THE CHILIBECK CHICKEN SUPPER CLUB- Bye Godfrey

I, Worzel, in compiling Godfrey’s story, am indebted to Beatrice Wambe, his lifelong friend who saved so many scraps of his writing, and shared many deeply personal ones. This odd account came with a blurry photo, a door frame, part of someones shoe and the hem of his kilt- it is titled, “Me helping get a pig out of the house, Hokitika”. Another is of a smiling young couple in matching crocheted ponchos, he says, “They were of the subject of unkind remarks…no indication who the couple were, but that is another story….

” Hold the moon still, while I chase the sky’…thus began a letter to me , shared Beatrice. “This is the opening line of the book I desired to read, in a peaceful yard, hammock hung from a gum tree, New Years Eve, 1983, wrote he.   Kiwiana is a rambling house hostel, in a friendly wee town neath the shelter of Takaka Hill. A tad crowded inside for me, my bed the hammock slung under the gum tree.  In a tent on the grass nearby camped a couple, The Arsesmarts, she was quiet, he a rather pompous military retiree. They had beets for their tea, and he muttered about, “employable paupers eating ice-cream, barefoot vagabonds like me”.

Mrs Arsesmart snuffed as she ate, a sad person, always on the edge of complaint. I was not bothered by the beets they bought to cook- for oh I had such a good book.      I had read by the river all day, happily buffed by water and sun, summer evenings are long so far south, the hostel crowd dispersed for New Years eve fun.   “Decomposition has not yet begun”, I over heard the Arsesmarts plans, to visit a beach where a great whale had washed up ashore, I planned to just read, no fireworks, no dead whales, no party, nothing mingy for Godfrey.

The house was soon quiet, the setting sun, Boysenberry, tinged the ridge to the west, the one my soul still roamed, the High Heaphy. The hostel manager’s  dog, an old, greedy cur, got into the kitchen rubbish and ate it, I had to clean up after her. Twixt cistern and shelf, oer the sink in the hostel loo, found a brown leather satchel, as I dried my hands, full of money, tickets, passports, the Arsesmarts !, all things of theirs valuable.

“Dear Beatrice, I recall that you, said that whats in your heart is the right thing to do”. With nobody about to trust it to, I set off for the beach to look, for the Arsesmarts, return the satchel and get back to my book.     It’s a terrible, lonely sight, a beached whale, this one halfway to Farewell Spit, the Arsesmarts were no where near it.  I was on my bike, they driving a car, I did not see it parked at pub or bar, they were not by the Takaka River wide, the launderette, or park where the life size chess board was set up outside.

No Arsesmarts at the eel pond or cematary, they were not at the odd shaped stones and caves in a farmer’s field you could visit for free. But they had been! , the farmer pointed me where next to go, a New Years Eve ABBA Tribute Show.  Peddling in the dark now, drawn by the sound to that fairground.

What tawdry pant-suits, music dreadful and loud, saw the Arsesmarts finally in the drunken crowd, at the gate, looking lost at the cost, pockets turned out, saying words of blame to each other..”I said hello, I am Godfrey, employable pauper, here is your satchel you lost in the hostel loo, glad to have found you”. The seemed a tad shocked, said nothing, just gawked.   The bicycle seat chafed my sun burnt behind, it was not far to home, book and hammock, I walked.

Lantern light hung in gum tree, sleeping bag snug, warm and quiet as a cow’s breath the night, flitting lightning bug. Rubbish fed mutt lying near, “thank you for cleaning up behind the dog, Godfrey” said the hostel manager, “Happy New Year”.

It mattered not, that the Arsesmarts, never thanked me for returning their valuables pouch, was not bothered by the evenings deeds gruppity snub. For I spent New Years Day with all I would need, for in the shade with my book, in peace got to read, “The Chilibeck Chicken Supper Club”.   From Godfrey.

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3 thoughts on “THE CHILIBECK CHICKEN SUPPER CLUB- Bye Godfrey

  1. I forgot to add another thought I had as I read this post: you have great skill, Sheila, in developing a character with very few words as you did with the Arsesmarts. You do it all the time with odd characters you introduce in Godfrey’s story.

    • Thanks Janet- laughing here, my Ma’s family in England got hit hard by the crash of 1929, she was six, they had no choice but to emigrate- “Employable Paupers” was stamped on their papers, enroute to the Salvation Army, who paid for their passage to Canada, my 3 year old uncle let go my Ma’s hand and got run over by a bus. Grandma never got over the shock and shame, I love that Godfrey could redeem that. Glad you get the visual of The Arsesmarts- the characters come unbidden.

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