Mr. Pubbeedle was a curious little man who had befriended Uncle Herbie in a time before mine. I was never certain why they felt they needed to stop by our flat so often, but I suspect it was because mother was such a good cook and had the spine of a jellyfish. She really could not say “no” to her little brother Herbie. Despite it being common knowledge by everyone in our area that he was a grifter and had never made an honest dime in his misspent life. Perhaps she felt sorry for him. Or maybe she lived vicariously through his exploits and narrow escapes, imagining herself as some sort of flapper, dancing the night away in an underground speakeasy.
One day after school, my brothers and I returned home to our flat to discover Uncle Herbie and Mr. Pubbeedle visiting. Uncle Herbie had been to the speakeasy already and was sprawled across our small sofa snoring. Mom was in the kitchen preparing our dinner and uh-huh’ing Mr. Pubbeedle as he carried on about his latest foray into the “World of Art” as he called it.
When my brothers and I ventured into the kitchen, he jumped up from the table and exclaimed, “What a marvelous day, children!” and without taking a breath continued his confusing tale. Apparently, Mr. Pubbeedle had somehow talked Uncle Herbie into conning a man out of his camera. Not only that, but they had taken the poor man’s photo books as well. Mr. Pubbeedle was ecstatic about this and likened the event to winning at the horse track.
The three of us were used to his behavior and carried on, each giving mom a hug, so she would allow us to take a cookie out of the cookie jar. With cookies in hand, we sat around the table to eat. At that moment, Mr. Pubbeedle had the revelation that we would be delighted to peruse the most marvelous collection of pictures anyone had ever seen. I asked my mother if I could have a glass of milk after pondering the possibilities.
Pubbeedle was, of course, so certain of our impending amazement that he flew out of the kitchen and began rummaging through his sack, which was serving as a sort of footstool for my uncle. Thankfully, this bit of activity managed to bring an end to the music of the sawmill in my uncle’s throat.
My brothers and I were then forced to gaze in wide wonder at the picture book. Out of focus pictures of who-knows-what were the most favored, but I think I recognized a broken whiskey bottle in one of them. The three of us became the backup singers to our own mother’s uh-huh’ing anthem. I stood there and wondered if I could sleep both upright and with my eyes open. It was worth an attempt, considering.
Finally, we reached the end of the most boring picture album ever. It was getting late by then and when mother mentioned the time, Mr. Pubbeedle, greedily grabbed his worthless album stuffing it back in his sack, hefted my inarticulate uncle, and then they zig-zagged together out the front door.
I think Mr. Pubbeedle didn’t want to share his new found fortune with father. Just a guess.
Copyright © 2014 Eric A. Schweitz
Image is copyright by Provincial Archives of Alberta