Burt Meets Barbie (again)

Old sailor Burt likes to be useful and often helps Dolly the Landlady of the ‘Puppet Masters Arms’, a popular Free House near the park; this morning he’s installing a fire extinguisher behind the bar in exchange for a few free pints.

“My saviour, Burt, how can I thank you?” Dolly was more that happy to have him around, since her husband disappeared it’d been hard trying to cope alone but at least she was the boss now.

Dolly may have more than a soft spot for rugged Burt, she often dreamt of running a harbour side pub with him as Landlord.

But she never declared it.

Meanwhile he took his coat off to start work before the pub opened, Burt had no idea of the raging longings that bubbled under the cool and coiffured surface of the friendly landlady, he just liked free pints.

“It’s regulations,” Dolly explained,

“Every public bar has to have one.”

“No problem, glad I brought me tools.” Burt diligently got on with the job,

“Are you sure you want it here Doll?”

“Yes Burt dear, in case someone sets the carpet alight with their fag butts, like the rabble I get in at the weekend, you wouldn’t believe what they get up to!”

Dead on 11 o’clock Dolly unlocked the pub doors, almost at once a sudden blast of fresh air cleared the stale smell of beer sodden carpet momentarily.

“What can I get you, Madam?” Dolly asked in her poshest voice, it wasn’t often she got a lady in her bar so early, especially such a well dressed one.

“Martini and soda and a lemonade, s’il vous plait.” replied the chic lady in her heavy French accent.

Burt turned around on hearing her familiar voice.

“Barbie!”

“Oh mon Dieu! Burt!” she exclaimed almost as shocked as he was, although keeping her French cool.

This roused the attention of Dolly,

“Oh you two know each other then?” she asked curiously.

“Oui oui, a long time ago.” Barbie explained.

“In Paris.” Continued Burt but that was all he was willing to say about that troubled time of his youth.

The drinks were served

“And a packet of crisps for Babette.” Barbie requested, Burt only then noticed the pretty dark haired girl standing next to her.

“Burt, you look so…handsome, I love the beard, it suits you. ” she was genuinely pleased to see him.

“How long ago? It must have been 1959, you left Paris without saying goodbye, one minute you were there, the next poof, gone without a trace!”

“Yes, I joined the Navy to see the world.”

“And you? A mother?”

They both looked over to the girl happily munching the packet of crisps.

“My daughter, Babette, she is my world.”

“How old is she?”

“Eleven, almost a young lady,” Replied French Barbie proudly.

Burt tried to do some mental arithmetic and the sums added up to a big question.

“Babette, this is my old friend, he used to be a artist and paint me when I was young and beautiful.”

“You are beautiful, Mama.” Babette also spoke with a French accent but a slight Lancashire lilt.

She offered Burt her crisps.

“Thanks, pet.” He politely took some.

“Can I ask you something, Barbie?” Burt had to know, after a decade trying to forget, this surprise meeting re-surfaced a swirling cauldron of repressed emotions.

“Oui, I have so much to ask you too, Chéri.”

“Another drink? Dolly love, same again and a pint for me.” Burt needed this beer badly.

“So you’re married?” Burt asked the leading question.

“Non, Chéri.”

Burt’s puzzled expression made her laugh.

“Did you miss the swinging Sixties with free love and non-conformity?” Little did she know he did, the Navy was a strict Mistress.

“But what about that other Artist….” Burt was pained to say his name, “Maurice?”

“Oh, oui Maurice, he started the biggest commune in the whole of France, the man is a genius, some say it was a cult but to the Art world he was a God.”

“Was?”

“He become a Buddhist monk in Tibet, that was five years ago and no one has seen him since.”

Burt took a long gulp of beer and braced himself.

“Tell me, who is her father?” Nodding his head in the direction of the girl.

French Barbie stayed quiet, starting intently into Burt’s eyes.

“She is a child of Love, Burt.” She whispered.

“But we have to go now and catch our train.” Brusquely French Barbie finished her Martini.

“Must you?” Burt was filled with questions as she fussed over the girl.

Who, where, when and how?

Maybe she didn’t know and if she did, she wasn’t telling.

“Burt, mon Chéri, such a lovely surprise to see you again, adieu pour toujours.”

“Not forever? Where are you going?” Burt was even more disturbed.

“Tibet.”

“Au revoir, monsieur,” waved the smiling girl as they swiftly left as fast as they arrived, a blast of fresh cold air swirled through the empty room as the public bar door slammed shut.

Silently Burt got back to the job he’d started, fixing up the new fire extinguisher under the counter.

Dolly busied herself wiping down the bar, intrigued by the overheard revelations of Burt’s past life, he never was much of a talker; she had no idea he’d once been an Artist in Paris, but then she didn’t really know who the real Burt was.

Another pint was supped as Burt collected his tools, silently thoughtful of distant times and past adventures, wallowing in a sea of ‘what ifs” and ‘maybes’.

Then he remembered he had a hot date with that redhead from the Travel Agents later.

“Bye Dolly, see you tomorrow.”

“Ta ta Burt, I’ll make those scotch eggs you love.”

©Juliette Dodd 2019

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