There was something about the word that drew me in. Or, rather, something that drew my tongue out.
“Eat up!” my grandmother used to say. “Come on, eat up! I made it especially for you – it’s your favourite!”
But I didn’t eat up. Instead, I put my feet up, up and onto the vacant chair opposite. Grandfather, the chair’s usual occupant, was busy tending to his chickens. And, with my feet up, my long legs made an excellent table; a table within a table – not at all dissimilar to the set of leather-topped-mahogany nesting tables in Grandmother’s lounge. My legable, though, being more akin to white birch than rich mahogany – white with a tracing-paper topping!
Still, I had made a table and, upon it, I placed a secret stash of the legs of others. I had, at one time, been a lover of roasted chicken, but that was before I had become aware of its origin. Only the previous day, the legs on my knee had been topped with a body, and that body had been topped with a head. And, being complete, that hen had been perfectly content clucking and pecking its way around Grandfather’s hen-run.
In general, I preferred my own company, being somewhat of a hermit to my own mind. But, on seeing the online ad for a Meetup of ‘Imaginative Minds’ at Butcher’s Inn, I knew that – at last – this was the call. It was the sign that I had, for all of my long life to date, been waiting for. For, at that time, I was only two days away from my eighty-ninth birthday. I was, unlike many others of my age, still in reasonably good health and, as such, perfectly content to cluck around in the confines of my own territory. But, I knew that to have any hope of maintaining my current level of fitness, I would have to respond to the Good Lord promptly. The call, now that it had come, would not wait for ever.
I was, of course, the first to arrive at the venue, so I ordered a drink from the bar, found a cosy corner tucked behind a partition wall, and set up a little table arrangement of notepad and pens. Marked out thus as a Meetup attendee, I settled myself down to await my company.
A hapless-looking face peered around the partition.
“You here for the Meetup group?” he asked.
“Yes. Yes, I am. Come and join me! A drink? My round. What would you like?”
“Oooh! Oooh, yes please! A pint of Old Fool?”
All sprightly – revved up by his lack of chivalry, and by my anticipation of what was to come – I proceeded to the bar and procured the deal.
“Thank you! You needn’t have. But thank you anyway!” came my companion’s hollow appreciations, accompanied by a rather loud slurp. “Thank you, this is is a much needed thirst-quencher! I thought I was late – had difficulty finding the venue – but looks like I’m early!”
“No. No, I don’t think you’re early. In fact, you are twenty minutes late. It’s just that no-one else is here yet. Perhaps it’s just us!”
“Yes, perhaps you’re right. But, at least you’re here. Thank goodness for that! It’s my first time at one of these groups – I was really nervous about meeting lots of people. How about you? You been before?”
“Yes. Yes! Sorry, I mean no! No, in that I haven’t been to a Meetup before. And, yes, as in yes it’s my first time too! Oh dear, what a load of muddled old nonsense I’m talking! Must be the Chardonnay!”
“That’s great! Not the Chardonnay! I mean that’s great that we’re both new together. New, in old sort of a way I mean! Ha, ha! Oh, sorry. I didn’t meant to suggest that … ”
“Of course you didn’t. Of course. And, yes, I am old. So no offence taken! We can sit here looking old and foolish together. Seems it’s just us. No agenda. No Chairman. Just us. You imaginative?”
“Yes, yes. I am. I’m a poet. How about you?”
“Me? Oh, yes. I’m imaginative. I cook. I use all my late grandmother’s traditional recipes, because, although, as you say, I’m old, my memory’s still sharp. Chicken casseroles, chicken pies, chicken soup – you name it and I can cook it. I do, of course, add a little extra ingredient of my own each time – a modern twist! And then? Then my tasters check them out. If the dear little dogs wolf the stuff down, I write the recipe up and sell it online. Got quite a little business going!”
“You use the internet?”
“Yes, of course. How else would an old bird like me keep up with what’s going on in the outside world? How would I have found out about this wonderful Meetup group? It’s not every day I manage to get out of the house!”
“Oh! Sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that old, sorry older, people can’t use computers. It’s just that … Well, I’m past seventy myself … and I’ve never touched the things. It was my son who told about this group. Seems to think I should move on, like my ex-wife – move on and stop bothering him for news about her. Anyway, the old methods have always served me well. I handwrite my poems and stick them in the post.”
“Very sensible. Only last week, my laptop crashed and I lost all my … But, you don’t want to hear about that! Do you have one of your poems with you?”
“Er, no! I wasn’t sure what the format of this meeting was. Wasn’t sure what I was required to bring!”
“Me neither. But, I did bring some paper and pens. Shall we get creative? How about helping me with a new recipe I’m thinking of trying out. What do you think about the idea of adding some …”
“Yes, yes. Whatever you think. But. I’m sorry. I’m suddenly feeling a touch queasy. Can you …”
“Now, now! Don’t worry. We need to get you out of here. You don’t look at all well. Very pale! Now, my bungalow is just around the corner from here. Come along with me and I’ll make you a nice cuppa. That, with a slice of chicken pie, and we’ll soon have you sorted! Here, take my arm. I might be old, but I can still stand on my own two feet!”
He didn’t argue with me. Didn’t object. He couldn’t.
It wasn’t at all difficult getting him back to my place. As he said himself, he was past seventy, past caring, and past it. Not at all fleshy. Just a pile of skin and sticks. But I’ve never been greedy. My needs are minimal.
I helped the poor-lost-old soul into a kitchen chair and made us both a cuppa. Settling myself down into my own chair, opposite, I reached under and lifted his feet up. Up and onto my knees. It was time.
Time for the old hen’s revenge.
With an ageing cockerel at my disposal, and all the tools of the trade to hand, my creative juices went wild. And oh what fun I had that day with the toppings! Thank the Good Lord for old birds and grandmothers!
Copyright owned by Jay Cool, September 2019