The trips to hospital sucked the life out of Cyril. No matter how chipper he was in the morning, the drive into Toowoomba, the waiting around, and the young, fit, busy doctors drained him.
Today the oncologist had made the fatal mistake of telling Lydia she should quit smoking. It was dangerous for her health, and Cyril's.
'You should mind your own business,' she'd snapped. 'Not doing so will be dangerous to your health.'
Cyril had laughed. He didn't like the doctors. He didn't like many people who were on the government payroll, as a matter of fact, but he really didn't like the doctors. They infantilised him. Rebuked him for not eating better, and for drinking too much alcohol. Cyril often asked them 'why' he should quit smoking. Why he should drink less. The answer 'to extend your life' was met with disgust. What good was a long and boring life?
They stopped in to see Dylan on the way back home. Cyril sent her in. He said he was going to wait in the car.
'I'll be back in five,' she said.
'Take your time.'
She left him parked in her Hyundai and went up to the front counter. The man at the counter peered past her, at her car, and asked if she was here to have her brakes looked at.
'I'm actually here to see Dylan. He does some work, outside hours, for my Uncle. I need to pay him.'
The man looked out at her car again. 'It's up to you, but I'd be getting those brakes looked at. Sounds like you've pretty much worn through the pads.'
'I probably have.'
'You realise you won't be able to stop...?'
She shrugged. 'Gotta die somehow.'
He gave her a look of horror, but went to find Dylan. Lydia flicked through her emails on her phone while she waited. There was more work waiting. A request that an article she submitted be condensed by two hundred words. Artwork for a journal that had gone to print the week prior. No promises of payment. Shit. She was getting broke.
'What are you doing here?' Dylan asked in surprise as he wiped his hands on an old rag.
Lydia stuffed her phone back into her bag. 'Cyril wanted to drop by and pay you.'
'Really? I told him to fix me up next week.'
'Old people. What can you say?'
They stared at each other, not knowing what to say not only to old people, but to each other.
'You know, Michael was saying your brakes aren't sounding too good,' Dylan said eventually. 'I have to agree, they sounded pretty bad the other week. You want me to have a look while you're here?'
'Don't bother. I don't have the money to fix them.'
'Okay, well how about you come around tomorrow morning and I'll have a look at them at my place?'
'Doesn't change the fact I can't afford it.'
He sighed. 'Consider it a goodwill gesture, hey? If you die, then your Uncle will bail me up to do even more work for him.'
'Sure,' she agreed. 'Have a look. But I'll pay you back for anything you do, as soon as I get some money in.'
'I'll see you tomorrow. Ten?'
She went back outside to her car. Cyril was sleeping. She didn't wake him, she just got in and drove back home.
There was mail in the mailbox for her. They only had mail delivery three times a week here, and the service was slow at best. Today she received a cheque for eight hundred and twenty dollars and an eighth of hydro. All in all, not bad.
'Who's sending you mail?' Cyril asked, waking from his slumber.
'They paying you?'
'One did. Don't worry, I've paid the rent on my flat.'
'The bank was ringing this morning. I expect it's about your credit card bill.'
'Probably,' she agreed. 'I've made the payment. Don't stress, it's always like this. Isn't it a cycle of ups and downs with cattle farming, too?'
'Yes, but I always had money from driving. I worry about you, Lydia. It's too hard for a young woman on her own these days. Property prices are ridiculous.'
She agreed with him. Property prices, paying off undergraduate and master's degrees, her drinking... it added up. She really needed to sit down and sort out her finances but truthfully, she was too scared to see how bad things really were.
They went home, and Cyril went to lie down. Lydia checked the cattle were still cantankerous arseholes, showered, dressed, and headed back to Oakey. She didn't want to run into anybody tonight. She just wanted to have a few drinks in peace.