Before the Sultan’s Fortress


In the glow of amber twilight,

Dugan, the local Sultan donned

His red fez, with tassel bright

To stroll about the pond,

Before the evening’s curfew ban,

Would ring its final tolls,

Dugan, in his right hand,

As was his habit on these strolls,

Grasped a worn tin-pail,

By its wire-handled arch.

It rocked as if by its tail,

On the Sultan’s forward march.

Dugan briskly onward strode,

Quickening his paces,

Across field, bank and road,

Toward “The Four Aces.”

This pub, from its windows and its door,

Wafted clouds of smoke,

And the fragrance of the wooden floor,

In which stale beer did soak.

The Sultan set his lidded tin,

With a spigot at its base,

Jauntily, beneath the fountain:

Before the Irish Ace.

“Fill’er up O’Shaughnessy

And spare me all the foam.”

Smiled, the Ace, to his majesty

As he filled tin to the dome.

“I’ll not return” The Sultan chirped,

“To the Missus with half a pail,

She’ll think I stopped and sipped,

Somewhere along the trail.”

“There’ll be hell to pay,

So see you take care.

Listen, hear what I say,

O’Shaughnessy. Beware!”

O’Shaughnessy, the Ace,

Always the wily diplomat,

Looked Dugan in the face,

And blessed his shoulder with a pat.

The Ace, he smiled and gently bowed.

He precisely aimed the amber draft.

Milwaukee’s golden Finest, flowed

To please the Sultan, oh so daft.

The barman, with one “bon mot,”

Warned, “Dugan, could it be,

‘Tis broke your tin’s spigot.

You’re watering the trees?”

“The patch through which you’re tottering,

Betwixt the pub and home,

Looks all the better for your watering,

Your ministrations of me foam.”

The Sultan, upon the moistened counter

With a splash and a rebuff

Slapped a shiny silver quarter:

“O’Shaughn, none of your guff.”

“Look here, your price, I did meet.

You’ll be sure I get my due.

Or I’ll take my quarter down the street

And deal with Marylou.”

“Adieu to you O’Shaughnessy.

I’m sure my spigot’s tight,

For home I’ll speed my tin of brew

And to all a pleasant night.”

Dugan tipped his fez to all.

Then skipped with much delight.

He took noticed of the blooms so tall,

Glowing softly in the pale twilight,

“Be buying your own beer, tutt, tutt!

You shamed-faced forget-me-nots.

So tight my spigot’s now been shut,

Against you thieving sots.”

Now onward, Dugan and his tin,

Both dripping of the sweat,

He was now near done in,

And not near home as yet.

He, by the left flank marched,

Up the front path of his estate,

Between a towering spruce and larch

And through the open gate.

Up the bricks, he did track,

Pulling the screen door.

Lest closing, it hit him in the back;

He quickly stepped in before.

Upon frame, the door soon crashed

With a characteristic “swack,”

Against the posts and lintel dashed,

While the spring twanged in its slack.

Upon her wicker rocking chair,

Dugan’s Missus sat enthroned.

She’d set the table, oh so spare.

Chilled mugs, stood all alone.

The tin between the glasses,

The Sultan, he did wedge,

With spigot perpendicular,

To the wicker table’s edge.

Before the spigot, chilled mugs

Curtsied one by one,

Savoring the golden chugs,

As freely beer did run.

Mugs billowing with foamy crowns,

So full of bubbly life,

Then to bow before the laughing lips

Of Dugan and his wife.

A toast, a clink of glass,

A sip, then silent repose,

Upon the wicker furniture to sass,

And maybe soon to dose?

But first the cavalcade of clowns,

Will step beneath the lights…

To drive away the frowns,

The Dugans, to delight.

About that cat…

Image                                                                                                                                                                                                                         …the black and white cat in the picture up there. His name was Tripper, not because of a kinship with the Gore family. No, his favorite way of getting one’s attention was to amble between that person’s ankles. I’d say that his strategy could be effective from Tripper’s point of view or annoying and hazardous from my perspective. It came as a total surprise the first time he tried to trip me because we hadn’t been formally introduced. For some reason, my back yard duties brought me outside on a sunny afternoon. Tripper, a regal, that is magnificent and king-sized feline crossed the property line and made right for me. He immediately began his stagger-inducing shin slalom.

My first impression was that his beautiful and healthy appearance suggested he had a home and could never be a stray. It seemed that he must belong to a neighbor. As the weeks and then months ticked away, he still tripped his way through the back yards. The neighbors thought he was mine and I thought he was theirs. We were all mistaken. This became apparent as September rolled around. Tripper had lost weight and was frequently found inside my garbage can. A bald spot formed on his spine just above the base of his tail. Decision time had arrived. Should my wife and I take him in or call animal control. While discussing this weighty issue with Nancy Ann, Tripper joined us. Nancy Ann sat on the top step leading to our deck. Tripper climbed the several steps, snuggled next to Nancy Ann and put his head on her lap. We had a pet. He adopted us.

The photo shows Tripper sitting in a flower pot. Note the leaves: catnip. I grew it for him. I guess he liked it. Note the gaze. No, he wasn’t under the influence. He’d look you straight in the eye. There was nothing shifty about this guy. Tripper rarely raised his voice. He was into non-verbal communication. In other words, he had us well trained. He stayed with us for about ten years, a well behaved, quiet, affectionate member of the family. As time went by, he stopped climbing trees, not because he lacked claws. It seemed to be too much for him. He had a bit of hip dysplasia early on, but this condition faded away after a few days in an animal hospital. Toward the end, the classic signs of diabetes suddenly and forcefully appeared. The hip dysplasia returned with a vengeance. He lost control of his bowel and bladder and wouldn’t come into the house. Nancy Ann remembers opening the kitchen door for Tripper. He put his chin on the threshold, but would not enter.  We knew it was time for him to go. I kept looking into his eyes as the vet administered the final anesthetic. Tripper was buried just beneath the spot where his catnip grew. He can never be replaced.

This piece is dedicated to my Sensei: Leslie Lynch.