It was a particularly windy day. My aged companion, Crisp, was having trouble keeping her hat on. Added to that her skirt kept blowing up so she was having a devil of a time holding one on and keeping one down.
I suggested we should get out of the weather, as it wasn’t doing either of us any good when we spied a feather blowing our way.
“It’s the fairies doing this, upsetting nature,” she announced and looking around for more evidence to satisfy her ever increasing loss of mind.
She was still sharp in lots of ways, but they too were decreasing and blunt was becoming a more apt word.
“They’re up to mischief, so you’d best be on the lookout, never know when they might reach out and strike you down. We wouldn’t want that, as where would we be then?”
I think it was instinct when I felt her holding my hand.
As it had been raining for the past week, Lester had decided that enough was enough.
After all, the rain prevented him from going outside, and it was outside that Lester liked to be. He was an optimist, and he believed in positive thinking, which his mum always told him was the way to end the rain and hence allow him outside.
As it was with the rain pouring down and showing no sign of letting up, his mother had confined him to his room and the dining room so as not to take any chances.
She told Lester he had a weak chest, whatever that meant, and was forever hovering around making sure he was doing what she asked.
It was the Tuesday morning when she found him, curled up in the corner of his room chanting over and over: “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.”
“Lester,” his mother explained, “the rain will go away; we have to be patient for it to happen.”
But Lester was having nothing to do with that idea as he was determined to make it go away with positive thought. He then curled himself into an even tighter ball and increased the volume of his chanting.
Outside, the rain pelted down.
Lester stopped eating, stopped drinking and even though spoken to very sternly by his mother and his father, refused to give up on his quest to stop the rain.
His parents grew more and more worried.
They called in the Doctor.
By this stage, Lester had lost weight, was trembling uncontrollably, and his chanting was becoming an incoherent babble.
Still, the rain came down.
The Doctor came quick, quick, and looked Lester over, poked and prodded him, listened to him, sympathized with him about the weather and then declared in his learned ability that Lester had rain fever.
“What do we do?” asked his parents.
“There’s only one thing we can do,” replied the concerned Doctor, “I suggest we admit him to the local insane asylum; they are well equipped to deal with cases such as Lester.”
“But it’s a place for mad women. Are you saying Lester is mad?” asked his mother.
“I’m afraid so,” replied the Doctor, “I can have men from the asylum here within the hour. I think it is the best course of action. There’s no telling what lunacy this boy may descend into.”
With that, the Doctor left, leaving the parents even more worried. What will they say about them at the club, they wondered.
Lester was collected, and on the way to the asylum, the rain stopped, and the sun came out.
Lester was delirious with excitement. “I did it,” he exclaimed as the wagon he was in arrived at the asylum.
“You’ll like it here,” said a nurse in a voice that left Lester feeling more unsettled than ever. “We’ll make a woman out of you yet,” she added as she led him through the door.
Sister Mary was a kind woman, a great teacher, dedicated to her life in the convent and passionate about the lives and welfare of her Year 5 students.
She had a simple philosophy on life, “get on with what you had to do and stop whinging.”
“Life’s simple, you get born, you grow up, you get a job, you have a family, you get old, you die,” she said to us one hot Friday afternoon.
We’d learnt not to bring stuff to school as possessions were “the devil’s distraction’ and it was her job to remove as many of those as she could. As a result the drawers of her desk were filled with the possessions of wayward children who had attempted to flaunt her rules. We didn’t get them back, after all having them confiscated was one thing, but the lecture that accompanied the loss of our possessions left us quacking in our boots.
But apart from that she was kind, in a sort of Sister Mary way.
Beginning in the early morning, the trip to the doctor’s office, the silence in the car, the hesitation when arriving, the touch of hands, the reassurance, the feeling of support and knowing how good that felt.
The doctor was a kindly man; he’d dealt with many cases like mine.
He didn’t beat around the bush, he told it exactly as it was.
“Well now you know where you stand,” said Crisp, my aged companion as we drove home.
“And here I was thinking it was something fatal,” I replied. I’m sure Crisp could sense the relief in my voice.
“Well we’d best get on with it,” she said.
By that she meant the plans for our next trip.
“Life’s a series of steps you know,” she announced, “some go up and those are the good ones, so you gladly approach them to find out what’s at the top. It’s the downhill ones you worry about.”
We’d been having problems with mice. Baits had been doing their bit but there seemed a never-ending supply of them scampering across the kitchen floor.
I had discovered that there were reasons for not baiting in the house, as they tended to die there and so smell.
I hated the smell as it was usually coming from some difficult to access place (like behind a bookcase).
I have become paranoid about smells, especially pungent ones.
So when I woke up the other night and realised there was a smell I immediately thought there’s a dead mouse in the house.
In my mind I planned my next day, hunting down the poor deceased rodent. Checking under beds, I once found a dead one inside a piece of rolled up carpet under my bed, behind the bookcases, inside cupboards and in every conceivable space.
We get mouse invasions every year, usually when its been wet and I suspect that for most of the year they are content to play in the yard, feast on the compost and generally stay out of my world.
But we had had a lot of rain; the creek out back had swollen and luckily not caused us any problems.
One afternoon I was driving my grandson to his work when as we passed a farm that had a lot of water on it and he remarked about the dreadful smell coming from it.
I immediately knew what my smell was. Drying out after the rain.
Back home I looked at the creek to see it was receding and leaving behind a layer of silt, which was drying and accosting my nose.
Its one of those strong smells that makes you want to close every window and door. I know it will go away eventually but for now its one of the unfortunate consequences of too much rain.
When I was growing up we did have a flood where the water came up my back yard. Afterwards my job was the clean out the chook shed, which had been several feet underwater. The smell was horrific.
Thankfully apart form this inconvenience I have been spared that problem.
It was my first visit to the University Library and I was nervous as I’d heard so much about the place being huge and how easy it was to get lost in it.
Well it was certainly big. I checked my project requirements and headed off in the direction of the literature section, 800 in the Dewey Decimal System.
My work involved researching the work of Augustus Snide an English writer of some ill repute whose work was rather controversial in its day.
The lady at the desk suggested I try 822 – English Drama through to 827 English Satire and Humour.
It was a great start to have narrowed it down like I had but when I arrived it was a section that contained more books than I ever imagined.
So, I started looking at 822 hoping to find a reference to Snide.
I was startled when I heard a voice: “ Not a lot of luck, eh?”
Looking around I couldn’t see anyone. Thinking I was dreaming I carried on.
“Not a great call for books in this section.”
“It’s a mystery why they are even here.”
This time I turned around but there was no one there.
“Down here,” called a voice.
“Second shelf down,” called another.
Looking down I could see two small worms sitting on a copy of Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’.
“I beg your pardon,” I replied, “did you speak to me.”
“Of course, we did, no one else is about.”
“But how can you be speaking?” I asked.
“We’re bookworms,” stated the one to the right whom I noticed had on rather becoming striped vest.
“Bookworms?” I gasped, “you can’t be real? Can you?”
“You can see us can’t you?” asked the one to the left who was also wearing a vest but his was green.
“Well I can now but I think I might be going mad. Bookworms? What exactly do you do?” I asked.
“Well we hang about in the shelves, read to odd text, write reviews but mostly we keep the mites at bay. You noticed now few mites there are around here?”
“No can’t say I have.” I said looking about in case someone was watching.
“It’s nice to have someone to talk to,” said the one in striped vest.
“It gets lonely you know,” added the green vest.
“You’re the first person to come down here all week.”
“It’s a big library, why don’t you move somewhere else?” I asked.
“OH no couldn’t do that. Not the sort of thing we bookworms do,” stated the striped vest.
“We’ve been in 822 for years we have. Our whole family has been in 822 – 823 you know. My brother George and I have settled here on Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’ as we feel it reflects our lives.”
“Arthur’s right, you know, we used to hang around Emily Dickinson, over in 821 when we were younger and had more sass and spirit but as we aged we went for the more sedate volumes. When we get a bit down you’ll find us hanging out over at the Jane Austin.”
“Well sad to hear that, but look I’m looking for Augustus Snide, I writing a thesis on his work,” I said to them hoping for their help.
“Snide? Snide you say?” asked George.
“Never heard of him. Must be one of those hippy authors over in 827. Never had much time for them,” said Arthur.
“Want a good author, someone you can get your teeth into? Robotham, crime fiction, 822, good Australian author, you can’t go wrong,” said George.
“Yes, he is very good,” I replied, “ but its Augustus Snide I’m after.”
“You could try 828, miscellaneous writings, might have more luck there,” suggested George.
“I might try there then,” I replied.
“Yes, and say hello to Molly, you can’t miss her, a bit of a loud mouth, but more than helpful, if you get my drift,” added Arthur.
It was turning out quite a day, I mean who ever heard of actual bookworms?
It was one of those family reunions where as an aging member, it was becoming more and more difficult to keep track of the ever-growing family.
When I was young, we had these gatherings, and it was my cousins whom I knew, plus their parents, my uncles and aunts. Then in time, each of my cousins married, had kids, those kids grew older and married and had kids, and here I was in the thick of it, family left and right, and most of them I didn’t know who was with who or whose family one came from.
My Aunt Peg, my oldest surviving aunt knew who everyone was. As it was, she had great-grandchildren, and there was a promise of even more to come.
I felt like a fish out of water. Standing there, not recognizing most of the people there save for the occasional cousin who came my way and was grateful to recognize someone.
It can be a long day when your conversation begins with: “And who do you belong to?”
There seemed to be a myriad of small children running about, so it was a relief to finally be in the car heading home. Being in the thick of it can be tiring.
Miss Marble, witch, of 46 Grimace Street had long pondered the difference between a good and wicked witch.
Her own life, she concluded, as long as it had been, had contained elements of the good and bad.
Mostly she thought of herself as a good witch, but it was always , she was aware, a matter of perspective.
Mr Pruit of 32 Grimace Street most likely considered her a wicked witch. It was all, his own fault when he landed on her doorstep, demanding a supply of her garden fertilizer. He was, on a good day an angry man, but his rudeness to Miss Marble was something she took exception to.
When she began advising him about the use of her fertilizer, he had interrupted her telling her he had been gardening for fifty years and knew all there was to know about gardens and fertilizers.
The result for Mr Pruit was he went home with a bottle of fertilizer but, after applying it to his garden, discovered he was only capable of growing half vegetables. His potatoes were chat size, and his carrots only pencil thick. He blamed Miss Marble, of course, telling everyone who would listen what an evil and wicked witch she was.
On the other hand, old Potty Mary from 43 Grimace Street had no problem using the fertilizer.
The one issue Potty had was remembering to apply the fertilizer only to crops growing below ground. On one occasion, she had applied it to a crop of zucchini, and as everyone knows, you have to watch zucchinis, for if you turned your back on them, they’d grow to twice their size. Potty Mary woke one morning with a zucchini up against her back door. It took a dose of Miss Marble’s Reduction Potion to get things back under control and Potty access to her outhouse.
Meanwhile, Mr Pruit continued spreading rumours about Miss Marble and her wicked ways. It got so that Miss Marble needed to pay him a visit.
She asked if they could have a cup of tea and offered to make it.
Mr Pruit was none to happy about Miss Marble being in his house and sat glumly at his kitchen table while Miss Marble boiled the kettle. She slipped a drop of her Anger Reduction Potion into the cup she poured for him.
The result was instantaneous, and before her sat a much happier Mr Pruit. She took the opportunity to explain about applying her fertilizer, which Mr Pruit listened to and thanked her for the advice.
As she left, she left a bottle of her fertilizer on the table and looked forward to seeing the results.
As Mr Pruit tendered his garden, he thought he must be more polite to Miss Marble the next time he needed fertilizer, as she wasn’t such a wicked old witch after all.
Crisp, my aged companion, had been quite pensive of late.
She said, “I’d like lots of colour at my funeral. I want to be remembered for the character I am. Don’t you think that’s a good idea?”
We agreed her funeral notice would request bright and colourful attire.
The conversation for the next hour was about the funeral. It was all a bit depressing, and I hadn’t been prepared for it. Crisp had a list of songs, most from our teenage years though her suggestion of Jim Reeves, ‘He’ll Have To Go’ reworded to ‘I’ll Have To Go’ might have taken some organising.
The one thing we agreed on was flowers. Lots of them, bright as could be, spread all around the funeral chapel.
“You’re not planning of going just yet, I hope?
“No,” she said, “far too much fun still to be had.”