Chapter 4 : IV: The Dashing Mr. Bartie
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It makes me happy to update, especially when I update to such great readers! You are the only people who keep my muse alive and for that I thank you muchly!
Michael Fassbender as Oliver Wood
Richard Wilson as Artemius & Bartemius Such
Aidan Turner as Baby Bob Kerrigan
Carey Mulligan as Flopsy Ingletrough
By the way, many pardons for my sadly unedited/unbeta'd chapters!
Standard Disclaimer: If I own any part of this, I would be rich right now and bribing some publishing company to publish my sad excuse for work XD Sadly the only part of this I do own is the sad limerick you are about to read and my patheticly underachieving characters. Try bribing a publisher with that and you'll get dumped in a well :)
I decided to make a list. Five reasons why my life is better now that I have moved back to Limerick.
Number one: I get to come back to the good old town I was born and raised in.
Number two. I have a stable job.
Number three. I make enough to pay rent every month.
Number four. I live a life with purpose.
Number five. I have two saintly old dears for bosses.
Oh fuck it. This list is a right toss away from a pile of rat turd. None of it is true. Except perhaps the last one. The last one is true. Saintly, angelic, glowing with the light of the Holy Ghost behind them. I do have two wonderful bosses.
So wonderful that they wouldn’t fire me for forgetting to open up shop, going for a destructive little drive around town and finishing the entire thing grandly by scaring them half to death.
Well at least I hoped.
“So, tell me again what happened?” Mr. Bartie said as he sat down on his desk.
“Well…” I wrung my fingers nervously, imagining they were the lads’ necks. I could tell Mr. Bartie noticed my mood as he gave me a bit of a wide, yellow-toothed-charming-old-bugger smile and conjured up a cup of honey water to pop right between my hands. Crafty.
“Well Mr. Bartie…It’s quite a funny story, actually.”
“I would imagine, Penny-lass,” He smiled, leaning back in his chair. Damn that soul-searching smile of his. It was like a crowbar! That smile of Mr. Bartie’s could get anything out of you. Secrets, embarrassing baby stories, jokes you’d only tell when you’re piss drunk in a shady pub. Anything!
Damn the lads for abandoning me. Jobs, they said. Things to do, they said. You can explain by yourself, they said. Tripe.
I was abandoned in Mr. Artie and Mr. Bartie’s office (with only the knickerbockers, whostaloisits and prinkledopples to give me sympathy). It didn’t help that the windows were all wide open and I saw the whole of Limerick staring back at me though the green-tinted windows. Limerick was laughing out of its arse. The clouds, the trees, the passing babies in their prams, the playful puppies and early morning drunkards. The whole of Limerick seemed to be reciting a creative little poem that told the story of my life.
There once was a girl with an eerie look
Who thought she could write a damn good book
She mucked it up
When she fucked it up
So now she gone loony in that there nook
Limerick was not at all clever in the least, but it had the general drift of things. Besides, I remember hallucinating this with ten Guinness and an apple pie in me. It was bound to be terrible.
What the hell was I doing?
It’s not that I was scared of Mr. Bartie. Heavens no. It was more of embarrassment. It’s not everyday you give a sweet old man the scare of his life. To think, my job description only had three words in it (“go sell paper”), and I still managed to make a prize fool of myself.
The…somehow, even with more than a hundred miles between us, I had a strange feeling that Priscilla Codwell suddenly felt the urge to cackle.
I wrung my fingers and tapped my heels, tugged my hair and bit my lip a boatload of times before I actually told him the nasty tale.
The mishap at my flat. The lovely scenic route around old town Limerick. The charge of the light brigade and the resounding battle cry that would put even the Spartans to shame.
He did laugh. Quite generously too. Such a saint, Mr. Bartie. We almost gave him a heart attack but he still manages to see the humor in it.
“Jeezus child, you really know how to make a hash of things, don’t you lass?”
Perhaps it would have been better if he didn’t phrase it as “a hash of things”. My mother used the general term to describe my life and it did bring many painful and sudden flashbacks. But that was Mr. Bartie. Tact was far from his general being. Mr. Bartie was a sprite. A creature of general merriment. To be stereotypical, I would call him a leprechaun in the purest sense. He even looked like one. A tiny little man who’s favorite color was green. Not to mention a walking stick that distinctly reminded me of a shillelagh. And with his talents of drinking anyone under the table, he was the classic Irish cliché of what old men should be.
“It wasn’t all my fault sir!” I tried laughed with him, having myself a cup of honey water. “Bob was the one who got bleedin’ drunk.”
“By your influence no doubt. You children will never cease to amuse me. In all of my ninety or so years of life, I’ve never encountered such a bloody bunch.”
“Glad to entertain sir.”
“I suppose incidents like this have been happening daily since Artie and I left for Dublin?”
“Not really sir. It’s been very, very, very, very quiet.”
“Well don’t be so impatient, aye lass? Things will pick up soon. You’ll see. My nose has been twitching fiercely as of late and you know what I always say?”
“You’re nose always twitches when it smells money waiting to be spent on good paper,” I smiled.
“There’s a good lass.”
Mr. Bartie’s nose has been twitching for seventy years now. Every time, he says it will pick up soon. That business would come back. That customers will come flocking back our store. It surprised me how much faith he really had in the doddering old place. How much love he put into his work. Mr. Bartie had been making paper since he was a little boy and I doubt he’d ever want to do anything else.
I doubt that was true, but I knew in my heart that he believed it. Kinder than a saint. To be quite honest, I think I liked the Such Brothers more than I did my whole family. Which isn’t really surprising due to the fact that everyone in my family has a huge stick lodged up their arse.
We told a few more stories, had a few more laughs. Mr. Bartie brought out a tin of homemade blondies he’d stolen from the Convention’s refreshment table. He told me all about the Convention and how Mr. Artie hated every minute of it. Mr. Artie hated going out and leaving the store nowadays. Said he didn’t like the smell of fresh air as much as he liked the smell of paper. But Mr. Bartie forced him into it, even forcing him to stay a few days extra to give his brother a well-earned vacation away from the workroom (and Bob’s daft moments). It was sort of a geriatric reunion of sorts for the paper world’s finest. Their dear old friends were going to be there, Mr. Bartie said. Thank god the Great Paper Poacher was long dead. He would have ruined the party.
After a while, when I’d eaten Mr. Bartie out of kicks and knacks, the clock chimed ten and we both knew that parchment wasn’t going to be selling itself. If it did, I would have no career prospects whatsoever. I said goodbye and left him to his mountain of paperwork, taking one last blondie on my way out.
Wood and Bob were waiting outside. Might as well have their ears pressed on the door while they were at it.
“You bastards,” I sneered at them. I wanted to shove that blondie down one of their throats for what they did. But that would be too good for them, the pair of Judases they were. Instead I quickly gobbled it down in a fit of stress eating while I glared into their treacherous souls.
“Wasn’t so bad now, was it?”
“After being dragged through the race track of hell, Wood? No. This was not so bad,” I smacked his head so hard his beard might have fallen off one stubborn bristle at a time. “We are never driving again, you hear me? Next time, we take a portkey like normal Wizards.”
The git managed to shrug. “As long as you have the galleons for it.”
I hit him again. Harder. “Fine. But next time, drive like an old lady will you?”
“But he does drive like an old lady!” Bob laughed. “An old lady who’s had too much bevvies in her!”
“And you!” I hit Baby Bob. “You! You! You! You will never listen to me again! When I say you don’t drink enough, I mean it as a joke! Not a bleedin’ challenge!”
They both rubbed their sore spots, but smiled at me as if I’d just given them each a free drink. The pair of them dragged me down to the bench and hit me on the head too. Old smores. I sat down between them, hugging both my lads and giving them a kiss on the cheek each.
“I’ve gone loony in this here nook,” I muttered.
When we got back downstairs to the shop, all that talk about work and selling parchment was exposed for the guff that it was. I had my feet up on the register with the Crystal Ball in my hands. See, we poor folk of Limerick don’t normally get the Daily Prophet at a cheap price. It cost one whole sickle more to get it in Ireland and I wasn’t about to be cheated out of that.
So, there was nothing more to it. Instead of the Prophet, I got the Ball, Limerick’s own newspaper. Of course, it had more articles about garden gnome infestations and pumpkin pie fairs than it did current events, but it was the principle of the thing that counted.
Besides, I refuse to see Priscilla Codwell’s name every bleedin’ day. That would be inhumane.
I had the paper opened up at the store’s favorite section. The obituaries. As it was Thursday, it was customary for each of us to take a little bit out of our day to read about the dearly departed.
“Bob! Bob! You’re old friend, Fredrick Copperbaum,” I read out loud. “Owner of the local Aviary down Flint street. Passed in his sleep. Seventy-five.”
“Likely passed more than that while he was at it!” Mr. Barite’s voice echoed from his open office door. “I couldn’t come an inch of the man without holding me breath!”
Everyone laughed and banged their tables in agreement. It was not so much that we looked for friends who passed on, but rather tossers who’d finally gotten what was coming.
“Good riddance I say!” Bob chimed in from the workshop. “Dick sold me a dud owl last summer.”
“He sold everyone a dud owl Bob. Don’t go flattering yourself.”
“That’s not true Penny and you know it! Mine was the bottom of the dud barrel! Bloody owl ate all my letters! It ate them! That was before it started eating its foot.”
“Former Mayor Wilbur Innings, eighty. Also dead. Fifteen years of letting his dog shite on our front porch has ended!”
A resounding table-cheer from Wood, our resident pooper-scooper. “May his dog follow him to the grave,” he grumbled.
“Here! Here!” We all agreed.
“Next! Nan “Ba-Nanny” Publer, seventy nine! The children of Limerick can finally stop putting crosses beside their beds.“
“Oh dear. I knew Nan.”
I hadn’t realized. I bit my tongue and quickly skimmed the obituary. “It says here general invite to anyone who wants to attend her wake if you and Mr. Artie want to pay your respects, sir.“
“Thank you Penny-Lass. But likely Mr. Artie and I wouldn’t be invited to the Ba-Nanny’s funeral. No. She died hating me for breaking her heart.”
I laughed instinctively as if it were a joke, but turns out it wasn’t. It seemed like I was the only one who didn’t know the story. Old Nan was the scour of every child I’d ever met. I grew up thinking that she would one day eat me in my sleep. It was hard enough thinking of Mr. Bartie as a heartbreaker, but Ba-Nanny as once being young seemed too much for my imagination.
I hopped out of my chair and ran into Wood’s office, sitting myself on his desk (and most likely on some of his paperwork). “Why haven’t I ever heard of this!”
“Get out of my office Penny,” he warned me while still keeping his eyes fixed on a purchase order for dragon lard. But I knew better. I bent down and saw that beneath that bushy beard, he couldn’t keep a straight face.
“Tell me the story! Pleaaaaaaase!”
I could hear Baby Bob snickering from his workroom but I didn’t care. I whined and grabbed Wood’s paper and quill, making it all float up in the air until they told me the story.
“Uncle! She won’t let me work!”
Mr. Bartie apparated down and set Wood’s things back into sorts (each back in it’s messy little nook). He sat himself on the client-side seat, saying something about a day’s work going to waste.
I immediately put my feet up on Wood’s desk and sat on my heels and called for Bob to come quick. It was story corner with Mr. Bartie.
“Now let’s see here. I was a bonny young man then myself and Mr. Artie and I had just started the shop. Fine pair of lads we were. Turning every head in the village. Nan’s father used to own the shop across the street. She’d walk by everyday to bring him his lunch, but she was really coming by to see me fixing the window design. Of course she was much younger than me. Much younger. She was practically in her pinafore.”
I didn’t know what a pinafore was, but I could just imagine it. The whole scene. Dashing Mr. Bartie, with a head full of hair (almost auburn like Wood’s), clean-shaven and smiling as he went about his day’s work. Little did he know that a freckle faced, twin pleated Ba-Nanny was pressing the nose against the store window, frosting the glass with her dreamy sigh and starring right at Mr. Bartie’s right fit bum.
The thought gave me the shivers.
“Well how did you break her heart then?” I asked.
“Let me finish lass. Don’t be hasty. Where was I?”
“Pinafores.” Wood mumbled as he checked some more figures.
“Ah yes. Well, didn’t take a long while for her to grow into her looks and then some. Freckles faded and she put her hair loose on her shoulders. Right beauty she became and I thought to myself, might as well, since I still caught her looking though the window from time to time.”
I’d seen Old Nan around the village quite a few times. My mother used to be in her bridge group. She was far from a right beauty. In fact, I seemed to remember the better part of my childhood being afraid of Old Nan. Muggles had a poem that I was almost certain was inspired by Old Nan. The one about the crooked man with a crooked house and a crooked cat. Everything about Old Nan was crooked. Her back, her bad leg, her smile, her hair. But the scariest thing about the Bat was her eyes. She had one good eye and one bad. Kids used to tell different stories about how the other became as white as a goose egg. Maybe it was pecked off by a goat? Maybe a curse for harping at an innocent child who was secretly a short troll? Maybe it was one of her cats that scratched it off? Or maybe it was truly God’s only mistake in the world.
For the second time during the story, I shivered, and listened on.
“Well one night we were at this assembly. What you children would call a shindig? Like I said Well she was a bonny young lass. Grown in to her looks to be sure.”
I cocked my head to the side, a sly smile on my face. “I thought she was too young for you.”
“But still more annoying than a mole on the devil’s arse, mind you Penny-lass.”
“Sure as fairies put the petals on flowers in spring, as the night went on, I had pint after pint of Pendlegrass’s brew and was more than cheery than an elf with a candy cane. Made the mistake of asking her to dance with me, and that was that.”
“I still don’t see how you broke her heart.”
Wood finally looked up from his paper work and laughed. I’d missed something. I was sure I did. Even Bob was laughing from his workshop. Once again, I was out of the loop.
This time, it was Wood who’d been kind enough to explain. “Do you see a ring on Uncle’s finger?”
I shook my head. So what? I still didn’t understand.
“Nan expected Uncle Bartie to marry her.”
“After one dance?” I tilted my head.
Then, in some twisted way, it all made sense to me. Of course! This was the ancient times before women were allowed to be single, happy, unattached and still be a writer for the Daily Prophet without their mother breathing down their necks for grandchildren.
I seem to be carried away. Let me give it one more try:
This was the ancient times when love and desperation did lead to marriage.
There we go.
I felt an odd pang of kinship for Old Ba-Nanny. Sure she’d toss knuts on the streets when carolers came at her door, and sure she’d tell little children that all of their teeth would fall off if they swore. She was jilted woman for God’s sakes! She’d given her attentions to a man who’d lead her on and dragged her through the muck, taking advantage of her vulnerability.
I had to keep reminding myself that the dragger in question was Mr. Bartie. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Why didn’t you marry her, Mr. Bartie?”
“It was one dance Penny-lass! One piss-drunk dance at that. Besides, after that, the woman became insufferable! Clung to me like moss on a tree and got jealous of every pair of eyes that looked my way. She once turned a customer into a minx because she said the poor girl grazed my hand too long when getting her change. Nan looked like a helpless little doe from behind the window mist, but there is a reason why the name Ba-Nanny caught on.”
Insufferable. Jealous. Paranoid.
Alright, I added the last one.
But the words were very familiar. Very familiar indeed. So familiar that despite Mr. Bartie’s seemingly valid points (considering that Nan’s actions showed symptoms of psychosis), I still couldn’t help but give into the tugging feeling in my heart as my excitement sank.
I decided I would be taking a personal day tomorrow.
“I’m going to Nan’s funeral.”
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