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Letter From America: George Purdue

Ronnie Bray has a passing-strange dream involving a talking dog and George Purdue. Surely you all know of Senator George Purdue?

Read more of Ronnie's engaging columns by clicking on Letter From America in the menu on this page. Read also chapters from his autobiography A Shout From The Attic.

I became acquainted with George Purdue through a chance meeting with his wife, Mrs Purdue. When George arrived some minutes later he did not make any introductions, presumably because he did not know that she and I had met without exchanging names. They just walked away together before he left her in the corridor to walk into the men’s washroom alone, and that’s when I learned his name. But first, before you think me mad, I must confess that this was a dream of the early morning.

It began when the lady I came to understand was Mrs George Purdue and I were standing in a heavily carpeted lounge or foyer, each of us waiting for someone else. I noticed a large amount of jigsaw puzzle pieces scattered on the ground close to my feet. I stood about six feet away from her.

The pieces were of large size and covered with a fuzzy kind of baize cloth that carried the picture, although it was indistinct. I decided to collect them and save them from being trodden underfoot, so I bent down and began picking up the pieces.

Mrs Purdue moved closer and suggested that it would be easier and quicker if I used the carpet sweeper that stood against a nearby table. I did and was surprised to find that it picked them up very efficiently. After a few passes I opened the lid on top and took out the bits that had filled the container. They were over a quarter of an inch thick. When I held them in my hands I could see that each piece was comprised of several pieces of the puzzle interlocked.

It was at this moment that a gentleman entered the area. He was a broadfaced handsome man of about forty-five, younger than his wife by a couple or three years, no more, and he wore a white suit and a wide brimmed white Stetson. As soon as he took her arm they left, giving me the nod-to-a-stranger farewell that I politely returned.

I lost sight of his lady, but as he turned to enter the gentlemen’s washroom someone addressed, him calling him by name, “George Purdue!” It was a name I had heard of; a famous name. I wanted to greet him and called after him, “George!” He continued as if he had not heard me. I called again, louder, “GEORGE!” But he ignored my call a second time. I did not follow him.

I had left the building and was walking along a busy street in town. Dogs of all kinds were playfully running loose, but two especially caught my eye. They were large dogs, but not heavy ones. They had heads like salukis with silky feathery ears and slight flowing manes, and backs like oversized greyhounds. Their beautiful hindquarters were dropped slightly, and dappled like giraffe skin but having a smaller configuration. They fallolloped rather than ran, galumphing after each other in what seemed an ecstasy of spirit.

The dogs, someone told me that they were Malinkellios, a breed concerning which I readily admit absolute ignorance, had run past me to the end of the street, and then turned to bound their way back in the my direction. The lead animal turned to me as he passed and said in a sonorous and unmistakeably human voice, “The Senator understand,” which conveyed to me that this George Purdue was really Senator George Purdue. I began to realise in what context I had heard of him. There were other dogs on the street, and I played with and patted a few of the smaller ones.

The next time I saw Senator Purdue was as he was sat at a corner table in what was either a bar room or a café, but as no one either ate or drank I have no real notion of which it was. He was alone this time. He had on as leather belt that was more beautiful than any I have ever seen. It was mid to dark brown, gorgeously tooled after the manner of western belts, but in addition, it had pieces of leather artwork stitched onto it in bas-relief. It was a work of art.

I admired it openly. George, who had earlier been reticent, now became expansive. Smilingly he complained that as soon as he got some article like the belt, everyone in town had to have one, and he admitted that he found this copycatting irksome. “I know exactly what you mean,” I began. “When I wear my hat like this,” I pulled my hat down to my eyebrows, “everyone pulls theirs down. When I push it to the side, everyone pulls their hat to the side, and when I slide it to the back of my head, everybody slides theirs to the backs of their heads!” He nodded sympathetically.

The room was populated with five other men, each seated at a separate table or standing close to one. They were an odd assortment of characters ranging from middle aged to early old, such as might inhabit a bar room scene of a Western film. They were completely passive and made little contribution to the scene apart from their quaint but shabby attire.

At the back of the room was a serving window. I walked up to it and was greeted by a woman who sold whatever it was people wanted. I noticed some containers of pain killing tablets, a famous brand whose name fled from me on waking, but they were powerful, effective, and dangerous. They were also cheap. I paid twenty-nine cents for a bottle and wandered out into another part of the building.

I paused at the top of some descending stairs to read the label. Fortunately for my tired eyes – I do not sleep in my spectacles – the label obligingly turned itself into a printed poster said that the maximum number of bottles anyone could buy at any one time was six. This was to prevent fatal overdose. It also said that anyone wishing to take advantage of the “Sweet Death Option” should ask form permission from the shopkeeper to go ahead and swallow the contents of all six bottles. It seemed charmingly amusing at the time.

It was time to go. I climbed into my car, which was a huge contraption. Then the car turned into a limousine, whose driver, my chauffeur, was none other than Senator George Purdue. This did not surprise either him or me. As I looked out of the right rear window, I saw an airliner pass overhead from left to right at around three thousand feet. As it was at mid point of my field of vision, I was pleasantly surprised to see Concorde fly from behind us in the direction of the airliner, but two thousand feet below it.

My driver had not seen it, although I had called to him to “Look right! Look right!” He had not responded. Obligingly Concorde made a second pass in the opposite direction – the passenger jet had gone by this time – and when I shouted him to “Look right!” he did so, and enjoyed the vision.

Then, from somewhere towards the rear of my car came a loud roaring like a jet engine. I looked back – the car now had assumed the proportions of a single-decker omnibus – and saw a wheeled vehicle got up like a fairground rocket to give rides to children. It moved at an alarming speed for a children’s’ ride, and the din from its jet engine must have deafened its passengers.

Another, less exotic, ride passed by our windows, and then we were on our way. Me towards wakefulness and my Chauffeur George Purdue to – well, who knows – perhaps to catch up with Mrs Purdue again.

I asked Gay what it all meant, but she refused to interpret on the grounds that she had been teaching school all night – a recurring nightmare for the retired teacher – and had to carry the farmhouse table we use as a dining table, desk, operating platform, craft centre, and anything else we can think of to school because, due to budget shortfalls – a recurring nightmare for non-retired schoolteachers – they didn’t have enough tables. She also had to take the ironing board, even though it had a bump in it.

And there I left it. But if you have any ideas …. Or if you can get your hands on one of those dogs …. call me!


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