Thursday, 24 November 2016

Ladybirds, a gun and a cod.

certain

Saturday, down by the bins…

Alison is there, we say hello; she says she thought of me.

I ask why?

She says she saw that Bruce Springsteen had published a book.

Yes. I told her I had ordered it.

You couldn’t wait for Christmas she asked?

I explained that I couldn’t count on anyone thinking of it and buying it for me.

I thought of you she said.

Were you planning to buy me a Christmas present I asked? A little surprised.

No she confirmed.

We said goodbye and I went to tip my refuse.

In the bin furthest from the road I found a pile of old letters.

Not that I was searching.

Well…

A bit.

Another persons discarded life.

This discarded life is male.

Some of the letters were tied together with string.

I opened them.

One was a receipt for forty pounds of cod.

It’s dated 1858.

That’s a lot of cod, even then.

Maybe this person was very hungry.

And learning French – because one of the letters is not a letter but a page of copied out French verbs conjugated in the conditional form.

Maybe the cod were French?

That evening I sat at the table with Bart, who I call Jimmy. Jimmy is Dutch.

His brother was there too, and he also is Dutch.

Jimmy’s wife was there, her name is Ina and she is Russian, or Latvian, or neither – it’s complicated.

She brought a packet of Merguez sausages with her – apparently whatever her nationality is she is unable to accept an invitation to dinner without bringing something. It’s a part of her culture.

She also brought a homemade apple tart.

And, a bottle of live ladybirds.

I placed the ladybirds on a plant on my terrace.

I placed the apple tart under a dollop of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate brownie ice cream.

This morning, as I write, there are three ladybirds still there; another is on the washing line.

There is no ice cream anywhere.

After we finished the apple tart I showed them my bundle of letters from a discarded life; it was Bart- who isn’t Bart – who found the cod.

He also found this – ‘order for a gun.’

It too is dated from the 1880’s and it requests that someone give a gun that is in ‘their possession’ to a certain Hannah Quincy.

It took us a while to work out the word 'possession'.

But we had drunk a bottle and a half of red wine.

We worked out a few things about the discarded life.

They lived in America, their father had been an engineer and the family were buying a lot of cod around the time cowboys were the only people selling it.

So you had to have a gun.

These days chocolate brownie ice cream is enough.

ab/175

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