Helping Brother Ambrose (Part 2)
Posted on March 1, 2014
Helping Brother Ambrose
So there he went, this lanky, six foot two, black leather jacketed, goggle wearing, mean, tough, real biker Hell’s Angel dude. Tottering along. Slightly unsteadily. On a Honda Fifty. It was a source of pride to me. And I felt almost emotional.
A sense of accomplishment. We had done something good for a reformed monk. A kindness. We smiled and laughed and exchanged beams of pleasure with one another. Our little group of helpers and well wishers would be talking about this for weeks.
We would. But not quite the way we were thinking. It was a matter of a few seconds later, and everything started to take on a strange, surreal air. At the bottom of the tree lined road, named Raglan Road after some famous Historical Derelict, was a junction. And just before you got to that junction, there was a sign. The sign was red and white, in an octagonal shape, and it had four letters on it. The four letters formed a word, which had a meaning, and none of us had thought to explain that meaning to Brother Ambrose. We had kind of assumed that he could read, and comprehend, seeing as he had spent so many years reading the Bible, and all those Holy Hymns. In this we were sadly mistaken. And when you think about it, the Biblical Hittittes and King David and Solomon and all them boys, when they were rushing around in their chariots and chopping each others’ heads off with swords, did they have to worry about the Rules of the Road? I doubt it somehow. None of that malarchy, I’m sure. It was just a case of “Hey-ho, and off we go!” and “Off with your head, ye wee heathen!” I imagine anyway. So the stern sign with the four words… Brother Ambrose never saw it. And if he did, he never worried about it. Flat out, at twenty nine miles per hour, blue smoke a-belching, he ran his chariot clean through the intersection, with never as much as a sideways glance. A big old cream double-decker C.I.E transport bus, with a full load of passengers, slammed on his brakes, and the stunned river never even hooted his air horns. You could see him staring DOWN, out of his window, aghast, on top of the Monastic chariot whizzing on by, inches from the front bumper. Fender, in America. What he thought of the helmet clad figure, with the slightly oversize, scarred, black leather jacket, and the World War One Aviator’s goggles, History cannot reveal to us. But I know he stared after the retreating figure for a long time. So did all the pilgrims on board the bus. But Brother Ambrose sailed on serenely, unworried, and in a whole new world he was already making his own.
I looked at my compadres, in our little group of stunned onlookers. They all wore stupid expressions. Mouths open in speechless horror, eyes staring, hands holding heads as if they had been nearly chopped off, and might fall at any second. Carefully, I wiped a similar expression off my own visage. Here was a chance to be the cool dude, and speak one of those memorable sayings, that would be re-quoted for weeks afterwards over liquid amber in some bar.
“Whatya reckon, boys? Doing pretty good, eh?”
I beamed with simulated, unruffled satisfaction.
There was murder in the eyes that swung towards me. They were all still recovering from cardio-thingy heart failure. The resultant chorus of ill-wishing and threats of bodily harm to me were fluent to say the least. The volume was only to be exceeded on one occasion that I can remember, many years later, when I was to have a potentially spiritual incident involving a train and some Dutch Skydivers. (And me walking around the closed barriers). But that is another -true- story, I may recount elsewhere one day. (Or maybe, wisely,not).
Brother Ambrose was now on the way back. He had hunched down now, and wore a speeding freak expression. That he was enjoying himself, seemed a given. Leaving an oil tanker and a red Volvo burning rubber, blaring horns, and doubtless colorful invocations to the Devil and Jesus behind him, Ambrose was now on the final stretch. He pulled up beside us, with an unabashed dirty grin. What one of my ex lovers would have called “a mucky laugh “.
Soon Ambrose was a regular sight around Dublin on his weary Nifty Fifty, clouds of blue smoke and all, and when we rolled up at some flea bitten bar, we could instantly tell if Ambrose had beaten us to it. His parked old steed was unmistakable. He had decked it out with go-faster stickers and decals, and the seat was now covered with a faux leopard skin slip-on. He had also customized the grips, with bright, multi-colored dangley bits coming out the ends. They streamed gaudily along as he rode. Finally, some artist had carefully hand painted the Honda’s name on the gas tank. She was now called “The Honey Monster”. I missed it myself, but the story went around Wicklow County that Ambrose had tried to give Dotty Lotty a lift home on the Honey Monster. Which exploit had failed, when her skirt got caught in the rear wheel spokes. In the middle of Parnell Street. There had been some ripping and tearing, and unintended denouement, as the French like to say, and embarrassment. And joy. For the onlookers. I missed that one. Great shame.
The bike, or “hog” as the crazy Americans say, (well, “piglet”, anyway) was doing wonders for Ambrose’s self confidence, but his luck with finding employment remained dismal. What to do? Eventually I hit on the idea of playing the interviewer, and “interviewing” Ambrose. I got him -with difficulty- to quit the stoop, and the subservient, meek supplication, and bade him be cheerful, and project himself as easily the best ex-Monk this side of the Wicklow Mountains. No more singing hymns on his resume, but instead, we now listed more creative accomplishments.
“Book keeping” was one I remember (well, all those hymns and prayer books…?) and “administrative duties” , “Punctuality” (getting up at 04.30 every morning, fuxsake), and “Pharmacy duties” (doling out all those ointments for monks’ painful knees). He was slow at first to cotton on (I think his Abbot must have been a Tartar), but I soon had him more human. He’d even crack a joke now and then.
Then, one day, he came flying around to me in a total panic. He had applied for a job at a filling station, pumping Petrol (what the Yanks confusingly call “Gas”) into cars. (How can you pump “gas ” into a car, for Flip’s sake?) He had an interview that afternoon. He was in such a high state of anxiety, I felt drastic action was called for. I took him down to the pub, and poured a pint or two of Guinness down his throat. Then we practiced some more on the interview skill thingy. He went off and…HALLELUJAH!… got the blessed job.
Well, you’d think he ‘d be happy now. Noooo… Now he was fretting and worrying if he could do the job or not. He would be manning the small station himself, as the only attendant. In those days there was no Self Service, and he would be required to fill all the cars, and check the oil and tire pressures. I had to go and help him figure out how to perform this trick. How to work the coupling hose, and adjust the pressure. To the customer’s total satisfaction. He would be starting the very next day, Monday through Friday.
The following night, curious to know how my protégé had gotten on, I drove around to his place after work. I found Ambrose sitting in a very dejected mood. I was aghast. What was wrong? Did he get fired? No, was the answer, but there had been a bit of a problem, and his boss hadn’t been too pleased. They had been forced to call a mechanic out to fix a slight problem.
What!? How can you screw up filling cars with Petrol? Or even Gas?
Well. He told me, sadly, that the Boss had shown him where everything was, and what to do, and he had then waited in a heightened state of anxiety for his very first motor car. Eventually, one had pulled in, and with knees shaking, heart knocking, deep breath -a-blowin’, Ambrose had marched forth. In his new attire, uniform, the Gas Pump Attendant. A long, long way, from the Ave Maria every morning at 04.30, I’m sure.
“Fill her up, young man!”, she asked, with a beaming motherly smile.
His first copulation, sorry, coupling, of the Holy Petrol Hose (Gas Pipe, if you’re in the great US of A), was fated to be with a very old, black Morris Minor. Driven by a very sweet old lady. She beamed at him, apparently, and was very nice. Reassured,(she was so nice) Ambrose opened up the bonnet (Engine Hood, if you’re in La-La- land New York) and proceeded to administer the potion. It didn’t take much. He walked back around to the driver’s window, to the lovely Old lady’s beaming smile.
“It didn’t take much, Ma’am. Only about three quarters of a gallon…”
With an unwavering smile, the dear Old lady said:
“Well, that’s funny, because the gauge still says Empty…”
It was a conundrum.
“Mind”, she added thoughtfully, “the other man usually puts it in the back.”
* * * * *
Years went by, and I was living in London. I had my own business for many years, and until the novelty wore off, and I got restless, and other stuff happened, the way they do, I did very well indeed. I had my own Cessna airplane, several motorcycles, and I commuted frequently around Europe on business. Ireland was a regular destination. A fine flight across the Irish sea, on a good day, with the very formal, mostly humorless British ATC controllers, and the funny guy working the Dublin Approach frequency.
“Gulf-Papa-Fox…what’s your hea-ding…?” ,would come the lazy query. He spoke S-L-O-W-L-Y.
“Three-zero-zero, Sir”, I would reply promptly.
“Gulf-Papa-Fox… Turn on to head-ing two-seven-zero…”
“You’ll get to Dub-lin quick-er…”
It was on one of these fine business trips, that I happened to be walking down Nassau Street, Dublin. Ahead of me strolled a relaxed fellow with his hands in his pockets, and a bright purple striped blazer. He wore a straw hat, with a funky ribbon. Beside him walked a big, big lady, and even from behind I could see she was in the advanced state of Imminent Motherhood. He was looking in the window of a clothing shop, “Murphy and Son “, if I recall, and making lewd remarks about some of the mannequins. Something about the bulges in the right places. She was giggling. Altogether a fun day out.
“Ambrose…? Hey, Ambrose!”
He turned around, recognized me, in a lazy, easy way, and we chatted for a while. With a head shake to his partner, he announced, proudly, matter of factly:
“We’ve got a bun in the oven, Francis!”
I congratulated them both. “That’s wonderful! First one?”
I hadn’t been gone from Dublin that long, had I?
“Oh no”, he said, casually “that’ll be nipper number five!”
* * * * *
Brother Ambrose had done good. A long road from the Ave Maria and the Kyrie Eleison. Singing hymns and praying like the clappers.
With a little help from his friends?
And you know, I have to admit.
He sure figured out how to work that coupling hose. And adjust the pressure.
To the customer’s total satisfaction…
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on March 1, 2014, 10:44 am