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A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Then and now ... children dancing at school, and then years later...


You should have seen him, Bernie,” murmured Pauline as she lowered herself into the seat next to her husband’s hospital bed and stared for a moment at his motionless face, eyes shut, barely any sign of breathing before she reached in her bag for her knitting.

I’ll see him one time or other, in my own head and just when I want to see him. Anyway, who is him? And why should I see him anyway? What is the woman wittering on about?

She started clacking her needles, click clack, click clack, and somewhere in his head he knew what they were.

It was last night, and I missed Coronation street because of it, and you know how I never, absolutely never, miss Coronation Street. But it was Tony...”

The bully. The toad who stole my girl back in the fifties when I was little more than a nipper…

I mean, I couldn’t stop him popping in, could I? Him having only buried his Gladys last week, and at a loose end. And you remember that curtain rail in our bedroom, the one that keeps falling off from whatever it is that stops it falling? Well, he fixed it for me, and you were promising to fix it for ages. But, as I said to Tony, you’ve got a lot on your plate these days, what with the garden and shopping...”

I could have done it! I was only waiting for a spare moment, and I’d have fixed it. In fact, I never told you this but I planned to buy a brand new one, one of those with a fancy brass twirly bit at both ends… you’d have liked that. I’ll tell you what, when I get home I’ll do that. I’ll pop out and buy a nice new curtain rail with fancy brass bits at both ends…

He bought us a new rail, Bernie, one with ornate brass bits at the ends! And he put it up, and it’s ever so sturdy. And seeing as he was in our bedroom… I let him stretch out on our bed ‘cause his back was aching from all that lifting and working. I knew you wouldn’t mind. He looked so weary, lying there and his eyes fluttering like they used to before you and I got together...”

Him lying on our bed? How could you … how could you … what’s your name? I’ve forgotten your name!

Then he took me to the recreation centre where there’s country dancing… Every Tuesday night it is, and it took me back a bit… We danced to Sir Roger de Coverley… just like I did when I was a kiddie!”

And the light came up inside his mind as if someone had operated a dimmer switch, brightening the single spotlight that illuminated the stage of his life.

The teacher was there. He had liked Miss Primrose. All the boys did, and most of the girls. He was only little, not more than six or seven, and they were in the school hall.

Boys line up against the windows and girls against the radiators

That was Miss Primrose with her lovely cotton skirt swirling with every syllable that came out of her pretty mouth. That’s how he’d seen it back then. Every syllable … but then, her mouth was a lot prettier than mummy’s, and her teeth were whiter and her laugh never so far away, unless she got angry and then she hit you with a slipper. But that wasn’t very often, and you had to be really quite naughty, like making a blot with your pen on a nice clean page…

Now boys, go to the girls and bow like gentlemen and ask one of them if she’ll dance with you. We’re particularly lucky today because there are fifteen boys and fourteen girls in class today, so I’ll have to be one of the girls … you, Tony Templeman, you can be my partner. That evens it up. Now boys, go and find a girl to dance with and ask her ever so nicely if she’d care to dance with you…

He looked along the line of girls. There was Pauline Smith at one end, a nervous little thing with a runny nose which she couldn’t really help because runny noses were doing the rounds, but it didn’t make her look any prettier, then there was Annie Whatsit, Droopy Knickers, they called her, the boys in the playground when the girls were doing handstands against the school wall and you could see their knickers, all navy blue and Annie’s particularly droopy…

...And there, at the end, was Gladys Nugent. The pretty Gladys. The one nobody could say anything bad about because in truth there was nothing bad about her.

Would you care to dance with me, Gladys…

That was him! Brave like a warrior approaching the nicest girl who was ever born, and she smiled at him with that gorgeous little-girl smile, gap-toothed because she was getting her second teeth, and she whispered…

That would be nice, Bernie…

And he proudly led her to the two rows for the dance, facing her, and Miss Primrose left Tony Templeman for a moment while she carefully wound the gramophone up, changed the needle and placed it on the very edge of the brittle black disc before rushing back to her place opposite the Templeman boy.

Then the music began.

There could be chaos in the Sir Roger de Coverley dance. There could be unwanted mistakes and unrehearsed collisions, and everything that went wrong made the children giggle and Miss Primrose laugh out loud.

Bernie didn’t like it one bit. There was too much to remember, and if he did something wrong, went the wrong way or didn’t quite get it right, then he was on public view. The girls might laugh at him, mock him, say that he was clumsy, but the boys would be worse because he was making mistakes for them, tripping over his own legs so that they didn’t have to, and maybe even Miss Primrose with her swirling skirt would scorn him.

Thank you, Gladys, he said when the dance was over and he’d retained just about all of his dignity.

S all right she replied, smiling her loveliest gap-toothed smile and going back to line up by the radiators with all the other girls. And Bernie knew that of all the things in the world that he really, really hated, country dancing was the worst. Especially Sir Roger de Coverley.

The internal spotlight dimmed and once again Pauline’s voice came into focus.

It took me right back, to when we were kids at school? Do you remember country dancing and that ugly teacher with the long neck? We called her Goose Neck, but what was her real name? Miss Primrose, or something like that. But last night at the Recreation Centre we did the Sir Roger de Coverley, and it was so much fun! Why didn’t you and I do things like that, before your accident, Bernie? It might have added some spice to our lives!”

Not the sort of spice I’d like! If that’s what turns you on you’re welcome to go dancing with Toady Tony Templeman!

I’ll not tell you what we did after the dance, Bernie, and I really hope you can’t hear this, but I went to Tony’s for a coffee and biscuits, and he showed me the curtain pole in his bedroom and, the Lord forgive us both, quite a lot more… I hope you don’t mind, but you weren’t around and by the looks of it even if you are in the future you’ll be only half alive… A girl needs some things, you know, even an old girl like me...”

I’m easy come, easy go, little high, little low, any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me…

I’m going with him next week, Bernie, to the country dancing, it’s so much fun and even we older folks can do it… that is, if you’re not out of hospital by then. Or dead. If you’re dead… you won’t be able to care one way or the other if you’re dead...”

I’m easy come, easy go, little high, little low, any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me…

It might do both of us a good turn...”

© Peter Rogerson 30.04.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 30, 2018
Last Updated on June 6, 2018
Tags: Sir Roger de Coverley, Bernie, coma, dreaming, school, girls, Bohemian Rhapsody


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..