An Act of Contrition.

Top 10 Fascinating Deathbed Moments - Listverse

I am moving into my “Italian period” with these next few stories. I do like those extraordinary personalities and situations that mark the characteristic of the Italian short story..I don’t think you can find the depth of “commitment” to the random acts of delinquency or romance and indeed ; superstition from an Anglo-Saxon community..But I could be wrong!

My sister told me of this “event” when she was last here from Italy. I like it for it’s example of “the vendetta”,that long-lasting animosity that exists in these small villages and the resulting act of vengeance by both parties.

It went like this:

An Act of Contrition.

Gemano Filosi, the cobbler of the village of San Pietro di Messana was making his way back to his home one Sunday morning after attending Church . He was suddenly overtaken by a man on a horse going at a steady trot..Gemano had to quickly step aside as the horse and rider passed.

“ On the hoof, Gemano?..You should get yourself one of these.” The rider shouted as he passed.

Now, to any other person such a comment would have been seen as nothing more than a friendly mock…but the fact that it was spoken by one; Cesarino Marchesso , a son of one of the largest land owners in the district, and the lingering distaste of an old family hurt concerning these two families, made it strike home with all the force of a spear in the heart…

Gemano swore vengeance.

The insult dated from back to his grandfather’s time when a foal was purchased from the Marchesso family farm by Gemano’s Family which turned out not to be the expected horse, but rather a mule!..At least that was the accusation..in all probability it was just a goofy-looking horse..but that is the way with inter-family feuds..they mostly all start with a rumour…one can construct the ongoing feud without assistance from yours truly…and then even this last “slighting” may have been overlooked but for the painful corns that bothered Gemano with every step.

Gemano swore vengeance….but was yet to figure out how.

The solution came in a flash of inspiration with a request from his sister; Elvira, the next week.

“Gemano..for the love of  Gesu , put some new heels on these shoes before I twist my ankles” she complained.

“Yes” he replied “I will have them done by next Thursday and I will leave them outside the shop door for you to collect as I have to go to the town that day.”

Indeed, Gemano was as good as his word, for he did finish those shoes and he did leave them outside his shop Wednesday night for his sister to pick up that Thursday…but not before using them to disguise his own footprints when he stole over to set alight to the Marchesso’s  hay stack on that same Wednesday night before quickly scurrying off to make his alibi in the provincial town.

Of course, as anyone who has lived in a small village knows, every family has a ‘list’ of sworn enemies that can be referred to in times of conflict and the police wasted no time in looking up the list provided to them by the Marchesso family.

The upshot was that the clear set of woman’s shoe prints left at gate which led to the scene of the crime could be traced to the sister of Gemano Filosi.  There was even a slight trace of the very soil from the site on one of the shoes. But naturally, the police would never imagine the possibility of Gemano wearing the ladies shoes as that sort of thing just wasn’t done ..

Of course, Elvira pleaded innocence and protested she was home that very night with her recently born baby..This fact threw the police a little, but still she was arrested at the insistence of the Marchesso family and placed in a holding cell on remand while they investigated. The baby could not be kept with her and had to be brought to her for feeding several times a day. This was a very distressing time for Elvira and though she suspected Gemano, she would not accuse him openly, so she sent him a secret message pleading with him to come forward on his own volition. Gemano refused and pleaded his innocence, claiming that since the shoes were placed outside his shop overnight for his sister to pick up in the morning, anyone could have used them and then replaced them with the deliberate intent of shifting the blame onto his family!

This was a line of reasoning that did have a degree of possibility about it..so that after exhausting their inquiry into Elvira, they had to admit defeat and after three months, released her. But the “stain” of accusation had been placed onto Elvira and such accusations cause long-term difficulties in a small village. Elvira and her husband moved away to the provincial city to live as a result. She still suspected her brother of the crime and never forgave him for dropping her into it and bringing such trouble and turmoil into her family’s life.

But the years passed and they all grew old..indeed, Gemano was ill for a long time and now he had reached the end of his life..He was on his death bed. But still Elvira had not forgiven him as he never confessed to her the truth of his deed. But now he was at his last days and the dottore had informed the family that he was slipping in and out of a coma and they should come to arrange last rites with a priest as soon as possible.

Elvira arranged for a priest to come with her to attend to her brother’s extreme unction. The old priest from the village being called away to the next parish that week, Elvira arranged for a new younger priest from the town to do the ritual..Gemano who had embraced the faith even closer to his heart in those later years, was not able to notice that his old mentor was not there.

Gemano lay still on the bed in the old family home. He was attended by the close members of his family and the doctor. They all moved respectfully outside as the priest heard Gemano’s last confession and was given the last rites. Being almost unconscious, Gemano could hardly comprehend what was being said to him by the priest. But there was one driving need he wanted to confess..

“Father”..he gasped weakly.

“Yes my son”..the priest replied.

“Tell Elvira….tell…tell her it was me..” and he nearly collapsed from the effort.

“You..my son?”

“Yes..the haystack..it was me” and he went silent from the effort. The priest smiled a little and whispered into his ear..

“I think it best you confessed that to her yourself…for the love of God and for your forgiveness…”

Gemano lay still for a while, then nodded weakly in consent…he knew it would be his last act of contrition.

The priest sent for Elvira  and the doctor to come to the bedside of the dying brother.

“He has a confession to say to you my lady.” The priest spoke so both Gemano and Elvira could hear. Elvira sat at the side of her brother and leaned in to hear from his weak lips.

“It was I…sister…I set fire to Marchesso’s hay..” Gemano’s eyes were wide and he gasped and looked like this statement would be his last act, his last words..Elvira stilled him and held his hand to comfort him.

“Shh, shh…dear brother..” she whispered. Then she leaned down close to his ear so as to secretly whisper into it.

“I know..brother..I always knew..and I could never forgive you for the hurt you brought to myself and my family…but I do now..I..forgive you..But while you have performed your act of contrition to me…you also have a difficulty..You see that young priest at the foot of the bed?”…

Gemano, whose eyes were closed, weakly blinked and looked to the young priest who smiled quietly and gave him a little nod…

“..well that young man is not really a priest, he is an actor friend of my daughter.and he is pretending to be a priest and you really have not been given extreme-unction..The sin remains on your soul , so you will have to go to God and beg him to forgive you..”

Elvira sat back satisfied that she had at last taken her own sort of vengeance.

Gemano’s eyes went wide as this profound knowledge slowly sank in ..but it was already too late and indeed, this treachery brought on his demise by the sudden surge of shock to his system..He gasped, raised one arm to point to the “priest” and tried to speak..but only a gasp and a croak emitted from the dying man.

“Ah!..ah!..no!..” and with a last gaping gasp of breath, Gemano fell back stone dead onto the pillow.

Elvira leaned to her brother, kissed his forehead and tenderly said..

“Yes, dear brother..now I forgive you.”

Journo’ Cameos, (or; what they could be if they lived another life).

#8

Fran’s tongue protruded slightly onto her lips as she placed the last stitches to tighten the “body-suit” of the doll she had just completed for the “ West Wyalong Horticultural and Steam Engines Society extravaganza!”…She sat the finished doll against the large, cross-stitched cellophane “trinket-box” she had entered in the 2001 show. The sorry memory of THAT moment brought a bitter twist to her lips..Although she had gained the third place ribbon, it was a very distant third behind Lorna Roesler’s “Applique Autumn” tea-cosy and with it’s –just out of line-lid, it looked rather tawdry on the “winners circle” table next to Lorna’s entry…That cruel condescending smile from Lorna said it all .

To cap it off, at the end of the show, when all was being packed away, that crude and vulgar lump of “agro-culture” (as Fran describes him) Herman Saegenschnitter , picked her trinket box up in his big, dirty ,clumsy hand, turned it over a couple of times, flipped the lid back and asked in his loud, vulgar voice ;

“ So what is it…a fart box?”…and he looked around to the others there and laughed and laughed..!..and then several others joined in..Not a memorable day at all.

Funny, ‘cos Fran used to enter AND win many times in the cake section…that is until Annabel, that up-start “blow-in” from Woy Woy, with the Bondi Bouffant, pretentious foreign words and flamboyant dress-ups swept all before her with a new style and range of Italianate cup-cakes that made Fran’s Strawberry Lamingtons and Frog-cakes appear dowdy in comparison.

“Ahh..the world is a changed place”, she sighed.

Fran was talked into entering the “craft-doll section” by her old school chum ; Michelle, now a Librarian in the big city. Michelle was entering too, she had made a replica “cabbage-patch” doll of unique expression..it reminded Fran of someone..but she just couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

Again she carefully perused her “Piglet” doll from “Winnie the Pooh” with her crafty eye for any defects of structure and character..all looked well…except..no, not really..but then perhaps?…it was the mouth..that fine stitching that created the smile with the dimpled cheek..just there, on the right side..one stitch just a tad too tight had perhaps created a bit of a snarley look..and as she stared at the doll, she could not help but think of a picture she once saw of a Middle-Eastern king…

‘Now who…Oh yes…Feisal..old King Feisal  with his “curled lip”….oh dear!” she sighed. .and she just hoped they wouldn’t notice…

 

#3.

In another life, Annabell would wince at the term ; “Bondi Bouffant”, as it was one of those hair-perms that she considered an essential part of the ” Entrata Spettacolosa!”..and was nothing to be sneered at!..Annabell kept a ‘cache’ of  foreign words ready for that certain moment when a “drop of that vital essence of mystique” was required…she treasures the memory when, on the “Classic Hollywood” opening night of the film ; “Roman Holiday”, fully decked out in a gown of white French organza, splashed with scattered clumps of crimson cherries woven with their leaves, in what she would call her ; ” haute couture of conquest!” she swept into the foyer of the Woy Woy Odeon picture theatre hatted like an exotic tropical bird of paradise and greeted all her open-mouthed friends with a flamboyant ; “Caio everybody!”….that was our Annabell !

And anyway…HER variation of the Bondi Bouffant was created after many long nights and many failures, until she switched products from “Toni” to “Richard Hudnut” home perm….it was the “lanolin waving lotion” that did it! and the rest, as they say in the small town of  West Wyalong ; “is what you make of it”. No-one..could “bouffant” like ” ‘bell th’ gurl” as the locals would often say.

Annabell had but two regrets in her life, one was that she didn’t stay in the big provincial town of her district, where she is certain she could’ve made a successful business of a ladies hair dressing salon…a friend suggested a name for it in keeping with Annabell’s fifties themes..; “Period Piece”…the play being on ; the time-line and a hair-piece…get it?…but Annabell was too saavy a wordsmith to fall for that ‘faux pas’ and instead she moved to the big smoke and became a shipping clerk for a transport company. Her second regret was that she wasn’t born earlier so she could become like her…; a call from downstairs!..”Coming mo…” she pulled herself up…she realised she almost shouted ; “mother” !…THAT would have been a Freudian slip for sure..”Coming ; kids “! , she quickly corrected herself.

#4

Bazza swilled the ice-cube around the bottom of the tumbler in the dregs of the scotch whisky….he was a bit piqued that his favourite barman ; Ron, wasn’t taking him seriously…”no-one takes me seriously anymore” he thought.

“You see, Ron..I’ve thought about it..It’s the name..: Bazza !”….Ron was really too busy polishing glasses to be concerned…it was the latest “Barryism” in a long line..

“What’s wrong with ; Bazza?” he sighed.

Barry continued ; “Well…it’s a “slogan name” isn’t it?….you know, someone enters the room spots you, stops and in an exaggerated way “pistol-fingers” you with both hands and shouts so the whole room hears..; “BAZZZAH !” like they’ve just had a eureka moment…how’s that make a bloke feel?”…….there was a depth of silence…”It’s like you gotta jump off your stool, face them arms and legs spread like a 96 lb. weakling full-back trying to block a Jonah Lomu charge single handed !”

In truth, Barry lamented his fate..He had the perfect situation, he had a captive audience, yet no matter how he pressed his point of view on a topical situation, they just didn’t seem to take any notice of him!

“I can’t understand it , Ron…the other day f’rinstance..I had Barnaby in the “big chair”, and I was asking him about all these Chinese buying our agricultural land and all he could do was to tell me Irish jokes!…they just don’t take me seriously any more!” ..

Finally Ron had enough, he put the cloth down, the glass on the bar and looked Bazza direct in the eyes…

“Bazz…you’re a barber, not Parkinson…people come to you for a haircut, not a grilling on the economy..just do your job, charge your fee and be happy!”….Bazz blinked a couple of times, but Ron could see it was a wasted effort…the lights were on but nobody was home.

“Glad you reminded me, Ron…quick, give us another shot of that scotch..I got Tony in the chair this afternoon for a short back and sides…I wanna have a steady hand with the cut-throat !”

#6

The old “Stardust” room of the Hackney Hotel was fast emptying, the party was almost over and only a few slouching hangers-on scraped their feet amongst the burst balloons and flattened streamers on the dance floor….The song : “Yellow River” warbled  out of the disc-jockey’s amps just below a banner that had writ in red..: ” BEST WHISHES – NEW CAREER…..”TOOLMAN”  ”

Two seasoned journo-hacks sat precariously on high-stools at a high round drinks-table awash with empty bottes and glasses…they both looked the kind of older males who’s doctor had told them to give up smoking for their health and deeply regretted it. one of them pushed and nudged half a salted peanut through beer-swill next his coaster. he half-heartedly grunted ;

” Well….He’s made the big leap!…..new career, new life”…

The other man looked in deep thought…which was far from the truth..

” At least he’ll have more security”…they both looked to each other and guffawed..it was a cynical guffaw.

“How’d he get this far in the company anyhow?” , the peanut pusher asked. ” I heard he WALKED in over Brissy’s presumed promotion when “Red” left !”

“NOT.. the action I would describe.” the other man sneered ” more like crawled !”…he paused frozen in his thought and then said something quite profound for a journalist ; “He’s a suck-hole”.

“So why the nick-name ; “Toolman”?

“Why do you reckon?..and it rhymes…say did you notice when he skulled that tequila and then sucked on the lemon after? Leigh said he even sucked that rind dry right through to the outside skin .. that’s what sets that fish’s-arse look to his mouth.. talk about perfection !”

“Oh well…his new career will give him a chance to do what he does best”.

“What?…playing the tough guy?…; the bully’s pimp?..” He looked about and spat into the greenery stand next to him ” Well, I suppose marching up and down the shopping mall as a security guard will give the little bastard many chances to try it on.”

” He’ll make a good security guard… was a shithouse news-reader !”

 

Dust the Lillies.

When a catholic priest goes to a convent to hear the confessions of the nuns there, it is said he goes to ;”Dust the Lillies”….the lillies, of course, being the ;”Lillies of the fields”…: The nuns.

 

“Dusting the lillies”.

 

Wither goest thou, Father John,

On such a splendid day?

Do you follow whimsy’s course,

A carefree wanderer…say?

A laugh, a smile, pause a while..

Then, cautious answer, yea..

“I go toward yonder gate,

Under stately blue-gum tree.

There, (with blessings of God)..

I go to ‘dust the lillies’.

To dust the lillies gently,

Lest such petals fade and die.

I’ll embrace their hips,

Kiss their lips,

And whisper a little white lie!”

Kids, Cultural Differences and Willy Wilson’s Ferrets.

Image result for Ferrets for hunting rabbits pics.

When one reflects on some of those past acts of terrorism it seems the culprits of a certain “terrorism raid” were teens from 14yrs…backed by “adults”…Jeesus..how frightening!..it would have scared the bejeesus out of us as kids, so when my big brother , with the help of his ‘Junior Chemistry Set’ purchased by the adults in the family for a Chrissy pressy, discovered that if one mixed sulphur with some salt-petre…we would have  been raided by ASIO these days.

AND we had a “plot” to scare the rival gang across the gully..; The O’Niels with a cunning assembly of inflated party balloons and some of the “Ingredient X” and following a scary demonstration of our recently discovered knowledge of gunpowder, were going to float the “Greek Fire” across to their grass fort and wreak havoc and let slip the dogs of “war”…..nyahhahahahaha!!

Unfortunately, the one dexterous user of the bow and arrow (constructed of wild-olive branches and bamboo arrows, the feather fletches from grandma’s pet turkey’s arse stuck on with wattle-gum) ; John O’Niel shot long and true and burst two of the balloons and so sabotaged the entire plot!…party balloons were hard to come by in those days!

But anyway, we made a big show of what they could expect…one day..so help me god!

Only flaw in the plan was that we all grew up and set about to inflict “terrorism” on the girls that fell within our limits of wandering..

But truth be known, even there, we were no match for a greater plan of a greater scheme of things and our small band of tremulous but heroic boy-warriors were soon overwhelmed by that power bigger than all of us…and I will never forget those last words of Karl Hebble as he finally succumbed to that fatal feminine wound…

“I will”…

On “our side” of the gully, up the hill a ways, there was a ruin of a house..or rather, not really a ruin, but the remnants of an intention to build..it perhaps was one of those ill-fated projects that get started by one of the party “in expectation of”..but is then abandoned when things go awry…I know of a few such stories..quite sad, really…I’ll tell you about them someday..

Anyway, we closed off the windows and doors in this one-roomed ‘fort” and we started a “club”…and we called it “The Kit Kat Klub”…I don’t know for the life of me where we got that name…all I can think of is perhaps that old sit-com ; “The Private World of Dobie Gilles” (perhaps!).

But the “eternal enemy” from across the gully..no!..not the O’Niels this time, but those German immigrants ..; the Skrypeks and the Leuchells…broke in and graffitied our club name there on the wall to : “The Shit Kat Klub”….bastards!!

The first thing to do was to get out the old chemistry set!

It was then that we learned of the abyss that divided catholicism from the proddos’…WE would never have written the word ; “shit” on any wall…THAT would be a “cardinal sin” !…just seeing the word there, I remember made me blush…but also perhaps, dangerously, awoke in me a curiosity for the power of the word.

Yes..growing up with only half a clue as to what is really going on in the adult world maybe a good thing. And speaking of girls when you are growing up..I remember this little plump girl used to hang around us down the beach all those long hot summers..Cyglinda..or Ziggy as we used to call her…it was amazing how in the space of only a couple of summers, she had lost that puppy-fat..or rather it had moved to all the right places and those scraggly locks of wispy hair had grown to blonde tresses to be admired…amazing!!

Ziggy became Cyglinda..once again and where only a couple of years ago she had thrown Davey Parker over her shoulder in a full toss for giving her lip, there walked with demure poise an attractive young lady!

Ah yes…Cyglinda …her old man was, I believe a unrepentant Hitlerite..He had a white scar ran around his neck, about 1/2″ wide where he claimed a Polish officer, when he was captured as a German soldier, had cut his throat and left him in the snow…He survived, as was apparent..and thrived on Emma Street .

Emma Street held a sort of local “infamy”, in that it was the scene of a fateful train collision where two people, a man and his wife were killed. There were no bells or wig-wag signals there and the train came suddenly onto the crossing from between a cutting.

It wasn’t so dangerous in the days of steam locomotives, as the noise and smoke from the engine gave warning…but with the onset of the old “Red-Hen” diesel electric trains, they were much quieter.

The train-line came out of a cutting onto a high embankment that fell away on both sides..The road wound into the gully past Langdon’s and Willy Wilson’s place, curved around the base and ascended the side of the hill straight onto the Emma Street crossing.

It was there every night, the grandmother of the four children of those parents killed , would walk to the crossing with the children to meet the parents on the other side and then they would all get into the car for the ride home just up The Cove Road a ways…so they were there when the car was hit and they must have saw their parents killed. It was talked about for years. The crossing was closed after that accident.

I must have been about nine or ten years old then. I remember hearing the crash while we were racing our bitzas down Paringa Avenue hill..it wasn’t a crash!, but more of a whoomph!..and someone said ;

‘Was that a crash?”…but then it was silent so we went back to our bitzas..until the sirens came and then we ran toward the station and we could see the “Red-Hen” train stopped just at Emma Street crossing and we knew it was an accident.

When I got there, I could see these two bodies laid out on the ground with sheets covering them..but the sheets were not long enough to cover the entire body, so the feet stuck out the bottom…It was a man and a woman..the man had black patent-leather shoes and his feet were leaning away from each other in a ‘V’..The woman had stockings on and one apricot “pump” shoe on her right foot, there was only the one shoe..but in their haste to make the bodies half decent, they had put the ladies shoe on the wrong foot, and it hung there by the toes…and I had this almost unstoppable urge to go and put the shoe (an apricot one with a white petal with a bright pearl centre fixed at the tongue) on the correct foot…of course, I didn’t.

I was staring at this strange and to me, unsightly anomaly; transfixed by this one disorderly item when the world came crashing in with Willy Wilson’s pitched voice calling my name….I looked to where he was standing at the bottom of the high embankment on which we stood .

“Is it an accident? “ he asked in all innocence.

“Yes!” I replied

“Anyone hurt?”

“Yes”.

“Oh…..Hey!…I’m going ferret’n tomorra…wanna come?”…I had turned back to the bodies there and was once again held by the offending shoe..and that was the funny thing , it was the shoe that worried me more than the two people dead there…very strange !

“D’you wanna come!!” Willie called again…an as I turned away a big copper appeared on the scene and called for us kids to clear off out of it..

“Someone get these kids out of here!” he yelled…”C’mon..get out of it you kids..bugger off!”

We turned and ran away and I remembered Willy , so I called back to him..

“Ok..yeah!..tomorro’ at my place..ok?”…and I could see my mother coming with that cross look on her face so I ducked past Hogben’s place across the paddock to home. But I tell you what..those ferrets of Willy’s were an out of control lot..and he didn’t know that much about the fine art of ferreting and that turned out to be one big adventure!

I was telling you about Willie Wilson and his ferrets…Willie Wilson kept ferrets, he used them for trapping rabbits in any of the multitude of warrens dotted about the hills where I grew up before the Mixxy got a hold..I’m talking back in the late fifties or so. A lot of people kept ferrets for that purpose in those days..there was a front-bar trade in fresh bunny-meat back then..along with local caught fish like snook and such, that you could buy off the catchers down at the Seacliff Hotel….I know, ’cause my old man used to come home of a Thursday evening, with a smile on his face, a good half-dozen clinking away in his kit-bag, a big bar of Cadbury’s chocolate in his rough hands and a roll of newspaper-wrapped fresh produce under his arm…every Thursday night, like clockwork…that’s how it went in those days..before age, homesickness for the old country and the drink got a hold on him…that’s how it went in those days…

Willie Wilson kept ferrets, so did the Oxfords…and the O’Niels..not the ones on the corner, but down by the station…The O’Niels on the corner..( one ; John, grew up to become a copper in forensics and he had to deal with those “Snowtown Murders” ..it done for him..I’ll tell you about him one day). They kept ferrets to catch rabbits…the ferrets were clean, but the cages would sometimes stink to high heaven!..Tex, Marlene Oxford’s long time beau kept the cages clean,,I’ll tell you about him too someday. Tex knew how to hunt with ferrets…Willie was just learning…it was a slow job with Willie…he was young, he was keen.

I can only recall going “ferreting” with Willie once…just after that Emma St. crossing crash that I told you about..The day was cold, it was wet and the whole episode was a disaster for both ferreting and friendship. There were four of us..Davey Parker, Bruce Irving, myself and Willie..we took turns carrying the cage with the ferrets..we hiked right up to the top of the long gully, not far from the old Linwood Quarry, where one of the O’Niel men (there were four families, not related , in the district) got his coat caught in the crusher feeder and was killed there…I can just remember the wife coming to our place and my Mother comforting her with some prayers…I suppose it was a catholic thing.

There is an art to catching rabbits with ferrets…Willie did not have that art..all he did was to block as many holes as he had nets, bury in the rest and then let the ferret down one hole..if all goes well, the rabbits will flee the ferret and get caught in any one of the nets as they run out of the warren..the biggest worry, is that if the ferret is hungry, it will trap and kill a rabbit down in the warren and remain there till it eats it to it’s hearts content. Then all you can do is to try to smoke it out or wait.

That’s what must have happened..after the rabbits stopped coming out, the ferret remained. Willie tried to smoke it out with setting fire to some paper in one of the holes, but all it did was to sear the ferrets nose and made it flee back down the warren……..and it rained..and it rained, and rained, and rained some more till we all looked like a picture of one of those groups of American Indian’s sitting under their blankets on the prairie..except we didn’t have blankets, just wet skin, cold hands and it was getting dark and we lost our patience and our kid-tempers and told Willie where he could stick his ferret IF it EVER came out and to our dying shame, we deserted him there and then.

Not my most glorious moment, but there is only so much the patience of a child can stand, especially when we could see more rabbits hopping about the dusky hill-sides than what we caught with the stupid ferret!

The last I heard of Willie Wilson , and that was many, many years ago, was from aforementioned Bruce…He mentioned he had bumped into Willie at the old “Vincent Hotel” there on Mosely Square.

“He was hard up for some dough and he said in all confidence that he had been “casing” this jeweler shop down Jetty Road, and he had a plan all worked out on how to rob the place….I told him I didn’t want to know…truth is ; I thought he was full of bullshit at the time” Bruce took a healthy drought from his pint of beer.

“And then?” I asked.

“Well..I was wrong..he did rob the shop…or rather..he TRIED to rob the shop..”

Now..bear with me dear reader and let us ‘workshop’ through what Bruce told me :

It seems that Willy’s “well thought out plan” consisted of an early hours raid on the shop with the help of an airline bag with half a house-brick secreted inside it. The object of the brick was to penetrate the plate-glass shop-front, the airline bag was to transport the swag away…devilishly clever , what?

But…(there’s always a but in these plans).

Scene: Willie stands in front of the jeweler shop , it is three am. No-one is about..he takes the half-brick from the bag and flings it toward the window….

STOP!…

Let us apply the filmatic application of slow motion to the following scene…: We are at the moment where the brick has just left the grip of Willy’s right hand..At that very moment, a police patrol on it’s regular neighbourhood patrol turns the corner into Jetty Road two shops down from the Jeweller..The lights attract Willy’s gaze and he turns his head (we’re still in slow motion, mind) toward the source..the police officer in the passengers seat likewise turns his gaze toward a person in the moment of executing an unexpected action on the sidewalk of number one fifty six Jetty Road Glenelg..The half-brick continues it’s unstoppable course toward the plate glass…cause and effect is inevitable.

The upshot (if we return to real time) was that the patrol car had pulled up, apprehended and escorted Willy to the back seat of the patrol car while the last shards of the plate-glass window was still tinkling onto the sidewalk…cruel fate.

And that was that for Willy Wilson as far as I can report. I have heard no more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Arrogance of Power.

Image result for Siege of Glenrowan Inn pics.

A Play..

This play is centered around a well-worked story ; that of  “The Kelly Gang”..But the difference is displayed in the title..I hope to have delved a little at least into what I call ; “An Arrogance of Power”…It is political and social power sometimes held by a charismatic  individual , or an Authority of governance…or subordinate officials who aspire to have it.

In Ned Kelly’s case, He possessed it as a natural strength , the Colonial Authorities jealously guarded it as their perceived right , and other minor officials desired it as a personal treasure. In the story of the Kelly uprising, this “arrogance” was played out by several people.

I want to try with this portrayal of Ned Kelly, to elevate the man from what may be called in some quarters ; A “criminal” mythology, to where I think he more rightly deserves to be placed in our Nation’s short but colourful Colonial history..:

That of Heroic Mythology.

Title: An Arrogance of Power.

By Joe Carli.

Characters.

Ned Kelly. leader of the bushrangers.

Joe Byrne. second in command.

“Red” Kelly, Father of Ned.

Mrs. Kelly, Mother of Ned.

Maggie, Ned’s sister.

Sir Redmond Barry. (Judge that sentences Kelly) Other assorted barristers and solicitors.

Superintendant Hare. officer in charge of siege at Glenrowan.

Priest., doctor, and troopers at the siege.

Governor of Victoria. and his Aide- de-camp.

Act 1

Scene 1:

The governor of the colony of Victoria strides slowly around the stage. A spotlight lights him up as he walks, the rest of the stage is in darkness. He is reading aloud from a letter that he holds up before him as he walks.

Gov; – “Furthermore concerning the deaths of the assassins.; Kennedy, Scanlon, Lonigan and McIntyre…These Irishmen came into the ranges with the intention of scattering pieces of me and my brother all over the bush; and yet they knew and acknowledged that I have been wronged, and my mother and five men lagged innocent! And are my brothers and sisters, and my mother, not to be pitied also, who have no alternative but to put up with the brutal and cowardly conduct of a parcel of big, ugly, fat-necked, wombat-headed, big-bellied, magpie-legged, narrow-hipped, splaw-footed sons of Irish bailiffs or English landlords, known as “officers of justice”, or “Victorian police”

These men are traitors to their country, ancestors and religion, as they were Catholics before the Saxon and Cranmore yoke held sway, when they were murdered, massacred, thrown into martyrdom and tortured beyond the ideas of the present generation.

What would England do, if America declared war on her and hoisted the green flag? It is all Irishmen who have command of England’s armies, forts and batteries. Even her very Life Guards and Beef Eaters are Irish! Would they not slew around, and fight her with her own arms, for the sake of the colour they have not dared to wear for years, to reinstate it, and raise Old Erin’s isle once more from the pressure and tyranny of the English yoke, which has kept it in poverty and starvation, and caused them to wear the enemy’s coat? What else can England expect?”

(pauses to speak to Aide de camp)

Gov: “How old do you say this bushranger is?”

A.D.C.: “Twenty three years, Governor.”

Gov: “Humph!”

(takes two steps, pauses, continues to read from the letter.)

“Any person aiding or harbouring or assisting the police in any way whatever, or employing any person they know to be a detective or cad, or those who would be so depraved as to take blood-money, will be outlawed and declared to be unfit for human burial, their property either consumed or confiscated. and themselves and all belonging to them exterminated off the face of the earth.”

(He pauses mid-stride and talks back over his shoulder to his Aide-de-camp.) The spotlight stays with the governor, we do not see the other person.

Gov :  Humph! Rather young to be leading an army against the Empire, what ?”

(Ad’c chuckles in reply….gov’ moves on, continues to read from the letter).

Gov; (reads aloud last section of Kelly’s “Jerilderie Letter”..spotlight slowly dims till whole stage is in darkness,

Gov’ ( finishes reading letter in darkness.) I give fair warning to all those that have reason to fear me, to sell-out and give ten pounds out of every hundred to the Widow’s and Orphan’s fund. Neglect this and abide by the consequences! I am a widow’s son outlawed, and my orders must be obeyed!”

Exit Scene.

Scene *2:

A room sparsely furnished with bed, side-table, wardrobe and wash- table with bowl and jug on it. The door flies open and Joe Byrne enters, obviously agitated. Ned Kelly follows close behind him. On entering the room, Ned gently closes the door ,Joe paces up and down the floor. Joe turns to challenge Ned.

Joe Byrne: “Look here, Ned, this is plain foolishness let’s roll the premises, plug a few holes in the walls and clear out!”

Ned.; (places his familiar helmet on bed , sits down himself and sighs)”Ah! Joe, Joe, it’s been two years now we’ve been “pluggin’ holes in walls” and robbin’ the places and clearin’ out don’t ye have a greater ambition?”

Joe:  “ Don’t go takin’ the micky out of me Mr. Kelly’….I know your ambition to lead an insurrection against the government…an’ you’ll stand by the fact that I’ve followed your every order with loyalty!!…but this is madness!”

Ned: “We’ve got ammunition, a fort (sweeps hand around room) to shoot from, hostages! if we need to barter, and I’m hopin’….hopin’ mind, (raises finger to make point)…reinforcements.”

Joe: “REINFORCEMENTS!!…and just where in the Jim-blazes are they going to spring up from?”

Ned: (jumps up from bed and turns away and talks over his shoulder, but his voice is unsure )”From the home districts”.

Joe: “PAH!,…(Grabs Ned’s shoulder and twists him to face himself)..PAH!  again…those grub-farmers have just had a good season, do ye think they’ll leave a glowing hearth and a full stomach to fight a rebellion?…Has anyone in history yet!?  (they stare steadily at each other for a moment)…no,…soft living and great ideals are strangers to each other..fill a man’s belly with cheap food and a shot of grog and he’ll swear undying loyalty to the hand that giveth…no matter that same hand cheats him in the morn’.”

Ned: “Joe!..do ye think me that much of a fool?..do you think I haven’t given such possibilities a thought?…Joe,..they may not come, I half expect them not to. But that being the case, would you have them see us run..like dogs?….lf there’s none but us to make a stand, then we must stand. If they come onto us like a pack of dingo’s…then we must show them how to fight!”

Joe: “Ahh!..Ned.(sits on bed, hangs head)I’m sick as you are of the runnin’, I’d like to stand to their face and beat them down as well as you would, but….(leaps up and sweeps arm around room) is this the place?…people everywhere to get under our feet, and that sniveling schoolmaster gone and warned the train?..Young Dan and Stevie are scared to bits holding that mob of hostages!…it’s ..it’s all too cluttered here..”

Ned: (grabs helmet and faces Joe)”It’s here or nowhere.. I’ve challenged the bastards and by the living Christ(and with his grace) I’ll give them shot for shot, and well see them skulk and bay like the dogs they are!..(places arm on Joes’ shoulder) Glenrowan’s no Agincourt, Joe, but it’s where the “Kelly Gang” makes a stand!..,. besides, we’ve been hunted long enough, Joe, time we did some of the hunting…and do you think they’ll ever let us rest? Joe our names are branded across the colony there’s no place safe for the ‘Kelly Gang” to put it’s feet up, no hearth to warm our backsides. no young bride to entice us to contentment. No, Joe, our fate is sealed, our cards are on the table here, we must up the ante’ with this battle, and make deadly serious this rebellion…We’re going to sting their backsides with shot of lead and make an example of their cruelty!”

Joe: “Damn but I’m scared. Ned, scared shit-less. I know it, Ned, we stay here and we’re done for…I can feel it in my bones. By Christ we’ve been lucky up to now, Ned, enough to make Polycrates jealous! But that could change at any moment, any time….and we’re stuck here in this trap!”

Ned: “Here or some other place, there is no cover under the sky for us now, Joe. Our deeds have shaped us as they have others we have done them to. Luck can be as much our saviour as our nemesis. Give it and do it justice we must…and by Christ with all our heart!”

Joe: (sighs)”You’ll be the death of me Mr. Kelly, but your invitations to a good shoot-up always were irresistible.(they both laugh),I’m with you…bugger it!”

They grip hands….Ned then turns and goes out the door ..Joe goes to follow him, pauses, then turns to face audience….

Soliloquy.

Joe: “He’s an idealist you know. Thinks goodness and equality can be moulded out of fierce determination. Doesn’t realise that the harder you force an object to bend to your will, the tighter you have to grip it….and the tighter your grip on a people, the more they squirm to escape..ha!..besides,you cant make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear..but no, (leans toward audience to whisper secretly) I’m like you, I know when it’s time to make myself scarce, I’ve seen the damage a bullet does (gives an exaggerated shiver), erhh!! I don’t mind a good scrap with guns- a- blazin’, …long as there’s a bit of cover to soften the blow..so to speak!….but this idealism’s got me beat. Why risk your neck for a bunch of timid butterflies? damn if I can see a point to it, nobody’s going to come to help him : These idealists…don’t they realise that everybody loves a Christ….(gives exaggerated wink toward audience) because he’s the one up on the cross!! …Nah!..I expect we’ll light out of it when the going gets too rough, besides,. what’s wrong with pluggin’ a few holes in the wall and robbin’ the till? govermints does it all the time.”

(turns to go, pauses and gazes at a ring on his finger….smiles…takes the ring off and turns to audience….holds up ring)Joe ; “Here!..( throws ring into audience) Witness I take the advice of Amasis ; King of Egypt and, less such luck as we have enjoyed till now bode ill in the future, I cast away my most valued treasure as a sacrifice to our luck, lest it turn agin’ us in the coming fight! (gazes at ring-hand, now empty) sorry ,Maggie, thou gave me that ring, but, no gift save that of the heart has true value”.

Exit scene.

Act ;2

Scene 1.

[ A room at the Glenrowan railway station. A fireplace, side table under a window and small desk in the corner. Part of a sign with “…nrowan” appears outside window. There is a log fire burning in the fireplace, Superintendent Hare, of the Police, replete with cape and sword slung, strides impatiently but methodically about the room. He stops before a mirror centered above mantelpiece and sternly but with vanity, examines his appearance, then turns to move away, stops again and arranges small ornaments on mantelpiece into exacting spaces between each other.

There is a crash and the door flies open, smoke and wind blow fiercely into the room, a doctor enters ahead of two policemen carrying a stretcher. things are knocked over, the officer swings around, knocking an ornament off the mantelpiece, one of the men throws Kelly’s helmet spinning onto the stage floor. ]

Doc, “See here, Superintendent,.. this won’t do, the man’s near death,. this is no time for an interrogation.”

Superintendent Hare pauses, one hand clutching another ornament, he bristles noticeably and flings the ornament into the fireplace.

Sup’. “I’ll make the decision on that, doctor.” (he motions to two policemen at the doorway)”Bring the prisoner in,…put the stretcher there.”

(the men do so, Kelly lays prostrate but conscious on the stretcher he groans as the men place it roughly down).

Doc. I’ll hold you responsible if he dies from this ridiculous treatment,. Hare. I’ll swear to it!’

Sup’.- “Good, swear then like my troopers, doctor, all the more credit for me, in saving the colony the expense of a trial and hanging.”

Doc.- “You haven’t even charged the man yet, and still, I’m compelled to give assistance toward dressing his wounds..”

Sup’.: “Hold your tongue . I’ll make any decisions around here concerning the health of the prisoner, you understand.. You bloody doctors and your sanctimonious hippocritic, yes hippocritic! oath…,( mimics docs’ stance and manner)”I’m in charge of his health…!”….Bah!..he’s gallows meat if ever there was any, get that into your head my- good- doctor, g-a-l-l-o-w-s meat!….all I’m concerned with at the moment is the capture of those remaining murderers in the inn (He looks toward Kelly , sees he’s awake) ‘you,..Kelly can you understand me?”

Kelly:._As much as one can understand the gruntings of a swine.”( he coughs painfully).

Sup ; ( smiles cruelly)Well this little piggy now has the roast beef (he moves over to the stretcher) ..and this little piggy….(he sinks his boot into a wound in Kelly’s leg)..has none!!”

Doc.- “I say, ..!”(the doctor leaps forward)

Sup’.- “Show the good doctor out sergeant….NOW!…”(the sergeant grabs the doctors arm and drags him out the door)…,You see, Mr. Kelly, you’re not quite safe yet…at least, as long as you’re in this room….so there’s some unfinished business concerning your “compatriots” still ‘in the inn.”

Kelly.-(grimacing painfully to the ceiling)”You won’t take them alive from there  we’d made arrangements for such a moment….(coughs, spits)..count yourself lucky you got me.”

Sup ; “Trying to escape?….”

Kelly-(laughs weekly)”Escape? no…I thought I might be able to plug a few more swine outside.”

Sup ; “Don’t play the hero to me, Kelly..I know a coward when I see one.,.”

Kelly-(raises unsteadily on elbow)”Coward!?„..I tell you I could’ve rode away early in the piece. I was behind your lines when I was first knocked down….some of your men walked right past me lying in the shrubs…I could’ve plugged them as they walked away.”

Sup ; “Then why didn’t you clear out?”

Kelly- (falls back onto stretcher….stares a while at the ceiling before answering)”…I….I couldn’t just run out on them.. they are my mates.,..a man would have to be a dingo to run out on his mates”.

Policeman bursts into the room, accompanied by noise, smoke and sounds of gunfire and chaos.

Policeman: “Sup’…there, …there’s a woman demanding to see Kelly

Sup; “Damn the woman, const’, this isn’t an hotel”

Pol’: “…say’s she’s his sister..Sir”

Sup; ” Ahh!…sister….perhaps.. Show her in!”.

( the sup’ moves over to the fireplace and stands warming his behind at the log fire. seeing Kelly, the woman rushes to his side. Kelly recognises her and raises himself on one arm).

Kelly: ” Maggie! Maggie!…I could have got away but I had to see it ended they shot me in the arm..couldn’t hold my rifle,… it was no good to me,…only had a revolver..had half a mind to shoot myself, but I wanted to see an end to the thing “(he falls back onto the stretcher, enter doctor with a priest. doctor attends Kelly)

Doc- “Must have an iron constitution…how he survived this foolishness?  his pulse is fair.”

Sup’: (to woman) “You’re his sister, your other brother is still inside the inn, do you think you could talk to him?”

Maggie: “Of course I will!”

(she makes to dart out of the room, she is grabbed by a sergeant of police)

Sgt; : “Wait a minute you! (to sup’)Sir, she could be shot or worse, she is a Kelly, and quite capable of taking up arms with them against us…!”

Sup : (Looks aghast at the woman)”Would you?”

Magg’: (Shakes off sergeants hand and looks defiantly at Hare’) “If it was a choice between them and you;  yes!”

(Hare raises his fist to give her a backhander)

Priest: (grasps sup’s arm)”Hold your temper sir!”

Magg’: (standing firm in defiance)”Yes, that’s right superintendent, strike a woman and show your true colours.”

(Hare backs down).

Sup’: “We can deal with you later.”

Magg’: (sarcastically)”Like your men dealt with my sister Kate ?”

Sup’: “I’m not aware of any act that my men …”

Magg’: “Not aware that she was bullied and assaulted by your courageous

troopers?”

Priest: “Now Maggie…you can’t be sure….”

Sup’: “That is a serious charge… if you are certain of your accusations, you should take them to the proper authorities….”

Magg;  (fists clenched by her sides , shouts)”AUTHORITIES! you think me a fool?…do you think we are all fools?(laughs) the authorities are the very people we have to watch out for!”(laughs again)

Sup’: “Nonsense!…(jerks around away from the woman) I can’t stand here listening to such wild accusations…next you’ll be telling me that this man here (points to Kelly) is an innocent bystander in this whole affair..”

Priest: “Please. please, let us show some civility here.”

Kelly: (raises himself painfully on one elbow)” You bastards have done

enough damage to my family, leave them alone or..or. “

Sup’: (laughs sardonically)”Or?..or?..(moves to the stretcher and attempts to strike Kelly with the flat of his sword.. Maggie grabs his arm, a scuffle ensures, the sergeant grasps Maggie and holds her firm).Hold her sergeant, hold her! …Oh damn this pestilence of a clan, can somebody, in the name of Christ put an end to this siege!?”

A voice from among the throng at the door cries out: “Why not fire the hotel?” cries of “yes, yes fire the hotel!!” ring out all around.

Sup’:( confers with his sergeant, then nods approval)” But how would you do it, Sergeant?

Sgt’; “I’ll do it from the Benalla end, Sir, if you give me some covering fire.”

Sup’: “Very well. sergeant, in the name of God….do it!”.

(the sergeant and some men depart. Hare turns to Maggie now being sheltered in the arms of the priest)

Sup’: “Do you still want to see your brother at the inn?”

Magg’: “Yes!”

Sup’: “Will you get him to surrender?”

Magg’: (backs away defiantly)”Never! I’d see him burned before I’d see him

shamed!”

Sup’:” Then damn the whole lot of you….(shouts out the door)BURN THE INN…BURN THE BLOODY LOT OF’ THEM…BURN THEM I SAY!!!”

intense volley of shots followed by a fiery explosion. Priest rushes out with sister, both cry “NO. NO! wait!” priest suddenly stops and addresses superintendent’

Priest: “Sup’ I implore you…the hostages let me…”

Sup’:(grasps priest by his cassock and hisses into his face)” Victoria has a parliament full of Catholics. a countryside full of Irish, and a bureaucracy full of protestants I am a protestant and a loyalist, Priest!… but I am loyal to the Crown before I am loyal to the church. The Crown has no need of Priests nor Irish.  (releases Priest and cries out of the door) BURN THEM….BURN THEM I SAY !”

Pushes the priest aside and drawing sword rushes out of room.He moves over to right centre of stage. Stage darkens, noise abates, spotlight falls on Hare. He lowers his sword weakly and turns to audience ..

Sup: (soliloquy) “Women, priests, supporters!….What is this man?….What manner of individual warrants such devotion?.. I was sent to arrest an outlaw, and I find a hero?…at least in their eyes….I myself ..I… would that I had half a dozen of such men under my command, This would not be a colony …rather an empire!…He spoke the truth about clearing out. I feel sure of that..but then..’Why didn’t he?.. I would’ve…(addresses audience) Wouldn’t you?…but, after all, cowardice and prudence share the same mask…likewise bravery and foolhardyness.(turns head cunningly to one side..) This is no robbery that I’ve been sent to quell, this is no outlaw, no thieves these rather, I suspect, a rebellion!….

Why do I feel I am betraying some destiny?…is this my appointed fate?….the go-between for somebody else’s destiny’?….Why do I feel I am being played for a fool in this.. this sedition? (clenches fist angrily)….curse the hand of destiny that would relegate me, me, who would give an arm for this chieftans power of command, that loyalty would follow ME like shadow and deeds bend toward such a courageous conclusion..,(looks toward heaven and raises fist likewise)

Damn ! you have given me a peacocks plumage but the heart of a mouse!..damn, damn, damn!” (stage comes alive, noise, yells, fire!)

Sergent: (rushes onstage,fiery torch in hand) It is done Sir’….they’re all dead!….all dead I say!”

Exit scene.

Act 2

Scene #2

Maggie, ash-stained and weary, stumbles sadly through the ruins of the inn. Sees troopers dragging a body from the wreckage, rushes over and pushes and hits their arms, forcing them to let go of the body. She leans over the corpse,…she is crying.

Maggie : “Joe !  Oh Joe! What horror has laid for you…(wipes his face with the hem of her skirt) It is you :Joe?, it must be you! though your face is hardly the same that I once kissed, I hardly recognise you!..(grasps his hand and raises it to her cheek)..but wait! …the ring I gave you….where is it now? though your hand be burnt and scar’d there is no sign of it!…you men..;  would you stoop so low as to loot a body just dead? Thieves robbers!”

Trooper 1: ” Twas not us, woman, not us….for we just found the body over there….we’ve not had time even to identify who it may be”.

Magg’ :” Fools!..it be Joe Byrne…Joe Byrne….O’ Joe..Joe!”(falls over the body weeping)…. Joe, (lifts head and grasps Joe Byrne’s hand in hers) I gave thee the ring that lady luck might protect thee in adverse times and now it has gone from thy finger…was thou so foolish as to loose it?..so clumsy as to misplace it’?….O Joe!..luck has truly deserted us now…(falls back on the body) .

Trooper 2: Looks to other trooper, reaches into pocket and pulls out a ring.(whispers to fellow trooper)”Could this be what she wails for?….Chance would have me find it in the road out front of the inn as we lay up to attack!”

Trooper I: “Surely not!..but what does it matter, secret it or for sure she will accuse us before the superintendent”

Trooper 2:” I’ll not wear a dead man’s token. Better I cast it away lest his luck follows me…but ,then, if it means that much to the woman ?…”

(nudges Maggie, holds out ring).

Maggie: (looks up, snatches ring)” So!..it was….”

Trooper2: “Hold your temper, I didn’t take it from his finger,…but found it on the road before the inn….you can believe me or no..but that is the truth and it must stand as such. I wouldn’t rob no corpse..”

(Magg’ opens mouth to accuse but then after a moments silence turns head back to Joe B’)

Magg : “It is our ring….I find it such…but if it was found in the dirt ?…then it was you , Joe. that cast it aside….be it an act of despair or an act of rejection toward me it was indeed a bad omen for thee. I mind now how you laughed when I gave it to thee..”with this ring are we married lass?”..I mind you said that…but no. I did not mean it such…not everything a woman does is directed toward men…I needed no lover, no husband. rather I would bond thee to myself as a kindred spirit…for we were both servants to a stronger master.. thee to Ned… me to my family…and all of us to fate, oh! that cruel seamstress; fate…,the servants must form alliances. in this there is strength, for the masterful can be tyrannical! ..duties weigh like millstones on our necks…but if we don’t do the work..who shall?..There are dreamers enough in this world….and they don’t grow potatoes!…But why did you cast this ring aside, does that mean you also shrugged off your yoke to Ned? did you deny to yourself your servitude?..(silence while she gazes into Joe’s  face)..Yes..I can imagine it done, for there is only so far that they can be followed…For with all leaders there is an arrogance of power….Ned is on his own now… and I?..I too am alone.(she stands up, wipes a tear from her eye) take him . We are finished”.

Exit scene.

Act #3

Scene -1

A group of barristers in regalia stand in chambers in circle drinking a toast to Sir Redmond Barry,

1st barr’; ” To you, Sir Redmond Barry!…a historic judgment,….a correct judgment,…a just..yes sir, a just judgment!”

2nd barr’, “Hear, hear!….correct,yes, just,yes”

All. “Hear, hear.”

They raise then drink their glasses.

Sir Red’ Barry; ” Friends, friends you do me honour I little deserve” (mock cries of protest, Sir R. holds hands up for attn’) for I was but doing my duty to Queen and country”

All ; “Th’ Queen!” (they raise glasses)

Sir R’.; “It was the least I could do….(he flings the glass into the fireplace with a theatrical gesture)…to keep those bloody bog Irish in check!”

1st barr;”And for that we salute you…SIR!”

All, “SIR!”

(they all drain their glasses and throw them into the fireplace. The group make their departure through side door, all but 1st barr and Sir R’ leave the stage.)

Sir R..; “Well George, we struck a blow for the crown this day…eh what?”

I st barr .” Let us hope the crown remembers us kindly for the favour”

( Sir R. removes his cape and gown and moves over to hang them on the wall book…he holds them suspended just above the hook)

Sir R’.; “If you mean bestowing the colony’s capital on to Victoria ahead of the other colonies? (he smiles cunningly, then jams the cape down harshly onto the hook!) then Kelly can swing for us and Kelly can swing for the Irish!”

lst barr; ” Two calvings from the one cow!” (he nods respectfully while smiling cruelly)

Sir R’.; “This, my friend George, is an historical moment! (he moves over to the table and fills up two new glasses, they take one each )

Sir R,’.; “To an historical moment!”

1 st barr; “To Kelly! may he rest in peace” (both men laugh ).”But tell me, what do you say to his accusation?’

Sir R.;(looks askance) His….accusation?”

I st barr’; Yes (laughs mockingly)! that there will be a greater court that will judge him and you both and the findings would be different!”.

The stage fades, Sir R’ moves to one side, a spotlight shines on him only, the rest of the stage is in darkness.

Sir R’; (a soliloquy) “The impertinence of the man to say such a thing in my court!- MY COURT!- An arrogance of power..(swills drink in glass, looks deeply into it, muses) to wax on with his rambling soliloquy as if he owned the place (aside in a doubting voice) why did let him have the floor?  It was as if I could not stop him. How well he spoke for an uneducated ruffian he took control of the moment so easily, so completely like some power was talking through him, using him as medium. That was no murderer I tried, no common highwayman, no thief…. I don’t know what fatalistic connection he has with the government of the colony, but I wish he was on our side  Well, regardless…he’ll swing on the end of a rope!…But…why is it I feel I have betrayed some horoscope? Some force, I feel, has me dancing to its tune The military?..The governor? The Crown!?  Bah!!.: Kings, Queens, Governors, Generals! Bah! Stuffed shirts and poltroons! No! ( he looks aside )it was the insult to me,… he would dare to presume, with such a casual manner. that I should be judged alongside his actions. I who have sent many a criminal to the gallows with the hand of justice so righteously balancing the scales! I was not the one who challenged the Crown! I was not the one that robbed and havoc’d the whole colony to a point of derision! I do not have such arrogance of power!….(turns smilingly toward the audience, pauses, stares at the audience for a moment) But, Oh! that I did have !…(resumes previous posture) That was enough to earn Kelly the rope. Yes! that and to insult me personally in MY court. THAT was his death warrant, that was enough for me, let him swing at dawn.”

Stage lights up again., Sir R’ turns swiftly back to the barrister and smiles cruelly.

Sir R’: ” I say to that . sir, As God is my witness, a greater court has judged him, and he has received its sentence…let him say as he wishes, its will be done! (a slight wave of his hand, a softer voice) besides, a few years, a few more highwaymen, Kelly’s name and nature will soon be forgotten….after all, he..he is but an outlaw .”

Exit scene.

Act 4 .

Scene 4.

Empty stage, save for a single chair on the left. An old lady sits on this chair reading a newspaper. she lets it hang down for a moment and stares ahead as if in a trance. she then carefully folds it and places it on the floor next to the chair. she rises, still staring ahead, her hands crossed over her breasts.

Mrs. Kelly: ” One son dead, one son captured, soon to be hung. Joe Byrne…Stevie Hart….dead.. all is finished. .What I created,. pap-fed and worried over all those years,…(turns head side on toward audience but downcast a little) would I have it come to this? (suddenly looks toward the heavens with hands extended up in front, pleading) Husband!..husband!..dead lover, see our work now, what thoughts did we weave strategically into their youth?…is it for’ love they die?..for duty to a lost homeland?..,loyalty to their farmily?….what frame of idea led our children on such a tragic voyage?..tell me husband!.. tell me someone!

(sudden light at right side of stage illuminates a man…the spirit of “Red” Kelly. Mrs Kelly throws hand to mouth in shock)

Red: “What shocks you so woman? ( then laughs gently) you gasped not in fear on other nights when I came to you with the promise of our children!”(laughs).

Mrs K’: “Do I really see you, or is this a part of my hearts tragedy.”

Red: (moves to touch her, but she feels nothing..he sighs) “Ahh.. you cannot feel me  you are indeed a lifetime from me now..like a dull marriage (snorts humouresly, then speaks angrily) Yes!..you see me! what do you think I am ..a ghost!?”

Mrs K ; “Ahh yes….it is you…(drops arms to side wearily) to be sure. your humour hasn’t improved for your passing over..,though I have to say; you look in the pink of condition.”

(she laughs out loud he grimaces).

Red K’: But what ails you, mother? To lament the fate of your children? Did .you expect less from our offspring?…Did you expect they would live and die as a piece of furniture that serves its owner till no longer useful?”

Mrs K: “I….I did not expect to outlive them! and their youth! too young to die.”

Red K ; “Life has an expectation, not a duty! See how many seeds the dandelion throws to the luck of the wind”

Mrs K” (shouts defiantly)”What would you know of my children….I BLED FOR THOSE BOYS!!!..”

Red K’: “And now they bleed for you in payment,  every one of our own people’s death secures the levee for all of us. What are we but sandbags against a rising torrent….would you have us men as footstools in the parlor7….lapdogs to caress in a moment of indolence? (thrusts fists against forehead in exasperation) I weep, I weep too!…Oh! that it was I who took up arms against such blackguards! That it was I that shamed and mocked and challenged those usurpers of government! Weep not for those boys,….such audacity of spirit and endurance of flesh strengthens a thousand fold the progeny and secures the breed to the future….(stands and points a finger to Mrs K) You wail and lament their fates, but they are builders of civilisations…,only the slothful call them criminals, sloths too lazy to risk their own comforts!”

Mrs K’: ” Damn to civilisation! I would rather have my children!!”

Red K’: “Well and good, my dearest, for you cannot have both….and are not women the civilisers of mankind? what persuasions were used to make a man throw away his spear and take up the plough? What reward for such tedious labour?….To see his sons and daughters grow to be slaves to a despotic class of liars and thieves?..to be safe?..(turns and strolls in a circular pattern whilst expounding).Didn’t the Empress Livia spend sleepless nights poisoning the figs still hanging on the favourite tree of Caesar Augustus ; her husband and emperor, so as to implement her own and HER child’s designs on the purple? Subtle hand indeed, where a man would clumsily use the thrust of a sword and in turn be slain and so gain nothing for his enterprise…ah, no, more enduring are the civilisings of women,..So weep not for them, rather give Ned the courage to face his death with dignity,”

Mrs K.: “Well for you to give advice! you who fed his youthful heart with all the grievances of our race and inculcated vengeance into his spirit!”

Red K: “Ha! Ha!…yes, guilty I plead! A hundred times guilty! But what would you ; rather perhaps I left such injustices fester unchecked over a dozen generations? Such crimes agin’ a nation must be answered or that nation forfeit its right to statehood….but look not for the splinter in mine eye fair maiden, (sarcastically), what sweet serenading did fall like sugar-drops into the children’s ears whilst thou cradled them to thy bosom? Quoth I: ” Ah there mother’s little man, hmm? are you mother’s little  man?…yes we are, oh yes we are!” (mimics tickling action and tone of voice) Gently doth she finger his brow and fixes the gaze of adoration into innocent eye whilst child suckles sweet pap…that so enhances the words and impress deeply the insinuation!……Quoth I: (after a fall or scrap’d knee):”There’s mother’s brave little man, You’ll show your mother how brave you are. ” or words to the effect, so does subtlety shape the spirit of the child, quiet whispe’d while with labour’d hand, the cradle is rock’d so does the wilyness of a woman succeed. where crude aggression of a man fall short…(suddenly stops the mimicry).but I am telling you nothing you do not already know with your own intuition….enough! I have no more business with you, go and give heart to the living, your voice is still heeded, mine (turns sadly away); dead!”

(He slips away).

Mrs K’: ” Wait!..Don’t go (clenches fist) just like a man to clear out when needed!  and he talks of progeny!….my poor Ned left none save a few bastards scattered over the district, and none of those mothers would claim blood relation to his name now..but wait!..regardless of denial, they are still of the blood’  hark to Moira O’Callaghan there, big now with child and Ned’s as sure as there is a dawn! I must go to her and help yes! (speaks softly) You are right on one account husband, the progeny is there and it will endure and grow as long as women rock the cradle .  (pauses to reflect) Take courage my Ned, I will stand by you till the end and then…. forever.”

Exit scene

Act *4

Scene *2

….A jail cell Kelly sits on wooden bench…hands clasped, head down, he is musing on his fate a cock crows, Kelly starts!

Kelly- “Hark, the dawn, sweet Christ! dawn.(he places his head in his hands, then raises it to gaze straight toward audience).Dear Lord, give my distress reason, this last moment before sunrise….this last moment of my life on this earth What dire fate carried me to this end? Where my brothers now…my friends?..Must I face this darkness alone amongst my enemies?..Ah, damn. damn, damn! What humour of the gods threw me to such beasts…is it for the meanest pun that I am cast so? a murderer they call me, yet they have killed more than I.  A thief they call me and still they rob the poor and ignorant ( He stands and paces the cell) Yet, there are many who see such injustices done.. but why was it to me that fell the responsibility to try to correct such injustices?….I who wanted no more than a farm, and a quiet life. What trick of circumstance brought me to these gallows?…No!.. settle your mind, Ned…hark now while there is still time.. go steadily over the facts, for there.is the secret of the rebellion”.

( He sits down, hands apart in front and reflects)

[  Here the stage is divided into two, Ned in his cell on the right,(from the audience’s viewpoint) the Governor, Judge Redmond Barry, superintendent Hare sitting in comfortable chairs. on the left. They are surrounded by all the trappings of their class, they pour themselves glasses of wine from time to time whilst they talk. Their conversation is calm, well constructed and carefully considered. Kelly’s soliloquy is questioning, his answers full of self-doubt till the end where he finally gains the upper- hand., then he becomes calm, self-assured, certain of his conclusion, whilst the others shift about in their chairs, squirming sort of as they become evasive. doubtful….

As each question is put up by Kelly, his side of the stage darkens, the other lights up and his question is answered by one of the three as if they were talking to him and vice-versa.

Judge Redmond Barry holds out his glass, superintendent Hare starts, quickly but clumsily reaches out and fills the glass from a carafe on the table..as he fills, they hear a cock crow..they all turn to a window on the set wall.]

Governor: “Dawn..it won’t be long now!”

Sir Red. Barry: “If it were done, best it were done quickly”.

Gov; “No passing regrets, Redmond?”

Sir R.: ‘With each mans’ death I too am diminished.. ha ha! But no, not this time…for Kelly’s crimes shaped his own end eh, Hare’?”

Hare: “Certainly, we had all the evidence..(snorts humourously) if such were needed, for he convicted himself by his intent…and that was clear enough”.

Gov’: “what then the talk of his mother?”

[stage darkens, return to Kelly.]

Kelly:”When the troopers harrassed and arrested my mother,…. did I act too hastily and with too much temper’?”

Sup. Hare.:”Well, to be accurate, the evidence against his mother was a little…thin on the ground (a soft guffaw from the others) to warrant her arrest…but!..we had to create a catalyst to follow through with the suppression of the district radicals.”

Gov’.:” Hear! hear!”( the judge snorts approval)

Kelly:” Did I act in too much haste to avenge the treatment given to my family , and friends?..perhaps I was bold beyond reason?”

Sup’. H.:” Likewise his father and assorted relatives and friends…, we had to make an example of the clan lest their outspoken behaviour be seen as a quality of leadership and so spark rebellion amongst the larger Irish community there in the district. Amongst such clannish people we had little evidence,…but we had power and arms enough to divide and accuse regardless of guilt…it is our right to rule…and the prisons , ours to fill!”

Judge Barry:: “ Tis a pity Kennedy, and his patrol didn’t rid us of the problem early in the piece.”

Gov’..”Being their own kind..you’d have thought they would have been more cunning….set a thief to catch a thief..”

Sup’. H.:” Ahl..they were ambushed…’twas bad luck for them…armed to the teeth they were too….’twas bad luck for us. that!”

(Lights up his pipe).

Kelly.:”Kennedy and his lot…that was an evil day!..for Kennedy was a brave man, the wrath of God be upon me for his death. I’m sure. But then…what were they to expect? Irishmen hunting Irishmen, they could expect nothing but trouble! Those canny bastards always set us against ourselves…divide and rule is the order of the day. “

Sup’ H.:( he draws on his pipe, expels a long breath)” ‘Twas very important to have their own countrymen hunting them, sets the train of doubt and mistrust amongst their community..They have a long memory: the Irish. And a long memory gives rise to a shorter temper!.

(all three laugh).

Gov’.:” He’ll be but a memory in a few short moments!…ha! ha!”

(the gov’ throws his head back to laugh at his own joke…the other two look at eachother and roll their eyes)

Judge B.:(taps tips of his finders together)” Though in the eyes of the Crown…we have achieved the desired effect of suppressing a sedition and or a potential uprising of the rebellious contingent in the community.. there is a mild..miid I reiterate, moral question that begs discussion. eye-eee (ie.) the deliberate setting-up of these people and incidents and subsequent loss of life to achieve the objective…vis-a-vis : the rooting out and extinguishing of seditious elements within the community”

Gov’.:” Deliberate setting- up?”(Gov looks to Sup.Hare).

Sup’.H.:(clears throat)”Well, Sir…er, to be honest….(clears throat again).

Gov’:” Out with it man!”

Kelly; (pacing the cell, stops, turns head to side,ponders) All the circumstances, all the petty infringements of law, the paltry nit-picking and harassment of our clan….(paces floor as he reasons) the Irish agin’ Irish, relative against relative it seems as if there was a more deliberate force at work than mere chance, it seems as if everything fell too, too smoothly into place, as if all the trivial accusations were deliberately set up to “strike at” our family but…no!,no!..surely it couldn’t be so ….. ?

Sup’. H.:” I did have a report from Superintendant Nicholson that, among other people, most strongly recommended the (gazes quickly to Judge Barry) “rooting out” of the Kelly family from the district and to (if I may quote)”send them to Pentridge even on a paltry charge” to take them away from the community and to reduce their influence in the area so, .yes, Sir, in some ways it was a deliberate “set-up” as Judge Barry mentioned, though I must admit that it did not go always as planned and I think it was our good fortune that there was not a general uprising at the siege of the Glenrowan Inn!..and if they had succeeded in the derailment of the troop train…?(he finishes with a nervous swig of wine)…thank heaven for the schoolmaster”..

Gov’.:”Ah, yes…the spoiler..”

Sup’ H ;”Spoiler, Sir?”

Judge B; “We have our own “spoilers”, Hare…every Jesus has his Judas…” He gulps his wine.

Gov’;” Quite so, quite so….That close, eh?…(Sup Hare nods in silence)Hmm, is this report common know ledge?”

Sup’.H.:” Only to the higher echelons of the department, Sir”.

Gov’.:(stands and begins to pace the floor with hands clasped behind back)”Then keep it such and Nicholson?…good man that, sees deeply into a problem….(pauses, reflects on his statement)..reward him with a promotion(suddenly raises finger) no, wait!..not promotion, money! give him a supplement to his pay..heh!heh!..money is the most subtle gag!…besides, we don’t want a too competent man near the “top” (stops pacing, looks to the others meaningfully)do we?”  (no word from the other two, so he smiles). You know I have received a petition of plea for clemency for Kelly….thirty thousand signatures…(he looks from one to the other, reading their reactions).Yes..(he sighs and sits back down)that is an awful lot of support in the community…, of course there is no chance of it happening, as if the Crown can relinquish so firm a grasp on law and order! No, he shall hang as ordained in the courts of justice.” (Gov raises his glass toward Judge Barry).

Kelly.:” But if it was such, if there was a deliberate conspiracy to victimise our family and friends, ….let me think..(counts out on fingers) Me. Mother, Dan, Jim, Joe Byrne, Aaron Sherrit, Jack Lloyd, Bill Skillion, James Quinn. Pat Quinn (stops counting and looks toward audience in a state of shock) all sentenced, all served time…there can be little doubt but that we were hounded into the courts for some covert reason . Damn their eyes that they have played us into an insidious trap! That the authorised government would sink to such depths to isolate and oppress a group of people as an example to the general mass. What twisted frame of mind would seek such notorious security? That it would selectively sacrifice individuals for its own greater comfort. No, it was not I who was the criminal in this escapade. Let the filth of their cunning permeate into the furtherest reaches of their administration, for they will reap just reward for the evil they sow this day (clenches fist in anger).

Judge B.:(swills wine in glass whilst gazing down reflectively)”I fear we have set a precedent with this action that can lead us down a treacherous path,”

Gov.:”How so. Redmond?”

Judge B,:””Tis a fateful pity we picked on such courageous an individual as Edward Kelly, on the surface he would appear “easy- meat” ; poor, uneducated country-bumkin! But there is a natural leader under that impoverished hide that may yet become a beacon to others.”

Gov.:” Come, come,Redmond. You colour us as tyrants and that..that(waves fingers) dirt as a new Brian Boru !”

Judge B.:”You heard him in my courtroom?…You read his “Jerrilderi Letter”?

Gov.:” Ravings! my dear man, ravings!”

Judge B.:”To us, yes, for we deem them as such….We dismiss the crude rhetoric as a maniacs rave….but I tell you there was a power in both those “ravings”, a power that came from a deep belief in the injustice of his jailing…of his family’s convictions….of the oppression of his peoples..MY peoples still!..Such a power has its own silent brooding strength within!….we are indeed fortunate if there is not an uprising after dawn today!”

(a silence prevails)

Gov.:(stands and thinks)” Then we must “colour” the man’s last moments.”

Sup’ Hare;.:”How so Your Excellency?”

Gov.:”Why, we shall apply that time-honoured system when dealing with the “honest ” opposition we shall LIE!..lie and dishonour their memory! (pounds fist into palm of other hand)Let the sentence follow its rubric script, only we, (pauses, wags finger) shall darken the language to the pitch of blood! What is left untarnished… let them adore! But I beg you, fellow corpsmen, let it be little or best still…nothing of respectable substance! We hang Kelly as a murderer; let us paint him as more than such! You; Hare, make sure you report his “cowardice” at the hanging, use any language at your command to make an unfavourable impression with our friends of the Press of his last moments….we must start now to nip any sympathy in the bud and we shall use all means available to do it!….”

Kelly ; “And still it was I who took up the challenge to right their criminal intent but Why?…why was it left to me?….many a time gladly would I have given over the reins to another…(softly).Christ too begged release, yet there was none to take it. Likewise my own position….Joe Byrne?…too cavalier….Dan? too young, likewise Steve Hart but of the rest?….like the disciples of Christ: no vision, it would have all frittered away till there was only the cruel oppression left and us rotting in Pentridge goal….No, there was no other to take the initiative….only I (slumps down on bunk, arms limp on lap…slowly looks up to audience, stands, points to audience accusingly) ..and you! you stand by and let me and the likes of us carry the burden of responsibility and pay the price!….what is your part in this history?..(stands transfixed, mouth slightly open, pointing finger lowers slowly softly speaks)..But what am I saying…they are invisible: the silent majority, they do not figure in history, till the suffering attains a greater magnitude, then and only then does the collective whinge become a moan of anguish!..aaaahhh ! (flings arm wide).bugger the lot of them!…it is too late to lament my lot now , I am condemmed to die dishonourably to give cold honour to a cowardly population….well, I’ll give them one thing to think about: at least I’ll die game!…(shouts)I AM NED KELLY…S0N OF RED KELLY!…”

Gov.:” I t is nearly time now, superintendant, go and witness Kelly’s “cowardess” and give it favourable report in the daily press”. ( sup’ Hare stands to attn, salutes and departs.)”Good man that (nods after Hare), I must recommend a suitable reward for his services” .

Judge B: “More money, Your Excellency? (Gov is about to sit, stops mid action and gazes questioningly at the judge)….since I’m sure we don’t want too competent a man near the top ” (sips wine innocently)

Gov.: (sits down slowly but comfortably)”I’m sure I can manage my …subordinates….Redmond..yes, more money, never fails (sips wine, sighs) I’ll have to order in another crate of this most enjoyable red, it sits most delightfully on my digestion!”

Judge B.: “It disturbs mine.”

Gov.:” That is because you gulp it down too fast my dear Redmond…I’ve watched you. no! ..don’t deny it, but listen, good wine is money to the blood..as the coins feel reassuring when they jingle in your pocket and you “embrace” them with your fingers before you spend them….So it is with wine, you let it lay a little on the tongue then press it gently against the palate to feel the richness of it’s fruit before you consume..BEFORE you consume, my dear Redmond….then it will not sour your gut!…(looks to the judge and laughs)ha! ha! ha!”

Kelly.:(returns to bench and sits, hands on knees) “Ah well, they destroy me….but I will take some of them with me…for I will be the nemisis of their hatred!…they have “roped ” themselves to me. Now, as I die…so must they..mine is not the only neck that will be gracing the rope !”(places head in hands and sobs gently he then stops, looks up) Mother… please give me strength to die like a Kelly.”

Judge B.:(taps fingertips together as he speaks) “Of course all this damn drama has risen out of the selectors’ poverty. There is such a thing as too much poverty, Gov’, I see it before my bench continually…”

Gov.:”….and where there is poverty there is crime…”

Judge B.: “And where there is wealth, I contritely add : Is there not greater crime ?”

Gov.: “Ahh! but that “crime” is affiliated, my dear Redmond , affiliated ”

Judge B.: “And we, I take it, are all shareholders?”

Gov.:(stands up abruptly, looks to the judge) “Yes, by God!, that or poverty!…I leave you choose the more favourable….(lowers voice)but come , Redmond, I didn’t make the rules, I am only a caretaker and I too must answer to a greater power….well aware am I that the substance of the poor always goes to enrich the wealthy (hunches shoulders appealingly)but what would you?…Those of us who pull the strings of Authority know only too well the tenuous hold we have on that power..and we know only too well that we rule not on our own strength..for what really are you Redmond , or I, if challenged to arms…but through the obedient strength of those we command..those we own…and if they but knew what we know…So, dear Redmond..Let us be thankful we are only hanging one man, not a whole class!”

Judge B.:”(drains glass with a wince)Pray we are not , in the long run, hanging ourselves!”

( stands to leave.) stage darkens.

Exit scene.

Act 5.

scene 1.

[A column of prison guards, six, three in front, Kelly, then three behind. Kelly is bound with arms behind back, a sombre shuffle against a sombre background…They are all dressed in black, the set is also dark and dingy….There is music heard faintly in the background….suddenly, a small spotlight picks out a brightly coloured bed of flowers downstage, a sharp contrast to the sombre scene. Kelly notices them, they all stop.]

Kellv.:(with amazement in his voice)”What beautiful flowers! “

(stage darkens except for Kelly…he steps forward, his bindings fall away, his hands are free, he looks at the flowers, then raises his gaze toward audience and begins an aria .

Ned Kelly’s Lament: (Sung to the music of the Symphonic Intermezzo of Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana”).

[ I would like to suggest as a “stage direction” here to download the above music on You Tube , perhaps on a separate tab, and listen to it in synchronicity to reading the words of the Lament. I wrote the words to be in sync’ with the tempo of the music.]

He turns to address the audience head on..

(words commence with the music; ..slowly, softly)

“Upon this dawn I come to ask you of me.

I come to ask you but one thing,

Will you hear me?

Will you grant this to me?

Shun this last desire to me

And I will accept your silence.

(BUT)

Why is this fate of mine,

That I should come to this?

Was such wild and unruly nature born but for a thief?

Come; here is my heart.

See what a man has done for thee!

Fierce were the battles of these wild and bold young years!

Was it for nought though ?

Hate: I’ve worn enough.

Love: I could give them no more,

They would not follow me to freedom.

What. could I do? what more could I do

But to pursue my dream.

What could I do?

Oh, you left me here

To pursue a lonely dream.

If such are dreams,

And such thy love….

Then,…(drops head)

Such is life!

(Kelly puts hands behind back as if bound once more, moves back into column, they start to shuffle off again, stage darkens, silence)

Kelly.:”Ah well, I suppose it must come to this..Such is life”.

(there is a “clang” as the trapdoor opens!)

Exit scene

END.

Sweet Innocence.

Image result for Pic of a cluster of Nuns.

I am going to tell you a story that happened back in the late fifties (last century!) as told to me by an aged Nun, who had some connection to the incident. While the story I tell, dramatized as it is, is a true story, the ending as I portray it, is , unfortunately a different one than the reality…but let us not lower our expectations, but aspire, like the ‘Sister Cecilia’ toward higher goals.

Sweet Innocence:

The knock was gentle and unobtrusive, indeed it had to be repeated before Mother Superior was taken from her reverie gaze out of the window over onto the cool spread of lawn out the back of the building. She turned to glance over her shoulder.

“Come in,” she called. A diminutive nun entered, aged around sixty years, her white hair shining against her white scrubbed face. Her cheeks glowed with two cheery pink blushes.

“Ah!. .. Charity,” the little nun greeted “A pleasant morning isn’t it?”

“Yes Sister…thanks be to the lord Jesus Christ in all his benevolent mercy,” Mother Superior answered in reply.

“Yes…yes…to be sure….Well now, Charity…you sent for me?”

“Yes…It’s about the choir.”

“Ah!” The little nun brightened up, for the school choir was her “special baby,” her pride and joy, and it would be said that several girls from her tutorage had risen to sing in the state orchestra! Proud, she was of her “little choir,” her “little nightingales.”

“Yes Sister Cecilia, the choir.” Mother Superior addressed the little nun with her formal title and this warned her of an imminent lecture or something. The little nun clasped her hands together as she always did when concentrating. Mother Superior turned from the window and sat briskly down at her desk. The little nun stood on the other side, waiting. “Now, Father Collins and I sat and listened to the choir last Sunday at the morning service…”

“Oh Charit…Mother Superior , weren’t they just divine, the sweet innocents, I do believe they sung their little hearts out last Sunday….”

“About Caroline Halsbury…” Mother Superior interjected.

“And Caroline Halsbury…” the little nun put her fingertips to one of her cheery cheeks and rolled her eyes to the ceiling… “that girl has the voice of an angel….if ever there was soprano material…”

“Sister Cecilia!!” Mother Superior cried impatiently.

“Yes?” the little nun answered, wide eyed.

“Be so kind as to stop prattling when I am trying to tell you something….goodness knows it isn’t easy what I have to say without the running commentary…”

“Well, I do apologise, Charity, but I am rather fond of my girls,” the little nun fidgeted.

“That may be so, Sister, and both Father Collins and myself agree that they sounded beautiful….charming….” She paused and toyed with a pen on her desk. “Not withstanding all that however, we were also of an opinion that their appearance is also of the utmost importance, almost, (since they represent the college in appearance as well as voice), almost as important as their singing…which brings us to Caroline Halsbury….” She paused expectantly, the little nun looked puzzled.

“I…I don’t see the point, Mother Superior.”

“Oh Cecilia, really!” Mother Superior leapt up impatiently from the desk and rolling her hands together strode once again to the window. There was an embarrassed moment when both nuns remained silent.

“Well, really, Sister Cecilia….its…its, well, that birthmark right across her face!” she blurted out finally.

“Birthmark?” the little nun seemed fazed.

“Yes, bother it, the birthmark!…that Port-wine stain..that livid blot across the entire left side of her face…surely you’re not blind Sister?” Mother Superior turned from the window, her fists clenched in frustration so the knuckles were white, she had hoped it would go smoother than this.

“Why of course I know it’s there, it is rather unfortunate for the child, I dare say, she’ll have to live it down her whole life…”

“…She’ll have to leave the choir!”

There was a moments stunned silence in the room, a shaft of sunlight burst onto the red velvet piano chair and two yellow- tailed finches alighted friskily on a branch of flowering golden wattle outside the window and sending sprays of dew onto the lawn. The little nun stood with her mouth open, hands raised in front of her, the cheery spots now faded from her cheeks.

“Leave the choir?…but why?…just because of her birthmark?… Oh Charity, I implore you…”

“It’s very, very distracting having to sit and look upon it, Cecilia, both Father Collins and I agree on it and I might add I overheard Mrs Herreen remark the same sentiments to Mr Herreen. Its just too distracting and it upsets the….the harmonious balance between the hymns and that glow of…of…well as you said yourself…’sweet innocence.’ “.

The little nun’s temper was quickly rising and the pale blushes on her cheeks now became crimson.

“Are we then to set a precedent of judging books by their covers, Mother Superior?”

“Oh, Lord bless us Sister, the whole world judges books by their covers, and men by the cut of their clothes and girls by their good looks! The choir is a showpiece for the college and as such should be above criticism in both performance and appearance! The girls in the choir should be the pick of the school, we’ll leave Nature supply their beauty, their voice training only is in your hands, Sister…you understand?” This tirade left the little nun speechless and sad, she remained silently standing with her head bowed. “So…” continued Mother Superior after letting that sink in, “unless something can be done to hide it, she’ll… unfortunately…have to vacate her place in the choir.” Mother Superior’s voice softened a little at the last. “Will not make-up cover it?” she inquired.

“Both her mother and herself have tried, but it has to be so heavy it becomes obvious in itself,” the little nun remarked quietly, fatalistically. Mother Superior pinched her lips together in exasperation of the whole ugly incident, none the less she pressed on.

“Well… that’s how it stands then Sister, if you cannot come to a satisfactory cosmetic solution by this Sunday, I’m afraid she’ll have to resign from the choir….That will be all for now,” Mother Superior said in a stern dismissal and watched furrow-browed as the little nun left the room. Sister Cecilia left the office seething with anger.

“How cruel,” she hissed, “how thoughtless,” she cried to herself, “who were these people to see only the substance of the thing and not the spirit? Who were they to judge the body and ignore the soul? How thoughtless, how odious, how cruel!”

All week she pondered and puzzled on the problem, made all the more difficult in that Caroline Halsbury was one of the main singers in the front line of the choir. At times the little nun would, in the middle of a meal or even at an afternoon service, be seen to mumble to herself or shake her head quickly as in dismissing an option, all to the inquiring glances of those near her. She had not told Caroline Halsbury of Mother Superior’s instruction nor had she told any of the other girls in the choir. She had hoped something would come to mind that would make all the unpleasantness unnecessary. But to no avail and here it was Saturday afternoon. Again her temper flared as she sorted the hymns for the Sunday Mass.

“Bother and bother them!” she said angrily as she slapped the music sheets down on the organ. She glanced up to the altar in a blush of shame for her temper. “I’d like to show them, Lord, put them in their place, oh no, not for me, blow it, but for Caroline.” Suddenly an idea flashed through her mind like a bolt of lightning.

“Why….why of course…how very….very right.” She quickly gave a sign of the cross to the statue of Jesus up on the left side of the altar, the statue of Jesus with the striking red sash draped across his sacred heart!

The choir sang out beautifully from the first note of Mrs Gilchrist’s deft touch on the church organ at the Sunday Mass, their collective voices harmonised as sweet as a chorus of nightingales from the darkened cloistral choral stalls so that many a parishioner in the congregation sighed for the glory of those sweet voices.

“Sweet innocence,” Father Collins remarked with a nod of his head to Mother Superior. “Sister Cecilia has certainly achieved top note with those girls,” he remarked, then; “and did you have success with that little suggestion we put forward, Mother?”

“I believe so,” Mother Superior answered, “though it is rather dark  there in the choir box, but I’m certain she would not disobey my instructions and I was quite clear as to what they were, I can assure you, Father.”

“I say, Charity,” Father Collins leaned down to her ear, “it would be an extra fillip for the college if those angelic girls could be seen more clearly by the congregation while they are singing”. Mother Superior looked at him, nodded her head and smiled.

“How true, Father, and I think I can arrange that.” she motioned with her finger for a little girl to come to her. “Go quietly to that doorway over there, and you see that row of switches there next to it, yes? Then turn on the one farthest from the door….you understand?….good, now off you go,” and she edged the girl on her way. “The light for the choir stalls,” she informed Father Collins.

The young girl paused at the switches and turned a querying glance to Mother Superior. Mother Superior raised her eyebrows and gave a curt nod of her head and the young girl threw the switch. An excited but muffled cry rippled through the congregation as all glanced to the illuminated choir stalls, not the least from Mother Superior who couldn’t suppress a cry of horror, for there, singing with such sweet harmony were a dozen girls, the pride of Cornellia College, every one of them disfigured with a crimson splash of a “birthmark” covering the left side of their faces, every “birthmark” exactly like the one occurring naturally on Caroline Halsbury’s face! Sister Cecilia, who was conducting the choir with her back to the congregation, now turned and gave a nod of respect to Mother Superior and Father Collins, the same crimson mark penciled vividly over her left cheek.

Penance.

Image result for Naples Italians on  mopeds outside a cafe in the 70's pics.

 

God I was feeling good..you know those days when you set out with a heavy work-load of appointments and things to do so you think you’ll never have time to do them all..and then suddenly this one and that one falls off the list through no fault of anyone’s and suddenly you have half the day to yourself to relax and just enjoy…Those were the circumstances that found me idling my time away in the shoe repairs, in the arcade in the city, getting  my good lady’s riding boots repaired.

“Cosimo’s Shoe Repairs” ; it is one of those small shops there off the side of the arcade. I always take my good shoes there to be fixed, have done so for years. Whenever I’m in the city, which is not that often, and I needed some leather work done I’d go to Cosimo’s.

Cosimo is a little bloke, light framed and with one crook leg. He is rather soft spoken but has the loveliest eyes, now I say that as one human to another…lovely eyes, you see them sometimes… but when I look I notice it’s not his eyes so much as the slope of his eyebrows…they slope away to the sides of his face at such an angle as to draw your attention toward his eyes…or at least that’ the conclusion I’ve come to!

“Are you in a hurry Mr. Gregory?” Cosimo asked. “For I can fix the heel while you wait.”

I waved my hand casually.

“No. No hurry for me, I’ll wait if it’s ok with you.”

I rested one arm on his work counter and gazed out of the little side window display into the arcade. There was a greeting card stall in the middle of the walkway and a young couple were browsing through the cards while holding hands and smiling into each others eyes upon mutual enjoyment of a particular card. I smiled for them.

“Isn’t love grand?” I remarked flippantly then I turned my head over my shoulder to the busy Cosimo and asked casually: “Have you ever been in love Cosimo?” I paused then ; “excepting the lovely signora of course.”

Cosimo looked up at me with those eyes.

“I have never loved my wife, actually…and she has never loved me… respect each other…yes…endeared to each other ..yes..but love…no!” He switched off his machine and rested his hands on the bench. “Raising a family, feeding it, working a business for it, let alone giving birth to it takes more than love, Mr. Gregory,…I’d say I was deeply dedicated to my wife, but love…no!”

I raised my eyebrows. Cosimo wiped his hands methodically as he pondered. Fate picks strange moments for its pronouncements of insight, this was one of those moments. He looked at me for a moment and then said.

“As for love…yes…I was in love once,…with a boy I served my apprenticeship with”…I must have raised my brows a little higher for he immediately gave a quiet chuckle… “Oh no Mr. Gregory…not like that”…he chuckled softly…”Men can love each other without there being any homosexual overtones… such insinuations are mostly foolish presumptions by foolish people…” he sighed “It takes growing up to realize that but yes I did love that boy and as you can see, I’m not the kind of male who’d attract the eyes of too many women eh? It’s the truth…I’ve never been handsome it’s as simple as that!”

He put my shoes down on the bench and gazed at his wrist watch.

“It’s smoko time,…do you fancy a cup of coffee?” I was pleasantly surprised.

“Why yes, yes…love one.” Cosimo nodded

“Good…come, I’ll shut up shop and we’ll go out back for some lunch.” and he did just that.

After we’d settled down at his laminex table with some bread, cheese, slices of meat and a rich brew of coffee in front of us, he began.

“I’ll tell you a story of those times, you might find it interesting and I’ll be able to put it to rest. I s’pose this leg was the catalyst of it all…It’s this gummy leg that’s let me down, they nearly wouldn’t let me migrate to Australia because I had a “crippling affliction”. It was only after I got some glowing references as to the quality of my work that they changed their minds…that and the fact that I’m self-employable, being a shoemaker, was what tipped the scales in my favour.

“ I’ve had the crook leg from birth, one shorter than the other, that’s why the extra thick sole on my shoe. The kids used to tease me about it, called me “draught horse” on account of the way I drag one leg after the other sort of…you know? I see it in other people with the same problem as me…that sort of heavy legged look, like one boot is full of lead, but you can’t see it in yourself…you know?

“ I learnt the leather trade from old Gino Barrina, he took me on as his apprentice along with his own son …Angie…a kid my own age. I used to board with them on account I came from a village out in the sticks as you’d say…By god, he was a good lookin’ kid that Angie! Not like me, I wasn’t any prettier then than I am now. You’d think life would give you something in compensation for ugliness eh? ha! oh well…Angie said to me once that I should get a job in a cheese factory, they could just stand me in front of the vats of milk to make it curdle!…but he said it in a more humorous way than those other boys…but it still hurt. “It’s alright for the more fortunate to poke jibes at the less privileged” I said “because they don’t have to live with the insult”.. and he never poked fun at me again.

“And I had their respect; old man Barrina and Angie, ’cause I could work…If you pull your weight in the workplace, you’ll always get respect from the other working people…There’s no worse person than them as try to worm their way out of their fair share of labour.”

” We would go to the piazza in the evenings after dinner, just when it was becoming dark and hang around with other working boys and girls. In the early days of our apprenticeship, we had no money at all, so we just used to mull about the streets, hands in our pockets kicking the kerbs and generally making a nuisance of ourselves, you know, like most young bucks with hot blood and no action to quieten it! But then when we got older we’d go to a specific cafe or “bar” and play the machines and drink coffee or whatever and it was at one of these “bars”…the…the “Fiori di Napoli”…the”Flower of Naples” cafe that Angie first met Rosa.

“It was just after we’d brought this little moped type thing, you know, one of those motorised bicycles. All the young blokes had them, those or scooters, and the first thing we’d do is knock the muffler off to make them louder…god! the racket!…when I think of it now…tch tch! Oh well, we were younger then.”

“We were able to buy this machine because of a stroke of luck came our way in the shape of a couple of  Americans from New York we met at the monthly market, who were looking to buy lots of Italian shoes “wholesale” or rather “black-market”…they would buy hundreds of pairs, take them from their boxes and pack them in these big zipped bags and take them back to the States as personal luggage to avoid import duty. and then rebox them and sell them as high-class Italian shoes for triple or more what they paid!

“Angie and I knew all the shoe-makers in Naples , so we arranged the sale and bunged on a dollar a pair for our efforts and with the profit, we brought the little moped.. and that’s how Angie met Rosa.”

“Angie used to ride it and I’d go pillion whenever we went out at night. I would ride it too during the day and Angie’d go pillion but when we went to the cafe’s he’d always be up front, it was just an unspoken agreement we’d come to…look:…we all know our places eh?…he was strong, handsome and I was the opposite…with a ‘club’ foot…I tell you this…if you don’t know your place in this world, there’s plenty that will put you there for free…eh?”

“Anyway, we pulled up in front of the “Flower” one summers evening and no sooner had we slowed down than I slid off the back like those cowboys slide off their horses in the movies, I was off and hobbling about in excitement and this girl that was standing in the doorway up and laughs this great big loud laugh that froze us both and we looked at her and she says:

“Well, if it isn’t the Lone Ranger and Hop-along Cassidy!” And she tossed her head back and roared with laughter. I sidled up to Angie and said:

“What’s she laughing at..the trollop!”

Angie was smiling a little and he gave me a squeeze around the shoulders with his arm.

“Ha! don’t take it to heart..hoppy!”

“And a little later I noticed him talking to her over in the corner of the cafe and I thought then…it’s funny how you get these premonitions…they looked a matched pair and her name was Rosa! And over the months they got on…Angie and Rosa, but there was trouble afoot with her family…father at least. He just didn’t like Angie…no reason that I know of…just didn’t like him…bad blood between the famlies?..Perhaps he had other visions for his daughter I guess…haven’t all parents got plans for their children?…but I ask: do they ever pan out? eh… ever?…the instincts have it over reasoned intelligence every time. The ancients knew more of the passions of mankind than we do. They knew certain gods had to be appeased. They understood the power of love…we think these days because we can place an explanation at the foot of the deity of the day that is both concise and clever that the case will rest there…but the gods just smile at our simplicity and, thankfully, the young continue to confound us! ha!”

“But Angie, he was too wild and Rosa too fiery for a quiet romance. And listen! I was as much in love with them both as they were with each other. Angie was my alter ego, strong where I was weak, handsome where I was ugly, so why shouldn’t I feel for her, although platonic, an affection equal to Angie’s love? Dammit ,  Mr Gregory, have you ever desired out of frustration with a crook part of your body, to simply tear it away and replace it with a better part or for that matter, the same with a part of your life! Ah! but we’re all frail creatures, so very, very frail…So when the father refused permission for Rosa to see Angie, was I not the perfect conspirator, the lookout in the shadowy doorway and at the same time the “lover” caressing his maiden…ha! ha! oh weren’t we innocent! “Her hair Angie…isn’t it lovely!” I’d say at some moments, as if I shared her with him, which in my mind I did. “Isn’t that skirt nice.” I’d say , ha! and she was a very pretty girl, that Rosa.”

“And so it went on ; these secret meetings, for months till it blew up in our faces one day at the markets. There is a point of balance in any event both physical and emotional that once tilted accelerates away regardless of our desires. Angie and Rosa had reached that point of balance.”

“The place was crowded…Jews, Arabs, Morrocans, English tourists all squint-eyed and suspicious, Americans…everybody it seemed shouting and over it all that eternal sound of Naples…the quick toot-tooting of car horns! Angie’s father sold shoes, boots, belts and leather jackets and that sort of stuff…and a few brass buckles to go with the belts. Angie hadn’t seen Rosa for a couple of weeks because of her old man’s opposition to it all, so he was all short-tempered and irate with everybody, even giving cheek to the customers so that his father had to chastise him in dialect a couple of times even. Angie just shrugged and went on touting the goods till I spotted Rosa coming down with the crowd, she was with her father.”

“It was a cold day with a strong wind blowing off the bay. I nudged Angie and pointed her out him eagerly (didn’t I too desire?). She stopped over the other side of the avenue whilst her father went browsing at a stall there nearby. She looked cold as she stood there with her arms wrapped around clutching her shoulders. Angie gazed at her longingly. She looked lovely, but yet sad, her long dark hair swished about with the breeze so she tossed her head every now and then and her little red lips all pouty and her body all impatient looking as she waited for her father.”

“Suddenly as if inspired by a reckless angel, Angie snatched a nice little leather jacket off the rack that sent a rattle down the rest for the violent of the snatching that attracted the attention of his father. Angie leapt the trestle in front with his father two steps behind calling angrily: “Angie…Angie…che cosa fai?” with his hand raised in front. But Angie didn’t even look back, he pushed hurriedly through that crowd toward Rosa. I was craning my neck in anticipation.”

“She hadn’t seen him coming so that when he reached her and gently placed the jacket around her shoulders she gave a little start and her red, red lips formed a little “o” of surprise as she saw it was Angie and her hand went quickly up to rest over his that was on her arm and I saw their eyes lock together into that silent sphere where lovers go and I felt as if I was with them too, I was that thrilled for their affection, till suddenly her father turned and saw them there and he started shouting fit to raise the devil and Angie’s father put in his bit telling Angie not to waste time and money on the daughter of such a rat-bag and Rosa’s father pushing toward the stall, his finger pointing and his face all contorted with anger so that both fathers had to be held apart until they cooled down and when he did, Rosa’s father turned to Angie and said :”

“No more, boy…no more seeing Rosa…I know the secret meetings, and I know how this…(and he pointed to me) this cretino keeps guard like a nobelman’s lackey…you think I am stupid?…No… finished. If  I see you near her again there will be trouble.”

“He spoke this quietly with a real tone of threat that it would be carried out…probably with a knife! Then he dragged Rosa away by the hand and she shot a look so appealing over her shoulder as would’ve broke the heart of a statue, till the crowd swallowed her up. Then Angie’s father got stuck into him also and finished by saying that he’d have to pay for the jacket out of his wages. Angie said nothing during both tirades, but I could see he was thinking.”

“Sure enough, a week later he took me to one side at the Flower of Naples and said:

“I’m leaving with Rosa next Saturday, I’ve sent her a note to meet me tonight and I’ll tell her.” I was agog! ”

“You mean you haven’t even told her yet?”

“No…but listen, she’ll agree…I know. I’m going to meet her under the bridge near her house…you have to be in this with us”…

“Of course I agreed, I couldn’t think of them leaving without me, they were my life! We met Rosa after dark under the bridge. I went and stood “guard” and that phrase “nobleman’s lackey” rose in my memory and irked me somewhat as I stood there in the shadows of the bridge pylons. But it was alright as her father had gone to his local bar for a card night. Would she go! Yes, yes, yes, oh! he only had to ask, hadn’t she thought of the same thing herself these last few weeks! And they embraced and kissed and laughed so I kept  saying;

“Shh, shh..you’ll wake the dead with all that noise.” But I was happy too, we were all going away to a new life..wonderful!

“Angie arranged for the following Saturday as Rosa’s father always went to the football every Saturday and that would give us time to get to the station to take the train to Rome, then on to the north.. to…to…Switzerland or even Germany. Yes, anything was possible, we were young, there was nothing we could not do..it would be fine! North, away from all the frustration of a secretive love, of stunted desires and I rejoiced, even though I had never so much as kissed Rosa, I felt she was mine as Angie was me as I was them both. Such was my dedication to my alter ego. His happiness was my happiness, his elation was my desire, I was fates’ go between!

“And that Saturday we were secretly packed and on our way and we would have made a clear break too if not for fates’ vindictiveness. It was a very wet day, so wet in fact that the soccer was washed out after the first half. We were crossing the piazza in front of the railway station with all our bags and Angie hurrying us along.”

“C’mon, c’mon the train leaves in a couple of minutes!” and suddenly we hear an almighty yell from across the square and it’s Rosa’s father calling to her at the top of his voice so we all jumped in our skins!”

“ROSA!, ROSA!” he bellowed and she cried out in shock

“Angie, run, we must run!”

“Quick…down here” Angie responded and we ducked down beside a row of empty carriages. I was last and I glanced back and there was the old man belting across the square in a raging pursuit.”

“Quick, through the carriages.” And we clambered up into the empty carriages then ran down the aisle with our bags held up in front.”

“Out, out, out,” Angie yelled and we leapt for all we were worth out the other side of the row of carriages. I looked back and Rosa’s father was catching up quickly. The loud speakers suddenly barked noisily:”

“The three-thirty express to Roma: departing platform six…all aboard please.”

“Under here” Angie cried again and we scrambled under another row of carriages.”

“Platform six, quickly Angie” Rosa yelled “We won’t make it!”

“There, run, hurry” Angie called and the father was right on our heels as we reached platform six. They were just about to close the gates when we rushed through, Angie threw the tickets to the guard there and did we scamper. All our bags clumsy and Rosa running fit to fly, her rich black hair like the flowing mane of a wild horse, it was all I could do to keep up, with my gummy leg .”

“I looked over my shoulder just as Rosa and Angie reached the last carriage and the train let out this mournful cry that was the siren as it was starting to roll. I looked back and her father was two steps behind me, his face all flushed and his breath labouring from the exertion of it all, but he had plenty of anger in him to carry him to the train. I lunged out with my duffle-bag and it collared him in the middle and he stumbled and fell cursing and rolled over and over.”

“Cosimo, Cosimo…c’mon, the train’s going,” Angie yelled as I picked up my bag and ran toward the slow moving-away train and there was Angie leaning out of the last door of the carriage so far that Rosa was holding him by his shoulders and a hell of a look on her face and he had his arm outstretched toward me and I was going flat out with my gummy leg making an odd “clopping” sound as I galloped along that empty platform.”

“The bag,” Angie yelled “Drop the bag, drop the bag” and my breath was struggling so I threw the bag to one side, I can see it now cartwheeling along beside me and I was running, running as fast as I could and gaining on the train.”

“Cosimo, Cosimo…harder” cried Angie.

“My leg Angie…it’s…my leg”

“Grab my hand” he cried and Rosa was there with her anguished face staring over his shoulder and her arms wrapped around his shoulders to stop him falling out of the train and I put on a spurt and reached out with my hand and our fingers touched with my other arm wind-milling around and he reached as far as he could and our fingers interlocked and I looked up at Angie and Rosa and then…and then..something strange happened inside of me. In that split second of touching Angie’s hand, I looked up at he and Rosa and I realised…I realised they were a pair…matched in love and they had their lives before them and I could never be a part of that life, never…never…never and oh I could have wept for the realisation of it all. But I saw in that split second that my illusion was over. You see, I had tried to take a free ride with love, as I had taken a free ride with Angie’s personality all those years and though I still might have made that train, at that same moment my spirit deserted me and I grew so tired, so tired as my fingers slowly slipped from Angie’s grasp, slowly, slowly…

“No, Cosimo..don’t give up now, Cosimo!” he cried as the accelerating train gently pried us apart and he called to me again but it was drowned by the mournful wail of the trains’ siren.”

“My leg won’t go anymore.” I sobbed as I watched my old life slip away with the leaving train. Rosa’s father suddenly rushed past me crying abuse to Angie and Rosa.

“Lazzeroni! lazzeroni! delinquents” in a hoarse grasping voice and he hurled a heavy stick he was carrying after the train. “Delinquents…delinquents” he cried more weakly as the futility of it all came home to him.

“They were gone. He stood there a while breathing heavily and mumbling curses, then turned and came back toward me, slump shouldered, defeated. But when he came abreast, he suddenly gave me a back-hander.. then another.. then another, that knocked me to the ground. He was about to hit me again with his arm raised when he pulled himself up and just looked down at me in disgust and spat on me. I…I didn’t feel any insult, any pain, for what was his anger? With each blow I had taken loves’ penance, for she is a cruel mistress, and on every kiss she puts a price, and every embrace is measured. And that was it. The old man turned and walked past a group of gaping people toward the station gate.”

“I s’pose I could’ve followed Angie and Rosa if they asked me, but I suspect they too came to the same conclusion I reached in that moment…my point of balance, and they went their own way which is only right for a man and a woman. And now, I’ve got my own life and family and I don’t think I’d exchange it for any other desire, no matter how alluring! “”Another coffee Mr. Gregory?”  I mumbled yes.

“So you see, I have been in love, and I don’t know if I want to be in love again! I might not now have the courage to face loves’ penance.”

“Static Electricity”.

Related image

I hope I have not given the impression that the only intellectual activity in the front bar of the Seacliff Hotel was “bending the elbow”…and getting inebriated?….I would like to assert that, like many front bars dotted about this great country, a good deal of instructive and philosophical comment was conducted on any given night of the week in that establishment…I would like to assert that..I really would….why, it would not surprise me in the least that the great discovery of the healing mould from which Florey extracted penicillin was not in a Petri-dish in his sterile laboratory, but rather scraped from the underside of a drinks-coaster surreptitiously slipped into his hip pocket by the very same Florey from down the local hostelry.

 

The front-bar of “The Cliff” had it’s own level of curious and investigative clientele right there on the spot…amazing revelation was not a stranger to that den of iniquity…there were things….strange things.. For instance, there was the night of Mick’s discovery of anti-gravity. It happened like this..:

 

Mick, in the middle of a discussion group debating the case of whether the Morris Minor 850. was the better than the Datsun 120Y. in both acceleration and cornering capability, suddenly felt the urge for “ablution”, excused himself with a polite “gotta have a leak” and made for the men’s toilet there just behind them…taking his pint-glass of beer with him because he was too lazy to place it on the busy bar, he alone, fronted the porcelain…the old ceramic urinal was in the corner, and as every male knows, you have to go to the least exposure risk place while “shaking hands with your first lover”…there, while doing his business, Mick leaned with his pint glass held pressed into the corner of the walls..the plaster there being softened from years of warmth and steamy moisture had become somewhat softer, so when Mick leaned his weight against the pint-glass pressed into the corner the plaster “gave” a tad so that the glass became “wedged” into the corner..at least, that is what a “novice” like myself would have concluded..A curious and investigative mind such as Mick’s concluded differently. When he zipped up and pulled away from the urinal and the wall, the glass stayed there, suspended, unaided by anything visible to the naked eye…almost like anti-gravity!….Now, Mick was already given to occult-like sympathies..”the paranormal” was normal to Mick…to inform that he once gaily announced to his mate ; Mark that when he and Tracey have a child they will call HIM “Andromeda”..well?

“Have a look at this!” Mick announced loudly from the door of the men’s toilet..indeed, there was hesitation…then as the obvious faded and curiosity took over the crowd surged toward the doorway…there being room only for a small number to enter, the crowding was extreme, the interest also…the general hubbub of opinion on “what was the power?” suspending the pint-glass of beer mid-wall, mid-air as the case may be was discussed…many worthy theories were put forward and rejected with equal intelligence…until, in a moments pause in the hubbub, the high, falsetto voice of Jeff Otto sang above the crowd…

“Static electricity”….

There was a gasp of wonder at the obvious simplistic truth of this explanation that solved the puzzle and the crowd, in accepting the obvious resolution quickly drifted back to their previous conversations at the bar.

And throughout the rest of the night, in those curious hushes that every now and then descend upon crowd chatter, Jeff Otto’s attractive falsetto could be heard to pronounce in a now more confident assertion…

“Yep!…that’s what it was…static electricity..simple, when you think on it !”

 

 

Glen and Mrs. Wright.

Image result for Old clinker fishing boat pics.

Did I ever tell you about Mrs. Wright and Glenn?..no?..Well, they were two “locals” down at the Seacliff Hotel…back in the old days, some of the last of that “war generation” that were retired or on the point of when we younger folk came along and taught them how to drink!

Mrs. Wright was a spinster, retired teacher who drove what I reckon was one of the last registered Humber Super Snipes…A big black beast she parked in her “reserved ” spot just out the front of “the ‘Cliff” when she went for a quiet drink at night…almost every night…looking back on it, and her being a local, I wonder if she bought that Humber off the deceased estate of Mrs. Herreen…now THERE was a tartar…a wealthy widow who lived opposite the Primary school I went to…I know she was a widow because she always wore black and wealthy because she was chauffered around in a big black Humber Snipe…She donated large sums to the convent school I attended and in return, she was sometimes given “control” of a class for an afternoon…she would stalk up and down the aisles of us fifty-odd kids swishing a cane into her cupped hand and looking threatening…she had the physique of Hatty Jaques and the eyes of Myra Hindley….but I’m getting off the subject…

Glenn was a council employee, whose job for the last years of his working life was seated on the council’s ride-on lawnmower…all day every day…out in the sun, which is why he got such a ruddy complection..and more melanomas cut off his face so he looked like a Jose Greko scupture..though it was a rumour that it was not at all to do with his affection for “poor-man’s port”..he was a very tall bloke who developed a kind of stoop which some tall people get from leaning down to people and perhaps a self-conscious compensation to not look too obvious…

Now, you wouldn’t think two such diverse characters would meet and become a “unit”, but they did..it happened like this…

There came to pass that Don Dunstan increased the tax on beer which raised the price of a ‘pony’ glass beyond what Mrs. Wright (we’ll call her Betty!) could budget in her retirement…BUT!..there was salvation.; Ron, the barman, informed her that there was no increased tax on wine, therefore the price of a “hock, lime and lemon” was now cheaper than the “pony” of beer she was used to having…

“Righto”, she decided “I’ll give it a try”….the first drink was “on the house” said Ron…a kindly chap…and she liked it and would have another thank you very muchly!

Of course, wine is a very different alcoholic beast  than beer, and so by the twitching hour of ten oclock, Betty was seen sitting, glazed eyed on the bar -stool, a cheroot-cigar stub hanging loose in her fingers..eye-witness accounts state that the cheroot first slipped from her fingers, did several somersaults to the bar-step in a spray of sparks…a close acquaintance stooped to pick it up , but was stopped in his action by a “teacher’s command” to “LEAVE-IT !!”…which were the last words she spoke that evening as she then slid ever so gracefully off the stool, gathering her heavy skirts modestly around herself and sunk to the floor…Ron, the barman witnessing this, to him so familiar ; “float to oblivion”,  leapt across the bar in what must be termed “the Barman’s Flop” for it was equal to an Olympic effort and calling for assistance carried her “wheelbarrow style” out to place her on the back seat of her Humber to sleep it off…it must be mentioned that Ron took her arms while the only other sober-ablebodied man in the front bar ; Glenn took her legs…”In a kindly and gentlemanly way” as Betty later assured all who would doubt otherwise.

When Glenn retired, they sold up their respective houses and moved to Kangaroo Island…Betty drove with the Humber and a huge trailer of their possessions to take the ferry across..Glenn, waving goodbye to all his mates, set sail in his restored clinker-built fishing boat to “chug-along” to the island…In days gone by, you would see several of these boats chugging out on the sea past the hotel, trawling the grounds between Brighton and Kingston Park, their owners standing aft of the boat, the tiller controller by their legs while their arm did that back and forth sweeping motion with the lure for snook..

It was a long afternoon in the front-bar while he said his farewells..it was a long “goodbye” drinking toasts to all the good times…and it was noticed that one particular old mate..little Johnny, the SP. bookie, in a teary moment, slipped a ruddy flagon of “Rovalley Rich (poor-man’s)Port” into the prow of the boat before he set off…”in case it gets a tad chilly in the ‘passage’ (Backstair’s Passage)” he comforted…then Glenn set off for Kangaroo Island..a delightful island just off the coast of Fleurieu Peninsula, approx 100 miles long facing the mainland…You can’t miss it.

It DID get chilly out on the water….Glenn DID consume the entire flagon, fell asleep in the bottom of the boat, was swept through Backstairs Passage which flows like a river with the tides…and missed Kangaroo Island, to end up on “The Pages”..last stop between Sth Aust’ and Antarctica…but that’s another story.

 

 

 

An Argument for Writing.

I posted this piece to show my disappointment at the dearth of  apparent interest in the posting of stories and tales on a certain blog site. I based this on the sad lack of follow-up commentary and others contributions to the page. Eventually, the page was shut down due to this lack of interest. A disappointing end to a good social direction and a sad reflection on the state of imagination from the “Left” side of politics.. So much promise…

Argument for Writing.

In the next couple of days, after the hullabaloo of the Canning by-election, I am going to put another story up on “The Lounge Bar” page (sadly incorrectly labeled as : “The Depository of Ideas”)…I have to concede that it is somewhat of a disappointment that it has not yet attracted a greater variety of posters all keen to tell those little bits and pieces that make up ours and others lives.

Sure..we are all busy or are more distracted with the politics of  the moment to bother with what may be seen as “distractions from the main game”.. or maybe we shy away from exposing our lack of confidence with grammatical correctness or expression…for I believe everyone has a story to tell and within even the most innocent of tales, there is the germ of conviction of the teller’s integrity , ”…as we gaze into the abyss “ and all that..

If there is one difference (amongst a legion of political differences) between us of the “left” and those of the “right”, it is that sense of awareness , of sensitivity toward the trials and tribulations of what we witness in the joy or the sufferings of our fellows. Not that ; “blind to difference black and white judgement” , nor that braggadocio of sneering “success” in status or wealth. With the socially aware, there comes a learned experience of cause and effect.

This state of awareness , translated to a sympathetic “there but for the grace of Fate go I ” understanding comes, I believe from a well-read background into classic and contemporary literature as much if not more that from the well-informed news sources. For it is from the nuances of interpretive writing, the “fiction” if you like, of the retold story of contemporary events and peoples that give us the deeper insight into the story behind the story…without which, we would be reduced to that black and white interpretation so favoured by the less informed on the ‘right’ side of politics.

After all, surely it is less from Herodotus and more from Euripides that we understand the psyche of the ancient world. It is more from Shakespeare and less from Whitcombe and Tombs ( publishers of school history books) that we understand the mind-set of medieval English history. It is the colour in the canvas that captures the eye and it should be noted by those too shy or too concerned for how their writing would strike the critical eye of their readers.; it is not angular perfection that is always the most attractive, but rather we often turn to gaze at the flaw in the glass…for it is always the “weakness” of a person’s character that attracts the most comment, so it can be that the innocent frailty of one’s writing can be the sweetest joy to the reader.

So let it be marked as a modern maxim..; “ The flaw in the portrait most attracts the curiosity of the watcher”.

Now go forth to “The Lounge Bar” and partake of life’s banquet!…(and bring a small plate of something literary with you).

( Sadly, it was not to be.)