I was naff in thinking Adelaide’s story would conclude as she and partner Benny joyfully reclaimed their vintage, (to put it mildly) plaid steamer trunk from our dusty, luggage shop window display. They were “on a roundabout route to Wales”- a journey already spanning several years, and in no great rush to continue on their way. They dragged the heavy trunk from the window, and as they fussed, I had to ask of Benny, “What of the chap you met who disliked beets, riding the #50 bus, the meeting that led you two here to us?
Benny had his Cobber hat on, and his brown, muddy boots denoted him a true vagabond. Adelaide looked at me, head tilted vauge, “I recall his auburn hair braided in a long plait, he chatted about beets not long after we sat, pointed out a good cafe near his stop”. “Said please tell this to Worzel when you reach the luggage shop- “Be in no hurry my friend, for I shall wait- wait patient for all of you at shady gate” Said- “I have learned that an echo lives forever”…”But the bus was noisy, his voice was soft, so it may have been, “The buns are good at this bakery but the Eccles are better” Gob-smacked I thought, not possible’ these two had met up with Godfrey..
I invited them and the trunk for cake and tea above the shop in our flat. “The handles were lost long ago, Benny nodded as he shoved and I pushed the trunk up the stair, “to prevent ease of theft, we left our trunk like that,” Adelaide shared. Neighbors peered, our rather shady land-lady standing on the landing in her ratty house-coat boldly stared. As usual when I brought home “waifs and strays” my long suffering husband retreated with his book, and a sideways smile he aquired from Godfrey, I knew that look. The old Chupa street guitar hung by the turquoise chair My stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat had left me…after eating a whole layer cake, and two pots of tea, may I play for you a song?, asked Benny. He was the better listener of the two, Adelaide busied herself, polishing the trunk, with a roll of toilet paper, brazenly purloined from our loo.
“There is sand in the guitar, yes, sand. The dents give it a lonely sound, the old faded sticker said “No Pasaran Beets”, there is a story in the sand, do not tip the old guitar, it was Godfrey’s, upside down. Benny tuned the strings, even the thrice knotted one I could not bear to throw away. My turquoise chair worked it’s magic, as after thoughts, long thoughts he began to play.
RAXEIRA- My old mum named it, scrawled it on a rough plank, oer the door of our shanty on the Darling River bank. Raxeira Station- “I asked mum, what is this word? when old enough to care to know.” “Tis the lines of light the sun makes cross the floor, shining through cloud or window” “Young yahoo I, the wisdom in her words swept swift over me” “But I used the word, Raxeira, won me a bar of chocolate, was long ago in a grade school spelling Bee…Raxeira, Raxeira , he strummed, she was betrayed by Marvin the butler, I told Adelaide that I loved her, kicked Marvin in one buttock in the water off The Queen’s Dock, he was clutching a posh silver tray, we rescued the tray as wet Marvin swam away…a line of sunlight across the public bar floor, told Adelaide she was not alone with her old plaid trunk anymore.
Yes, it’s dented and scuffed, it’s story told, in a zig-zag journey since we washed up in Chile. Raxeira!, my dear, as we huddled in wet gear, cold in a Montana hostel, in last beams of sunlight after a hard rain, by morning a great, deep clean snow fell. And I shared the word, when brought an egg sandwich, locked up as a vagrant in an Iowa police cell. Raxeira, across my barred door- look how pretty!. (The jailer grumbled, I don’t think he believed me) Oh the trunk bruised us often, lifting it in and off many a ride. Raxeira we saw, cross an open box-car, sitting on our trunk, awed over plains and the great high divide..
Raxiera, it had been a long, long time since I cried. Godfrey I’m sure would have loved the word, and at sunset this hot summer night, Adelaide and Benny pushed the trunk,to my west facing harbor window, hand in hand sat watching that evening light. They stayed several days , my “waifs and strays”. We showed them the hole in the rug down the hall, the bug chandelier, the great burned beam where the fire escape had been. The maid deep in Adelaide made her want to scale a ladder, and clean the light fixture. “The place would lose all it’s charm, perhaps crumble if cleaned, I assured her”.
When time came to part, we carried the trunk down together. (Though oft I wake up, and wonder if they really are gone) When settled In Wales, Benny promised to write his life’s story in verse and song. And at Godfrey’s Luggage and Leather Repair, well we carry on, and though no one dos, if by chance you do, ask of the empty window, the dust and cob-webs I will happily tell you, we keep it that way , not because of the trunks lingering memory, but to let the Raxeira shine through….
As for the bus Godfrey mystery….we shall see if it ever happens again, thank you from Worzel.