The Lodger, The Wrestler, Her Mum, and The Tonypandy Cupboard. End.
The walk to the cafe occupied a good fifteen minutes. It was a decidedly slovenly establishment even from the outside, located in the middle of a longish row of old fashioned, closed shops. There were few people about in this part of the city mid afternoon on a Sunday.
Roger held the tatty, glass pannelled door open for Mae. An electrical buzzer sounded as they went in. A large, ugly, fat individual with at least five days beard growth was sat behind a decrepit wooden counter. The hot, stale air inside smelled strongly of burned frying fat.
“Alright, Mae! Bit quiet today. The others are round the corner.”
Mae led the way round to a dingy back part of the L shaped premises. “Rodge, this is Derek the wrestling promoter.” Roger recognised the grey haired man in the fisherman's sweater Mae had pointed out to him earlier. “And this is Coll.” The broken armed barker whom Roger had briefly spoken with outside the marquee raised disinterested eyes momentarily. They were sat at an oblong table in the otherwise deserted back area. Mae and Roger joined them at the table.
Derek spoke first: “He done alright yesterday, your pal. Tell him if he wants a job I might be able to help him. I was thinking, the 'Lion Hearted Lightweight' maybe? Course, we'd have to train him up.” He turned to Mae. “Maybe Amy could do it?”
A waitress, a tired looking girl of about fourteen with greasy hair, materialised from somewhere and placed four cups and saucers onto the table from off a metal tray. They were big, shallow cups of off-white china in matching saucers with an aluminum spoon in each. Roger took the steaming brown liquid they contained to be tea. Coll reached out his good arm and grabbed a chipped sugar bowl from the centre of the table.
“Perhaps we could work out an act for 'em to do together? Big and little. The punters liked 'em yesterday.” Derek looked around behind him. “Where is he, anyway?”
Roger interjected: “We left Chris and Amy back at Mrs Benson's. I understand they're coming along shortly in my van with Mrs Benson's dismantled wardrobe inside it.”
Roger could hardly fail to notice Derek's gold filled teeth as he openly grinned. Too late Roger realised he might have implied rather more than he'd meant to.
“Blimey! Don't tell me them two are back on the job again already, are they?”
Although he couldn't confirm it due to the fact that she was seated alongside him, Roger formed the impression that Mae Benson had just rolled her eyeballs heavenward. Maybe in a vain effort to deflect the direction of the conversation. “At this precise moment probably. But like Rodge says, they'll be joining us in half an hour or so.”
“And after last night and this morning! She already nearly killed him in the ring!”
Mae slammed a hand hard down onto the grubby, crumb covered table cloth causing the metal spoons to jiggle in their saucers. “Look, give over wiv' that kind of talk, will yer! Else you won't be welcome to stop over no more! I've got a good feeling about this. I really have. I read it in the cards. Besides, I really want my Amy to find her Mr Right!”
Derek looked suitably contrite. “Yeah, yeah, alright. Sorry, Mae! So what's the deal with this wardrobe then?”
Coll leaned back in his chair, holding up an aluminum teaspoon in his serviceable hand. “If it were me I wouldn't be joining nobody in half an hour!”
Mae's voice rose to a seriously angry shout. “Yeah, well ain't you, is it! And it was never gonna be, neither!” She kicked out savagely beneath the table in the direction of Coll's shins. “Now I'm telling yer! Give it over!”
Coll winced angrily. “Christ, Mae! I've got a busted arm here!”
“Yeah, and that's not all you'll bleedin' have if you don't lay off thinking about my daughter in that fashion!”
Derek's calm voice cut in: “Put a sock in it now Coll, please mate. So Mae, what's about this wardrobe?”
Mae straighted her chair. “Its a super little walnut piece. Should polish up a treat.” Roger was amazed at how these people seemed all ready to tear someone's throat out one minute then it was all forgotten about again the next. Perhaps it was their way. “When Amy gets round with it we'll take it up to the workshop.”
Derek stood up. “Let's see if we can actually get something to eat in this place.” He moved off towards the counter in the outer part of the cafe. At the same time Mae also got to her feet.
“I need the Ladies.” She disappeared through an unmarked door at the farthest end of the 'L'.
Roger looked around the depressing room. Two other tables in this back area were unoccupied. The walls were of peeling, mouldy cream plaster. Two tatty posters, one promoting a pop group he'd never heard of, the other Status Quo, were pasted up on it. An electric fly exterminator was buzzing noisily on the wall by the door Mae had gone through. A couple more minutes plus ticked agonizingly slowly by.
Roger looked across to Coll. “So, uh, did you get your arm broken in the wrestling ring?”
Coll eyed him across the table. He was still twiddling the aluminum spoon between the first two fingers of his good hand. He seemed unhappy about something. Making a 'pishoo' sound he sent the spoon somersaulting through the air in Roger's direction. Roger realised that broken arm or not, he did not want to antagonize this man. “Yeah. In the ring. Accidents happen.”
Derek and Mae returned from opposite directions simultaneously. Derek placed a plate with a large cylindrically shaped pie on in down front of Roger, and another in front of Coll. “It's pork.”
Roger felt the pie. It was cold. It had a crinkle edged seam running around its top where the pastry lid was put on. Standing beside his chair Mae suddenly swore aloud.
“Stupid bint that I am! I've left me bleedin' workshop keys at home, haven't I!
Derek paused on his way back to the counter. “Well give Amy a ring and she can bring 'em over with her when she comes.” He called out: “Henry! Got your phone fixed yet, mate?”
“Sorry, mate! They say they can't do it till the end of next week.”
Mae let out an irritated sigh. “S'pose I'll have to go to the box down the street then. Anybody got any change? This new money's all so bleedin' small!” Derek dipped a hand into his trouser pocket.
Roger stood up. The scraping of the feet of his chair on the bare wood floor seemed unnaturally loud. “I think I really ought to now, too. Got stuff to do. You could bring the van back tomorrow perhaps, when you're done with it. Chris'll show you where I live.”
Derek, placing coins in Mae's hand, smiled amiably. “Okay, chief. Don't forget your pie. You can have it later on.”
Roger followed Mae through the outer room and past the counter and out into the deserted street.
“Phone box is down this way. Which way you going, dear?”
“Actually I'm going the other way.” He wasn't, but said it anyway. Roger walked off. From behind him Mae's voice caught up one more time. “Thanks again for all yer help today, Rodge.”
Roger was three or four streets away before he realised he was still carrying the pork pie.
I never saw any of them again. Not Chris, not Amy, not Mae, nor any of the others. You will have sussed by now I'm sure that I'm Roger, and that this is the story of my 'memory' day. When I came home from work the next day the van was parked up outside the house. It had been thoroughly cleaned both inside and out, and its fuel tank which had been more than half empty I found to be full. Its keys, along Chris' house key, had been posted through my letterbox together with a briefest of brief notes telling me he would not be requiring the room anymore. There was no request for the return of the unexpired portion of the three months rent he'd paid. And that is the end of the story.
As you can see I still live here. I believe I'm the longest serving resident in the road now. Come September it will be thirty-six years at No. 36! There have been a lot of detail changes in that time. Cars packed bumper to bumper down both sides these days, and more than the occasional parking dispute! And nearly all the houses have round black satellite dishes hung on their front walls now. I worked hard at my job and paid my mortgage and my taxes, but I never married. It was never a conscious decision not to do so, it just didn't happen. I'm sixty-one now. I had a bit of a health scare in my late fifties, and secured early retirement on the back of it. I still have a good circle of close friends of course, and I travel quite a lot. Italy and Greece are a particularly favorite destinations. And I'm very much enjoying tracking down old acquaintances from the past. Long lost school chums and the like.
I have the middle bedroom in use for what I call my 'computer room' nowadays. A bit like the bridge of the starship Enterprise, it is! I expect you will know about that website for re-uniting old friends? It apparently has over twelve million members now. And it's not just schools anymore. One of the most useful components - is that the right term? - is the name search facility. Back in the forties and fifties Christopher - Chris - was a commoner boy's name than it seems to be today. Add to it a very common surname and you have someone who I was friends with for a time at junior school round about 1953. I remember him mostly because we were making up bunting to put up in the school hall for the Coronation celebrations. There are several pages of that particular name pairing on the name search part of the site, and to help you identify individuals each one has the first line or so of its biographical notes laid out alongside it.
Strange creature, random chance, isn't it? On the fourth or fifth page, about the fortieth to be looked at, read:
'Recently retired head of family run antique furniture restoration business 'Tonypandy Cupboard.' Will be ...'
Tonypandy Cupboard! Now those are two words to trigger a memory alright! And so back it all came! The memory of that day! It seemed that particular entry had been put only a couple of months previously, too. Random chance at work again, no doubt. And yes, before you ask, I did click up the full entry. In a way it was almost disappointingly short. You want to hear what it said?
'Recently retired head of family run antique furniture restoration business 'Tonypandy Cupboard.' Will be celebrating thirty-five fantastic years of marriage to Amy Benson in September 2006. Have three beautiful daughters and to date four lovely grandchildren (two of each) to show for it! Would love to hear from any old friends who remember me.'
And that was it. I thought about making contact of course, but in the end decided against it. It is not as though either of them would be likely to remember me after all. A few weeks lodging plus three hours on a Sunday afternoon in 1971? For them it was the day following on their memorable day when love came to the unlikely setting of a frenzied wrestling marquee at a fairground. For me it has become my memory day awakened.
And I'm glad it has. For as Irish Michael said on that day all those many years ago: “God bless us all.”
Published on writebuzz®:
> Stories & Scripts