He had the stout spirit of a roadside weed, did my friend, the vagabond Godfrey. He could live with very little and be happy, with wide open air and poetry. So it was on this Thanksgiving, when neighbors came to dine, our land lady Mrs Feerce, brought a bottle of “Domestos”…a full bodied blend of sherry and red wine…
Godfrey did not drink, but did not judge those who did, this I knew, in horror he whispered to me. “Domestos was the bleach my old Ma used, to scour stubborn beet stains from the sink and clean our loo”!. He told me a story from his youth, that made me guffaw, and I will now share with you.
“I attended a wedding, a cousin’s summer wedding, in the church cloak room sobbed the poor bride. “We all had to pass by her furious dad, as the young groom hid in a hedge outside” . “Daring Clementine, my first true love, refused to sit hours on a cold, hard pew, so I went with Beatrice and good friend, Sugar Mulgrew”.
At the awkward age, I was of fifteen..”The service long, Sugar passed naughty drawings from the bible, and scary stories , as Beatrice and I sat between…”God will smote you for that! whacked my mother, wielding her heavy wedding day hat, with a broach that was nasty and sharp”. We escaped to snitch cakes from the reception room, before the kissing, and last gloomy notes of the harp”.
“And that night, we danced, danced to” The Uncle Lou Band” “I drank the fruit punch as we danced in the hall, for I did not want alcohol. “My sister Alice, six years older than me, usually canty, full of mischief, was sipping fizzy drink from a tin, sitting oddly quiet near”. “Hot from dancing, I delighted in the punch, twas upon standing up next,, my balance went queer”. “I fell off the balcony of the church hall, due to the affects of alcohol.
I landed with kilt in disarray, for sister Alice spiked the punch, on cousin Cynthia’s wedding day. “Landing in a flower box, covered with wet fertilizer, missing were my drawers and one good shoe, when woken by an equally wobbly Sugar Mulgrew, she wore her only dress, in lieu of a hat red hair tucked under a scarf, “Sugar prodded me with a mop handle, gently though, lest I need to barf”. “For we had danced, danced across the wide church hall, which vaguely I remembered, despite the alcohol”
“I sat up when Sugar poked at me twice, sat up too abruptly, fell once again into a deep bush of gorse” Sugar left and returned with the fire brigade, most of the local force” “Stalwart chaps in protective gear, my Uncle Lou in command, they hoisted my shivering carcass out, from the brambles and helped me to stand”. Not feeling well at all, due to Alice’s alcohol. “Let go with a warning, now near early morning, I bid good evening to Sugar Mulgrew, made it as far as a nearby playground crawled into an old concrete, hollow airplane, that turned, but no longer flew”
“Flat on my side, warm in my plane I dreamed, the first voices I heard as I slowly came to were indignant, the third Welsh mother who glared in at me, shrilly screamed”. “My kilt snagged on the propeller blade as the cops pulled me out, I never saw my good shoe again”. “Was driven by van to the local “Nick”, hosed down with cold water, given beets for lunch, refused to tell the coppers, was Alice who spiked the punch”.
“I was handed a gallon of “Domestos”, and a toothbrush by the aptly named matron,” Miss Doome”, made to scrub the toilet pail with it, and wipe down the rank, filthy cell room”. “What of Beatrice?, in all of this chaos I asked, inseparable were you two?” “Godfrey told me , she made her way back to the church, slept head cradled softly on a pile of hymnals, till dawn neath the amen pew”.
“Beatrice survived her youth, with the stout spirit of a roadside weed, as anyone who knows Beatrice knows”, and that Thanksgiving, all but Godfrey, who was laughing, raised a glass of Mrs Feerce’s Domestos….