I am in my parents' room and they are dead. Mother took something and left a note, “I am poisoned.” Dad cut his wrists and tried to cut his throat. They are an old, un-pretty Romeo & Juliet, and I am now alone.
How does something like this impinge? Dad’s phone call, his “Sorry Son,” hit me like a hammer, I just knew. Like a gunshot scattering birds and leaves and shaking time. “Dad, don’t,” I said, but the line was already burring.
I sometimes talk about my funeral. I have asked for half a dozen nuns on bikes, riding around like penguins in The Great Escape. I want everyone to dress like chickens and send me out to a Karaoke rendition of The Birdy Song. I also want The Trawsfynnydd Male Voice Choir singing Myfanwy and I wouldn’t mind Jeff Buckley singing Hallelujah.
Well, not Jeff Buckley, but you know what I mean.
On Mum’s right hand is the black scar, how this all started, just one day too many at the beach. On the other hand, a ring, her wedding band. For some reason I will never know, the diamond engagement ring is on the bedside table.
I really don’t know what to do, right now. I don’t know whether to stay with Mum & Dad or go downstairs. If I go downstairs, how do I pass the time? Can I watch TV? Can I read a book? Is there some kind of etiquette to follow when your mother and father are upstairs, dead as glass?
This is why I’m talking to you, Rachel – to do something – to wait – to not be watching TV or flicking pages while the paramedics get here as fast as they can. No, they are really dead, Raich. They’re white and ugly, beyond anything.
Did I ever tell you, Dad and I played soldiers in this garden. I mean, when I was little. We planned campaigns, made stores, climbed to vantage points and spotted the enemy through binoculars. When Mum called us in for tea Dad would stop and say, “Tomorrow, Corporal. Tomorrow we march!” We never did. I had the memory of a butterfly.
The garden’s not as nice as back then. You can see how Dad drove the mower round in ever-decreasing circles, every time an inch or so closer to the middle. There’s ten feet of meadow-grass all round now and brambles are slyly edging toward the potatoes.
The little wood we have seems smaller; ragged and scarred as if there’s been a battle there and it’s still recovering. In one tree there’s still the wood platform of my observation post.
I’m going to cover them up. They told me not to, but I need to do it. I’ll put a sheet over them, white linen, like Christ. If they want to arrest me, they can fucking arrest me.
I appreciate that, Raich. I know it never happened for us, I know –
Sorry, I mean never lasted.
I know it didn’t last (I wanted it to, Raich) but there was nobody else I would call. Thanks for this, I’m not doing all that well, you know?
Did you know I kept General Astley? No, really. For the bad nights when you were away (well, all the time now, hah-ha). He’s not the brightest dog but he pretends to love me. It seems my circle of friends gets smaller and smaller. Like dad on his tractor, never getting to the edge.
They really should be here by now. Where are they? The police too, yes. Officially it’s a suspicious death and they’ll want to talk to me. Could you come over? I’m not sure I’ll hold up.
No, it will mean nothing. I just need you for a short while. When the police have gone, when they’ve taken Mum and dad away, I just want you to hold me, and when the shaking stops, kiss me.