Shooting the Breeze

Shooting the Breeze With The Devil On Bexhill Beach
If you don’t like it blame Old Nick not me.

 
The view from my gondola
drifting over Malham Tarn,
in the early morning sun
was out of this world.
 
I spotted a toiling couple heaving
a bath chair up the grassy slope,
its passenger, an old man in a panama,
sat placidly strumming a Spanish guitar.
 
At the top and after a moment to catch their breath,
the couple careered the chair to the cliff edge,
tipping the ancient over the drop.
 
–Time passed–
 
Strolling by the Hull Marina,
onto the pier, past the Minerva, 
I heard a buckled wheelchair
in need of oiling
and a cursing couple pushing.
 
The passenger
an off-white suited gentleman,
raised his panama,
and held out an apple
a juicy pearmain, 
 
“It’s organic, grew it myself.”     
 
I declined.
 
He shrugged and swept his arms wide
embracing the Humber vista
and demanded his flunkies gave him, 
”A better view of ‘The Deep’.”
 
The pushing woman
wiped the pushing man’s forehead
with a fig leaf kerchief,
both chuckling in anticipation
of imminent emancipation.
 
At the ‘Oss Wash’ top
a hefty shove sent the bath chair,
slow at first, then rattling
 trundling faster into the Humber
till swept away in the brackish tide.
 
No trace remained,
no man, no chair, no Spanish guitar
just a bobbing apple core
and a jaunty panama boater.
 
–Decades later–
 
Strolling Bexhill promenade
rapping my silver top ashplant
along sea-front railings.
 
My mind was on ice cream,
I fancied a ninety-nine
and wondered if I dared.
 
The three were just ahead,
still pushing, still cursing,
but heaving now,
the bath chair lurching as
an axle prong gouged the path.
 
The passenger,
calmly smoking a Cohiba,
pointed his cigar toward the sea,
 
“Drop me off on the sand.”
 
They tipped him out, dumped the bath chair
in a water feature beside the pier
and disappeared.
 
Although in pain from a bodge- up private hip op,
I limped across to offer what help I could.
 
The old man stood,  
shook sand from a threadbare rug,
dusted grit from his fraying
one-time white linen suit,
straightened his buttonhole and asked,
 
“A deck chair? Would you be so kind?”
 
I took two from a stack
and as I rested my aching back
a dust devil erupted
overturning my chair, ripping the canvas
dumping me face-down in the sand.
 
The old man snorted laughing at the fun, 
until, aiming his finger like a gun,
commanded, in pure Navajo (or so he claimed)
the chiindii to be still. 
 
The wind faded,
the beach litter settled
peace was restored.
 
We sat together,
watching the dip of the sun.
 
Two ancients sharing
improbable histories,
shooting the breeze –
two as one.
 
I asked about Malham Tarn,
and the ‘Oss Wash’ affair,
he sighed and replied,
 
“Bear with me, they have made so many
attempts on my life I can’t recall them all.
They try to kill me. They fail.
They try again. They never give up.
It does not concern me. I consider it therapy.”
 
He opened a humidor and passed a Cohiba.
Curls of smoke rings hooped the sky
I had visions of virgins’ thighs.
 
I tried for answers to life and death matters:
Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden,
hell and heaven, the crucifixion –
his part in them?
 
He side-stepped every single one.
 
One question nagged,
I had to know.
 
The old devil read my mind,  
“I’ll tell you later – when I go.”
 
His companions returned as night fell,
hurling abuse and apple cores. 
 
He stood at attention, tipped his hat, 
limped from the sand, saluting, 
 
“Be seeing you.”
 
A glance at the sunken bath chair,
he wrapped his arms around his tormentors’ shoulders.
 
“You’re going to have to carry me.”
 
Waving au revoir he called, 
 
“By the way, Compañero,
Havana ran out of virgins – centuries ago.”
 
 
 
 

 

 

© coolhermit 2020
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Albermund

Deliciously devilish, ch. Cheers Albert:-)

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