EAGLE’S WINGS AND CAT’S CLAWS

The soaring eagle does not admire the view.
It spears through the beauty,
lazered on its prey.
It knows nothing of God
or Capability Brown;
the precision of its wings
appreciated only by man,
the imitator.

A suburban garden conceals a coiled spring;
deadly swift arc of hunter.
The terrified scampering creature,
destined for fatal play,
is not aware of an alter ego
curled before the fire;
a woman offering a saucer of milk.

The snail is deaf to the music of the thrush;
the thrush, blind to the architecture of the snail.
We alone, admire the view,
share the pain.
We, the graceless,
the imperfect,
can,
if we choose,
walk in another’s shoes.

© Marion Sharville

CAR OWNER PREFERRED

——————————-

I was sitting in the Doctor’s waiting room the other day when, unbeknown to me the whole of my life was about to change. I don’t go to the doctor’s very often. Well men don’t as a rule, do they? But I’ve been having trouble with my back and the pain has been so bad lately that I deemed it wise to stagger down to the doctor’s to get something to relieve it. It’s a sure sign that something’s wrong when a chap can’t cock his leg over the saddle to mount his bike.

It was three years almost to the day since I lost Elsa and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I’d been managing quite well until now, I thought. I’d carried on coping with all the everyday things and I’d almost convinced myself that I was getting over it but there was still an awful emptiness inside. What with that and the back-ache I didn’t feel as if I could push a bus over, as my old mother used to say.

There is always an embarrassing silence in the waiting room as if those there are slightly ashamed of being caught going into a confessional. A small boy, with no shame was busy raking through an assortment of broken plastic toys, which had been well fingered and chewed by previous tiny visitors. I picked up a magazine. I’m not a one for magazines as a rule…except ones about motor cars and I didn’t expect to find anything in this one to interest me but my eye was caught by a column offering me friendship.

Friends have been very scarce on the ground since Elsa went so I decided to see what was on offer. There was a scattering of men modestly stating their attributes and rather a lot of ladies interested in gardening and long walks. Several declared that they were non-smokers and loved animals and I was invited to contact them. Some cautious applicants suggested that they would appreciate a photograph. They all seemed to be very sincere genuine people but the thing that struck me was that most of the ladies added to their list of acceptable requirements, ‘car owner preferred.’ Now, I don’t own a car…used to, but not any more. No one stipulated ‘bike owner preferred’. So, it seemed to me that I was destined to remain friendless. This made me feel worse than when I came in.

Just then, my name George Belling came up on the electric notice board announcing to all and sundry that the doctor was waiting to see me. In the time it took me to hobble the few steps to his consulting room I was already convinced that he would tell me I’d only got two weeks to live, the up-side of which, I bravely assured myself, was that it would solve the friendship problem. In the event, I was given a prescription for some liniment and told to bend my knees when lifting anything heavy. Being friendless didn’t seem to be so important any more and I walked out with a much lighter step. However, I missed the bus and sitting on the seat in the bus shelter, purposely designed to be uncomfortable, I realised that I was still clasping the magazine and the lack of friends re-imposed itself upon my mind.

For several weeks I could think of nothing but the possibilities opened up by the friendship column. The lack of a car was, it seemed, a failing on my part. I’d known that for a long time for I did miss my car and being retired, I hadn’t the means to replace it.

Thinking of the opportunities I was missing I was, at first, bitter at my inability to claim a friend because of my mode of transport. The men advertising, it appeared to me, were just hoping for someone who wasn’t bad looking and who could cook and would appreciate their jokes. Suddenly I had an inspiration. Why shouldn’t a man request ‘car owner preferred’?
No sooner the thought than the deed and I penned my notice and sent it off to the address on the bottom of the friendship page. I felt I owed it to myself to present my qualifications in the best light so I did not mention my weak back, my knock-knees or the fact that I tend to get wind when excited. I am a non-smoker and six foot tall so that should count in my favour.

I spent the next few days in an agony of suspense but endured this time of apprehension by cleaning and polishing my bike in case I received no replies and in a sort of attempt at an apology to it for classing it as second-rate to a motor car. After all, it had been a true friend to me since I became car-less.
When I deemed the time was right I went by bike to the local post office to fetch any mail from the box number I had given and had wind all the way home knowing there were three letters resting in my saddle bag.

Arriving home I considered myself very restrained for I made myself a cup of strong sweet tea with an extra spoonful of condensed milk to strengthen me before I opened them. There, at the kitchen table I opened the first one. It was a great disappointment. She sounded quite nice but had no car and hoped that because of her other attributes I might consider her even without a car. It hurt me to do it but it went straight into the bin.

The second one was from a lady living in Russia who had a Skoda. She was hoping I would pay for the transportation of herself and her car as she had always wanted to come to England. I was tempted but the state of my finances meant that this was another one for the bin. My hand shook as I opened the third. Two photos fell out and I stared with wonder at the photo of the car. It was identical to the car I used to own, my beloved Morris Minor. This is the one, I thought. It was love at first sight. I turned over the other photo and there staring straight at me, smiling and looking just as lovely as the day she left me for the insurance man, taking my car with her, was my wife, Elsa. I was stunned. Surely this was fate. Elsa, I knew, was a great believer in fate and I felt sure that here was my opportunity to win back the love of my life …and of course, Elsa. What’s more she already knows about my weak back, my knock-knees and my tendency to wind.

© Marion Sharville

THE GUNNY BAG

“Have you been queuing long?” She was feeling a bit confused and had turned to the man behind her.

“I don’t know, it seems like an eternity but my watch has stopped.”
“So has mine.” She shook her wrist, peering again at the lifeless dial.
“Mine too.” Another voice.
“And mine.”
“That’s odd.” She felt even more confused. “And look at the length of this queue. When do the gates open?”
“He says they’re always open.”
“Who?”
“That chap over there. The one with the halo.”
“Is he in charge?”
“Seems to be.”
“Do we have to pay?”
“I expect so.” He shrugged. “You don’t get anything for nothing, these days. Still. I expect you’ll get in cheap, being a senior citizen.”
“We’re moving.” She shifted her handbag to her other hand. It was making her arm ache; it was so heavy, “Why is it taking so long if the gates are always open. What’s the hold-up?”
“He’s dishing out our Gunny-bags.”
“What are they, when they’re at home?”
“Don’t you know? What religion are you, then, if you don’t know about Gunny-bags ?
“RC.”
“And they never told you about Gunny-bags?”
“No.”
“Well I never. I thought the Pope was supposed to know everything. It just goes to show.”
“What are they, then?”
“Well, by rights, you’re not supposed to take anything with you when you go. You’ll have to hide that handbag. But, when you get to the gates, St Peter does give you your own personal Gunny-bag in which are stored items collected over the years and you are allowed to take them in, That is, if there aren’t too many.”
“Really! That’s interesting but I wish they’d get a move on. I don’t know about you but I’m feeling a bit puffed out. That climb was a bit steep.”
“Jacob’s ladder, you mean?”
“Yes…and no handrails. You’d think they’d have had handrails or even a Stannah stairlift. After all, when you’ve just died, you’re not exactly feeling your best, are you?”
“No, and Rigor Mortis doesn’t help, either.”
“You’re right. Oh, it’s my turn next.”
“Name?”
“Marion Sharville.”
“You can’t take that handbag, Madam.”
“But I never go anywhere without it.”
“There’s always a first time….Gabriel, another one for the pile. Now, let’s see. Where’s your Gunny-bag?”
“That big one over there has my name on it.”
“I’ll say it’s big. What, in Heaven’s name, have you got in there? He opens it and peers inside. “Why,” he looks slightly shaken. “It’s full of worries. How did you manage to collect so many?”
“I do have seven children.”
“That’s no excuse. We’ll have to get rid of some of this lot.”
“You can’t do that. I’ll get withdrawal symptoms. I’ll have you know that I am a fully paid up member of the League of Anxious Mothers.”
“Really. And what rights does that give you?”
“We share our worries. A trouble shared is a trouble halved, they say. And every year we assemble and travel to the tomb of the unknown worrier. It is very moving.”
“That’s more than can be said for this queue. Can’t you get a move on?” The man behind was stamping his feet to ease them, remarking that the damp cloud he was standing on was getting to him. He added that he had been dead for twenty-four hours and he was still waiting. Turning to his neighbour, he grumbled. “It’s worse than the N.H.S. Look at the queue behind us.”
St Peter apologised. “Sorry. Yes, there is rather a lot. It must have been the ‘flu epidemic.” Turning again to the woman, he continued. “Now, Madam, let’s see what we can get rid of. This is much too heavy.” The woman responded with a bit of spirit. “You leave those worries where they are. There’s plenty of other memories to lighten the load…lots of laughs, for instance.”
“Such as?”
“There’s the time I put the baby’s plastic knickers through the mangle…and they exploded…And that bad winter, when, every morning I had to give our Gerbil the kiss of life as it was always frozen stiff, with its legs in the air. We had no central heating then. There was the year that I dropped the Christmas turkey, straight from the oven, into the dog’s basket and I had to re-pluck it before I could dish it up. Luckily, the dog, sensing danger had just moved out of range. Nobody ever knew, at least, not until now. Then there was the time, in a fit of dire economy, we dyed the faded living room carpet maroon and the little ones all had beetroot red knees and bottoms, for simply ages. So you see there are plenty of things to lighten the load…and there’s the Abacus.
“Abacus?”
St Peter was beginning to look all of his two-thousand years. “Spare me any more, please.” Then, sighing and shaking his head, said “These still don’t outweigh the worries.” Wearily, he tried to explain. “It’s all a question of weight, you see. Anything over the limit has to be discarded.”
“But, the Abacus…for counting my Blessings. That must be worth considering.”
“Hmmm…perhaps…wait a minute. What are all these letters? There’s dozens of them.”
“Oh, they’re my letters of thanks. I wanted to deliver them to Him, in person as I couldn’t rely on the post. I know they’re usually pretty good but I didn’t know the post code.”
St Peter was defeated. He shrugged. “I give up, you can go through,”
The man behind heaved a sigh of relief.
“About time, too. My feet have gone dead standing here, while you two argue.”
St Peter, ignoring the remark, turned and called after the retreating figure as she trundled off with her Gunny-bag.
“Hold on a minute, Madam,” he called. “Can you play the harp?”
“No but I play the piano.”
“Oh, yes, I’ve heard you…right…you’ll be with Les Dawson’s lot. Turn left at the end of that cloud.”

© Marion Sharville

THE FLIGHT PATH

The summer sun has risen and slowly warms this July day,
the chance to eat alfresco is commanding
and I totter to the garden with my breakfast-laden tray.

Relaxed, I butter toast and pour the tea and sit regarding
the Hollyhocks that peer at me above the fence.
Today, for once, no tasks await, too pressing or demanding.

Seemingly alone, I’m made aware my special place is dense
with a myriad fellow creatures, flying high.
The exodus from the high-rise block of nests is so immense

they brush graffiti with their wings on the canvas of the sky
and swoop across my path with so much zest… Oh!
There are so many of them that I cannot quantify.

I sit with buttered toast and marmalade from Tesco
and wonder, was it wise, to decide to eat alfresco?

© Marion Sharville August 2006

SHARING

We danced among the buttercups
when we were eight and nine.
I held one out beneath her chin,
she did the same to mine.

We played ‘Mums and Dads’ in the garden,
our shed had a table and chair.
She was ‘Mum’ to her baby doll
and ‘Dad’ was my old teddy bear.

We looked into the future then,
as far as we could see.
What shall we do, this afternoon?
What will there be for tea?

We played ‘Postman’s Knock’ at a party
and thought it a wonderful game
but the boys in the hall didn’t kiss us at all,
which we felt was a terrible shame.

We counted all the cherry stones
when we were in our ‘teens;
tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor
and dreamed some lovely dreams.

Her Bride’s bouquet, I caught with ease
and thereby sealed my fate.
I knew for certain, he would come,
even if, just a little bit late.

We thought we’d be friends for ever
but that was not to be,
for he was married to her, for a while
and now…he’s married to me.

© Marion Sharville

Grey Power Cut

On reaching the advanced age of eighty,
“Here’s twenty-five P extra, matey.”
The sight of such wealth
is bad for our health,
the insult to our years much more weighty.

© Marion Sharville

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