A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Parallel memories of a long time ago, and other relationships.


There’s something I should tell you, Bernie, and I hope you can hear me,” murmured Pauline to her comatose husband as he lay on his hospital bed, giving barely a hint that he might actually be alive.

I can hear you … of course I can hear you! Do you think I’m deaf, woman,” resounded silently inside his head. He knew who she was now, suddenly, as if a veil had been lifted, but not completely.

Remember I told you,” said Pauline as she pulled her roll of needles and knitting out of an oversized handbag, “remember I told you that Gladys Templeman passed away a week or so ago? Remember I mentioned the funeral to you and that I’d go and represent both of us?”

Who in the name of everything Holy is Gladys Templeman? Do I know her? Why are you telling me this? And what does ‘passed away’ mean? Passed away where? Do you mean died? Is that what I’ve done, died? Is that why I can’t see anything any more, unless it happens in my head, like in a secret theatre?

So I went along to the funeral. A small affair it was, not many souls turned up, probably because when you reach a certain age you don’t want to be reminded of your own mortality, so unless you’re really close to a body you don’t turn up to say goodbye… Anyway, I went and said our bit, like you might have if you hadn’t been stupid enough to get mown down by that car...”

I remember Tony Templeman, when we were kids, and he married a bird called Gladys. A pretty little thing she was, all chest and bottom and happiness… you won’t know this, Pauline, but before she married Tony I had her for a while… And she was so good! Then Tony came along … I knew him from school and a dirty toad he was...”

That light, the one shining onto his inner-stage where the puppets of people lived and breathed and imitated the past with uncanny accuracy, started glowing and piercing the gloomy mush of his brain, illuminating…

...illuminating the dirty toad called Tony Templeman…

Is that you, Spermy Bernie..? cackled the lad in the smartest grey shorts in the whole school, always with tidy creases down the front, not like his that for some reason his mum thought should be creased down the side… And he had greased hair, loads of fragrant grease making it look as if he’d just buried his head in a chip pan, but it smelt girlie, the kind of greasy smell you’d expect a girl to make in a jam jar out of flowers and water…

Jane next door did that. Made flower-water out of rose petals and chrysanthemums. Then she tried to sell it to the girls down Bellamy road, but he didn’t think she ever sold any. Maybe the girls down Bellamy road made their own. It was the sort of thing girls did.

What do you want, Templeman? That was him asking, grumpily, because Templeman was a bully and they’d only end up in a fight if they occupied the same space for too long.

I’m going to shag your mother… I could, you know, Spermy, and she’d love me for it…

It sounded ridiculous from a lad too young to wear proper trousers, still in shorts even if they were the smartest around. But boys that young even beginning to think of what they might do to somebody’s mother … ridiculous! Mothers were old, weren’t they, and didn’t do that kind of thing. They were … innocent.

Well, while you’re doing that I think I’ll spend an hour with Gladys Nugent… You like her, don’t you Tony? I’ve seen you watching her, your eyes out on stalks every time she goes anywhere near you, hopscotch on the pavement, sliding her stone and hopping…

But Tony only grinned. “and flashing her knickers at me, only at me, jumping and sliding her stone and hopping up and down with her dress flying everywhere… and she does it for me. Only for me!”

That’s why we called him dirty toady Tony. Sally Nugent was a pretty girl, much too pretty for him. Everyone said so, or if they didn’t say it they thought it.

Toady Templeman wandered off, that sloppy know-it-all grin on his face, the one everyone hated. Or if it wasn’t everyone that hated it, he, Bernie Walpole, certainly did.

And the focus of that inner beam of light blurred, faded, and his ears were forced to listen to the clicking of knitting needles and the voice droning on…

So I went to Gladys’s funeral,” she was saying. “Small it was, only a few of us true friends there, and the vicar said a few wonderful things about her. How she was God-fearing… and how she’d be in Heaven by now, sitting on the right hand side, and how she’d looked after her family like loving mothers should...”

Piffle! If anyone was on anyone’s right hand side it would be me, wouldn’t it? I’m in this … what would you call it? Limbo? And there’s nobody else in my world except for puppets of things I remember from a long time ago…

Then, afterwards, when her coffin was on its way to the cemetery, Tony, you remember Tony, Bernie? Her husband and quite a handsome fellow still, really good looking and smart … I wonder if you can hear what I’m saying? Maybe not, but I’ll say it anyway. I had a fling with him once, oh, before you and I got together, and before Gladys came into his life. Did you ever wonder, Bernie, why I wasn’t a virgin that first time we did it? I don’t know whether you noticed or not, but I wasn’t because of Tony. He was good and caring back then, a lovely lad with bright sparkling eyes, and he still is...”

Gladys was too good for him! By far! She was an angel amongst people, and she didn’t half know what a lad needs when he’s nervous and young and hasn’t been with a lass before. She guided me, she did, laughing eyes and long hair, beautiful long hair, and together we promised to each other that we would… but Toady Tony came along and stole her from me. Him and his smart Alec ways, he and his aftershave and deodorants, back then when aftershave and deodorants were for sissies and not us real men!

So after Gladys, the poor soul, was lowered into the ground in her shining expensive coffin and the rest of the mourners had sipped their tea and eaten their sandwiches and gone, you’ll never guessed what happened…”

I don’t care what happened! All I care about is that the first lass I had is dead and buried, and I wasn’t there to say goodbye… And yet she was my first love, the one who stole my innocence from me, and there’s one truth above all others. A lad always remembers his first time. He always remembers that very first moment when the world stands still and then erupts… and that was Gladys … my first time… in Heaven… Then Toady Tony came along to steal her from me.

He didn’t see it, but Pauline sighed and a distant look crossed her face. He took me back to his place, just him and me, nobody else, and for a couple of hours there were just the two of us in the world. And he was the same as he’d been way back when we’d been little more than kids, the same considerate, loving, caring, gentle person. And he was gentle. So gentle that when we reached Heaven for a moment I was reminded of that first time, in my teens, with him, and all those old feelings swept over me all over again. Like a new first time. Like the first time we never had, you and me.

Pauline? My Pauline? Did you? I’m here, you know, waiting to wake up, waiting to live my life again…Open your eyes, look to the skies, I’m just a poor boy…

I’m just a poor boy…

I’m sorry, Bernie, but it was never like that for us. Not once in all the years… Maybe it’s because you always remember the first time and that makes it best even though … you understand? Anyway, I’m leaving early today. Tony’s taking me to the movies. He even mentioned the back seat!”

No! No! No! Open your eyes … open your eyes ...Pauline… I’m just a poor boy…

© Peter Rogerson 29.04.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on April 29, 2018
Last Updated on April 29, 2018
Tags: coma, memories, flashes, confession, funeral, past love, past affaires.


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..