21. Arthur Bonecott and Shorts

21. Arthur Bonecott and Shorts

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

THE POETESS, part 21


Mike came with a smallish suitcase and a back pack. the very next day and I helped him settle into the spare bedroom. There was only the one spare room, little more than a box-room really, but even though I had never foreseen needing it I had furnished it with a good second hand bed and a chest of drawers. Just in case, I had told myself, but maybe at the base-line of my thoughts I had always wanted someone in my space, someone not too close (unless his name was Roy) but near enough at hand to share the odd few minutes with me.

My mind was obsessed by the remoteness of Miller’s Cottage and I spent a great amount of my thinking being grateful for that remoteness because it seemed unlikely that anyone would discover what I looked on as a secret, that there was a man sharing my roof with me. It’s perfectly true that he wasn’t sharing my bed, but strangers wouldn’t know that. Strangers would jump to conclusions, and when they do that they’re invariable wrong.

He was with me for three years, and then he moved on. During that time he had acquired a girl friend who turned from being only that into being a lover and from that into being a wife. The room he rented from me was clearly too small for the two of them, so he moved out. I was sad to see him go. The cottage became empty again and I like was a tiny pea rattling around in it.

During his stay with me he’d been nothing if not a gentleman and it makes me smile when I recall that I even had dreams of sneaking into his room in a shiny silky little nightie and seeing how he would react. The tragedy was I did own such a nightie and would have worn nothing under it, but lacked the courage or the will to spoil his gentleman image.

Then, one day, I met Arthur Bonecott and was obliged to let him take me home. I was in the library where he worked, and was sitting in the reference section reading about Egyptian deities and cats. It had all started when a ginger Tom, ancestor no doubt to the old fellow who still strolls down my lawn on sunny summer days, took to wandering round the garden with me while I was attending to this or that weed, weaving in and out of my legs and looking as if he belonged with me. I don’t know where he lived because my cottage was then and still is sort of isolated. So I decided he was Egyptian, a deity possibly, and I wanted to find out more about him…

Can I help you?” asked the librarian, a good looking man in an uncared for sort of way.

His shirt collar was grubby is what I mean by uncared for. And there was a look in his eyes that suggested he might have got lost somewhere along the road of life.

Rosie was searching a shelf, hoping it was the right one, for a book on Egyptian mythology.

It’s a cat,” she explained with one of her more alluring smiles because she knew when she needed help. It had been a busy enough day, and she was tired and planning to go home very soon.

Any old cat?” he asked.

Egyptian cats,” she replied, “the sort that ancient Egyptian queens might have worshipped.”

Oh, then you want mythology,” he told her, and led her to a different shelf.

He had clearly been made aware somewhere down that road of his that dirty people might smell, and if he was going to be a bit grubby he’d best cover any offensive aromas with a little potent aftershave, and being a man he’d possibly used too much.

Maybe she was hungry or maybe it was that aftershave, but she came over all dizzy and found herself needing to sit down before she fell down.

Are you all right?” he asked, the expression on his face one of alarm.

It’s all right. I think … dizzy…” she replied, and passed out.

When she came round the library assistant was still there, with an attractive woman in her forties whose expression was pure concern. It turned out that she was the librarian and, being a woman, had some idea what it might be.

I suppose you skipped lunch?” she suggested, “intent on filling your lunch hour with anything but food?”

That much was true. Rosie had rushed round the shops looking for a pair of shorts that might both fit her and suit her when she went on holiday soon, and it had taken the entire lunch time before she found exactly the right pair, and they in the store where she worked. But that had meant the sandwich she usually obtained at a cafe went unobtained.

You must be a mind-reader,” she sighed to the smiling librarian.

Then you should go home. Have you transport?”

I’m learning,” she replied briefly, meaning she was taking driving lessons intent on passing the driving test and buying her first little car.

Arthur! Be an angel and take the lady home. It’s the end of the day anyway and time you were off home anyway.”

And that was what happened. The man, Arthur Bonecott, was ordered by his boss at the library to take me home. When I climbed into his car I could tell there was something unusual going on. The back seat was cluttered with dishevelled piles of clothing and the interior smelled musty. It was easy enough to guess what was going on

Do you live in here?” asked Rosie.

Well…” he replied, and the truth was apparent, that no decent man wants to admit that every night he parks his car where it won’t be seen and actually sleeps in it. But at the same time he doesn’t want to lie to a woman he doesn’t know. Arthur was clearly not a liar.

Strong lane,” she told him when it was clear he would be driving in circles rather than ask her where he should be going.

Strong Lane?”

Of course, hardly anyone knew where that wonderful little lane was, so she directed him, and it was mere minutes later that he pulled up.

Here you are,” he said, “I hope you find out what you need to know about cats!”

Are those all dirty?” she asked, indicating the clothing.

Mostly,” he admitted.

Then you can collect a really good armful and bring them in with you,” she said, “and put them in my washing machine. Then I’ll prepare a bite to eat and you can tell me all about being homeless.”

You can tell?” he mumbled, shy, nervous, self-conscious.

“”I can smell,” she told him, not rudely so much as factually. “Come on, Albert, if I’ve got time to wonder about cats I’ve surely got time to wonder about a fellow human being!”

And that was that. The poor man probably only needed a bit of verbal prodding to sort himself out, and I was up to that! I shoved his armful of quite soiled clothes into the washing machine, gave it an extra measure of detergent, took a couple of meat pies out of the freezer compartment and shoved them in the oven.

They’ll take half an hour,” said Rosie, assuming a cheerfulness she didn’t exactly feel. “Look at these.”

She undid her new shorts from the bag they’d been in and held them up.

These shorts might turn out being very important to you,” she said, “I spent my entire lunch break finding them and buying them, which meant I didn’t have any lunch, which meant I almost passed out in the library, which means you’re sitting here now. So while we wait for our pies, I’ll try them on if you promise not to peep and you can tell me what you think of them.”

And that’s what I did! And when they were safely on I told him he could open his eyes.

My goodness, they’re … tiny,” he whispered.

© Peter Rogerson 27.03.21


© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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Added on March 27, 2021
Last Updated on March 27, 2021
Tags: homeless, library, Egyptian mythology, cats


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 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..