"He was never the sharpest tool in the box"
Craning around a faintly embarrassed early grave the women folk pronounced dryly, encapsulating this prematurely oblivious life with overbaked and commonplace observances.
"Remember when he pinched them taters and bunged 'em through that copper's glazing?"
"Theft & treason"
Then from another aunty in piped a conspiring murmur, "I always said it was the drink: stunted drunk winter sperm...his foetus was barely formed, the doctors said...did away with frills it did, dispensed with the pleasantries, right there in the womb!"
"They used to just say you was stupid; now it's AD this and dyspraxia that --greasing the wheels that spoil the broth..."
What this broth was I in my tender age could not know, but my aunties were not profound women; they simply traded in obscure, localised figures of speech, wheeled out for family occasions. The looming realisation of this meant that what had, at my cousin's funeral, seemed the wisdom of the aged, morphed as I clambered through puberty into mere menopausal cackling. However, our more mature appraisal never dented the delights of afternoon tea, which we took on the lawn adorned with buttercups untended by a gardening man. Those sharpened Earl Grey skies and polite confections clashed obliquely with the rasping tones and clipped conversation of my dessicated relatives. Secretly I wondered if this stuffiness was what had done my cousin in, not his habits, or his idiocy.
I must have been daydreaming, staring at the pergola, because one of them chuckled and said, "drink yer tea love" but it was cold as it sluiced between my lips. I cringed then and heard a warbling somewhere amidst the tangles of the trellis walk.
"Have another piece of cake..."
As I quietly obliged there again was that sound, but from beyond the pergola, down the bottom of the garden. I extricated myself from the conversation by not saying anything and trundled down the weedy path. There again was that sound, sharper now, and I recognised it as the stifled yearnings of a cockerel past its best. The sagging beams of granny's greenhouse seemed to croon, "come by", and on past the ancient panes sat squat a henhouse. Ruffled feathers puffed around this far off garden corner, concealed by bordering ivy and dark in the afternoon. There was clearly more than one rooster in town.
"Two cocks upset the brood"
I could hear it now...but those enervating voices couldn't reach this far down, down by the henhouse. It was as if a trance had lifted, not hearing them --and it seemed fiercely unjust that my cousin had been condemned by these people...
I went in there then, with the hens flustered, and just grabbed a load of eggs and ran back up the garden past the pergola and blindly hurled them at the table. I heard the eggs wetly crack as I opened my eyes but my aunties weren't sitting down: they were laughing in the conservatory.
"Just another duff sperm"