Thursday, 5 August 2010

THE VISIT - a short story by GC (part 3)

The last time Tony Woodley drove as carefully was on his driving test. Rather than go into town he headed for the motorway, which was only a few minutes’ drive from his parent’s house. He reasoned there would be less opportunity for his father to find fault with his driving.
They drove on in silence. For all the pain in his knees, Donald Woodley was enjoying the sensation of speed that came from being so close to the road surface.
“So what do you think, dad? Goes like a dream.”
“You said it. When are you going to wake up?”
“I told you it was a great deal. I’ll show a profit.”
“That’s your answer to everything. Is that how you’re going to bring your child up to always look for the angle?”
Tony kept quiet. He knew almost anything he said now would light his father’s short fuse.
He took the next exit, negotiated the roundabouts, re-joined the motorway determined to get his father home as fast as he could and then put as much distance as possible between him and his parent’s house.
But at the prospect of having to explain to Jo why he had failed in his mission, he gripped the steering wheel and steeled himself to keep his own temper.
“Dad, it’s about the baby.”
“What about the baby? What’s the matter with it?”
Tony was taken aback by his father’s concern. “There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s just, well, if it’s a boy me and Jo would like to call it Donald.”
“Why?”
“Because it’s your name, dad.”
“Huh. What’s wrong with Jo’s father’s name?”
“It’s George.”
“I see what you mean.”
“Donald is like an in-name now,” he said hoping he wouldn’t be asked why.
“Do what you like. You always do.”
You miserable old sod, you’re supposed to be flattered, thought Tony.
His father couldn’t make sense of the suggestion. Another Donald Woodley? His thoughts were confused – until he saw a direction sign he recognised.
“Are you in an any hurry?”
“I’m sorry,” Tony said automatically before checking his speed.
“Can you take the next turning off?”
“Sure, sure,” said his son pulling over sharply and earning a hoot from the car behind for the sudden manoeuvre.
Please, please, don’t let him get ill in the car. He recalled his mother’s secret bulletins about his dad’s failing health. He had never listened very carefully convinced of his father’s immortality. Now he’d be punished by having him taken ill in his car.
“What is it, dad?”
“I thought so. The cemetery’s signposted. Your nan’s buried there. I’d like to see we’re not being sold short on the maintenance for her grave.”
His relief that he wouldn’t be called upon to attempt mouth-to-mouth outweighed his annoyance at another example of his father’s suspicious nature.
Tony reached the cemetery. The car park was almost full. A big funeral was coming to an end. A large number of mourners were starting to return to their cars. He noted how flattering black can be on young women even when they’re weeping.
“Shall I come with you?” he asked as he helped his father out of the car.
“Not dressed like that you won’t.”
It suited Tony to let the old man set off for the cemetery entrance alone. He had fond memories of his grandmother but he didn’t need to be reminded of his first funeral and the only time he saw his father cry. He shivered despite the sunshine and got back in his car to wait.
To be continued tomorrow

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What do you think? GC