John watched the stranger as he looked around. He looked tired, but also apprehensive. After a few minutes, the stranger approached the bar. John was a little suspicious, but also a little curious. He started the conversation, even though it felt a little reckless.
"You look like you need a break. How far have you come?"
The stranger responded hesitantly at first "I have been driving for around four hours, most of it in heavy rain. It only eased off over the last thirty minutes." He was also being cautious, as if he was feeling vulnerable, reckless.
While he was talking, the stranger kept looking around, mostly towards the door. John’s concern was growing, rather than reducing. The stranger was obviously concerned that someone might find him. Who was taking a risk here – John in accepting the stranger in this isolated pub, or the stranger stopping at the pub.
After some further conversation about the weather, and when no-one else turned up, the stranger started to relax. John was still a little concerned about what the stranger was hiding from, but he was not young and did not look dangerous. Eventually John decided to offer him some food - he looked like he needed it. It was not normal to open the restaurant part of the pub if there were no customers, but his wife was pottering around in the kitchen any. He also warned his wife to act quickly if necessary. So, the stranger sat down, still at the bar, for some hot soup and bread. John kept his eye on the door, the stranger, and where his phone was in case he needed to act quickly.
After eating, the stranger finally relaxed totally, sighed, and made the surprising statement "I have escaped!"
At John's concerned look, he explained "I have had enough of my children trying to mother me. I am quite capable of looking after myself, but they are always hanging around as if I was a child. How they thought their mother and I managed without them I don't know. But once she has been gone, they decided I could not look after myself. I have decided to take a holiday on my own without telling them. I had to leave without them seeing, and needed to make sure I got far enough away they could not find me."
John laughed with the stranger and called his wife out. They all sat around talking, becoming friends. Since the pub had accommodation, the stranger stayed the night. He went on his way the following morning much more relaxed - and with no rain to contend with.
Every year at about the same time, the stranger returned to the pub, spending a day or two with his new friends before going who knew where. John and his wife never met the stranger's children, but saw many photos of grandchildren and shared stories of their own growing family.
The life of a publican in a country area of Australia meant meeting so many different people and making many interesting friends. Taking a risk in accepting the stranger had worked out after all, and he had become a regular customer. You cannot know what life will bring, but sometimes taking a risk brings great rewards.