RED LEATHER JACKET- From Worzel

We endured the dust and chaos of a years renovation, to our home building- “Tara”. The round, scorch hole in the hallway floor from an errant pot of broccoli, the fire escape also partially burned repaired. The “Bug Chandelier” we rescued by night, with help from our friend Hawken, is now in a corner of our cluttered living room.

Tara will always reek of brussels sprouts, we still maintain our luggage shop downstairs, and even with some of her characters gone, there remains a certain whimsy in the old place, and stories found down my turquoise chair….this one features Mrs Feerce, who terrified Godfrey – my friend of 28 years, and something of a vagabond.  

Our home building was modern in 1913, a grand row of saloons turned to flats and small rented rooms. Now below is our shop, an art gallery, Golden Fez Turkish Coffee Maker, and one street over, park and homeless camp, we have come to call “Steinbeck’s Half Acre”.

Was a red leather jacket, found it one summer morning, folded with care at the door, of “Godfreys’ Luggage and Leather Repair “. Odd offerings indeed have been left over the years- beets foul and fair, poetry, cards and photos from many who had met up with Godfrey.

I looked it over carefully, old yet well made, a jacket of soft red leather, styled to fit a lady. Slight smell of bakery, when expected lavender or stale closet-moth- the cuffs a bit worn in a manner that reminded me of Godfrey.

In the wool coat my vagabond wore, he sewed a pocket called his “Secret Hole”, in it went bus fare, address book, the spectacles he had not worn since age five, his all important pen. No “Secret Hole” in this red leather jacket I could yet see….with a barefoot thud, like a barge on the harbor, our landlady Mrs Feerce loomed before me.

Vacabon! Vagabon! Bugular!Bugular!, Mrs Feerce- every other person in her mind was a hippie or intruder, it oft was a challenge being patient with her. Had “she who missed nothing” seen who left the red leather jacket at our door?, Mrs Feerce kept the two cents that dropped from a pocket when she shook it, Haggis!- she waved a cranky finger at me, “Stink in house when you cook it”! Lint in dryer cause fire!, Hippies be dammed!’. Mrs Feerce was gone, the door slammed. Godfrey reckoned she was born of a “Whiskey Keg and Polecat”. I think she was Maltese but never confirmed that.

I have hung the red leather jacket in the window of our shop, checked it over and over for secret hole, for hidden “Snuv” or private pocket. it shows fading from sun and weather, wear of backpack has thinned the leather on the shoulders just a tad, and a tear on the left sleeves inner lining has been ineptly mended using threads of wool- plaid.

For over a year now the red leather jacket has hung in our window, down on “Steinbeck’s Half Acre” the drifters come and go. No one has claimed it, the jacket stays a mystery, somehow I feel that perhaps long ago, it crossed paths with Godfrey.

Godfrey needed little prodding to sing an old song he learned of a place he called “Shady Gate”. Promised me when the time came he’d be there neath the cedars, be there long as waiting would take. Last night I dreamed the red leather jacket was a pillow for my head when I awoke on damp heather, in lieu of my warm bed.  Berries placed by me on a dock leaf clean with dew, and spelled out in the sand by the track- words of welcome to “Shady Gate”…. old friend I welcome you.

With thanks to Ferron” for the life long inspiration. Your jacket, perhaps?

MARIA ADORA CUABANGBANG IS GONE- From Worzel

From Adelaide and Benny, seeking their trunk, to Iceland bound artists Ginger and Lonewolf, and our much loved Hawken, Godfrey’s blithe, ever present spirit brought many a character to our luggage shop door. I do not hold him responsible for the chap whom, every Friday lets his rabbit hop about as he browses, and never buys anything, or the “Cream Pie Lady”, who feels safe sitting among the suitcases, eating a shoplifted cream pie. But he did bring us Maria Adora Cuabangbang, we think of her often, and wonder how she is doing…

He met her on the #50 bus, did my friend the vagabond Godfrey. For the odd young man would happily chat, to anyone of anything but the dreaded beet. He invited Maria Adora Cuabangbang, from bus stop to luggage shop so we could meet.

She regarded the cobwebs in my window display, and showcase of belt buckles, dead plants and dust balls, accepted Red Rose tea in the only mug with a handle, no chip or crack, sipped politely on the non wobbly chair, that did not pinch your behind, behind in the back.

“Sgraffito”, The silly non-silence, that decent over biscuits, coffee or tea. Has it ever been written about, or described eloquently?. “Sgraffiito”, Godfrey called it, “the search for errant crumb side of ones mouth, the not wishing to guzzle, the vague need to know you must ask after the Loo, hoping a toilet exists if you do.

“Sgraffito”- The shame of accidental spill or slurp, the odd awkward blurt of three people asking same question, same moment of snagged time, losing your biscuit, bottom of the cup to careless dunking, loud crackle as you grope for last in the packet..bell of  shop door, breaks the spell of “Sgraffito”, trip over each other as you hurry off in answer to it.

Maria Adora Cuabangbang, became a neighbor of ours, across the hallway from reclusive Mr Ghostley. “He is shy, said kind Maria, a study through the door in whiskers, left a doormat rolled up by way of welcoming me”.

Maria Adora Cuabangbang, tended our luggage shop when we left on a camping holiday. Reliable, cheery, handy with duster and bug spray, Maria played the lottery, answered the phone, helped the infrequent customer. Determined to win, on scratchy, Keno or Casino, she told Godfrey, “I will swim to my ship, when I win big, you wait and see”

He was an odd young man who disliked beets, and Maria Adora Cuabangbang loathed them to, they worked well together, not speaking of beets, as those who truly cannot abide beets often do.

Maria Adora Cuabangbang is indeed gone. The #50 bus passes by without Maria getting on. Maria had a slight accent, I did not ask from where, wore a straw sun hat all year long, over thick, coal black hair. I sought her name, with lottery winners in the paper, waited for a letter, Godfrey reckoned Maria drifted on as was her habit, where she felt the gambling odds were better.

Landlady Mrs Feerce, had me read a note pinned on her apartment door, “I, Maria Adora Cuabangbang, have swam out to meet my ship and do not live here anymore”. I have pinched a suitcase, (watertight) in lieu of wages due, when I arrive, will write to all of you”. “Outside Mr Ghostley’s door is a toaster, a box of groceries, and a sock I found that may be one of Godfrey’s”.

“To this day, in the luggage shop, so long ago named for Godfrey, “No Pasaran Beets” reads the sign above the door…I oft expect to see her when I look to clang of cow-bell..but Maria Adora Cuabangbang is gone, Maria wields her feather duster no more…

 

MORE ALICE, LOVE THAT ALICE- from Alice

From airport, bus, ferry and cab, I was disgorged onto the sidewalk outside “Tara”. For better or worse, home from summer in Wales. The window display of our dusty luggage shop was a visual delight. Garnet, my long suffering husband had placed a cowboy hat on Godfrey’s ancient globe, strewn about some old hiking socks, and written “There is a lot to See!”, on a chalkboard. We pecked hello, he was intent on his stamp collection, one customer browsed, smelling the assortment of long outdated hand bags…

I paused to acknowledge the doughty “Bug Chandelier”, the still partially burned fire escape, the ever present aroma of beefaroni and cats, the door of our oddest neighbor, Mr Ghostley’s room opened a crack, his way of welcoming me home. I could hear our landlady ranting at someone a floor above.   

It was good to see our toilet, that Godfrey had repaired years ago, still gurgling warm water like a wee geyser. A fresh baked pumpkin pie awaited me, with tinned whip cream and a fork. I was still clutching the air-sick bag, Adelaide’s jam sandwich, now a purplish wodge, and a packet of sister Alice’s latest writing…with pie, I curled up in my turquoise chair, ready to decipher Alice…  

At Home With My Love, Myself- From Alice.   The dreamy air of summer indeed reeks of a poem. It is a rare day, quietly I spend  at my home. Sitting out on the veranda hear the cursing and slap, of an intense  game of cards, Ma and stepdad Arthur playing “Snap”.

Dandelions thrive on lawn otherwise unkept, brown and dead. Hear the joyless cry of a nearby child who has fallen on his head. There is one less large rat in the neighborhood this morning, for Arthur’s cat brought it home, I can hear the crunch and gnawing, under the veranda where I sit with tea and poem. Dreamy airs of a quiet day at home.

Wedded Acrimony- My Early Years- from Alice.   Our parents were joined in wedded acrimony, granted quite young. I do not recall the ceremony, I was but eight months and three, but well recall at six, being presented with Godfrey.

He squinted up at me, his head the size and shape of an orange, bottom of the market discard pile. Miss Commerford the nurse, (she spits when she talks) told me, mind your new brother, let your Ma rest awhile. Wedded acrimony, they yelled, they fought, she threw bum trinkets at our dad that he bought.

Baby Godfrey disliked beets, but he loved sour pickles, I’d give him one to gum as a soother at night. Slip out the backdoor, drag him in a wagon to our Grandma’s, when Ma and Dad would fight. And oft we’d have to wait, for Gran outside the pub, I’d feed Godfrey chips, and we’d listen to the ships horns, and whistles heading to and from the sea. I vowed back then I would never live, never live, not me, in wedded acrimony.

Indeed, it is true, I did torment him with beets. A trusting toddler, soggy sour pickle in hand, he escaped my grasp as the May Day Parade passed, long before I did, Godfrey ran off with the band.  Leaning on a mop in pail, in ill fitting smock, and manner most weary, she stood, Godfrey in hand on the deck of a harbor ferry. “Is this yours?, she asked, “I replied yes, sadly, “though he is my brother, and sorely dislikes beets, I cannot yet ship him off to Norway on his own”. We trundled, with giggle and guffaw, back to wedded acrimony, our home.

Yakmess   – from Alice-  I spelled Oast-house. and rancid, I spelled correctly blubber and onion. if Yakmess was one word, in the spelling competition I’d have won. “You are disqualified!’ The nasty judge judged, with no argument over Yakmess, I be carried outside. Dragged out to the school yard, where spellers of naughty words were sat, and pervert Mr Verne Von Wanker stood guard.” I learned very young, I must sing  loud, over the rabble to be heard, and maintain to this day, that Yakmess is all one word.

Ma- Preneur- From Alice-  How did Ma manage? I was 14 when dad never came back, after that final row, his belongings sat for years in a corner of the shed, in a fertilizer sack. Lettuce, Turnip, The Beet, she grew a full garden, kept hens, a cow and pig, knitted every thing Godfrey wore several sizes too big. Ma sold her creations from a market stall in Batley, paid off our cottage, so it was no great worry, in modern parlance she was quite the “Ma- Prenuer”. Always gossiping, always busy, always yelling at Godfrey.

Beware of The Curmudgeon- From Alice.  Now in years of my “Dottage”, I sit summer day on my own cottage steps, shaded by stinging nettles deep and thick. Ma and Arthur are still playing “Snap”. I await my current beau, Mr Nudge Giggleswick. “Beware of The Curmudgeon”, Nudge stenciled on my gate, “Mind the Gap”, I wrote in return on his, and we delight of late, watching folks, peddling brushes and religious literature, look down for a gaping hole, or scurry past my dooryard, unsure.

Nudge has brought a tape recording, the sound of crocodiles in mate, we shall hide it by my fish pond, frighten passing children, I can’t wait. I shall hail the ice-cream truck, it brings them running in a pack, happily sit back when Nudge plays the gruesome snarling, and when they run!…they will not be slapped or yelled at, as Godfrey was, but consoled with dear, we warned you…”Beware of that old Curmudgeon”.

My word, I thought to myself, only partway into Alice’s packet, if this is what will help get “The Collected Wisdom of Godfrey” published…so be it. More Alice, love that Alice.