Title: Coal Flat

Author: Bill Pearson

Publication details: Paul’s Book Arcade, 1963, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Paul Millar

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Coal Flat



You couldn’t blame her for loyalty, Rogers was thinking; and it was about his turn to make concessions. So far they had all been hers. But when he had tried to concede, when he had refused at first to support the boycott, it hadn’t helped him or Flora.

‘I haven’t said anything to Mum yet, Paul. But if you’ll agree I bet I could persuade Dad to stay. There’s a house going on School Road,’ she said. ‘The people are moving after Christmas. We could get that. Paul, I think you’d like it at the Flat again. You could get into the mine. They’d be glad to have a chap like you in the union. You might even be secretary in time.’

‘Oh, Flora, stop planning so far ahead. You don’t take on a job in the hope of a union executive’s job at the end of it. I’m not a careerist.’

‘Well, even without that, don’t you think it’s worth a try?’

Rogers thought before he said what he’d been planning to say: page 413 ‘No, Flora, I’ve thought about it. It doesn’t appeal to me. I won’t be settled at the Flat.’

‘You’ve got friends there.’

‘They let me down.’

‘How did they let you down? They tried to get your job back for you. They did all they could.’

‘They’ve got their doubts about me now. They’re not with me any more. I wouldn’t be part of them.’

‘What are we going to do then?’

‘Go to Christchurch. I’ll try to get into adult education. You’d like it there. It’s a better climate. There’d be more to do. Beaches, films, libraries, concerts.’

‘I could get on without them with you. But what about Mum? Paul, she needs me.’

‘Don’t I need you? What about me? Flora, it just won’t work. Last time I gave in to your family it only led to trouble. You’ve got to make the choice, Flora. And anyway I don’t believe your mother will be so ready to forget the past. She’ll hold me to blame for Don going away.’

Flora didn’t answer and he continued: ‘I know you had to go home after the trouble, Flora, especially when Don went away, but your home’s making you too comfortable again. You don’t want to have to choose. You want it both ways. We’ve got to start together, no Mum, no Dad, nobody to poke into us and try to manage us and kill us with attention. Surely you see what happiness it will be.’

She held her hand in his and said nothing for a while. Eventually she said: ‘We can’t end up hating each other, Paul? Like you said last time? I’d rather go off with Mum and Dad and leave you if I thought that would happen.’

‘We won’t, by ourselves.’

‘Well, they’ll just have to go off to Nelson by themselves,’ she said smiling. ‘I was silly to think different.’

She changed the subject. ‘Mum’s trying to track down Miss Dane. She wants that baby. It would give her more to think about.’

‘That baby! It can’t be far off now…. Will Miss Dane give it up?’

‘I don’t know. Nobody knows where she’s gone. Doris offered to take Donnie when Mum and Dad go, but Mum wouldn’t hear of it. Doris is going to adopt one anyhow. But there’s a huge waiting-list. She could have one fairly soon if she’d take a Maori but Frank wouldn’t have it. I said, “Well, you’re part Maori yourself, you kids might have been dark.” But it made her cry. I shouldn’t have said it. That’s what she’d told Frank.’

page 414

‘Ours might be too.’

‘They’ll be none the less welcome for that. I even hope they will be…. Well, she will have Donnie and Dad’ll be with her, and she’ll just have to get used to not having us.’