Swylce

Musings and Writing of GG Alexander

Savage Writing: What’s Done is Done.

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This week each person’s contribution was read out by another person, so there was no real inspiration. This is the only thing that came to me. Graham read this out.

The book was floating in mid-air when he came downstairs to get his morning cup of coffee. Six a.m., and three feet above the chair closest to the living room doorway, an Agatha Christie book was floating, unsupported by anything corporeal, pages flipping every so often.

Joshua stopped on the stairs, stared at it, and – instead of chalking it up to his tired, ancient eyes – walked into the living room. As he moved around the chair, the air above it seemed to burst into scattered blue ripples, and like an optical illusion, as his perspective changed, the various glowing lines formed into a figure, complete and whole by the time he stood directly in front of the chair. The book snapped shut, the blue shadow rose from sitting, and he was face to face with his dead husband, David.

‘I’ve been here half the night reading it,’ he said, unsurprised to see Josh – as he should be, considering this was his home and he always rose at 6am. ‘Didn’t want to wake you, so I thought I might as well finish it.’

‘…was it good?’ Josh asked, as he always did when David finished a book.

‘Turns out the murderer was the first man they suspected, who they thought had an unshakable alibi. Pretty unusual – I can see why people like her so much. Pity I won’t read any more.’

In Josh’s mind, David had the same pitch-black hair and a clean-shaven jaw that was in all the pictures of them both when younger: dancing, drinking, kids’ birthday parties. Now, sixty-one years after they had first met, David appeared to him as he had been before death: old, with a wiry grey beard covering half his face. David had said grandfathers should have beards for the children, and Josh – a lover of suits and all things smart – had always contested with him. I don’t want bloody Santa, he had said. David had chuckled: “Ho ho ho.”

‘Fancy a ghost story?’ Josh said.

‘Same sick humour as always,’ the apparition said with a smile. ‘Go on.’

‘It’s not really a story. It’s more a myth,’ Josh said. ‘It’s said that before you die, you see the ghosts of those you love, and they take you into the afterlife. It’s like that cat that knew when people in the old folk’s home would die, and sat on their knee on their last night.’

‘Well I have a story,’ David said. ‘Strange one. In it, there’s a man – old, but healthy, could go another twenty years if he tried – who throws a party for his daughter’s fortieth birthday. Whole family’s invited. He’s healthy as anything, but he hugs his children and kisses his grandchildren, as if saying goodbye to them – then gets up at six in the morning to make himself coffee as if nothing’s unusual. What do you think of that?’

Josh rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, and when he opened his eyelids again, David was still there.

‘I think it’s a pretty scary story.’

His mouth was rather dry.

‘I’m getting some coffee,’ Josh said. ‘Don’t suppose you want any.’

David floated after him into the kitchen.

‘Didn’t you tell me you were going to give it up? How many years ago was that?’

‘Eight,’ Josh said, glad to turn his back to the ghost as he put on the kettle.

‘Eight years? That’s a long time. How have you managed?’

‘I paint,’ Josh said. ‘Walk the dog. Ginny’s even got me playing the new Call of Duty with her. My reflexes aren’t that bad, considering.’

David folded his arms. The sure sign he was going to give him a bollocking.

‘You let my garden die.’

‘Like I was going to muck around in dirt because of you.’

‘I was growing you bell peppers. They needed love. I was going to cook them in chilli for you.’

Josh smiled. Three adopted kids, a dog, a garden, and a kitchen full of cookbooks. David had been a better stepford wife and mother than most women they knew.

‘No point trying to keep them alive when I’m not you,’ he said. ‘All things have to end.’

David knew his philosophy, since he had said it so many times since retiring: once things were done, they were done, and there was no point belabouring it. His last article for the paper had been titled “How It All Ends”, and he had never written another word, as much as the urge threatened to overpower him. What’s done is done.

David defied his incorporeality by leaning against the counter top.

‘How is everyone? Gail and her new man okay?’

‘Mark isn’t new anymore. They’ve been married five years.’

‘How about Ginny? And Megan? She was only little back then.’

‘Well, Ginny’s nearly eighteen. And Megan’s thirteen now, and the biggest pain in the arse you wouldn’t believe. Matthew and his family came over just for the party – was good to see them again. Sara’s the same. All’s well, really.’

‘Everything’s fallen into place, eh?’ David said. ‘I’m glad. It’s more settled than I got.’

He spoke calmly, without regrets, but the stab of pain Josh felt seemed as fresh as new. He’s always thought he’d be first: he was older, and years of coffee and 7am starts at the paper and constant stress would do him in, he was sure, leaving David and his organic carrots to look after Gail and her family as they took over the house.  When the mouth cancer came he was sure that was it, but like the sod he was, he outlived it, and the blood in David’s ever-active brain had given out a few months later. Too many books, he thought, you smart bastard.

He made his coffee and drank it immediately. Burnt tongue. Nope, he was definitely awake. David laughed as he made a noise and slammed the mug on the counter.

‘What’s your plan for today then?’ he asked, as if it was years ago, and Josh was going to answer, “Going into the office. Got a big report to finish. Will pick Gail up from guitar club if I remember…”

‘Today? Don’t know. Paint. Play with the dog. Go on an adventure to I-don’t-fucking-know-where. Doesn’t matter really, does it? Nothing matters anymore.’

David brought a hand up to stroke his cheek. It felt like the lightest jet of water, like when the kitchen tap sprays off a plate and fizzles onto your arms.

‘Don’t worry,’ Dave said, with his most comforting, fatherly smile, and like sand blown off a sawmill, he scattered away. His last living words to him had been, “Josh, have you seen my glasses, I thought–“ These last words worked much better.

Josh sighed and drank another swig of coffee.

He said goodbye to his granddaughters as they left for school. He told his daughter and son-in-law that he would get the shopping for the week, but as he stepped out of the door of the butcher’s, his left arm shot with pain and the bags slid out of his hands. On the corner of the street opposite, he saw David again – black haired, beardless, young. Smiling.

Of course I wasn’t worried, you idiot, he thought, as he sank to the ground and the strangers nearby rushed towards him. It’s about time. When it’s done, it’s done, after all.

——

So I threw a mini wobbly after this was read out, because hearing Graham stumble over the stilted lines was agonising (he tried to blame it partially on drink…yeah right…) Everyone was very kind in disagreeing over my pronouncement of its awfulness, and I felt I’d made a fool of myself. The combination of these two things put me in a bad mood the rest of the night.

I only had the inspiration to write this because of The Sims. Yep. You should really try it for inspiration! I had an elderly gay couple where the younger one died and the other lived for ages (all the details in the story were pretty much from the game). Gail and Ginny had their birthday party and I made Josh hug all his children before he went to bed early. During the night, David’s ghost came back and starting reading in the living room, and just before he blew away in the morning, I managed to get Josh to speak to him and had David stroke his cheek. Josh died coming out the shops later that day. I just thought it was too lovely an end to them and all the hours I sunk into their family. Pity I couldn’t quite do it justice.

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Written by G.J.

14/06/2012 at 8:19 pm

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