Bernie used to call here every couple of weeks.
Herself employed her to do the hard housework, and give the house a “top to tail”.
Bernie was a very nice woman. She was a hard worker, and very honest. She loved coming here as she said we were very nice people. She would come and spend a couple of hours flying around the house sweeping and mopping and scrubbing.
I liked Bernie, but she had a very unsettling effect on me. You see, she came from a parallel universe. And I could never quite catch up with what was going on in her world.
When she arrived in our house, the first thing she would do is grab our copy of the local newspaper. She loved that, because her son was always in it. She would find the article where it described how he had jumped bail on his latest charge, or was remanded yet again for another hearing, and she would glow with pride. She was very proud of her son, and it never seemed to occur to her that being a petty criminal was something unusual. He was in the papers every week, and that was enough for her.
Once she asked for a few weeks payments in advance. She was very apologetic about it.
“We need to replace the back door. The police kicked it in again last night” was her reason.
We gave her the money because we trusted her. As I say, she was very honest.
The next time she came, she was wearing a new pair of cowboy boots that she was very proud of. She apologised to Herself, but explained that they had decided not to replace the back door as the police would only kick it down again.
She loved us, and she loved our house, but she said she couldn’t ever live somewhere like this.
“It’s too quiet” says she. “I could never sleep with that quiet. I’d miss the sound of breaking glass.”
We never quite worked out what she meant by that.
Another matter of pride to her was the number of illegitimate children her sons had sired. Again, this was part of her world. She announced proudly one day that a son’s girlfriend was expecting again.
“But we don’t know who the father is.” says she, as if this kind of thing happens every day.
The spark went out of Bernie one day. She didn’t ask to see the paper. It transpired that the judge had finally had enough of the son, and had sent him down for seven years for trying to rob the local chemist with a water pistol.
It didn’t seem to bother her that her son was now in prison.
But it would be years before she saw his name in the paper again.