One Potato More: a John Dunn story

Every Wednesday morning, right after breakfast, I’m on “Stand-by” — to drive to the north end of town for the week’s groceries.

Often on this outing Marie and I had seen the unlikely twins, Polly Jones and Don Labron, walking the mile and a quarter to the north end. “How sensible,” I thought. “Those two are out every week at this time, getting exercise along with the groceries, regardless of season, discovering what’s new, and always nattering away to each other in brisk animation.”

Polly, (every Jones became Polly in the Almonte vernacular, despite a baptised Stanley, or Eric, or Stephen: ‘Polly’ or ‘Paulie’ in a homely sense merely underlined the clan’s descent from the Apostle to the Gentiles) well, as I was saying, Polly walked faster, being shorter than Don, in order to keep pace with six-foot partner. Their conversation, however, was quite rhythmic and even; it rose and fell like the ocean’s waves, up, down, again up-swinging, down, amid gathering foam and froth, ceaseless, non-stop.

This week, while I waited as Marie was assembling oranges, broccoli, bacon and eggs and etcetera for the check-out, I picked up my senior’s coffee and cookie, and brought them to sit down beside Polly on the deacon’s bench outside the cash.

“A fine day to be up and about,” Polly observed.

I agreed readily, and seeking to go further into the wonder of Polly and Don on foot, I asked the basic question. “Often when we’re driving up here on Wednesdays we see you and Don on the street walking all the way up here. Do you really walk the mile and a quarter every Wednesday?”

A momentary pause. Polly had to consider the query before he’d answer. “Most Wednesdays, yes,” he agreed, like a witness hesitating to use one of the irregular verbs in French, or having to try the subjunctive, or grasp at some exception to the rule. He tried to explain.

“This morning, in fact, I was not minded to come at all, but then Don phoned, asking if I had a mind to go out. Well, I looked out the window at the weather, and, seein’ as the walkin’ is good right now, I said, yes, I’d go. An’ he replied, ‘I’ll pick you up then’.”

“So that’s how come you’re up here today?” I enquired.

“Well, yes, but there’s one more thing on top of that too.”

“Some exceptional notion?” I asked, stirring about in the coffee.

“You might say exceptional. Yes, that. You see,” Polly tried his coffee again, “Right after Don phoned I went to see if I needed anything in the way of groceries, and it was only then I discovered that I had only one potato in the house!”

“One potato?” My echo tolled the perilous state of the Jones larder.

“Yes. Only one,” Polly’s head sank low, but the ocean wave swung up again and he recovered sufficiently to go on. “And you know,” he said, “I don’t like to be so far run-down: it’s like driving on Empty, it is, with only one potato in the house. What can a man do if some person comes to visit, and there’s only one potato in the house?”

“A sad state of affairs,” I commiserated. “Like the House of Commons.”

“Exactly” said Polly. “So you see me just sittin’ here with coffee and a cookie, waitin’ for Don”. Polly smiled before concluding, “Content too, and with a ten-pound bag of new potatoes at my feet, I’m ready now to extend a welcome to any visitor, one potato more.”

John Dunn

19 Nov 98