‘Hey, Charlie, you old bastard, how are you? Haven’t seen you in an age.’
‘Good, mate, good … and you?’
‘Not bad, cobber, didn’t expect to see you here though.’
‘Under normal circumstances I couldn’t have made it. I was in town, so I had to pay my respects.’
… I know what you mean … sad state of affairs.’
‘Funerals usually are.’
The men nodded silently, each within their own thoughts.
‘So … how’s the missus?’
‘Oh … didn’t you hear, Fred, she passed on … hmmm … about four months back now, I reckon.’
sorry, mate –’
‘That’s okay, these things happen. We’re not spring chickens anymore.’ He looked around the room as if to emphasise the point.
Fred finally ventured
forth with, ‘Yeah … that’s for sure.’ He grinned and patted his rather rotund waistline.
Both men slipped into silence again. The steady drone of the surrounding conversation wrapped round them as the
moments ticked on. Fellow mourners drifted by with cups of tea gripped tightly in one hand, plates of small nibbly bits in the other; the general feeling was hot and oppressive.
Fred ran a finger around the inside of his collar
then loosened his tie before slipping off his jacket. ‘I guess all the formalities are over now.’ He scanned the room as he draped his coat over the back of a chair. ‘Want a beer … or some other coldie, mate?’
‘Beer’ll do, thanks Fred. Might be more comfortable in the garden too, eh?’
Fred nodded in agreement as he sauntered off to fetch the promised drinks. ‘So, Charles, me old mate …’ he said,
swallowing a long draught not two minutes later, ‘how’s retirement treating ya?’
‘Yeah … good … took a while to get used to not getting up at the crack of dawn Mondays to Fridays. And Ethel
helped … showed me there was more to life than being a postie. I took an interest in the garden - got into growing prize dahlias - that’s why I was in town today … had to set up for the yearly dahlia show.’ Charles went quiet for
a moment while he put together his next words. ‘And … you’ll never guess what …I finally got that small yacht I wanted,’ he said finally.
‘Good on yer,’ Fred said with a nod of appreciation.
‘Even Eth got into that once she’d mastered her seasickness … got her sea legs so to speak.’
‘Done well for yerself then, Charlie … can’t say I was as adventurous
as you. Molly and me, well … we kept doing the same thing with the dogs … always off to some show or another, gallivanting all over the countryside … remember?’
‘Crikey, how could I forget? She
had those ribbons and bows of hers everywhere. Still has the dogs, has she?’
‘Nah! Once the old arthurititis set into her hands she couldn’t do the grooming anymore and stubborn old cow that she is, said nobody
could look after her babies like she could.’
‘Yeah.’ Charlie smiled fondly.
‘And talking of dogs – the old posties’ peril – Johnno could tell a tale or
‘That’s for sure. I reckon he was the only bloke who got bitten just the once in thirty-seven years of service.’
‘And that was by old Black Jack, that cantankerous
mutt in Frazier Street. Remember how he used to sit behind that bush at the gate and just wait for Johnno to come along, rain, hail or shine?’
‘Then frighten the buggery out of Johnno every time. He swore the dog
laughed at him as he picked up the letters off the street. Jack only bit him the once though.’
‘Yeah … but that’s all it took … eh?’
Charlie and Fred chuckled
as they finished off their beers.
‘I think that calls for another one, Johnno’s shout, wadda yer reckon, mate?’
Charlie handed over his empty as Fred got to his feet. He soon
returned with fresh drinks, one of which he handed over with a salute.
Charlie wiped a tear away with the back
of his hand. Fred patted him awkwardly on the shoulder.
‘Don’t let it get to you, mate.’
‘No … no … tears of mirth, cobber. I’ve been chuckling to myself
over Johnno’s escapades. He was a right card that one … think about it … he gave the saying of ‘man-eating dog’ a whole new meaning.’
Fred’s face split with a grin as he recalled the
incident that Charlie was referring to. Fred took a swig of his beer. ‘And that should have been in The Posties’ Training Manual.’
‘Oh … bloody oath, Fred,’ Charlie broke
out into new chuckles, ‘I can hear him now … “Listen up, boys. Don’t let them furry four-legged mongrels sneak up on you and get the upper hand … or in this case … paw.”’
this, both Fred and Charlie doubled up with laughter, their faces turning beet-red as they gasped for breath.
Charlie couldn’t help but go on with, ‘” Do you want to spend most of yer day sorting yer mail a
second, a third and maybe even a fourth time? If the answer is no, then it’s about time yer enrolled in Johnno’s Postie Defence Course. You will not only save time, but those bothersome bite marks will fade away to nothing in an instant.’”
‘Oh, Charlie, you were always a comedian.’ Fred sat back crossing his legs and shaking his head.
‘Nah … not me, it was Johnno who took the cake there. I reckon I laughed for
a month when he told me about the day him and Black Jack finally had a showdown … and he was so calm and matter-of-fact about it … like it’s something you do every day. “Bastard … bloody mutt … scared the stuffing out
of me, muddled up me mail and tore the arse out of me good trousers. It was the last flaming straw, so I bit him back, bit his bloody ear orf, didn’t I?”’ Charlie had tears streaming down his face as he worked on getting a really good giggle
Then Fred picks up the story, ‘Then as droll as they come, he says, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears … bugger orf,” Johnno
says. “… I got Black Jack’s for keeps. Won’t hassle me again … won’t be able to hear me now.”’
Again, the men doubled up with a fresh bout of laughter.
‘But that’s not the best part…’ Charlie gasped. ‘Johnno calmly pulls out a bit of Jack’s ear from his pocket and threw it on the sorting bench and Mrs Burke fainted … remember? Hit the floor like a ton of bricks.’
The men roared once more. In between breaths Fred says, ‘Oh, yeah … what a character, eh?’
‘Yeah,’ Charlie agrees, dragging a striped handkerchief from his own pocket
and mopping his face.
Settling back again Charlie and Fred sipped quietly on their drinks as they enjoy their shared memory. Then Fred looked at his watch.
‘Got to get going, me old mate.
It’s been good catching up.’
‘It sure has.’
They shook hands then drained their beers.
‘So … here’s to old Johnno, then
… he finally got his dog,’ Fred said, flourishing his empty bottle.
‘Yeah,’ Charlie agreed, climbing stiffly to his feet. ‘And may he rest in peace.’
to that,’ Fred finishes with a Catholic flourish. With another chuckle the men parted. THE END