Me photer's in the papers!  'Oly wars!
   A 'ero, I've been called in big, black type.
   I 'ad idears the time was close on ripe
         Fer some applorse
To come my way, on top uv all me bumps.
Now it's come sudden, an' it's come in lumps.

I've given interviews, an' 'ad me dile
   Bang on the front page torkin' to a 'tec'.
   Limelight?  I'm swimmin' in it to the neck!
         Me sunny smile
Beams on the crowd.  Misun'erstandin's past;
An' I 'ave come into me own, at last.

But all the spot-light ain't alone fer me;
   'Arf, I am glad to say, is made to shine
   Upon that firm an' trusted friend uv mine,
         Ole Wally Free --
A man, I've alwiz said, 'oo'd make 'is mark ...
But, case you 'ave n't 'eard the story, 'ark:

Spike Wegg -- Yes, 'im.  I thort, the same as you,
   That 'e was dished an' done fer in the Lane.
   I don't ixpeck to cross 'is tracks again;
         An' never knoo
That 'e 'ad swore to git me one uv those
Fine days, an' make 'is alley good with Rose.

Spike 'ad been aimin' 'igh in 'is profesh.
   Bank robberies, an' sich, was 'is noo lurk;
   An' one big job 'ad set the cops to work
         To plan a fresh
Campaign agin this crook.  They want 'im more
Than ever they 'ave wanted 'im before.

They yearn fer 'im, reel passionit, they do.
   Press an' perlice both 'ankers fer 'im sore.
   "Where is Spike Wegg?" the daily 'eadlines roar.
         But no one knoo.
Or them that did 'ad fancies to be dumb.
The oysters uv the underworld was mum.

It was the big sensation uv the day.
   Near 'arf the Force was nosin' fer the bloke
   Wot done the deed; but Spike was well in smoke,
         An' like to stay.
Shots 'ad been fired; an' one poor coot was plugged.
An' now the crowd arsts, "Why ain't no one jugged?"

That's 'ow the land lies when, one day, I go
   Down to the orchid paddick, where I see
   A strange cove playin' spy be'ind a tree.
         I seem to know
The shape uv that there sneakin', slinkin' frame,
An' walk across to git on to 'is game.

Oh, yes; it's 'im; an' a reel vicious Spike.
   Venom is in the eye that looks in mine --
   A cold, 'ard, snaky eye.  "Well, Bill, yeh swine.
         'Ow would yeh like
To make cold meat?" This is the pleasant way
'E greets me on a nice, bright, warm, Spring day.

Though it is warm, I feel a sudden cold
   Creep up me spine. I 'speck to 'ear a gun
   Tork any minute; so I make a run
         To git a hold,
An' keep in close to use that upper-cut.
But Spike is fly this time, an' works 'is nut.

'E side-steps pretty.  Then we git to grips.
   I plant a short-arm jolt; an', as I land,
   I see a flash uv somethin' in 'is 'and.
         Nex' thing, 'e rips
A knife beneath me guard an' gives a dig --
Sticks me fair in the bellers, like a pig.

It was red-'ot! I grunt, an' break away
   To 'old 'im orf.  I'm battlin' fer me life --
   All-in, a cert; fer 'e's still got the knife.
         An', by the way
'E looks, I know it's either 'im or me
'As an appointment at the cemet'ry.

I've often wondered 'ow a feller feels
   When 'e is due to wave the world good-bye.
   They say 'is past life flicks before 'is eye
         Like movie reels.
My past life never troubled me a heap.
All that I want to do is go to sleep.

I'm gittin' weak; I'm coughin', chokey like;
   Me legs is wobbly, an' I'm orful ill.
   But I 'ave got some fight left in me still.
         I look at Spike;
An' there I see the dirty look wot shows
'E's got me where 'e wants me - an' 'e knows.

'E's smilin'.  Not a pretty smile, I own.
   But, sudden, there's a fear springs in 'is eye;
   An', frum be'ind me, some thing flashes by.
         I 'ear Spike groan;
I 'ear the squishy thud uv flesh on flesh;
An' gits idears there's somethin' doin' fresh.

I think that's where I fell.  Nex' thing I see
   Is Spike Wegg down, an' fair on top uv 'im
   Some one that's breathin' ard an' fightin' grim.
         It's Wally Free!
It's good old Wally!  'E 'as got Spike pinned,
Both 'ands, an' kneelin' 'eavy on 'is wind.

So fur so good.  But I ain't outed yet.
   On 'ands an' knees I crawls to reach 'em, slow.
   (Spike's got the knife, an' Wally dare n't let go)
         Then, as I get
Close up, I 'ear Rose screamin', then me wife.
I'm faint. I twist Spike's arm -- an' grab the knife.

That's all.  At least, as far as I'm concerned,
   I took no further interest in the show.
   The things wot 'appened subsekint I know
          Frum wot I learned
When I come-to, tucked in me little bed,
Me chest on fire, an' cold packs on me 'ead.

I 'ear they tied Spike up with 'arness straps
   An' bits uv 'ay-band, till the John 'Ops come;
   An' watched 'im workin' out a mental sum --
          Free an' some chaps --
Uv 'ow much time 'e'd git fer this last plot
An' other jobs.  The answer was, a lot.

Then that nex' day! an' after, fer a week!
   Yeh'd think I owned the winner uv a Cup.
   Pressmen, perlice, the parson, all rush up;
          An' I've to speak
Me piece, to be took down in black an' white,
In case I chuck a seven overnight.

The papers done us proud.  Near every day
   Some uv 'em printed photers uv me map
   (Looked at some ways, I ain't too crook a chap)
         But, anyway
I've 'ad enough.  I wish they'd let me be.
I'm sick uv all this cheap publicity.

But I'm reel glad ole Wally's won a name.
   'E saved my life; I'm wise to that, all right.
   Besides, I alwiz said that 'e was white
         Since 'e first came
To live 'ere, but 'e never got 'is due.
Now 'im an' Rose -- Ah, well; I fixed that too.

But sich is fame.  Less than a month ago.
   The whole thing started with a naggin' tooth.
   Now I am famis; an', to tell the truth --
         Well, I dunno --
I'd 'ardly like to bet yeh that I don't
Git arst to act in pitchers -- but I won't.

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-06