Posted by: ralpham | November 7, 2011

The visit – A short story (part I)

The visit – A short story (part I)

By Mary Simmonds

Rats! It’s starting to rain.

With brolly and collar up, I pass through the gates of the cemetery and along the path to the huge expanse marked off for East London’s fallen.

To the left, sitting in an old wooden shed is my friend the florist. As usual, I put on a bright smile as I approach him because he’s always so cheerful. After all these years of meeting him every Friday, I still can’t make out if he’s naturally an upbeat character or if it’s a professional front he feels he has to portray for his mourning customers.

He looks up as he hears me approaching. “Morning Mary, how are we today? Looks like the rain’s gonna save me the job of washing the old car this afternoon. Bunch of the usual?”

My mouth stretches wider in a facsimile of a smile. “Hello Simon, yes the usual please.”

I watch his bowed and balding head as he sets to work. How strange it is to be working 10 hours a day, six days a week and all the people you meet in all that time are all the same, a continuous conveyor belt of pain passing your shed on their way to a loved one who has moved on. In a way it could be seen as sadder for him because at least after the visit, folks can get back to living their lives but he’s stuck with the dead.

I give him another bright, frozen smile and we exchange flowers for cash.

Coming up to the children’s cemetery, I see a man in his mid-30s sitting on a bench silently bawling. I can’t make out whether it’s his tears or the rain that makes his face wet. He must be aware of me approaching but he makes no attempt to conceal his grief as he stares at the tiny headstone gaily decorated with toys and flowers. Much as I want to look away from the stricken figure, I just can’t. I draw up to him and open my mouth to utter some useless words of comfort but my feet continue their journey.

The moment is gone. I stop and half-turn towards him. My tongue refuses to work, which is just as well. What can I say: “Sorry about the loss of your child but the pain will ease in the passing of time.”

Yep sure! It hasn’t passed for me in 18 years so why should it pass for him?

I watch the back of the heaving broad shoulders for several seconds, then I carry on my solemn journey towards my tombstone.

Part II concludes next week.

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Responses

  1. love it! 🙂

    • Bless you, M


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