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Morning Serial.

Byline: Alun Richards

It was all evidence of the timely arrival of Broncho with his worm mixture; for, as I later found out, Broncho would state flatly that it had taken him a month of regular dosage to extract the entire contents of one of the specimen jars from this very boy.

"All them worms... Look for yourself. Pounds of 'em! Arrived, I did, in the nick of time! You only got to look at him to see how thoroughly drained he is."

Here he put his tattooed hand - blue lovebirds imprinted on the skin between finger and thumb - on the boy's thin shoulder and asked gravely: "Well, was you, or was you not at death's door until I come across you? Until your mother come to me and begged me on her bendeds?" The boy nodded gravely. At death's door was one of my grandmother's phrases and the boy, with that awful chalk pallor and the limpid embarrassed eyes, the dirt ingrained between his fingers and the sores about his ankles, was the living embodiment of ill health. But for a fleeting moment, such was Broncho's eloquence and confidence, you thought, this is what worms can do.

Broncho was not just a quack, he was a consultant quack, and when he shook the specimen bottle, some of the tentacles seemed to stretch out towards you, swirling and beckoning in the blue liquid. You could not but wonder if they were still alive. "Pounds of stuff I got out of him," Broncho said impressively. "Pounds. By the cupful!" He cupped his hands to indicate the amount, using the measurement as a specialist might to indicate the gravity of the situation to a layman.

Then he went on and on. (It was his business to, like mine!) "What I ask is this," he said, very reasonable; "why, when the evidence is in front of them, why, oh why will people not take the simplest elementary precaution and put a bit of liquid liner in the stomach as a preventative? You flush a copper pipe... . D'you think your own intestines is not worth a moment's thought? Pains in the morning, have you? A little flatulence? Tell you it's wind, do they? Wind! That's all they know... ." It was my first acquaintance with They, the people who thought they knew.

Now I have to invent to order the narrative, since I cannot remember the exact words he used. But the ridiculous details survive: the fact that he carried the badge of a Deputy Sheriff of Montana, had a crumbling parchment to prove it, and later said he had learned medicine man's talk from the Seminole Indians in Florida - all of it is so unlikely as to suggest a spoof on my part.

But it is not, and you have to see him as I saw him on that day and later, half-illuminated by the flickering blue light of a solitary naptha flame in a copper bowl, a relic from the previous decade, a hoarse-voiced and earnest figure in a place of shadows and mysteries.

Continues tomorrow Dai Country by Alun Richards is published in September as part of the Library of Wales series published by Parthian. For more information on the series visit www.libraryofwales.org. To buy your copy visit www.gwales.com
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 24, 2009
Words:551
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