Enough time has passed, that I don’t think Godfrey would mind us sharing this story…
He was an odd young man who disliked beets, “I simply despise beets “, he’d say if confronted with beets in any form face to face. Godfrey would talk to anyone, of anything but beets, or the tattered negligee, that hung out from the hole in his old, plaid suitcase.
Elderly ladies looked askance at Godfrey, a man in white shoes once reached out to touch it, when we had the suitcase with us on the crowded #50 bus. The negligee’ was once vivid pink, I am told, it is old now, faded coral from sun and wear, collar grubby from plugging that tear, there’s a story in it though, for Peruvian Clementine wore the nighty when it was brand new. Godfrey told her, “draped in seaweed, or fertilizer sack, or in soft merino wool, we shall dance, and I always will adore you”
And dance they did, into legend, she was larger than he, was tickled by the negligee’s lace- romantic mood set by lights of the harbor, scent of ginger snaps baking in the oven below, and the odd couple’s Casa rooftop Tango.
Twas Beatrice saved the pink negligee’. “He would want you to have this, I know’. “I regret, said Beatrice, being unkind, blaming Clementine for leading Godfrey astray” “She’d a great jolly laugh, skilled at gutting fish, and out on the line, for all to see, on Tuesday pegged to dry the pink negligee'”..
It hung for many years in the window of “Maud’s Ladies Wear”, High Street of Batley. The lacy cuffs, soft feathers round the collar, pink color and vast size caught the poets eyes of young Godfrey. He was fresh out of school, an “entreprenuer of manure” with his stand by the road. All he made from the cow-pats he sold, he tucked safe away end of day, to buy the fish ladies daughter a pink negligee’.
Far too awkward and shy he did not enter the shop, he asked our friend Sugar Mulgrew to, clutching a box of pastries in trade, he hid as she did, the negligee’ wrapped he would, up with ribbon and bow, he had to be clever, his sister Alice must never know.
Overly cheerful, Miss Von Wackerbarth, senior clerk, shooed Sugar away, but not before, each passer by saw her hook the nighty down, that had so many years filled the window display. It was the talk of Batley that noon,” A Mulgrew! bought that hideous negligee'” Undaunted, delighted, was Peruvian Clementine, for it was “her” color, and fitted fine.
And she wore it, wore it the night they danced the first time, she kept it on a hangar, not tossed in a wad by the door, he was an odd young man, he disliked beets, still combed his fine auburn hair in a big pompadour. And he ran a manure stand…Clementine packed her negligee’ with care, when she returned to Peru, her homeland. ..
Many a mile Godfrey trod, crossed Australia, long overland journeys, great voyages he made over river, up sea. In a part of his heart kept a vision of Clementine , washing lettuce, clad in the pink nighty. “Her bare, dusty feet as we danced in the gloaming, inspired my early poetry”- wrote he to Beatrice, did Godfrey. “Fueled my desire to bake her loaves and cakes, when we lived in Peru, after long years of roaming”
“Said Beatrice, “he probably spoke of it more to you, as I know he knew I did not approve, or truly know how long he actually lived in Peru” “She was bold, said he, my Clementine, returned to Wales when we parted, seeking her Masters Degree, “I never saw my fair fish lady again, these parting words she left me”…
Of the pink negligee’- “It is faded, and baggy, and patched from hard wearing, it will plug your plaid suitcase, till we meet again, down the side where the zipper is tearing”
Sometimes when I read at open mike in a cafe, I take with me the suitcase, and of course, the pink negligee’. Four years now in the writing of Godfrey’s story,” he disliked beets”, I tell all persons who ask me…loved without hesitation all else, did my vagabond Godfrey…