I’d been waiting in all day for the postman to call. The book I needed was urgent for the research paper. When he arrived, it was not there, much to my disappointment. Instead, in an envelope addressed to me by hand, was a small lined postcard, the sort used for indexing, with a cryptic, handwritten message: –
‘I’m not dead. Meet me Tuesday night at 8 at our old haunt.’
I’d arrived back in my home town late on Sunday to see off my old friend Jim Barnes. We went right back to junior school and despite our being estranged for so many years, I felt quite a pang of sadness as I walked up the path to the crematorium. There were no other faces I knew and after some consideration, I sat on the family side. As the heavy red curtains pulled across that one final time, I admit that I shed a tear. Not so much for Jim, but more as an acknowledgement to my own mortality, about which I had been thinking more and more often recently.
Our old haunt was a small fishing shack out on the lake. As kids, we would make a beeline for it as often as we could. Far away from the prying eyes of overprotective parents. Somewhere we could be ourselves and explore without much interference the multiple rites of passages of boys growing up.
Slowly but surely the train lurches to a halt. Hugo finishes his pastry. There are sounds of shouting outside and he wipes some of the condensation from the window with his thick glove. He can just make out vague, directionless flashes of light in the dark, against the banks of snow.
He looks across at the girl, and sees her eyes. Her pupils are huge. Her brow is wrinkled and shiny. She holds his eye contact so tightly that he cannot, for a moment or two, let go.
There are voices coming along the corridor, indistinct initially and growing in volume as they proceed towards them. For a second or two, Hugo cannot forgo a look as they approach and yet when he looks back, she is still looking right at him.
Imperceptibly, he nods. No-one else in the compartment notices, for it was such a small nod. Yet the girl sees it and just as subtly returns the tiny movement back to him. Continue reading
A tea shop, somewhere up North…
So, I said to her, ‘This can’t be happening again.’
What did she say?
Well, you know what she’s like, she always knows best – or so she thinks. Drives me mad. How can someone always be right. That’s what I want to know. Continue reading
“How are you feeling now?” she said, as she sat on the bed beside him, soothing his head with a cool flannel.
“Not very well, Mummy.” He shifted around, uncomfortable in his sweaty pyjamas.
“What can I get you for your dinner?” she knew she had to get some food inside him. ‘Feed a cold, starve a fever.’ She remembered what her mother had told her.
“I don’t want anything. I’m NOT hungry.” Was ALL he said.
“You’ll have to have something. Build you up.” she got up and straightened her pinafore.
“That soup.” He shouted after her, as she disappeared into the kitchen.
He would eat something, for the first time in days. So she allowed herself a smile as she reached for the tin from the cupboard.
She knew that he would eat this, his favourite. The chip pan was already bubbling away and they would be ready soon.
“Would you like a few chips in it as well?” She didn’t wait for his affirmation, for she knew he would. She smiled again. Continue reading
He was white as he lay there. As white as he had ever been in his life, which was now as ebbed away as a life could be.
The small crowd that had formed was starting to drift away. Nothing more to be seen here.
For nothing was going to happen now, as the paramedics began to wrap up their gear and load the body onto the collapsible gurney one of them had fetched from the ambulance. Continue reading
Slowly, the earth moved and as it did, Emily flinched slightly. It was only the slightest of movements, but a twitch of her eyebrow and the tiniest of tremblings at one side of the mouth was visible.
She had been waiting for that movement for several hours already, yet even when it came, and despite her having tensed most of the movable parts of her body for much of that time, she still could not help be a little surprised.
Even though it was closer now, she resisted the temptation to run, despite her fear of what might happen. Her tender age and all that she had been through in her moderately short life, had prepared her for this. Continue reading
The Finnair flight was a little late as it went into final approach. As was their almost unique style for an airline, one of the crew switched off the inflight entertainment to the camera in the nose.
Whilst the medium haul from Helsinki had made up some time for their late departure (“Due to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft” – the oft-heard excuse for final flights at the end of the day in almost any airport around the world), they were still landing into the setting sun. Continue reading
The bus pulled into the town late that afternoon. It could have been anywhere, but for Amy, this was home. A rural town in the heart of the country was all she knew, until seven months ago.
The bus ride had taken her three hours that afternoon in late October. The nights were drawing in now and Amy knew that a winter at home would be cold and cruel and there was still much to look forwards to.
She loved the traditions of this time of year. What with Halloween, Thanksgiving and then Christmas. It was a time of year for hunkering down in front of log fires with hot chocolate and watching the snow fall sometimes gently, sometimes in a blizzard. So strong, you did not feel in the inhabited world at all.
Yet when you were home, with her people, all you could do was smile.