I should have known, but I knew that if Godfrey knew that I knew, he may not have set out home to Wales. He was tired, that last summer. Often too tired even for Daft Tuesdays, I caught him up once, winded on the landing, told me a spider had startled him..I should have known, but I let it go.

One last daft Tuesday- On Wharf Street, corner of Woebegone and Neglect, an art gallery had folded, replaced by a high end liquor store. Mid morning, Godfrey and I headed out, to see where the days daft may waft us. A beer crate laden tippler, looking the other way, as we passed, stepped on the insensitively located bowl of dog drinking water out side the shop. The cold contents splashed up Godfrey’s was “feh” and” poopah”on the #50 bus with a wet behind…

“Dog water indeed”. So for lunch I introduced a new treat- Hummus, he ate an entire pint, “A savory he noted, unmarred by the intrusive beet”. His humor could be droll, yet he was never unkind, as he boarded the bus with a sodden behind. “Said, “I am sorry to the driver for the two dampish seats, he well knew us this chap, knew that Godfrey disliked beets.

At Fresh-Co’s- “I dislike beets, he told the young clerk, in produce who had not been long at the work. But he said it in Welsh, and more idioms silly, I warmed him, Welsh words will backfire on you Godfrey….

Was it the dog water?, The spinach dip at lunch?, an odd plant or biting bug he touched?. for he broke out in hives half way home on the bus, and though crowded, nobody sat near us. Godfrey itched, he itched like a pony at a fence post, itched deeper than a Chinese Mine, itched far worse than his sister drove, itched longer than Jaques Cousteau dove.

He itches, I told our odd neighbor, Mr Ghostley, peering out his door a crack. Of Mr Ghostley you ask? Our Land – lady Mrs Feerce once whispered to me, that he had not left his room since 1953. “He lowers his rubbish, by way of a contraption to the bin, and allows no one in, not even his  cousin Father Paul. Father Paul once a week leaves groceries out in the hall. “I had peeked in his door, very tidy, many books, a cactus, and nothing more.’

Mr Ghostley and Godfrey played Scrabble, Godfrey stretched on the hall floor, Mr Ghostley reaching one long arm out the door. He refused to come any further out, I never asked what the two talked about.

This itches, squirmed Godfrey, as I scoured the loo, for the “Margo Alive” he bought when I had the flu, we mixed it with green flecked, herbal balm, and he slathered it on. As the welts go worse, came a rolling “clink” and tap at the door, an ancient dried up bottle of Calamine Lotion- kind cat-lady Miss Pettigrew’s contribution.

I gave Godfrey cornstarch to sprinkle in private, and an old sheet to cover my turquoise chair, he looked like Quasimodo in Kabuki makeup, sheet wrapped about him, curled up in despair. My husband took one look- said” should your breathing stop, run get me I will be down in the luggage shop”.

He was no buffoon, but had an unbridled sense of the absurd. And as was Godfrey’s way in times of pain, resorted to music and word.  It itches, he strummed his guitar, I have the dreaded dog water itch, twas my morning to be caught up the kilt by a splash. A reckless chap carrying beer, water pan placed too near. Now I sit in the turquoise chair, in a sheet with hives I have here, here, and there. OH, I be allergic to many Naff things, rabbit dander, daisies, and all the small bug stings, I dislike beets, fear moths, dolls and old antique shops , yet only beets beat the misery the dog water rash brings.

By dawn the rash passed, it occured then to us- perhaps not poodle or soup-hound slobber caused it, it was all the hummus he ate, the hummus, the hummus, never after did Godfrey indulge in that deli. On our burnt fire escape, he sang all night in chorus, wrapped sticky in a sheet, had a boot thrown at him, twas the hummus…

All so many years past now…there are nights I’d sit up awake, on that partially burnt fire escape, knowing that letting him go was not about me, but fulfillment of his destiny. It’s been a rough summer, changes at the corner of Woebegone and Neglect, our crumbling character of a building” restored” to modern, clean and quiet . With paint dry, and scaffolding down, new owners came, Mrs Feerce has left town. Shed a tear for “The Bug Chandelier”  And early this morning, without warning or say, a committee from the city came…and took Mr Ghostley away…



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…


THE FOUND PRUNES- from Godfrey and Worzel

It was always fun, having Godfrey with us in summer. He helped with our yearly, ritual dusting of the luggage shop, there was camping up the lake, morning swims before the mist burned off the water, gorging ourselves on library books in the shade. There were marshmallows roasted fireside. 

On the weekend of Godfrey’s August birthday, we stopped en-route home at an outdoor market, there I, (rather without thought), had him close his eyes and hold out his hands. Expecting a treat, ever trusting, the vagabond did, but was hurt and indignant at the organic beets I placed in his palm. He refused to get in the car, bent on walking home, arriving three days later, all smiles again, with a 1 # bag of prunes someone had dropped in the hallway of our building. We set out seeking the prune dropper. Years later, when warned about Godfrey’s sister Alice before we met, I was told never speak the word “Prune” around her…and it all made sense.    

Most of my childhood stories, did not end happy, reflected Godfrey, as up the stairs we trod, room to room, both of us craving a found prune. “This is a story, embellished by Alice, I too little to remember, a day she was left to mind me”.

“We were in a big shop, Ma having a long chat, Alice let me crawl off as she paused to stare at wealthy, handsome Spencer Loverock. I slid under shelves, and into bins, finding things like rice and barley I could play in. I threw beans about that made a rattling sound, I tipped over tins of cocoa, rolled about in deep, brown powder on the ground”.

“I opened a box of something- they were black, and soft and sweet, I dragged a bag into a corner, for to eat, I ate my fill of pitted prunes”….”Ma had dressed me, apparently, in manner neatly for town, in white short pants that buttoned to my shirt, and knitted vest to look cute, visiting for tea in the afternoon. “But Alice let me wander off, and discover the plump prune”.

“Full of prunes, in time sleepy I grew. “I was snoring on a shelf when came shop owner, “Old Man Ingeldew”. “Then Ma, Alice, and the highly amused, wealthy and athletic Spencer Loverock, I was coated head to toe, in prune juice, wheat bran and the finest cocoa”. “Ingeldew provided an itchy, gunny sack, I was placed in it, trussed up, and left in the car, while Alice and Ma had tea and scones, they were a very long time in coming back.”.

“What happened when you got home?, rather mean to keep a baby trussed in a turnip sack, said I to Godfrey. We had knocked on the door of very, very odd Mr Ghostly, who never left his room, but accepted the prunes, silently opening his door a lonely crack.

“Oh, Ma had her methods”, Godfrey laughed. “She strung me on the clothes line, I was sprayed  with the hose, and as it was summer, let tear about the neighborhood till dry.”  Alice enjoyed a guffaw, until Ma punished her to for letting me stray, and having to pay for the havoc I did wreak-  Nappy Duty after Prune Binge  for One Week.. Was not longer after that, Alice painted me bright blue, story for another time, and I still love eating pitted prunes, Worzel dear, do you?”