“I spoke with my father last night, er and my mother,” I said.
“‘Er’ indeed,” said Martin, “you realise they are both dead?”
“Yes and no.”
“What do you mean, ‘yes and no’. You don’t believe in ghosts do you… and if you say ‘yes and no’ again, this conversation is at an end.”
“My father explained to me about ghosts sixty five years ago so I may not be word perfect. Ghosts, he said, are ideas in your head. When people die their souls either cease to exist or they go to heaven. In dreams and reveries, nobody really dies. I revisited my childhood home,”
“In a dream?”
“For the tape, Derek nodded,” I think my old friend Martin watches way too much detective fiction.
“Who died when you were seven?”
“Yes, that father. I only had the one.”
“He was there, my mother was in the scullery. My wife was there too so I had to introduce her.”
“Mum offered her tea and had two stabs at her name but got there in the end with some prompting.”
“So what did he say?”
“That was the funny thing. He died in 1959 but he seemed to know everything which had happened after that event. We talked about LGBTQ+ equality and I expected to have to argue down his 1950s attitudes but not a bit of it. ‘Homophobia is fascist,’ he said. ‘Full stop.'”
“He wasn’t happy with the Labour Party he had supported all his life but he wasn’t particularly surprised either. ‘Betrayal is implicit in reformism,’ he said adding, “If things don’t alter they’ll stop as they are.’ The last bit was just an old family joke.”
“Hilarious,” said Martin, “Did he say anything else.”
“He told me how to find you.”
Martin was unusually silent at this point.
Martin went to the window and looked out at the rain.
“He told you how to find me?”
“Well I’m damned.”
“Probably,” I said. That would have amused the old Martin. He essayed a smile as watery as the weather.
We chatted for a while, mainly about the past. We had been to the same school. It no longer existed but that didn’t stop us talking as though old Badger was still alive and still had the school bully waiting outside his office for the cane.
“Of course, he never stopped being a bully, just a bully with a sore backside,” said Martin. I agreed.
We shared a bottle of claret and in due course it was time for me to take my leave.
The next day I had a journey to Pawsons’ Road, the old cemetery where we used to go to smoke during the lunch break.
I found my way to Martin’s grave by trial and error, mainly error.
I lay the flowers down and said my goodbyes.
I knew it was only “au revoir,” of course.
Derek McMillan lives in Durrington with his wife, Angela, who is also his editor. He writes for publications in the UK, USA and Canada, His latest book is the audiobook “More Brevity” which is available on eBay.
He also runs a blog for short stories http://worthingflash.blogspot.com
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