9. A Sudden Adult Death

9. A Sudden Adult Death

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



I don’t want you to go to school today, Darren,” said Rona, and when he looked at her face it was plain as the nose on his own that she’d been crying, and one thing Rona Bingley hardly ever did was shed tears over anything. She was tough, was Rona, tough and her usual emotional defences were just about as unbreachable as any defences anywhere under the sky.

Why? What is it, mum?” he asked.

It’s your father, Darren. In the night. I don’t know what happened but I woke up in the early hours and he was so cold. It was horrible, son. He wasn’t breathing. I tried to make him, but there was nothing I could do. I even boiled a kettle and made a hot water bottle for him, but it was no use. No use at all. I could tell that he would never breathe again. They took him in an ambulance but told me to had passed the point of re-awakening. I was distraught.”

I didn’t hear anything, mum…”

When you go to sleep the world might end and you wouldn’t notice, son. I’ve always said that of you. The doctor when he came, he nodded his head and called it sudden adult death syndrome. Oh, I wish I could die to be with him…”

You could have woken me, mum…”

No, Darren. I couldn’t put that sort of burden on a lad like you, at your age. You’re so young…”

I’m a man, mum. Seventeen is grown up these days.”

Seventeen has never been grown up, Darren. There’s a lot of life for your to see before you’re properly grown up, and you don’t want it to start with death…”

Then Darren wept. He wasn’t sure why because his father had never figured mightily in his life. He’d worked for the council on the bins and in their garage, which had always embarrassed him when the other lads at school found out, and they always did. There were the sons of policemen, a librarian, even a teacher or two, and he was the son of a bin man.

Then his tears reminded him that no matter how lowly the task, his father had always done it to the very best of his ability. So, he had been a bin man So what? He had been the very best bin man ever.

He was a good dad,” he sobbed, and he guessed that had been the truth. Some fathers brutalised their kids, but his dad didn’t. He never even punished him when maybe he should have. Instead, he had frowned or shaken his head sadly, and in all honesty that had been enough to keep him on the straight and narrow.

He was a good husband,” sighed Rona, her eyes slowly drying, “and the last thing he would want is to think of us moping like this. Not that he’d want us to laugh and dance, that would never do, but he’d want us to remember the man he was, and that was a good man.”

I won’t go to school, then, not today,” said Darren, “instead I need to share my feelings with someone.”

I’m here, I’ll always be here, son,” his mother said.

I know. But would it be horrible wrong if I went next door for a minute and told Jennifer?”

You seem to be getting in thick with that hussy!” snapped Rona, needing someone to act as a target for all the misery that was swirling around inside her head, which was aching.

She’s good,” whispered Darren, not really knowing what the girl next door was really like.

I’ve seen the clothes she likes to wear… I only wish…”

What, mum, what do you only wish?”

That I had a wardrobe like hers. Nice smart things… pleated skirts up to my bottom, pretty summer dresses, and a smile…”

You’ve got the smile, mum, you’ve got the prettiest smile under the sun!”

And I’ve got a looking glass, Darren. I’ve seen my stained teeth from when I used to smoke. I’ve seen the lines round my eyes, crow’s feet, they call them, I’ve seen how my best dress hangs well below my knees, hiding their ugliness from public view.”

That’s not your smile, mum,” he murmured, frowning, “smiling is in the heart and the mind, not in places like clothes and wrinkles!”

You’re a good boy, Darren,” she said, choking. “You go to your hussy, then. You tell her about your father. Make her really see him, rather than the oil-stained man who shambled down the street.”

If you don’t mind, mum, I will, when she comes back from school this afternoon. Until then I’m here, and if you tell me to do something I’ll try to do it. I promise. I'll try to be a substitute dad…”

I saw the way she kissed you, Darren.”

I’m sorry, mum. I didn’t know that’s what she was going to do, I really didn’t.”

Well, son, from what I saw she meant it. Every heart-stopping moment of it. It took me back, I can tell you, to my courting days.”

But you said…”

I know what I said, Darren, but I was lying. I wanted to save you from growing up too soon. Of course your dad kissed me. And more, a lot more too, that I’ll never mention. We weren’t in the olden days when we were young, you know!”

I know that, mum. You’re still young at heart.”

The last thing your father and I did was kiss. Last night. And before I went to sleep I told him that I love him.. Then, in the early hours, I found that he was dead. Cold already, he was. He must have died when I kissed him, and I didn’t know. Or soon after. I only hope he knew that I loved him when I kissed him because, you know, I can sometimes be a bit sharp with him. And not only with him but with everyone. It’s the way I am. But last night I kissed him and told him that I loved him. Before he died. I hope it was before he died.”

There was a knock at the door, sudden, breaking what seemed to be a sudden spell.

Darren opened it and saw Jennifer, the lovely heart-stopping Jennifer, standing there.

She looked directly at Rona.

I was woken in the night and looked out of the windows,” she said to the older woman. “It was clear what I saw when they took your husband away, covered up like the dead are covered up on cop shows on the telly when they’re wheeled away. I’m sorry, so sorry, it’s all so horrible.”

Rona might have shouted at her angrily or looked away for fear that her own heartache might show, but she did neither of those things. Instead she put both arms round the younger woman and hugged her. Tightly, like one woman might hug another woman if it’s the only way they can communicate.

And no more words were said.

© Peter Rogerson 06.05.21


© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 6, 2021
Last Updated on May 6, 2021
Tags: night, death, father, sudden


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..