Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2318364-The-Black-Hat
by Sumojo
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Drama · #2318364
Lifelong friend, Jake and Sam finally show their true colours
Words 1526

Perth Australia 1959

All eyes are glued to the flickering screen. The man in the black hat grabs his chest, falls from his horse, one leg catches in a stirrup and a deafening roar fills the small movie theatre as he’s dragged along the dusty prairie. The atmosphere is electric with excitement, the smell of popcorn and soda fills the air, and two little boys bounce in their seats, their eyes bright with the thrill of the movie.

“Yeah! He got him.” Sam punches Jake’s arm and takes a slurp of his Cola.”

“He’s not dead yet,” Jake yells so to be heard above the thunder of galloping hooves and gunfire. “Oh no! The good guy’s been shot!”

The action continues, the excitement level reaches a peak until the movie concludes at the point where the cowboy in the white hat attempts to halt his horse seconds before they both plummet over the edge a steep cliff overlooking raging waters.
The two friends join the overly excited throng pouring out into the bright sunshine and can hardly wait to get home and reenact the movie in the backyard.

Jake and Sam, their names inextricably linked throughout their childhood, a friendship forged by shared adventures, laughter and unwavering loyalty.
Inevitably, there came a time in their lives they found themselves separated, living in different cities for the first time.

Sydney Australia 1990 July

Sam ended the call. “That was Jake.”

Claire was just finishing up ironing the children’s school uniforms and had heard one side of the phone conversation, “Yes, I guessed. He’s the only person you talk on the phone to for over an hour.” She glanced up at the kitchen clock.

“He’s made a mess of things.”

“What’s new? There’s always a drama with Jake.”

“Christine’s left him. Took the children.” Sam sighed “I wish you’d known him when we were kids, Claire. We were like that.” He held up two crossed fingers. “He wants to know if he could come to Sydney and stay for a while.” Sam saw a look of irritation flit across his wife’s face. She tolerated Jake because she knew how close Sam and he were. “It’d be just for a couple of weeks,” he assured her.

Claire shrugged her shoulders, “You just can’t say no to that guy. It wouldn’t matter what I think anyway.”


Jake crossed over the road to the carpark where Sam was waiting to pick him up. Sam spotted him first and was taken aback to see a shadow of the man he’d seen last Christmas. Jake looked tired and had lost weight.

“Welcome to Sydney, mate.” The two friends hugged.

“Christ, it’s so good to see a friendly face, Sam.”

Walking to where Sam had parked the Holden station wagon. They loaded the bags in the boot and settled in for the ride home.

“It’s good to see you, man, I wish it wasn’t under these circumstances.” Sam paused before taking a deep breath, “What the hell, mate? What were you thinking?”

“Shit, man, don’t you start. I’ve come to get away from all that for a while.”

“What was it? Another woman? Gambling? What?”

“It was a woman at work. It was nothing, just a bit of fun! Christine suspected and she threw me out.”

“What the hell? You risked losing your wife and kids for a bit on the side?” Sam shook his head in frustration. The remainder of the journey passed in silence, the only sound the gentle hum of the engine.


A week into his stay, Claire and Jake were alone in the kitchen, Jake sat at the table amongst half-empty boxes of cereal and the remnants of toast left over from the kids’ breakfasts. He appeared disheveled and hadn’t shaved since arriving in Sydney. He nursed a mug of black coffee, gazing into it as if it held the answer to all his questions.

“Good time last night?” Claire asked casually. She knew he hadn’t got home until after dawn.

“Jake lifted his tired eyes, offering a faint smile that barely brushed his lips. “Not really, Claire”

“What are your plans, Jake? You can’t simply run away you know. Have you tried to reconcile with Christine?”

He simply gave a slight shake of his head, before saying what he’d obviously been thinking. “Sam’s got it all hasn’t he? Nice house, good kids and a beautiful wife.”

There was something in the way he said those last two words which made Claire feel uncomfortable. “You had everything, Jake. You need to go back to Perth and fight for it.”

“No, I don’t think so. I’ve had it up to here with Perth. I was thinking I’d like to stay in Sydney. Oh, don’t look so worried Claire, I’m not planning on living with you guys for much longer.”

“Well, it’s all right for some of us but I’ve got to get ready for work.” She began to clear the table.

“Leave it, Claire. You get going, I’ll tidy up the kitchen.”

Six weeks later.

“Mmm, something smells good.”

Jake came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a tea towel. “Hi, mate. I thought I’d better start pulling my weight around here. I’ve made my special lasagna for dinner.”

“Thanks, Jake.” He took a good look at his old friend. “You’re looking a bit brighter, has something happened?

“No. I’ve decided to get off my backside and stop feeling sorry for myself.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, Claire told me you had been making yourself useful.”

“It’s the least I can do, mate. Anyway the boys like me picking them up from school and taking them to the park to kick a footy. They’re great kids, they remind me of how we were at their ages.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, but that’s a long time ago.” He paused before he asked the question Claire had prompted him to ask. “How are you managing, financially, Jake? “

“Pretty dire, mate. Christine’s keeping the house in Perth. I need a job. I’ve got to get a place so my kids can visit. “

“Yeah, of course. I can ask at work to see if there are any salesman jobs in the offing.”

“That’d be really great, Sam.” He paused before adding, “I appreciate everything you and Claire have done for me, mate.”

“You’re welcome. You’ll soon get back on your feet. The boys love having you here. Claire says you’re a better cook than she is.”

Sydney 6 months later

Sam swung open the front door, greeted by a rush of cool air that was a welcome reprieve from the stifling heat outside. With a sigh of relief, he peeled off his work shirt, the fabric clinging to his skin after a long day toiling on the building site.
Sounds of laughter were coming from the lounge room. He threw the shirt into the hamper in the laundry and caught sight of himself in the mirror. He was definitely looking older, he thought, leaning into the mirror to check his tired face. He opened the beer fridge and took out a cold one. Popping the top, he took a grateful slug. Wearing just a singlet and shorts he opened the lounge door. No one took any notice of him. He surveyed the scene. His boys, eight-year-old Alex and ten-year-old Nicky, were playing a game of cards with Jake. They were laughing and joking around, the three of them sitting close together on the sofa. Claire was standing behind Jake, her arm gently touching his shoulder. Jake’s suit jacket was on an armchair, the sleeves of his white business shirt rolled up.
Sam stood in silence, observing the poignant scene unfolding before him. In a sudden epiphany, he realized that his friend, who had been residing in his home for the past six months, was slowly assuming his role. Sam's wife consistently sang Jake's praises, extolling his usefulness and frequent contributions such as helping around the place and picking up the boys from school. Jake's position as a salesman at the very building firm where Sam had advocated for him, allowed for flexible hours, enabling him to assist Claire whenever needed—and he was more than willing to do so

The next day it was Saturday, Sam and Jake had tickets to the football and were having a beer or two in the pub before the game.

“I’ve been thinking Jake.”

“That’s always a worry, mate. What’s up?”

“I was remembering the Saturday matinees we used to go to when we were kids.”
Jake laughed, “Jeeze, mate, by the look on your face I thought there was something serious going on.”

Sam nodded, his face losing none of the seriousness. “Yeah, mate, it’s serious.”

Jake frowned. “What’s all this about, Sam?”

“The cowboy movies, Jake. You always knew who was the goody and who was the baddy, cos of their hats.”

“Yeah, of course you did, the baddy always wore a black hat.” He gave a laugh as he pretended to fire a gun.

“You fooled me, Jake.” Sam said quietly.

“What are you going on about, you idiot.” Jake playfully thumped Sam’s arm.

“I want you to leave my house today, Jake. Oh, and don’t forget to take your hat. Y’know, the black one.”

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