A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



It was a heartbreaking day, cold, raining, windy, and the route from the small church where the service had been conducted by a clergyman, who had imbibed too much of the kind of stuff that mixes a man’s syllables until it’s not really clear what he’s saying, was muddy as Ralf in his plain box was carried towards the open grave that had been prepared for him.

Annie stood under the outermost branches of a tree next to the yawning grave, a tree that dripped cold fingers of ice that somehow managed to find their way through her clothing to run down her back, and her mother with Daphne stood next to her.

Her mind went back to that first time she had posed for him, when her mind had been wondering whether this man with a paintbrush in his hand would ever want her to go beyond his original brief. She’d heard of girls, pretty girls, showing more of their flesh than they really wanted. But he hadn’t. He was a decent, honourable man back then, and right now he was dead.

Then, when all the right things had been said, she led her mother away.

There was time enough to mourn ahead of her.

The memory faded as memories do.

Her mind had gone back to that moment by a knock at the door rather than a ring of her doorbell. When she opened the door it was to find a policeman standing there, nervously in his uniform despite the heat of a day contrasting strongly with the tragic day she had been remembering.

He looked at a paper in his hand as he stood a full two metres back from the door when it opened.

Mrs Graby?” he asked.

Grable,” she corrected him.

Related to Daniel Grable of Heath Down Home?” he asked.

Yes. That’s right. I’m his mother.”

Can I come in?”

I’m locked down. So no,” she replied, “at my age I don’t want any confrontation with any virus!”

It’s about Mr Daniel Grable, Mrs…?”

Grable. I said. Mrs Grable.”

Er, yes. Are you sure I can’t come in?”

There’s a pandemic about.”

Then I’ve got to inform you, we’ve had confirmation that your son passed away during last night.

What? Daniel?”

Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry. They sent me to tell you. He caught that virus you mentioned, probably from a fellow, er, inmate who returned from hospital after receiving treatment and, well, you know what happens...”

That’s why we’re standing half a mile apart.”

Is there anything I can do for you?”

And they put a sick man in with healthy men? Hoping they’d all grab hold of the virus and save the state a fortune in pensions?”

They don’t...”

You’re here, on my doorstep, so they do,” she found herself growling.

So can I do anything? Is there anything...”

She shook her head. “No, sonny, there’s not. Let me go in and think about this. He was a good boy, you know, bright as a button, a lovely lad...”

Yes, ma’am...”

But he’s not a lad any more and the last time I saw him he didn’t recognise me, who brought him into the world, so it’s hard to fathom why any of us get born in the first place. Thank you, officer, it might be best if I was left on my own.”

He turned to go. “I’ll check up on you later, if you like,” he said.

There’s no need. I’ll survive,” she replied, and added under her breath “or not.”

She returned to her seat by the window.

Where’s that darned bird when it’s wanted?” she demanded of nothing and no-one, but the thrush must have heard because with a flutter it landed on the fence post that it sometimes liked to tease her from.

They’re both dead,” she told the thrush, “that’s both of them now, and look at me. Old as the hills and still breathing.”

That’s about it,” she whispered, “I’d best ring Letitia.”

I was going to ring you, granny,” Letitia said when she answered, “is it about granddad?”

Annie nodded then realised she had to vocalise her reply. “He passed away,” she croaked.

He was getting on a bit,” suggested Letitia, “and he wasn’t so well, you know.”

But he was alive, and now he isn’t,” said Annie, “and while we’re supposed to stay locked in our houses there was nobody to say goodbye to him. To ease him on his way. There should have been someone. Instead he was all alone in the empty world inside his head, probably reaching out for comfort, who can tell? He was a little boy once...”

I know, granny.”

And he became a little boy again. He’s the second and last of my children to die, darling, and I should have gone first.

Nonsense, granny. You’re a strong woman!”

That’s sweet of you Letty, but I’m an old bird and long past my sell-by date,” she said, “anyway, I hope you’re alright?”

I’m okay. Sad about granddad but a little voice says it may have been for the best.”

She was right, of course. But whose best? Hers? The government’s? His?

And the conversation was over. She put her phone down and looked at Mr Thrush.

That’s both of them gone,” she whispered, “Elizabeth and Daniel.”

She closed her eyes, and there she was back in the rain at a winter funeral.

Ralf had come back from the first war an injured man had developed a huge set of skills with a paint brush and oils and even regained his fertility. He’d been the best of men, and now he was six feet down with the gravedigger already piling the soil on top of his coffin.

But his greatest achievement was the cover of his first wife’s book and the way that it still stirred her heart when she looked at it, at the way her eyes caught the artist’s light, the way he had created a sort of angel out of a simple image of her…

From me,” she whispered, “but I was no angel. If I had been I would never have had such a good time with Dobie!”

She’d met Dobie after the funeral when the small party had returned to the big house for a party of sorts. It always struck Annie as a bit contradictory to drink to the health of the recently deceased, but that’s basically what they did.

What you need, young lady, is a good seeing to!” came this voice in her ear, and she spun round to see the strangest of men. Bearded, long haired, John Lennon spectacles, dressed in bright mismatching colours as if colours didn’t matter, and smoking a gnarled old pipe, sending clouds of aromatic smoke over everyone in the room.

If anyone had said it possible, that after my step-father’s funeral I’d be in bed with a creature like that, I’d call them liars!” she said, and it seemed that the thrush had enough understanding of the pitfalls in life to pay attention to her. “But I was,” she mused, “and it was wonderful.

I’d taken him home with me, probably because he said that he wanted me to, and before we got half way home he’d undone my bra! I mean, back then, and he wasn’t any gawky teenager but a grown man in his forties! And I didn’t try to stop him. And when we reached the bedroom, which was our first port of call on rushing through the front door, I knew I was in for the best time I’d had since my honeymoon with Klaus!

It was only that one night but it was a night I’ll never forget. I was probably slipping into the change of life because I really should have got pregnant half a dozen times over! But I didn’t, thank goodness. But for that one day out of my life time I think I reached that high place where the angels are supposed to live. I’d never get there again, which is the biggest regret of my life. And it is so tasteless when I think that it followed on the heels of a funeral.

But one thing I’m certain, Ralf would have approved. It was in his eyes the many times he painted my image, fully clothed, though I know that through the cottons and fabrics he could always see my breasts, the colour of them, the young texture, and somehow capture them in his art. That was what he did: showed my inner soul, but wrapped it in silk and ribbons!”

Ah, Dobie… maybe all funerals should be followed by Dobies...

Will Daniel’s? And if so, for whom?”

© Peter Rogerson 27.05.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 27, 2020
Last Updated on May 27, 2020
Tags: funeral, drinks, one night stand


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 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..

3. Exodus 3. Exodus

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson