Great Uncle Augustus

Meleeny gave a deep sigh of contented well-being and dreamily allowed her senses to probe the moment. Stars hung in the clear mountain air, waiting to be gathered and kept for ever in her cupped hands. Music that Tandor plucked from his lute gently climbed the shimmer of the camp fire The soft warmth of her camp suit shielded her from the cold hard ground yet allowed her to feel the beloved pressure of Zarith’s arm around her shoulder.
“Oh if only this could last for ever” Zarith heard Meleeny’s whisper and replied, “It could last for ever if you really wished it to.”
Tandor laid aside his lute and the members of the little camping party settled themselves comfortably. Such a remark from Zarith was the signal for a story. They were not disappointed.
“I don’t think any of you met my great uncle Augustus. He was quite an ordinary chap, except for two slightly odd habits. First he collected ‘things’ not art objects or antiques, just ‘things’. Secondly Augustus always carried a note book, a large red note book in which he jotted down various observations . Sometimes he would transfer his notes to a diary, but not always in fact not very often at all,which made the whole business rather pointless, because as soon as a notebook was full he threw it away.
You could call this story the sum obtained by the addition of two odd habits. The addition came about by chance. Augustus was concerned that just throwing his red books away might lead to some unsavoury person reading personal remarks he had made about his neighbours, he looked amongst his ‘things’ for a solution, he found one, a paper shredder.
You ask, Danris, what is a paper shredder? Why a machine that shreds paper. In that particular case a hand cranked Machine with a large piece missing from the box that was supposed to catch the paper shreds. This event did take place in the nineteen fifties, long before the electronic note pads we use today. What use is shredded paper? I am sure there is an answer but it is of no importance to the story, certainly Augustus did not care, he just used it.
“Soon after Augustus solved his disposal problem an odd thing happened. Twenty rooks landed on the roof of a neighbour’s house, they stayed for exactly one hour making a considerable noise, then flew away. Every Tuesday at 10.30 a.m. sharp, the rooks returned , stayed for an hour leaving a considerable mess with their droppings, then flew away. Sarah Sanding the owner of the roof tried everything she could think of to discourage the birds but still they came even when the council allowed Pest Control to shoot some of them. The Tuesday after the shooting right on time the rooks arrived still twenty in number. Sarah put her house up for sale and went to live with her sister.
The rooks had almost been forgotten by the time Augustus had filled his next notebook. People had accepted the queer behaviour of the birds as one of nature’s puzzles. Best left to those who studied such things. Augustus was of the opinion that they were looking for their old roost in the trees the council had cut down. As to why that time of day or why so long after the felling, he had no opinion.
Augustus had the services of a cleaning woman of a somewhat taciturn nature she had remarked that shredding paper may be fun for some folks but not for those with a bad back who had to pick the paper up by hand when it blocked the vacuum hose. He had to admit the piece missing from the box allowed some of the paper shreds to fall on the floor. Being a fair minded man Augutus looked around for a receptacle to place beneath the shredder, saw one of his ‘things’ a basket with oriental decoration already virtually in place. He was just about to start shredding when he noticed that some paper shreds were in the basket, obviously drifted there from a previous shredding. He wondered if he could put the pieces together and discover what he had written there. With a little patient placing and replacing of pieces he established that the note read ‘Tuesday 10.30 a.m. 20 rooks land…’ There being no more pieces the note ended.
Now great uncle Augustus could add a pretty nifty two and two when he had a mind to. Her tried a few experiments. He soon established that anything that was written down had to be true. It would not work to say the sun was shining if it was not. Everything had to go through the shredder in to the basket It was no use tearing by hand or placing paper in the basket after it had fallen some where else. When he truthfully noted that the sun shone from 2 p.m to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and fed it correctly through the shredder into the basket , sunny Wednesday afternoons were here to stay.
Yes, Patrod, he had indeed made a wonderful discovery and he used it well and wisely for some time. Predictable periods of sunshine, lasting for a sensible length of time. A good crop here and there without causing a glut. Perhaps winning the first vegetable marrow prize every year was a little selfish, but not too bad. Nature can adjust to a little interference, but people can’t, that was where Augustus made his mistake.
Thomas Conrad was very mean but honest. When Conrad saw that rather simple fellow Huckroy drop a pound note Conrad picked up the note and returned it to its owner. Augustus truthfully saw Conrad giving Huckroy a pound note, knowing Conrad’s reputation for meanness Augustus was overjoyed. Thinking only to help Huckroy’s meagre income and the good done to Conrad’s soul, he wrote it down and put it through the shredder into the basket .
Every Thursday evening Conrad found himself handing Huckroy a pound note. Huckroy never thought to question his good fortune. When he came to Conrad’s gate for no reason that he could recall, he just took the note, thanked Conrad and went happily on his way. Conrad tried everything he could think of to stop himself being so foolish. Finally Conrad decided he must be the victim of hypnotism and went to the police. Unfortunately the police constable at the desk politely suppressing his laughter turned Conrad away, telling him there were no senior personnel available. .Conrad sat in the waiting room until he was forcibly ejected. Conrad took his gun and shot Huckroy. Many years later he died in prison. Right up till the end of his life when asked why he killed Huckroy, he would only say, ‘What else could I do?’
After the Conrad instance and others too painful to repeat, well perhaps I might mention Miss Strong a sour-natured woman with a face to match. Miss Strong saw a bully burst the balloon belonging to a little girl, she was so busy chuckling at the child’s dismay that she tripped over a curb, suffering severe bruising and a broken arm. At least Augustus had put the date so that it only reoccurred once a year. As I was saying when Conrad was arrested Augustus dismantled the paper shredder. Eventually, I inherited the pieces along with all his ‘things’. The pieces of the shredder were wrapped in a manuscript telling this story. I have often wondered, if I put it together again, could I use it more wisely.”
After the story the group settled down to sleep. Meleeny drowsily wondered, that story seems familiar, had Zarith told it on a previous camping holiday? No how could he have? Surely this was the first camping holiday they had spent together, or was it the first in these mountains? Before she could sort out the odd question in her head Meleeny fell in to a deep sleep. In the morning she would forget the puzzling reflections caused by Zariths story, she did year after year.


For several years I have enjoyed meeting with fellow poets and poetry lovers every other Monday at the Bear in Wantage. There we discuss both our own work and that of other poets both well known and obscure. Many of the poems in the category Wantage Poetry Club were first presented at the Club. That category dedicated to friends in the Club contains the poems which I have not as yet published in a collection.


Copyright © 2013 by Pamela Boal. The moral right of the author has been asserted. All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval systems, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.

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