Galba Augustus

By Little Bit Bigelow

I knew a guy named Galba Augustus, back in the old days. Galba Augustus Snowe. Most people called him Snowy (or Oi-You-Lout) but he was Albie to me. We met back in '48, right before the Winter. Of course he got a lot of cracks about his name, that year. "Mr. Snowe, eh? Then you're to blame for all this cold," har dee har. Oh at first he'd just shrug and play along, but as the winter stretched on and things got harder, it didn't seem so funny. There was a gang of us then, just kids, out on the streets, and we none of us had much patience for shopkeeps and profs who still had snug homes and coal to warm them.

It finally came to a head when our mate Thistle got his leg run over by a speeding carriage and took a fever, then a chill, then somehow both at once. Us with nowhere to take him and no one to ask for help. We went out begging (which we had always swore upon our pride that we'd never do) to raise the money for a doctor. When we got back that night, Thistle was dead. I had always thought being dead was peaceful, like sleeping, but Thistle's pale staring eyes taught me the truth. The next day, Albie was shining shoes when his customer asked his name and then asked if him being called Snowe meant he could fix the weather, you know, keep it from snowing so his carriage could get through the streets more quickly. Albie beat the man nearly to death with his blacking brush before he could be pulled away.

Albie was far from the first or the last mate of mine to go to prison. Either I heard from them when they got out or I never heard from them again. But Albie's cellmate was a fallen priest in for gambling debts, who taught Albie his letters in exchange for Albie teaching him how to cheat at Thirty-Seven. Albie somehow tracked me down to where I was locked up in a boys' home and started writing me letters.

They weren't much — Albie never did figure out how to spell, and prison life isn't exactly rife with diverting anecdotes — but they came regular and I was glad to have them. He was a month from getting out when I got these last three letters:

The wall is melting. The preest is scared and sayz it is the devil trying to get inn. I am scared too.

Then a week later:

I have beggd and beggd the gards to let me out but they will nott. The wall is almoste gone. 1 gard sayz it is a Quarren but I do nott know what that is.

Then the next day:

I can see you but you are old very old. I am coming to talk to you.

And that was the last letter. I tried to find out what happened, but nobody wanted to answer my questions. You don't have much clout when you're a teenage truant with a broken nose banging your filthy fist on desks demanding to know what a Quarren is.

I do sometimes wonder, when it's quiet at night, how old I'd have to be for young Albie to say I looked "old very old." I wonder if I've passed that yet or how many years away it is. But I don't let myself think on that too long.

Now, I know you wanted me to talk about Emperor Galba Augustus of the First Century and all the wonderous things he did. But he's everywhere, standing tall in marble statues and staring up at us from our copper money. Everyone remembers him. Don't nobody remember Albie but me and and the streetstones.

See: Fimbulwinter of 1949, Quarren, Thirty-Seven


Broken History Lexicon: ABC || DEF || GHI || JKL || MNO || PQRS || TUV || WXYZ