Godfrey was ill..He called it “FLUX O” BILE”. He was curled up in my turquoise chair, unhappy. Lest it be perceived that in telling his story, I have elevated Godfrey to sainthood- it was his own fault. Alone all day , he made a pan of vanilla fudge, promising to save me half, he then ate the whole pan, made another one, ate half of it so I
would not be cross…It happened that day, in the post came a letter from his sister, Alice, who wrote every three years on her birthday. He read the letter to me.
Drear Brother- I awoke to Ma and Arthur bickering over the sink in the loo, four sets of teeth were soaking where the night before soaked only two. It is fun to play “Whose teeth belong to who.” Though retirement is sheer enjoyment I have had to seek employment in the distant village of Tuckware, Unlike Skibbereen, few persons know me there.
I remain a curmudgeon, a clerk in Klapp’s Shoe Warehouse and Repair. “I bring a smelly lunch daily in the same greasy sack, plugged up the employee toilet in the back, made a mess out of the new stock, purloined someone named “Gloria’s” name-tag and smock, I bring dust from home to waft over the shelves, gossip out loud while the customers help them selves, switched lids on the polish so the black you buy is white, and drive home still
a curmudgeon to Ma and Arthur every night.
Happy Birthday to me- From Alice..Unrepentant wee thing, Godfrey moaned, folding the letter, “I told him here is a story, may help you to feel better.
“Twas early days, I was new to the city, needed “sensible shoes” for my job in the library, a shop refused my business on grounds “I was a Hippie” Garnet Odd, we had recently just met was with me, our jeans were faded, I wore an old shirt of yours that I treasured, old boots were decent, ready to be judged for size and measured.
“I feel about shoes as you do the beet, never liked anyone kneeling at my feet.” “As we entered the shoe store, a wizened, scowling clerk was telling of the liver-burger, served on a bun the night before, the second rude clerk in cardigan-skirt ignored us as if we were not there, a third appeared out of nowhere, muttering loudly about Garnet’s long hair.
Behind a loafers display she lurked, shook skinny finger at me, and gasped exasperated, “Not another scruffy Hippie”…
“My goodness, Worzel, Godfrey cried, Alice is a prankster, always has been, but never oh so mean, do go on”. “In shock then I looked about, realized my Garnet Odd was gone..but not for long, from the shop next door he trotted, candle in hand, rainbow layers of wax, set in sand, the style of the day.
“He held the candle out to the nasty first clerk- “Here’s a candle, he spoke soft- may it help light your way, also good to heat baked beans, warm heart and hands on, a gift from a hippie, here’s a candle”.
The second rude clerk retreated to the phone, presumably to call the law, the third, clearly a curmudgeon almost smiled, I could tell by the telltale twitch in her jaw. “We left her holding the sand candle, laughed about it end of the day, I did not buy shoes, and it mattered very little anyway.”
“Perhaps, Godfrey thought, that in a stuffy shop, hemmed in by rubber and genuine cowhide, of liver burger dinner, and fading sales, joy had been shelved dusty, off to one side”. “I hope the message cast in sand was one at least the third rude clerk could understand. “Judge me not by my hair and old plaid shirt, I came seeking shoes, and your profound rudeness rather hurt”
Garnet later told me when alone, “It is not the memory of the candles Mum lit in our mountain cabin window, not of sunrise after heavy snowfalls, or its glow on sandstone canyon walls” “And over our long years together, when life has bumped or hurt me, I am reminded of the many candles he has held out, bold before others, or in quiet time privately, Here’s a candle..he would tell me. (For Ginger and Lonewolf)