Madge Carter by Lorraine Ellis
“Can you weigh the baby please!” I asked our local butcher.
“Weigh the baby?” Tom the butcher looked perplexed.
“Well yeah, see the chemist is closed and I need to get the baby weighed, I know I could pop down to the clinic, but it doesn’t open until two o clock and there’s always a long wait.”
“All right then but I’m not usually in the habit of weighing babies mind you.”
“Thanks, if I just wipe the scales down and lay this pillow on them first,” I said. I then passed my six week old daughter over the shop counter.
Tom laid Beth on the electronic scales smiled then nodded his head.
“Ten pounds six including bones,” he said.”
“Thanks a lot Tom that’s saved me a bloody long wait down at the baby clinic.”
“Yeah well don’t ask me to do it again I’m a butcher not a bloody midwife for God’s sake.”
At that moment the door opened and Madge Carter shuffled inside the butcher’s shop with her aged mongrel.
“Oh no It’s Madge Carter,” sighed Tom, “that’s all I need.”
“Gis a bone for me poor knacking dog, poor little sods on its last legs.
Tom hurriedly passed Madge a large knuckle bone, “here take this,” he said, “now get that animal out of my shop or else you’ll get me hung.”
Ignoring Tom’s panic and adjusting her hearing aid Madge Carter stayed in the shop. “Have you got a sheep’s head son?” she asked.
“A what?” asked Tom.
“Never mind standing there like a bloody old maid that hasn’t had it, I said have you got a sheep’s head?”
“No I haven’t” sighed butcher Tom.
“Well if you just part your hair a bit down the middle it won’t look like you’ve got one lad,” she went on dryly.
“Very bloody amusing,” snapped butcher Tom turning his back and slamming his meat cleaver on to his wooden chopping board.”
I placed my hand over my mouth to prevent my self from laughing out loud. After all, Tom had just done me a big favour and I didn’t want to upset him any further.
“Look will you get that stinking Mangy Mutt out of my shop!” shouted Tom pointing to Madge’s dog.
Madge turned to her dog saying “Come on Stanley lad we know where we’re not bloody welcome.”
“They eat them you know,” said Percy Watts who had just joined the queue.
“Eat what?” I asked.
“Dogs, the Chinese, they eat them consider them a delicacy there do.”
“Well this is England and I’m just not having that flea-bitten creature in here,” sighed Tom shaking his head.
“Used to eat cats in the war,” went on Percy Watts, butchers would pass ‘em off as rabbits there would chop of their tails, skin ‘em and just hang them off the meat hooks, looked just the same as a skinned rabbit they did.”
‘Well,’ I thought to my self, ‘rabbit pie would certainly be off my menu in future war or no war.’
Having settled my baby girl back in her pram I walked towards the greengrocers, Madge Carter was just about to go inside when I arrived.
“When did you get it over love?” she asked peering into the pram.
“Six weeks ago.”
“Scrappy little thing isn’t she, did it drop too soon love?” asked Madge – who wasn’t exactly the height of tact.
“No she wasn’t premature they just said at the cottage hospital that she was small for her dates I went the full time.”
“Cottage hospital! bellowed Madge, they didn’t bother with no fancy cottage hospital in my day! They just sent for me or our Aggie, aye I’ve seen the b#####rs in and I’ve seen the b#####rs out I have.”
I looked down at her grubby fingernails and thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have the misfortune to have ‘lived in her day.’
“By the way lass, I hope you’re looking after my little house for me,” went on Madge who had been the previous tenant of the house I now lived in and had moved into a warden controlled bungalow about ten years ago.
“It was a nice house but what with my arthritis and then my Albert popping his clogs it all became a bit much, it was the stairs you see.”
“Just couldn’t manage them anymore? Anyway, I hope you’re keeping the place clean.”
“Yes course I am Madge you’ll have to come for a cuppa one day,” I said knowing full well that she never would.
Standing in the queue of the greengrocers I was just about to be served when Mrs Symthe bustled through the door. The greengrocer immediately stopped what he was doing and scurried over to her.
“Why good morning Mrs Symthe how can I help you.?”
I would like three pounds of jersey royals, two aubergines, six courgettes and two avocado pears, oh and do make sure they’re ripe, said Mrs Smythe.
“We were here before her,” said Madge Carter. The greengrocer ignored her and began wrapping up Mrs Symthe’s order, “Thank you so much,” he said as he took Mrs Smythe cheque, “would madam like them carrying to her car?”
“Yes that will be fine,” said Mrs Smythe.
The grocer then carried her vegetables to her gleaming white car.
“Haughty b#####,” said Madge a little too loudly “thank-you costs knack all.”
The greengrocer returned to his shop a little out of breath, “What can I get you then,” he flustered.
“I’ll have a collie and four pounds of spuds please.”
He passed me my vegetables.
“Just a moment mate,” said Madge Carter, “Madam would like them carrying to her car.
“But I haven’t got a ca…” I began.
Madge nudged me into silence and together we left; followed the grocer out of the shop. “Where’s your car then,” he said a little irate.
“It’s there look,” laughed Madge pointing to my rather battered second-hand silver cross pram.
“What’s good for one’s, good for another!” chuckled Madge as we walked away.
We walked towards the estate and soon we’d reached the bungalows.
“See yeah then lass,” said Madge, “now don’t you forget to look after my little house for me I have some happy memories there.”
“Course I will Madge, you will have to come for that cuppa sometime you know where I live.”
Smiling to myself I waved goodbye, my baby-blues now lifted, Madge Carter always did have that effect on me.
A few months later through the grapevine of our small village, I discovered that Madge had become too ill to cope and had become the care of our local old folks home.
I always vowed to visit her but with a demanding baby to look after I never seemed to get round to it.
One dull rainy afternoon whilst standing at my kitchen sink washing the dishes I heard my front door open.
“Is that you love” I shouted assuming it was my husband. But then I felt puzzled because the small scurried footsteps didn’t sound at all like that of the familiar tread of my man’s work boots. I turned around and before me stood Madge Carter.
“Who the bloody hell are you! and what are you doing in my house?” She said.
There was a lost and vacant expression on her face she seemed sort of frail and so much different to the Madge Carter I once knew.
Madge began to rummage in my cupboards, “Will you get out of my bloody house I have to get my Albert’s tea ready!” she said.
“Sit down Madge I’ll make you a nice cup of tea.”
“Where’s me bloody chip pan and what’s that strange box doing over there?” she said pointing to my microwave oven.
“Come on Madge come into the living room and sit down a bit.”
“Look will you get out of me house.”
“Get out! there will be hell to play when my Albert gets home.”
With shaking hands, I thumbed through the telephone directory then with a lump in my throat and a twinge of guilt gnawing at my conscience I dialled the number to the old folks home………….
© By Lorraine F Ellis
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