too dazzled to speak. He stood in front of my desk rather than taking the comfortable leather chair meant for patients. A few inches shorter than I, he was fit, tanned and wore the cap and rough clothes of the villagers. But I’d never seen him before. I would certainly have to remedy that even though one of the reasons for taking on this job was to avoid the temptations that the city offered. Here I expected the temptations to be much less.
“I won’t take up too much of your time,” he said. “My mum told me I should ask you to supper this evening.” He blushed.
“Mum said as you being a bachelor gentleman and having no one to look after you then you probably need a proper feed every now and then ’cause gentlemen don’t know how to cook good, wholesome grub.”
“Don’t expect nothing fancy,” he said. “I said to mum that Dr. Button is no snob even though he’s from the big city and has probably et at all the fancy cafés, but he knows you can’t beat good home cooking.” He paused and smiled expectantly. “Please, sir, say you’ll come. It’s to show our appreciation for all what you done for us. Me.”
He stumbled over the word appreciation as if he’d rehearsed his little speech, but it just made him all the more endearing. However, I was at a loss. I didn’t recall him. “What exactly is it you think I’ve done for you?”
Disappointment clouded his face. I looked again at those eyes.
Suddenly, it struck me. “Joshua?”
“Yes, sir. Did you not recognise Joshua, sir?”
“I should have known you. Why, those eyes, lad. They must drive the local girls crazy.”
He blushed again and fidgeted with his cap.
“Take a seat while I lock up.”
I quickly set about closing the surgery for the day hoping that no one would disturb us. As I did so I remembered the awful circumstances under which we had met. At the caterwauling siren I grabbed my medical bag and ran outside, along with most of the people above ground in Seaspray Bay. I tore up the dirt road surrounded by womenfolk in dread for their sons and husbands, but they gave me space and did not jostle me because a few seconds delay on my part could mean the difference between life and death.
Only one man had been hurt. They carried him on a stretcher, blackened from the coal except for a red slash across his leg where his trousers had been cut open as had the leg itself. He was conscious, barely, the pain excruciating. I leaned over and whispered words of comfort to him, but his face was so covered with soot and coal he scarcely looked human. Apart from his eyes. They were astonishingly blue. I just stared into them until his groan of pain interrupted my preoccupation.