Monday 10 June 2024

Echoes by Peter Lingard, a pint of best bitter

For a fraction of a second, I see her smile, but it passes so quickly I cannot be sure if it was a trick of my imagination or an actual memory.  I am not even sure if I saw the smile in her eyes or on her lips.


I remember more of Anne, the farmer’s daughter who smelled of soap.  Her hazel eyes sparkled when she smiled.  Her large frame, muscled torso and short, curly hair come easily to mind.  I swapped Anne for Frances, an accountant’s daughter who smelled of perfume.  Why is it I can recall Anne with relative ease, but only have smoky, wispy glimpses of Frances?  Did I make a mistake?  Is my memory telling me I should have stayed with Anne?


If I had stuck with Anne, would she and I still be together?  What of the women who have loved me since then?  Their influences have helped forge the man I am.  If Anne had been my last and enduring love, I would be a different me.  I would probably like myself more, but I would miss all the fabulous females who have filled my life since then.  


Anne liked to carry my kit to rugby games.  My older girlfriend and status symbol cleaned my boots after every game and rubbed dubbing into the leather.  Not trusting my mother to do a good enough job, she washed and ironed my strip.  (I felt uncomfortable when teammates grinned at my clean strip with creases down the shirtsleeves and the front of my shorts.  I threw the items on the floor of the changing room to scruff them with my feet and Anne occasionally asked why my strip looked dirty before the game started.)  We travelled by public transport to the stadium, my kit securely held by Anne.  She always gave me a good-luck kiss on my cheek before tucking her hair beneath the edges of her scarf and taking her cold and lonely seat in the empty stands, waiting an hour or more for the game to begin.  Sometimes, she embarrassed me by vocalising her less than knowledgeable encouragement during the game.


In the club bar afterwards, she stayed constantly by my side, leaving only to purchase more beer for her underage boyfriend or to attempt to convince the cub reporter from the local newspaper that my name should be included in his summary.  When older teammates tried to impress Anne by telling her age equalled experience, she told them she was true to me and they laughed.  Whenever I received a lump or a scratch, her loving care embarrassed me.


I tried to change her and she tried to change me while Frances beckoned from the wings. 


Schooling ranked high on Anne’s priorities list.  While she studied for summer exams, I put sugar in the petrol tank of the math teacher’s car, ordered a ton of manure delivered to the English teacher’s house on a c.o.d. basis, and sent a letter of resignation to the head master in the name of the physics teacher.  For these acts, I was encouraged to abandon my scholastic endeavours.  While Anne did her homework, I drank beer and hung out in the town’s toughest bars.  When the police arrested me for underage drinking, disturbing the peace and causing mayhem, Anne secured my release and made promises for me that I had no intention of keeping.


Good, kind Anne wore knee-length dresses, white blouses and sensible sweaters.  Sultry Frances wore short shorts and revealing tops.  I suppose it is telling that I can remember the shorts and tops, but not the person who filled them.  When my friend, Allen Doyle told me he wanted to date Frances, I got there before him.


Sorry, Anne but you made me treat you so.


Frances seemed sophisticated, but her money went on cheap rooms in hotels where the proprietors never questioned what a pair of fifteen-year-olds was doing there.  In those dark and dusty rooms where the curtains were forever closed, she taught me more about sex than a girl of her age should know.


About the author 

Peter Lingard, born a Brit, served in the Royal Marines, was an accountant, a barman and a farm worker. He once lived in the US where he owned a freight forwarding business. An Aussie now because the sun frequently shines and the natives communicate in English.

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