A group of writers in Chichester coming together once a month for inspiration, collaboration and sensation
Tom looked through his faint reflection in the window. Outside the garden was finally starting to bloom. He’d have been happy with the result thought Tom. Arthur, Tom’s grandfather had spent the nine months before he was finally rendered bedridden preparing and getting the garden for its final bloom. The doctors had told Arthur he wouldn’t be around to see the garden in its full glory but the stubborn old bastard had nearly proved them wrong. One week, ten days, that all it would have taken, but in the end the garden was destined to be a self tribute to a man who had no higher regard to anyone as he did himself. Now a spring day made it all the more beautiful because of the cold dark days that had proceeded it. The colours shone with a vibrancy only seen in spring, the burning orange from the darting Birds of paradise juxtaposed next to the hyacinth, the scent of which carried across the garden of the faintest of breezes. Even the grass, a dull matted brown through the dark weeks was now turning a brilliant and gracious green in the new light.
As much as it was meant to be a celebration of life, Tom mused, it seemed to be more a celebration of one man’s death, that now he was no longer around there was room to breathe, to grow and just be again. Or maybe that’s just how I feel Tom thought closing his eyes and turning his face up to the sun.. The heat through the window warmed Tom’s face and he thought back to one of the last conversations he had had with his grandfather. Frail as he was at the end, Arthur was never diminished. He had managed to retain his overriding sense of self importance, which had only served to make it harder for Tom to continue visiting the man he used to call grandad. There were times he swore he wouldn’t go back at all, until Chris would talk him round and even now he wasn’t sure if he was pleased he had done so.
Once Arthur was confined to the hospice, Tom quickly fell in to a set regime. Always dressed casually, fresh from the shower once the daily grind had finished he would walk in to Arthur’s room and simply stand there, a clock behind him would tick-tock noisily like a macabre count down. Tom would be silent. It would not be unusual to be standing for minutes at a time before Arthur would make the smallest of gestures for Tom to sit down. Yet more minutes would pass, the tick-tock of the clock echoing around the sparse clinical room. Arthur’s breathing no more than a rasp.
“Not long left now.” Arthur’s mouth barely moved. “Guess you won’t be shedding any tears.”
The words floated to Tom’s ears. Despite his best efforts to hide it, they still made him jolt.
“No,” Tom chose his words carefully. “Since that day, you may well have been….gone, anyway.” He hoped his words stung as much as Arthur’s words had. “You’re hardly the man you were, are you?”
Arthur held Tom’s gaze, his frame swallowed up by the duvet. “For a young man you hold a long grudge.” Arthur pulled his away. “We got on well before, you remember. When you were a kid. Thought the world of me.”
Tom sat down with the weight of a man who had had the same conversation to the point of exhaustion.
“We’ve been over this.”
“Yes, we have.” Arthur looked back at Tom. There was almost a look of pleading in his eyes, something he had never witnessed before. “But you’re not willing to listen. Or even to try to understand.”
Struggling to keep his composure, Tom looked down at the floor. Jaw muscles flexing.
Arthur continued. “Even when I’m here, slowly wasting away. Can’t accept an old man for who he is.”
Tom looked up sharply. Anger got the better of him. “Accept you for who you are? You wouldn’t even be in the same room as me for nearly two years, all because of what? That I like to, to fuck men?” Tom bared his teeth unknowingly. “And even just before you had to come here you refused to even see Chris. And yet, I have to accept you?”
Tears pricked at Tom’s eyes. He stood up sharply, Arthur waved a dismissive hand.
“It’s not normal Tom, not right.”
Tom swung open the door and walked through it without looking back, Arthur’s words just reaching him. “But you’re my grandson. I can…over look it. I’ll over look it…” Arthur’s coughing, more powerful than his voice, complimented Tom’s footsteps down the linoleum covered corridor.
“Tom, the car is here.” A soft voice of call out. Tom turned to his mother, still feeling the sun on his skin. Hoping that he didn’t sound too jubilant he replied with an okay and made his way through the cool corridor to the front door. Waiting for his mother to shut and lock the door, he asked how she was holding up.
“You know, as expected I guess.” The vagueness was nothing new. Tom’s mother offered him a weak smile. Couldn’t have been brought up by the old man with out some damage having been done, thought Tom. May even be the root of all the marriage problems. Tom smiled to himself, before thinking better if it. Not exactly proper form for a funeral.
The inside of the car was cool to the point of cold due to the over worked air conditioning. Tom’s mum turned to him and once again offered her weak smile.
“Tom, I’m glad you’re coming today”
“I’ve always said I’d want to see him put into the ground with my own two eyes.”
The smile on Tom’s mum’s face vanished as the joke went unappreciated.