He was an odd young man who disliked beets, Godfrey- my friend of 28 years..this is his story.  Summer times, when we journeyed to our lake side cabin with Godfrey along, we always stopped for ice-cream in a coastal, hamlet, little more than fuel pump, cafe and harbor.  

       To the east were the blue sillouttes of small, scattered gulf islands. “Tridentata” was the largest, rocky, narrow, desecrated by logging 80 years before, a haven for hermits, and “back to the landers”, “Dirty Hippies”, we were told when Godfrey asked, I knew he was drawn to such islands…and dubious boat rides, I feared never seeing him again when I dropped him off at the ferry boat- The Myrtle- Irene…

Oft in travels, I have sought wisdom, sought the good in folks I have met, and in places been. I did my best, but was sorely pressed, to find wisdom aboard the mighty Myrtle-Irene.

There is a tune I learned long ago, from a rider of boxcar and crosser of sea. Played the banjo did she. Nary a province this girl had not been, we met one summer morning on the Myrtle-Irene.

19 treacherous miles oer the Salish Sea, lies a mysterious island, avoided by polite society, her mud flats and high, stony hillsides intrigued me. The ferry Myrtle- Irene lay alongside the dock, in sketchy gray patches of paint stains and rust.  No low rumble or engine’s roar the good captain passed out on the wheelhouse floor, had left his ship in a young hippie’s trust,” no worries said he”, donning jacket and cap- this has happened many times before”….

Two milk cows were loaded on the sloping top deck, brave travelers the level below. Up in the bow , away from all chaos, a hobo girl sat alone plucking her banjo. I noticed that those in the know, seemed to know where to gather …along the rail on the leeward side, staked out space in a solid row.

A light in the sky above far Tridentata!, and promise of a fine summers day. The Myrtle-Irene set off with a belch and lurch, only knocking two fish boats out of her way.

The Mighty Myrtle- Irene had a list to port, and now I knew why no one leaned on the  rail, when the cattle above did what nervous cows do.. the Myrtle- Irene fair got her name from a pioneer woman ran sheep. With a “nere do well” husband, uncountable number of children and homestead to keep.

On moonlit nights folks heard Myrtle singing, bent digging clams down Spinster Bay, she carried deer home over strong shoulders, and oysters by damp heavy sack, she passed into legend way some 100 years back.

Captain Querus Slape ,  chap with odd sense of humor, named his ship with affection for her. All his years the filthy old character drank, the mighty Myrtle- Irene never grounded or sank. Above the door of Slape’s private cabin hangs a portrait of The Queen, another of the dog he owned at age four, and a faded photo of old Myrtle Irene.

In scant twenty minutes the break water cleared, the captain snoring, intoxicated, I noticed a chart, spattered with stains, older than me and quaintly outdated. yet oddly, I trusted the Myrtle- Irene, good ship in her day, up the greasy old bow I slid, to hear the hobo girl with the banjo play.

The sea this morning was a platinum platter, on a bountious seagull buffet, the gentle banjo roll, in time with ferry’s sway. The dented Myrtle- Irene rode sturdy and bold, though something clanked and rumbling- thunking came from deep below in a hold.

“I inquired as to the toilet”, wrote Godfrey. An alcove with bucket an hose for use of the “Gent”. Somewhere in the bilge, formed a line up of lady’s, I assumed that is where lady’s went.

Now the Myrtle Irene lies along side the dock, no longer chugs from island to main. Said Querus Slape- “Were no longer the 70’s, and someone was bound to complain”. For the captain, retirement years were unkind, his wife ran off, his trailer flooded with sewage, he shot himself by accident in the behind.

Replaced by a shiny, new ferry boat, it carries both cattle and car, with a toilet and captain at the helm, not once has she been found passed out, or dragged unfit to sail from the bar. And what of the girl with the banjo? Did she settle on Tridentata or roam as a hobo? ..”As I wandered the island, recalled Godfrey, “I listened in vain for to hear her play, for folk songs carry well on the wind, and a banjo will resonate quite some distance away”.

“He was an odd young man who disliked beets”, the island residents wrote of Godfrey- that’s all. “He sought wisdom, we were sad to see him go, when the first snows came that fall”. No beets grew on rugged Tridentata, none in the only shop to be seen, Godfrey stood on the stern waving, kilt to the storm- when he left on The Mighty Myrtle Irene.

His was a primitive, fearless joy that Godfrey never thought would be lost or undermined by age- I oft have to remind my self, how food tastes best cooked over a beach fire, and that since age 11- Godfrey asked himself upon waking- “What is good about today”He always found at least three things…From Worzel.

THE PATHWAYS OF ALICE- from Alice and Worzel

Godfrey’s mildly eccentric sister, Alice, had “aquired” an ancient typewriter, delighted, despite the fact it was locked on capitals, and missing the letters “Q”, and “D”, Alice was only inspired to write more. The rubbish she churned out, and sent me to be included in “The Collected Wisdom of Godfrey”!….neatly addressed, empty envelopes, candy wrappers, the contents of her waste paper basket. Oddly, though there were times, as I sorted “The Classical works of Alice in Couplet and Prose”, she showed me the good hidden deep in the beets of her heart, very deep in the heart of Alice. 

PUNISH ME WITH HERRING-from Alice-Punish me with herring, sit me at a wobbly table, fill my bath with things gelatinous, turn the lights out, lock the door. Place me on a school bus full of teenage girls singing. Just don’t tell me that you love me anymore.

Punish me with herring, ban me from guffaws and pranking, tell me I must wee now in the hedge over the street.Replace the greasy chips on which I gorge myself with celery, but oh, never say aloud that you love me. Punish me with herring, put the fish oil in my tea, but oh never let on that you love me.

NEBUCHADNEZZAR- From Alice- I pulled my small brother, by the shirt collar, down the church basement steps to Sunday School. “Do not embarass me, do not scream or holler, do not grizzle over beets or wet yourself, hang up your hat and coat, or risk being smote”.

Godfrey was happy, promised tea and cream cake after, sat stoic through scary stories, of harlots and lions, he was only four. Happy up until teacher, beak like a parrot, yelled out Nebuchadnezzar, for some reason the name made Godfrey bolt in terror….

Perhaps as it had no Welsh translation…I tried to catch him, but all I grabbed was kilt, as full tilt Godfrey fled. Screaming, good shoes clatting down the hallway, out the doors, past the Renshaw twins who were digging a hole, for someone newly gotten dead.

The Renshaw twins downed shovels, and joined in the chase, although they were well past sixty. Our nasty Uncle Lou guffawed by the font, he was always very mean with beets to Godfrey. Ma cuffed me oer the head with her purse, like it was my fault for Godfrey’s terror. He was found on a tractor, Swansea bound miles away, all because of Nebuchadnezzar…

THE HAUNTED THUMB- From Alice –I formed a thumb in art class, paper mache’, painted it in shades of leprosy, gangrene and grey. Teacher made it clear, she was not proud of me. But the haunted thumb served useful purpose, the brief time it lived, tormenting little Godfrey.

It emerged from his dinner, Haggis and Tatties, from my fish and Chips wrapper when he thought I’d not notice he had pinched more than his share. The haunted thumb was moonlit night, placed on his window sill with care. And tied to a fish line, chased him bawling to our Ma up the stair.

I knew our parents, despaired of never having a normal child after Godfrey, and Ma, when the thumb turned up on her knitting bag, disposed of it with a toss into the fire, sorry end to my profound, creativity.

TUESDAYS WITHOUT BRAD- From Alice- The shoe store echos, it’s lonely keening, it is Tuesday, oh where is my co-worker Brad?. Even the cob-webs hang lowly and sad. No fun in the dust I waft over display, no Brad’s great manly feet, to get in my way. No hard boiled eggs, to smell at midday.

We two share chips, all greasy and brown, and cold lemonade to rinse them down, and once at lunch, I lay in a planter box, pretending I had died. Elderly lady hat on the Marigolds, sensible shoes hanging over the side. Twas comfy, until I realized, no one passing wished attempt to revive me. Only Brad came running- chips falling, calling oh Alice- do not leave I will save thee!.

With “Kiss of Life”, courtesy of dear Brad, I emerged from the planter box, picking bits off my skirt so coy and shy. We oft played that prank on Tuesdays, with Brad in the plant soil, pretending to die. Without Brad, a more subdued Alice am I…

THE CHARMING BUILDERS- From Alice- A disgruntled customer hurled a clog, apparently it did not fit, through the front glass of the shop where I work, made a grand mess of it. I drew the short straw, waited for the builders, to come early morning and board up the crack. Oh, the foul language that I, Alice heard, while sitting alone in the back.

I learned many stories of how women behave in a place called “Nantucket”. Learned how to pull off an injury scam- “Drill a hole in yer effin hand, fall thirty feet to the ground when the boss aint the feck around”.  And Oscar, oh Oscar, you romantic you, had Deborah and her cousin at the company Bar-B-Que. And Nick, it seems, Deborah grilled his sausage to.

A dull, hours  quiet, seemed the lads brought the wrong screw, returned after lunch break , guffawing and cursing. Such charming chaps, the air was blue, fixing the window someone hurled a clog through.

GRAY WAS HIS PONY- From Alice-When summer wafts, as manure will, in the air, and in my memory journey there, I recall my dear brother Godfrey, and his pot-bellied, grubby gray pony.

He was dappled as if the creator of all things equine, threw white paint at a scudding storm cloud. Idly scratching his ass on stone wall or gate, every school day patiently wait, pony waited for boy, or joining Beatrice’s black mare, in mutual grooming and fly swishing share, deep in the orchards shade.

A ruggedy thing, of Welsh Mountain breed, diluted a tad somewhat, Grubby disliked me  and if given the chance, blew on my blouse pony snot. His  forelock resembled our rickety Uncle  Hamish’s moth eaten toupee’, and in faded gray kilt was hard to tell, at times Godfrey from Grubby Pony on a snowy day.

Greedy thing to, with skinny legs, big feet, and uncanny penchant for cheek. Ma fed him raw beet bits in my “Bunnykins” bowl, I’d eaten from no other dish, since I learned to chew. She set the bowl down, Grubby stepped in it, the bowl given to me by Granny Dypew- crushed it was, beyond help or glue.

Godfrey’s brief life was spent in search of higher wisdom…I chose to pursue lesser wisdom, the daft and inane- this is my story- Alice be thy name.

GIVE ME A NUDGE- From Alice- Give me a Nudge, back onto the pathway when I stray into serious thought. Lest a day go by I do not recall Godfrey, my odd lost brother and the wisdoms he sought. Give me a Nudge, a reminder that the toilet seat you plastic wrap, may be the one on in haste you doth squat.

Give me a Nudge, as a reminder that my Ma and step dad Arthur, are too old for the Ukelele Chorus loud at dawn, how I will miss the bickering, and warm knitted socks when the two are gone.

Give me a Nudge, for the extra oyster he pretends not to want from the Chippy. When he shows up for a date, wearing “Winkle Picker Shoes”, a cravat, and faded flowered vest, kept since Nudge Giggleswick was a young hippie.

Give me a Nudge, showing me around his job, all day he places stickers on pill bottles, that read- Do Not Take With Milk Or Alcohol. “Nudge is our best sticker putter ever”, boss lady Miss Gooley smiles proudly.  Give me a Nudge, lest I stray from my Alice path, and under no circumstance- ever say aloud you love me.