GILBERTINE & THE EXCHANGE (Volume One) — Chapter 15: The Serenade at St. Dymphna’s (Part 2) — 19 September 1964

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I looked back at the priest.

“Soon, Father McCloskey, but not quite yet – we’re putting a bandt together, but we’ve still got quite a few songs we’ve got to work up yet.” Angles replied.

“A few weeks then, Francis?” the priest asked.[1]

“A few months is more like it, Father,” said Angles, with a ruefully lopsided smile that could have charmed St. Dymphna’s own statue right off her pedestal. “Well after Christmas.”

“In time for March Moon Madness Dance? Springtime Frolics?”

It was the first time I’d ever seen Angles’ doe eyes not only look like his father’s, but anxiously dart about  like them.

“Sure, Father, we’d love to do them. I know we’ll be ready by then — though if you choose to line up somebody else in the interim –”

“No, boys, after your audition today, we’ll be looking forward to hearing that band of yours playing at both of them.”

“Wow, Father. Really? Thanks.”

C’mon, Angles, one more time with feeling. Corpses at their funerals would have been more effusive.

Father McCloskey turned his attention to me, although he continued to talk to Angles.

“And who’s your young friend here with this fancy decoration on his guitar?”

“M’girl back in England did it.” I said. “She’s m’friend now, and not m’girl, but I still do like it.”

“As well you should,” he replied. “Worthy sentiment, beautifully rendered.”

Angles cut in to make the introduction.

“This is Reggie Stone, Father, He goes to St. Cyprian’s, He and I wrote the song you heard today – in fact, we plan to write all our own songs.”

The priest gave me a once over. “St. Cyprian’s, eh? With a voice like yours, Rev. Vickers must know all about you, doesn’t he?”

“Oh yes, Father,” I replied, “all about me.”

Angles and his big mouth were going to die by my hand.

Slowly.

Painfully.

“I’m having tea at their rectory later today,” chuckled Father McCloskey. “Wait ’til I tell those two St. Dymphna’s will have your new band performing here – twice – before St. Cyprian’s has a chance to get its hands on you.”

I’ve heard stories of people laughing on the way to their executions. I’ve no idea how they do it. I tried to force a laugh at that moment, and a very lame gurgle was all I could manage.

“Well boys, must be off,” the priest said. He smiled as he shuffled off. “Keep on practicing, you two – and writing – we’re expecting a bang-up show in March.”

I waited discreetly until Father McCloskey had turned the corner and was out of both view and – hopefully – earshot. I was beyond yelling at Angles – at this point I’d settle for some coherent explanation of just what he was thinking.

“Frankie boy,” I began, my voice soft, redolent of faux, forced calm, though I already could feel a crescendo building. “Has it occurred t’you that th’song we just sang is the only complete song to our name? Or that, unless we’re going t’be like Jan and flippin’ Dean, our group might need a few more members ’an just us two. Then, assuming we’ve members an’write songs, there’s a minor snag o’just what we’re gona play th’songs on: Neither of us has an electric guitar or, for that matter, any other electric instrument.”

I don’t know why but, despite my speech therapy, when I got steamed up enough in those days, a bit of Brummie still leaked into my speech.

“In Heaven’s nerm, Frankie boy, yav y’gan saft? Wots got into yer, tellen Father McCloskey we’m guin ter start a rock ban’?”

Angles flashed his very own patented I’m-naughty-but-I’m-cute smile at me.

I wasn’t buying.

Not that it fazed him.

“Oh, just helping Father McCloskey save your neck.”

That little tidbit was too tempting to ignore, but I saw Lois coming our way. She looked upset, and I knew I’d have to defer further inquiry for the time being. I perfunctorily introduced her and Angles, taking care to call him “Frank,” for the time being.

Angles’ eyes bugged out for a fraction of a second, but returned to normal before anyone but me would have noticed. His “three’s-a-crowd radar” was working perfectly, and he lost no time excusing himself, saying he had to find his family.  I asked him to join me at the house for tea later; he nodded as he took off.

Lois and I walked back to her car. I put my guitar back securely in its case, and the case into the back seat, before taking my own seat up front with Lois. She looked at me with a long face.

“That strange li’l friend of yours left another note,” she said, handing me another envelope. Then she lowered her eyes; for a second, I thought she was going to cry too. “Ah’m so sorry, Boog – Ah meant t’help, but Ah think Ah may’ve steered y’wrong.”

“Wodja mean?” I asked. “I told you I thought your idea was solid – brilliant – an’ I still think so.”

Lois shook her head. “Maybe in th’long run, Squirt – Ah surely do hope so – but just now Ah think your li’l lady’s pretty mad at you.”

I smiled outside, but became rather apprehensive inside.

“She already was.”

“Ah mean … angrier than she already was.” Lois described the size, complexion and clothes of the girl she’d seen running down the church stairs, into the meditation and prayer garden, her mother following after. “That’s Connie, raht?”

I assured her it was.

“Wahl, Ah follered at a discreet distance. Ah di’n’ catch ever’thin’ she said t’her máma,” Lois said, accenting “mama,” as Americans do, on first syllable. “But Boog – Ah don’ think this wen’ quaht accordin’ t’plan.”

“Wodja mean?” I asked again.

Lois drew in a breath, and held it a long moment before answering.

“Reggie…”

“Yes, Lois.”

“that … little girl …?”

“Mmm-hmmm . . .”

“– th’one y’were serenadin’…?

“Yeh – ” I barely managed to croak out as my throat constricted and my stomach did its imitation of a Slinky toy going downstairs.

“– she said she was gonna kill you.”

 

[1] “Francis” wasn’t Angles’ real first name, any more than “Storm” was his last. He’d pronounced his real name for me once – it was like “Franticzulikki,” or some such multisyllabic mess, pronounced as if the speaker had a mouth full of goulash, being washed down with a cup of borscht. True, his real name did begin with a “fr” sound, and even before he came to the U.S., everyone but me had called him “Frankie” – except when they called him “Secret Storm” – but there any apparent similarity to “Francis” ended. All the same, in those days, it was a rare person who’d have the audacity to correct a priest.

 

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