the butts

Mr Butt
drawn up
like a head of celery forced in a suit
enormous brown glasses and a laugh to boot
like the hoot
of an ancient charabanc
that’d prang
through the back door
a couple of times a day or more
laughing and generally carrying on
like he was the audience and The Claytons were the sitcom

his wife Vera
quieter and clearer
hair in a coiffed pile
crow wing glasses sticking out a mile
her smile
a little tight
as if she might
accidentally say something she oughtn’t
and her visit could wait ‘cos it wasn’t important
and she’d knock quietly and call coo-ee
and hesitantly
make her entry
to see
if mum wanted her hair doing
Ken laughing and mooing
What’ve you gone and done with Len?
you haven’t gone and tied him up again?
Heaven Help Us! Christ! Stroll on!
I can’t keep up with all you Claytons!

etcetera, etcetera and so on

Many years later
Mum got new neighbours
the Butts moved on to a nearby close
a bungalow
easier I suppose
I went round to see ‘em
Vera in the kitchen
Ken, smaller and thinner
scribbling in a notebook as Vera made dinner

at least he’s keeping busy I said
Vera smiled and shook her head
said thank you dear, took the book
and gave it to me so I could look
pages after page of scribbled lines
the kind where kids pretend sometimes

What can you say except life is in flux
my parents are gone, no iffs, no Butts
and here I sit, Clayton Number Five
busily filling the screen with lines

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