It hung therein the blue-black night, a second magnitude star in a minor constellation, hiding among a million others, but his eye found it unerringly it was Home. The tall man turned. Shouldering his pack he set off resolutely to where the beckoning lights of the tiny township offered a lot more warmth than interstellar space.
Bill Johnson, the publican, half dozing behind the bar, started in surprise as the swing doors opened to admit the stranger. He was very tall, six foot six nearly two meters, and for a moment Bill had the impression of huge cat-like pupils narrowing rapidly in the light. But as he wondered, the stranger caught his gaze, and all thought of eyes and oddity faded from his mind. He pulled himself together “G’Day What’ll it be?”
If the stranger saw anything odd in the traditional greeting at this time of night he didn’t let on. “G’Day. I’ll have a beer. Got a room for a night or two?” At the publican’s nod, he added “Fix it up later, but first the beer!”
Bill drew the beer and asked “Come far? 1 didn’t hear the car”.
“A fair way. No car. Walked!”
Bill looked at him. The nearest settlement in any direction was fifty kilometres. He opened his mouth to speak but somehow, as the visitor caught his eye, his thoughts muddied and faded, his curiosity gone. “Cheers,” said the tall man, as he raised his glass. Cheers! said Bill automatically. He shook his head bemusedly and poured himself a double whisky. Somehow he felt he needed it.
The bar was almost empty. A couple of sun-shrivelled middle-aged stockmen were completely absorbed by the flickering TV set whose satellite dish on the roof plucked the day’s racing commentaries from distant Sydney. The only other occupants were a young couple sitting at a small table in the opposite corner, silent, their drinks untouched. They avoided each other’s eyes, the girl nervously picking at the corner of a handkerchief balled in her other hand. The lad, scarcely more than a boy, glowered sullenly at the half-empty bottle of lager.
The stranger took a long drink of his beer, emptying his glass. He sighed in satisfaction. “Another, landlord.” he said. And as Bill filled a new glass, the giant looked across at the young couple. The uniform of jeans and tee shirt gave no clue of origin or occupation, but somehow they had the air of city folk, their body language too tight and controlled for country youngsters. He took the glass from the barman, nodded his thanks and crossed to where the couple was sitting.
“Mind if I join you? It’s the only table.” he explained.
The couple looked up, united in their resentment, but they were streetwise enough to know that it is unwise to offend big men in pubs. And he was big. From their seated position he was enormous. The girl glanced quickly at her companion who made some muffled sound signifying consent.
The couple were facing each other across the table so the stranger took a seat at the side, effectively coming between them.. He glanced from one to the other. “Nice Day!” he said. The couple were silent. They felt his eyes on them.
“Nice Day!” he repeated. “Er—Yes,” responded the youth. “Nice,” murmured the girl, but her mouth had a bitter twist.
“Could be better, eh?” The big man’s voice was sympathetic. Somehow his presence exerted a soothing effect. “Had days like that m’self. And how about you?” He turned to the youth. “Same bad day, eh?”

The boy looked at the man, a retort forming in his mind; but the eyes that met his were kind. For a second they were spookily strange but the feeling quickly faded and they expressed nothing but warmth and concern. The boy felt an urge to unburden himself. He remembered an old saying “You can really Talk to a stranger!” They have no expectations of you. Here today. gone tomorrow. Ships that pass in the night.
“Your beer looks warm”. The big man signalled to the barman. “Two beers, Bill, and a fresh drink for the lady.” Johnson couldn’t remember telling his name but he shrugged the oddity aside and readied the drinks.
“Well now.” said the stranger when the drinks were before them. “My friends call me Stargazer, Star for short. Got the name on the droving trail. Used to lecture me mates on the constellations when we were sleeping out. Nothin’ to look at but the stars. Fascinatin’ things, stars. “he ruminated for a second. “And how about you? What brings you to the bush?”
“My fiancée and I…” began the boy.
“EX!” interjected the girl.
The boy gave her a hurt look. “My EX fiancée and l are on holiday, or were until the bike broke down. And now we are stuck here. The garage says they will have to Send away to Sydney for spare parts.“
“What do you need?” the man pulled his bag from beneath his seat. “Maybe I can lix it.”
The boy looked at him dubiously but they were soon deep in discussion about motorcycles, their attributes, deficiencies and idiosyncrasies.
The girl looked at the two men so deeply engrossed in conversation; angry tears filling her eyes, she gathered up her things and started to rise.
“No. Don’t go!” a massive arm barred her way. “We‘ll solve your problem in a moment.”
The strange eyes caught hers, and her anger evaporated to be replaced by a feeling of quiet expectancy. She watched silently as the man called Star reached into his bag and produced an odd shaped piece of metal. She saw the boy’s eyes widen in amazement and his jaw drop as the stranger tossed a Yamaha cylinder head onto the table.
“Should do the trick. I reckon.” The laconic Star took another swig of his beer. “It’ll only take a jiffy in the morning and you can be on your way.” He looked across at the girl. “And what was your problem?”
But the young couple were looking at each other with renewed hope. Their quarrel forgotten as they eagerly planned to continue their adventure.
Starry eyed lovers, he thought. The Starman smiled to himself and strolled over to join the stockmen who seemed poised on the brink of a bitter argument over a bet. “G’Day Fellas” he said.
The End

Copyright © H.St.V.Beechev April 1995