Thread: Heading Home
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Old Jan 4 2019, 01:22 PM   #2
P'ter
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Heading Home Chapter 1

I stand by the open grave gazing down at the dirt speckled coffin. The brass plate on the lid is easily legible in the harsh summer sun:

“Elizabeth James”
6/2/1952 – 4/12/2010”


My wife’s coffin. Born that particular day, what else could she have been named? Elizabeth Regina: Vivat Regina. But MY Elizabeth is dead. A day I have known was inevitable ever since she became ill three years ago.
Friends and work colleagues have drifted away to their cars leaving me this time for my private thoughts. My jumble of thoughts that one day, perhaps, I will fight down onto paper as a poem worthy of standing witness to our seventeen years.

I can see two workers standing almost out of my line of sight, waiting to bring in the digger to backfill that frightful space, to shape the earth into a seemly shape and to arrange the wreaths in a seemly order, that all may be seemly. What a terrible word. Was her death ‘seemly’? I turn away to let them finish what those darn bacteria had started thirty-eight months ago.
Graham, head master of the High School, and my erstwhile boss, is waiting to drive me home to my bungalow where kind neighbours and colleagues had organised the wake. Would that she would wake. No I don’t; not to extend that earthly purgatory she had suffered so.

Graham opens the passenger door of the last remaining car: his. A few teenagers still mill around talking quietly. Some other are departing, cycling and walking off in dark clothing instead of their usual eye-searing clashes. One lad in a dark suit and tie is making off on a skateboard.

From among her friends a girl asks me, “Are you coming back to teach us again Sir?”

I had taught her history for two years. Elizabeth had taught her P.E. and games for one. I realise that I don’t know. “It’s too soon to decide,” I tell her.

A boy comes over and shakes my hand. Two girls, about to start their Senior Year, come and give me quick shy hugs. I get in the car and we drive away.

As he changes into third Graham says, “I know it’s too soon for you to decide, but I ... WE’D love to have you back. We still think of you as part of the team; after all you’re about the longest serving member of staff. You don’t have to come back full-time. You don’t even have to come and teach, you could make a valuable contribution as a mentor. Just add it into the equation, okay?”

-o-0-o-

At home my neighbour, one of our nurses at the local hospital, has organised a decent amount of alcohol, a decent amount of soft-drinks, a decent amount of food; all to be consumed by these decent folks. I realise that I am looking at them with a new vision that makes them all strangers despite everything I think I know about them. For so long my vision has been tunnelled, limited to that Darling suffering and gasping her way down that slope leading to that hole in the ground. Now I’m as surprised by what I see of these people, and their usually silent support, as I was the day I first put on a pair of spectacles and found that the white blob on the Town Hall was a clock. And I could read it!

A young red-headed man wanders across to me, a mug of tea in his hand; our town pharmacist. I’ve seen a lot of him recently.

“Havyer evergon backter Blightly, Mr. James? Ter visit?” He talks like a cartoon ‘Ozzy’ in a British comic.

“No. At first, when I came out here in nineteen-ninety, I always meant to but then I met Elizabeth and didn’t want to: or need to. I’ve kept in touch with my ex and daughters. Cards and letters at Christmas and birthdays, that sort of thing. I used to send money for presents. Now my daughters have Kindles and I send them e-books, and I send money or gift tokens back for the grandkids. Why?”

“I was looking online only yesterdie. Quantas’ve got some real bonza offers right now, if yer book real early.” He swallowed the rest of his tea and moved to find a refill.

My neighbourly nurse came bustling across. “Watcha drinkin Trev? Havyer eaten? Come on let’s getyer fixtup.”

There are times when it is wise to give in and go.

-o-0-o-

A couple of hours later everyone has gone, except the neighbour doing the washing up. Eventually she goes too amidst professional advice on eating. Eating! I’ve eaten far too many sandwiches and slices of cake. What my taste buds are yearning for is something cool and tart. I look in the fridge and find the remains of a fruit salad covered in cling-film. I take a spoon off the draining board, dry it and sit down to eat. But, I have no sooner sat down than I realise that I also want music. Not to make music, though that was how Elizabeth and I had got together, but to let it wash over me. For me, listening to the right piece of music at the right time is as refreshing as a good bath.

I look along the rows of C.Ds: Faure’s Requiem? Too near the knuckle as yet. Gibbons! Good old Orlando. Yes: just lose myself in the complexities of polyphony.

On the disc his Second Evening Service is followed by Palestrina’s Tu Es Petrus. Dear Petrus. I had tried so hard to be Peter for Elizabeth. Lean on me Dear, I am a rock for you. Near The End, it had somehow reversed and Elizabeth had been the rock for me. Sitting there slowly eating fruit salad, and letting the daylight slowly fade around me, I realise that the time has come: it is time to head home.
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"Truth is stranger than fiction: fiction has to make sense." Leo Rosten.

"When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
C. S. Lewis

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