Godfrey and I were seeking “Oder-less chalk”, one of his many quirks was dislike for the sneezy scent of chalk, he explained this to a doe-eyed, somewhat vacant looking clerk in the stationary shop. “As we were out walking, said Godfrey, a poem wafted to me on the breeze, and I need to chalk it on your shop wall”. Later on, back home, he mused over how many hundreds of times he stood before the chalkboard as a lad, writing “I will not behave Oddly”, over and over…tell us a story from your school days, dear Worzel, he asked as he sat, safonsified in my turquoise chair…so I did.

“My younger brother, Cudberth is a lot like you, has wandered through life with blyth disregard or worry, over what important people said or thought. He ate every beef tongue sandwich, and distaste full item in our old, cold lunch boxes. A year behind me, his room was across the hall from mine, where gym teacher Miss Augwire taught. Start of each day, after we all had to pray, and roll call was time for “Show and Tell”, we could bring something special, stand up at the chalkboard and share. Miss Augwire once brought Mercury, I once brought a Walrus tusk our stepmother Mrs Gibberflat had found somewhere.

Cudberth brought for his “Show and Tell”, a dead frozen weasel, found in a field first snowstorm of late fall. “We heard shrill commotion, some cheeky talking back, the clack of important shoes, little Cudberth was escorted out, sent home, dead frozen weasel still deep in his knapsack.

Came Thanksgiving Weekend- our stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat , bought a turkey from the chap who sold such goods farm to farm back then, door to door. She bought the good ice-cream, and as an afterthought, fish-heads  and scraps for Oscar, our cat. “What cat? mumbled dad, hockey game on,(He thought Oscar had been et by a predator, many years before).

Was a small town, small prairie school house…we each had a cubby, a nook for books and boots tucked away, and up a narrow set of steps, a cow-bell sat, rung as one hung out the window, to summon us, several times a day. Cudberth forgot his purloined packet of fish heads there he brought for “Show and Tell’, excited when called upon to ring the cow-bell. Imagine the stench, when poor Mr French, the custodian, truly a deeply philosophical man, who sang as he toiled, songs of woe cleaning up for a living, turned the radiators up so classes would be warm for us, after the holiday, Thanksgiving.

Indeed, it reeked, we could taste a green miasma, Miss Augwire ran about, blowing her gym whistle in warning. It smelled so bad inside they made us stay out, picking up trash in the snow all morning. My brother, Cudberth , eating his lunch, chubby cheeks rosy, innocent of all guile and blame, on the teeter-totter sat. Twas then I knew, that he knew I knew what became of the halibut heads Mrs Gibberflat bought for our cat. I’d like to report we laughed till we cried, but was the other way around…

The town cop came, the mayor, the fire brigade, and retired Nosey-Parkers Mr and Mrs Pettigrew, they summoned Walter Kotyk and his bloodhound, It was a most exciting day in my hometown, Ceylon, not Ceylon, Ceylon, but the Ceylon way down in south Saskatchewan. A helicopter flew over twice, it was a rare sight. Eventually the bag of fish, removed with a stick from “The Smelliest School House on The Prairie” read the headline, made the early news on channel 2 up in Regina that night, and was shown again at 9.

Our uncle, Tony DeMarais, lost the coin toss to haul the cubbies away, across the tracks where the firemen could spray it down with their hose, what became of it nobody knows. A large box of chocolate was offered as reward, to anyone who knew who left fish heads over Thanksgiving, neath the bell. Very tempting, but I did not claim glory or prize, Cudberth did not mind, we always shared with each other, but he would have been paddled, my impish, yet well meaning brother. But, of course, there was no pulling wool over Mrs Gibberflat, our stepmother…I still picture Cudberth, at the kitchen table, chin in hand, he is eight. It is late, pencil poised, he is smiling, writing one hundred times- “I, Cudberth Edward Edelpilz will not be disgusting”

What a delightful story, thank you, Godfrey laughed, and what became of Cudberth?  Cudberth never worried much what others said or thought. He is school  principal in Ceylon, the Ceylon, a small town hanging on down in south Saskatchewan, where Miss Augwire the gym teacher taught.


6 thoughts on “THE HALIBUT HEADS OF CUDBERTH- By Worzel

  1. What a delightful paragraph describing “a most exciting day in my hometown”. I hope we’ll learn more about interesting little Cudberth who makes Godfrey laugh.

  2. I love, love, loved this story and was delighted to meet Cuthbert. Every detail was funny.I especially enjoyed Dad thinking the cat had been eaten by a predator. I don’t know why that amused me so, but it did. And the custodian, a deeply philosophical man, singing songs of woe. Sheila, you create complete character sketches in one or two sentences — an amazing talent.

  3. The only redeeming feature of the old school house we attended was getting to wring the cow-bell. I enjoyed this story very much to, and bringing back Oscar, the cat. Between Worzel’s birth, and her parents losing hope of producing a normal child, came “Cudberth”- Bumbler For All Time.

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