(published 'Cloth Ears' 1990)
There was a little girl, not much older than twelve, I guess, in a red dress, who came to my attention when I was selling cat’s meatfrom pub to pub for their bar food.
She skipped up to me and asked:
“What have you got in yer cart, mister?”
“I’ve got fat pipings of meat scraped from me ol Mum’s innards,” I joked.
She giggled an “Ooooh!” but, not really seeing why it was funny, questioned me again: “How much it cost, eh, mister? I’ve got a pretty shiny farthing in my pinny - is that ‘nuff for a tasty chewy bit?”
“It’s nowt a pound! But less of your questions, young missy. What your name then?”
“No,” she screeched in uncontroll¬able mirth, “Pansy PIE.”
“Pansy Pie?” It was my turn to laugh - for this name suited her down to the ground. Her face was as round as an apple pie, with a large spam forehead and eyes like large brown meatballs in lashings of milk.
I began to like this little mooncalf, despite her cheek. I decided o pull her leg.
“Who cut yer hair like that - your dentist!? Who set out yer teeth like broken fence-posts - the hairdresser, I suppose!”
She did not laugh.
She dipped her hand into the bottom of my cart and pulled out a particularly stringy clutch of valves from my mother’s lower endings. She also picked carefully into my tray of gnawing bones and positioning them carefully amid the other mess in her hand, she held it all up across her face.
“Is that any better?” she said, quite seriously.
A tear welled at the corner of my eye, for the pity of it all. I scuttled off to the next pub on my roster.
But she followed me, that little scare-flesh, through the encroaching murk of an early dusk.
My eyes flowed with something I could not explain. I turned round and looked at the dear Medusa of my heart - and realised that with no doubt I had fallen in love with her dripping mask.
Matthew Shakewell, the landlord, shook my hand as I arrived athe Jackass Penguin bar.
“Hi, Blasphemy!” he said to me, “how’s things? Got some juicy meatenings for my hungry microwave? It’s jawing on a wadge of used pork scratchings at the moment. It needs a lump of your choice cuts to suck…” He laughed.
I put my hand into my seeping canvas bag and pulled out the tenderest, pinkest steaklets. Shakewell whistled between his teeth and paid me a wow of a gratuity, which I immediately returned to him in exchange for a pint of the very best and a shovelful of scratchings.
I then sat in the corner and slowly sipped at my drink. But when I happened to look into the surface of the liquid, I did not see the reflection of my own face but the imploring eyes of my lamented mother. And whan I looked up at Shakewell’s humming microwave, I caught a fleeting image of the wide, white poppy face of sweet Pansy Pie, somehow desperately trying to tell me something with her haunting eyes.