I am still enamoured of the lovely old Joseph and Clara Smallwood.
I was listening to friend Randy of Open Line last week, and he had a most interesting idea. He wanted to hear from those who might have a funny story to share with his listeners about a trip on that vessel.
Having made untold numbers of trips on that ship, I didn’t have to search my memory banks very far back for such incidents. The problem is that VOCM listeners have what they regard to be high standards in the language that’s used to tell those stories. Unfortunately, relating this anecdote accurately while maintaining that standard is a bit iffy.
My only recourse is to go to the printed word. I know my friendly neighborhood editor may object somewhat, but he and/or she will probably let it go and blame it all on me.
I know I’ve told it before, but if you’ve already heard it, please be quiet. I think the first time was in “The Ashes of My Dreams.” It bears retelling because it’s absolutely true.
Other Half, 13 -year-old son Robbie and I were either on our way to the mainland, or coming back from the mainland. It really doesn’t matter. It was one of those day trips because the three of us were sitting up and playing cards or something on those tables between some of the seats.
There weren’t many people on the Smallwood that day, which leads me to believe it was probably a spring crossing. That doesn’t matter, either. Let me tell you what does.
Everything was quiet. The TV was tuned to a movie with perhaps a half-dozen people watching. There were no children scampering around. The seas were calm. We were quietly doing whatever it was we were doing. Oh yes, playing cards.
Something crossed a corner of my eye and I looked up to see this gentleman wandering down the corridor and heading directly for us. He was probably around 35 or 40 and didn’t look at all like a drunk or a ne’er-do-well. He was clean-shaven and, if I remember correctly, his hair was neatly combed.
All in all, he was quite presentable. No woman would have hesitated to take him home to meet her mother.
The only factor that didn’t fit in with his general appearance was that he was weaving slightly from side to side. Since the Joseph and Clara was as steady as a rock, the reason for his gait had to do with something other than wave action. A few beers from the open bar sprang immediately to mind. He wasn’t falling around, mind you, just a mite unsteady on his feet.
He was mumbling to himself. As he passed by our seat, his words were less a mumble than a distinct talking to oneself. There is a difference. When a person mumbles, he usually has no idea himself what he’s saying. When you’re talking to yourself, you know exactly what you’re saying. You’re just not interested in anyone else hearing.
This fellow settled into the seat directly behind OH and me, and there was no doubt that he was talking and not mumbling. His words were unslurred and distinct. When you read them, you’ll know why we remember them as they were.
If you are offended by even the suggestion of coarse language, you should stop reading here. Otherwise, please forgive me — the story loses its total hilarity if I don’t give at least the suggestion of the word. It went exactly las follows:
“All the little flowers. God made the little flowers, all the beautiful little flowers. F--k the little flowers!”
The three of us looked at each other, not quite believing what we were hearing. His tone was quiet and conversational, as though he were talking about the weather to someone else in his seat. There was no one else within rock-throwing distance.
We sharpened our ears and listened again. The words had changed, although not significantly.
“All the little birds. God made all the beautiful little birds. F--k the little birds!”
OH and I started to laugh. Perhaps others might have been more offended than amused. Robbie was at the age where he didn’t know whether to laugh or not, although his face was showing a rather pained expression.
We knew exactly what he was thinking, and wondered briefly whether we should be laughing at such language in our son’s presence. The next line made up our minds for us.
“All the little children,” he went on, again in the same conversational tone. “All the beautiful little children. God made the little children. F--k the little children!”
OH and I went into uncontrollable, shaking laughter. Robbie, seeing he might be forgiven for joining in his parents’ huge enjoyment of the situation, also began to laugh hysterically.
So, there we were, completely oblivious to how we must have looked to anyone else in that section of the ship. However, I began to recover enough to wonder if the man behind us would think we were laughing at him and take a little umbrage. But he went on, and so did we.
“All the little fish. God made all the beautiful little fish. F--k the little fish!”
By the time he got up and wandered off a few minutes later, I was thinking we were never going to recover from laughing so hard. It was a relief to see him walk with that same unsteady step to some other part of the ship.
We like to think that what he wanted to say and intended to say was “God bless the little birds,” etc., but a few drinks had sort of mesmerized his vocabulary. Such are the evils of alcohol.
And such was the Joseph and Clara Smallwood.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org