by Sue Pearce
When my father got home from work, a pirate with wooden leg and eye patch was sitting on the piano, a parrot perched on the shoulder of his purple jacket. My mother was banging saucepans in the kitchen.
‘I see that man’s been here,’ said my father, tossing his Evening Mail onto the armchair.
Charlie had called again that afternoon. Tall with Brylcreamed hair, he had on a tweed sports jacket and a brown woven tie, but no coat, despite the cold. He parked his Zephyr Zodiac in front of our gate and squeezed himself and a large cardboard box though the narrow glass doors into the tiny porch, followed by a wisp of smog. Edging down the hall, careful not to mark the wallpaper with his box, he made straight for the front room.
‘How about a sherry to warm you?’ my mother asked Charlie, and while she fetched the Harvey’s Bristol Cream and two best glasses from the kitchen, he lit a cigarette, leaving the packet open on the mantelpiece for her to help herself. Eventually he opened the flaps of the cardboard box and lined up the contents on the hearthrug. Bits of straw fell out too but my mother didn’t pick them up while he was there.
Out of their newspaper wrappings came pieces of green Beryl Ware, black crosses on them to indicate they were seconds. Then Royal Albert plates with an Indian Tree pattern, also seconds. Lastly an assortment of glasses, mismatched cups, saucers and plates, marked ‘bone china, made in England’ which my mother paired up to see if they ‘went’.
She was about to pay for two cut-glass tumblers and a china cake plate when Charlie said, ‘Nearly forgot. I’ve a present for you,’ and out of the straw and newspaper came the pirate. He made some remark to her about a Jolly Roger and they both laughed. It seemed an ugly thing to me but she told him she would have it made into a lamp.
‘So what the dickens is it supposed to be?’ my father asked me, turning the pirate round in his hands.
‘A toby jug,’ I said, as the pirate went crashing onto the hearth and smashed into dozens of fragments.
My father blew on his fingers to warm them. ‘I think that’s probably the last we’ll see of him,’ he said. I wasn’t sure if he meant Charlie or the pirate.
Sue Pearce is older than she’d like to be. She writes often and paints sometimes and lives in Gloucestershire.