This is the story of my friend, the Vagabond Godfrey, and how he lived and loved many years ago. He was Welsh, with a sister, Alice six years his elder. Alice wrote her brother every three years on her birthday. “I was too young to remember Alice painting me blue”, but do recall the shouting when she hung me, by my nappy out the window so we could watch the stars”, Godfrey reflected.
Singer, shoe sales lady, curmudgeon, nuisance, I was warned before meeting Alice never use the words “Love”, “Herring”, or “Athourity” in her presence. We always met at “Little Chef”, a service cafe from which Alice had never been barred. The old character sat down across from me, shale blue eyes looked off far away, the diner went silent, she hiked up her kilt, scratched her knee in a mildly itchy kneed way…
Her book, “Alice- A Life in Praise Of Myself”,was dreadful , and she was proud to share with me her wodge of rejection letters, and thoughts jotted down that morning. Here is Alice- being Alice.
The morning sun a voyeuer through my blind a bottle of cod liver oil did find. Gold and amber a prism it made, how pretty I thought as I rose and yanked down the shade.
I do not let things bother me, the trivial bits, the piffle I say, I say “Feh” to the snow in the streets, use my stick to prod all who get in my way. The sticky faced tot, clutching a bun, stares over the booth at the lone curmudgeon. Though some of my ilk, (we grow fewer by day) would snarl at the child to scare it away, I merely drool back over my tea, till the wee one gives up and runs back to his mummy.
Nudge Giggleswick, of some intellect, feared scary films like “I Was A Teenage Insect”. Why do we go then, I asked of him?. At the matinee’ quiet and dim, saw a picture with killer bees loose from a hive, and hyenas eating a gnu…because said Nudge, we can laugh at such nonsense, as not much bothers you.
Summers eve I take my step father, Arthur, out in his chair for a roll around the park. We take a bag of crumbs for the mallard drake, in the pond of which Arthur is most fond. Oft out of the blue, “Anatidaephobia” Arthur shouts, when we pass an odd person at lurk in the grass where we pass…
Arthur is very old, he mutters as I strain, to push him up the hill to the duck pond- Anatidaephobia! Arthur barks loudly again. Are you concerned about that fellow?, I set the brakes on his chair, ducks are coming down the path ahead, waddling in joy for their handout of bread. “Anatidaephobia”! the odd chap from the grass cries out, racing by knees up on a hoon. When I got Arthur home to lie down, I almost regretted my pranking had me barred from the only library in town.
For little bothers me, except not knowing everything, like what in the whirled is “Anatidaephobia” not even Nudge or Ma knew. Next day, out walking with Arthur both in jolly mood, singing old war songs, bawdy and rude. On the hill to the duck pond, part way to the top, came chuffing and panting, stout Brian- The Town Cop.
“Alice!, he huffed, you are going down, last warning this is for your singing lewd war songs in town”!. Oh Brian, oh Brian, what a learned young man, I love to sing loudly because I can. Before a crowd gathers, creating a scene, do tell me constable, what dos “Anatidaephobia” mean?.
Well Brian, he patted his bullet proof vest, eyed where I stood brave and bold, stood high on a picnic table used as a stage, Arthur laughing in his old age- “To Skibereen said Brian you are bound for a cell, but before we go, Alice- yes I will tell. Oft in my career with the law this has come up as an issue- “Anatidaephobia’- means fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is staring at you.
Wrote Alice- very few things bother me, not beets or badgers or rubbish on telly. Not naughty films of actors unclad, or getting arrested for singing in the park with my stepdad. But I do notice ducks more now, wild by the sea, duck dinner on a cafe ‘menu, ducks flying by in a vee. When out and about with my stick oft I wonder, if somewhere, somehow a duck is staring at me….