Tuesday, 25 September 2007

DE MORTUIS by Brian Hodgkinson

(August's assignment was set by Gloria who selected an opening sentence onto which we must add our own 500 or so words to create a work of either fiction or non-fiction. The opening sentence reads:
"The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged.")

The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged.

It was a stinking hot day, and most of us were grossly overdressed for the weather. Convention, however, demanded it.

Under the formal tight smiles and nods of greeting, we assembled around the open grave.

Even the freshly excavated earth was dry and crumbly under the baking sun.

There was very little shade or shelter from the heat – such trees as there were grew round the very edge of the cemetery, not in the middle among the graves, of course. His children were both there, naturally – they couldn’t risk not being seen on such an occasion.

And their respective spouses – damned hypocrites.

Hadn’t seen or heard from any of them for years, and yet here they were, almost panting in their anxiety not to miss out on hearing what had been left to them.
Plus all his old cronies from the pub.

I could overhear their remarks.

“Can’t have expected anything else. Not at his age. Not considering the amount he put away. Well, he hadn’t anything else to do, had he? Not with that sour old puss of a wife he had.”

I pretended that I couldn’t hear them.

His lawyer was there as well – wearing a synthetic sympathetic smile.

Another hypocrite.

Probably calculating his commission as executor.

Why wasn’t I the executor?

He never trusted me.

“Women know nothing about money,” he used to say “they’re only fit for cooking and children.”

Damned Teutonic outlook - kirche, kuche, kinder.

But I served him and tended him for all those years, didn’t I?

The hearse, at last.

And the parson.

Why did they ever imagine that the parson would help him?

He never attended the church, was always scathing in his remarks about it.

But there you are.

Word, words, words.

And then the coffin was lowered, and the rattle of sunscorched earth on the lid.

And the same synthetic smiles and hypocritical words of condolence.

And that was it.

And that was the end of it.


And then the house, empty and echoing despite all the children and cronies echoing in the empty spaces.

And the formal obligatory drink.

And the lawyer saying the formal, expected words.

Just as they had expected – everything for “his beloved wife”.

And their tight smiles as they piled into their expensive cars and drove away.

And then the silence.

But I still miss him.

And I am lonely, for all that.

Brian Hodgkinson ©

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