Friday, 6 August 2010

THE VISIT - a short story by GC (part 4)

“Sorry, mum, I haven’t been to see you for a while. But I’ve not been too well. Not well at all. I’ve got what dad had but you probably know that.”
Donald Woodley stood in front of his mother’s grave. The words were spoken silently. “The girls are well and so’s Sue. Tony? Well you know Tony.”
He couldn’t think of anything else to say. The task wasn’t helped by a growing need to urinate. He had rushed out of the house and then not thought to have a pee in the Gents at the cemetery gates.
The grave looked well enough cared for. He pulled out a few blades of grass. “Bye, mum, I’ll be seeing you, one way or another.”
He had intended to return to the car via the toilets but he had a sudden wish to see his father’s grave.
“Bury me as far away from your dad as you can,” had been his mother’s dying wish. So it wouldn’t be easy. His father had died many years earlier and Woodley had only been back once before.

At about the same time that his father was heading deeper into a field of headstones, Tony Woodley was finishing a phone call to his wife.
He had told her he’d brought up the subject of their baby’s name with his dad.
“I felt a bit bad about it – but not that bad.”
Tony and Jo had been given every reason by the ante-natal clinic to expect that their baby would be a girl. She would be christened Catherine after Jo’s late mother.
The charade with his father had been a precaution intended to stop the old man turning nasty over the naming of their baby once it was born.
Several times Tony had just stopped short of breaking with his father over Woodley’s rudeness about his wife and her family.
His mother feared a row over the baby-naming might be the cause of the final rift. It was she and Jo who had dreamed up the ruse hoping that by saying the baby would be called Donald if it were a boy might placate the old man.
Tony had been reluctant. But his mother had begged him to go along with the plan.

Donald Woodley found his father’s headstone. It was weather-stained and moss-covered. Could he really have been dead more than 30 years when his shout, his scorn, his cold disinterest were still so fresh in his son’s memory?
Woodley knew he would never return. He fought to find the right words but none would come. Yet he couldn’t leave with nothing said.
There was no one else in sight. He unbuttoned his flies. Unlike the painful old men’s’ dribble he had come to expect, his urine created a perfect arc drenching the stone and the grave beneath.
It glistened in the sun and the words came. “Why couldn’t you like me?”
He walked a few paces when he had to return to the grave. “Our Tony’s car is a Porsche and he’s going to call his boy Donald.”

“You alright, dad?” asked Tony Woodley as he helped his father back in the car.
“Everything’s fine; thanks for taking me.”
Thank Christ, I can do something right, thought Tony relieved to be heading back to his parent’s house.
When he arrived he parked behind his sister’s Golf and again hauled the old man to his feet. This time his father winced with pain.
The two men faced each other. Father and son.
“Coming in?”
“No, I better be off. Jo’ll be waiting.”
Donald Woodley watched his son go round to the driver’s door and climb in to the car. He knew he should say something about naming the baby after him. He tapped on the glass. Tony lowered it. His father bent awkwardly to face him through the open window.
“Yes, dad?”
“I wanted to say. The car. It’s a good runner.”
Tony watched his father limp slowly up the path back towards the house. The front door opened and out raced his nephew and niece, Julia’s children.
For a moment he thought they were coming to admire the Porsche but to his surprise they grabbed hands with the old man and gently led him back home.
The End

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