THE BALLAD OF EDMUND TUPPENCE
CANTO THE SECOND (PART I)
1st March 2020
‘Tis morning! Sally smooths young Edmund’s brow,
Her nursing skills unpaid unless you count
The coin of love. Oh, not that she rates now
As legal tender an unknown amount.
But wealth can lie unreckoned, so allow
Her tenderness as coinage and recount
That though this Nightingale has loved before
Her heart knows that she never has loved more.
As Sally takes a pulse and makes some tea,
The buzzer makes her start, now what is this?
She hesitates to view CCTV
But knows it has saved many a young miss.
The bulky frame enframed there seems to be
Our Royal Mullins. What could be amiss?
This guardian brought an angel to her door.
Now, who can say he can’t do something more?
Our Royal is a man quite made of granite,
And wider than a rugby scrum, and so
Although the Mullins never meant to plan it,
Young Sal admits him with someone in tow.
We wish the young muse safe. But wait; well, damn it!
We knew that Royal would not stoop so low.
He’s brought a doctor from a local surgery.
(We’ll look away while he commits his perjury).
As Sally brews some tea, the GP kneels,
Attaches wires to Edmund, hooks him up.
Inspects his eyes by flashlight, then he feels
Young Eddie’s cranium, Lord! What a cup
That is to drink from! He who always steals
Has juice of memory from which to sup.
He tells young Sal, though Edmund still be game,
When he awakes, he may not know his name.
The doctor leaves, but not before our Royal
Informs poor Sal that there must be a fee.
She understands that now she is embroiled
And as she knows that nothing is for free
She reaches for her purse, but Mull is loyal
And takes her to one side and says that she
Should look in Edmund’s pockets, just the once.
There, she will find what Royal calls some ‘bunce’.
Now Quicklake feels inside the young man’s jeans.
The first thing there that strikes her is not cash
But warmth, and life, and something else between,
But we will move on, lest we be seen brash.
She extricates amounts she has not seen,
Enquires of Mullins who says, don’t be rash.
The doctor names a price, a large amount.
A word from Royal brings a large discount.
Now, Mullins says, I will return again,
But there are things that you should know, um, Miss?
I’m Sally Quicklake, Sal replies. Your name?
I’m Royal Mullins (truth won’t go amiss).
You understand the nature of Ed’s game?
I do not, says young Sal, and also this;
It’s nothing would disturb or make me grieve.
Good luck with that, says Royal as he leaves.
As Mullins leaves the flat the building shakes.
The man is a colossus! Sally knows
That she must care for… Name! For heaven’s sakes!
Her curiosity for Edmund grows.
And just as there in Eden was a snake,
So Sally’s need to know a name now shows.
She reaches once again into his trousers.
(Why do the smallest movements so arouse us?)
This time it is not money that she takes
From Eddie’s nether parts. Some other thing.
A bag of flour? Does he look like he bakes?
She looks at it. A bell begins to ring.
How memory a saviour often makes
And often times the strangest gifts will bring.
She vaguely knows what she holds in her hand.
(The street value is roughly 50 grand).
But Sal has little time now to assess
Her findings. Her poor patient now has stirred.
She primps her hair, adjusts her cotton dress.
How curious, we think of pride deferred.
She almost sees herself as in distress,
And then recalls she has a wounded bird.
She has no understanding, poor sweet thing,
That Ed has more than just a broken wing.
He’s with us now. Young Tuppence comes around,
And Sally looks into those hazel eyes.
Well, poetry must end. We’ve run aground.
We’ll more of love, it is a greater prize
Than our poor art can summon up or sound.
We’ll watch our Ed and Sally realise
That sudden love is sweeter when unplanned
Just as the drowning sailor sees the land.
Now, let us leave these foundlings for a while
And possibly review the situation.
Exhibit A, M’lud. There is a pile
Of Charlie sitting in Sal’s habitation.
The lovers may begin their tryst in style
In jail (if you can find a police station).
And all the Royal Mullins in the world
Could never save our hero or our girl.
But aren’t we poets? We must hie us hence!
For love is our true subject, and we see
A mingling, a sense joined as one sense
Two rivers flow to join in one blue sea.
We must rejoin young Sally and Tuppence.
Oh, water, bathe us, poets as we be.
(The rhyme there in line five is weak, we know.
But love, not poesie, makes a river flow).
So, here we are, spies in the house of love.
Oh, muffins! We have clipped our wings once more!
The usual suspects, glove and dove, above.
You know the drill, I won’t become a bore.
Unless… what if we cheat and just let love
Do double duty? For we stand before
Two lovers. Let not love now make them fools.
But please allow them – once – to break the rules.
An afternoon flows by. Young Edmund walks.
Just baby steps, and looks always at Sal
As if at mother. If once they could talk,
Thinks Sally Q, who has no child at all.
He sits, all tired, as Sally draws a cork.
A glass of wine for her, she needs withdrawal.
This poor child must be pitied. She is torn.
She’s birthed a child which has yet to be born.
And when young Eddie sleeps again she thinks.
He is out like a light, sleeps like a cat
For many hours. But, even as she drinks
Her Côtes du Rhône, she can’t help but think that
She has a lodger criminal, the links
Between her old life and her new-style flat
Cannot escape her, nor those thoughts be louder.
(Those thoughts turn once again to all that powder).
One point remains in Sally’s late events.
The telephone, that lifeline to us all.
Remember, Sal, remember. Marshal sense
And memory. Remember who to call!
So; Royal Mullins. Talking to a fence
May be the conversation overall
For dodgy escapades. But what a tonic!
Sal dials and vows to use her bond Platonic.
Now, there are moments, certain fulcrum times,
Where lives rotate. Now Sally has reached hers.
We can but watch her, we who trade in rhymes.
‘Tis not within our gift what next occurs
As Sally views her life. Now something primes
This rootless, loveless girl as love defers
A tiresome life now Sally Q has seen
An underworld in which she may be queen.
Thus, Sally views time as a corridor
In which she stands. She looks one way and back.
The past recedes behind, the rest before.
And where she stands decides her future track.
Her life has been a dull thing, such a bore,
A terminus, a weary cul-de-sac.
She leaves the corridor turned all about.
One girl went in. A different girl came out.
This rearrangement must be stalled for now.
The patient stirs. She kneels beside his bed.
He is the key and codex, he is how
Our changeling child will strike her poor past dead.
As with her lips she grazes Edmund’s brow,
The shades of inhibition are now fled
As Sally Quicklake, by her own admission,
Takes love and life and Edmund as a mission.
The door again. Return of Royal M.
He’d wondered if the girl would change her tune
On seeing so much marching powder. Then
Again he knew that he would see doubloon
With so much coke, but told himself again
His code would not allow him such a boon.
Though Royal had no father and no mother,
He’d always seen Ed as a little brother.
We’ll grant some privacy to Sal and Royal
And muse instead upon morality.
We know that Mullins R. remains as loyal
As faithful hound to master, loyalty
Being a habit difficult to foil.
But where does Sally owe her fealty?
To Edmund, yes, but what of moral codes?
Can right be found by following wrong roads?
Morality’s a river to the sea,
A Nile, a Danube, like a serpent flows.
But rivers muddy, though their course agree
With undulations all their hist’ry knows.
They reach the same place, ‘tis no mystery,
At least, no mystery that we suppose.
The mystery is how the water’s changed
And how the moral system’s rearranged.
For Sally’s called her work and told them straight
She’s quit. She won’t be coming in again.
She has a new job now which will not wait.
A new life with a lightning-lit terrain.
A man, a plan. They may have got here late
But here they stay and grow, that much is plain.
For she has struck a dealer’s deal with Royal.
She knows the gentle giant will stay loyal.
She’ll hold the stock, he to a dealer sells
Who hawks it on the street and takes a cut
As does our Royal, whose presence there compels
The vendor to be honest injun. But
Young Sally is defended. If he tells
A soul, Mullins will crush him like a nut.
As Sally toys with Edmund’s silken hair,
She’s set her sail, and now the wind blows fair.
Mark Gullick is a philosophy PhD from London, England, who went on holiday to Costa Rica four years ago and forgot to go home. He now works there as a musician. He blogs at https://postcardsfromtraumaville.blogspot.com/