My Father In Reflection
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
The series is a journey of reflection and a final honour to laying the ghosts and demons that have been with me since l was five.
I had many questions for my Father when he was alive that l would have liked to have known the answers to. So far with everything l have read as such and posted has revealed nothing new about the man. He self-published his books because he could find no publishing house that had either an interest or more importantly a market for his content, but the man was a prolific writer and when not penning down stories for inclusion in what he classed as the ultimate autobiography that would reveal all – his words l hasten to add. He took a break to write pieces of fiction, short stories and the such like. There are hundreds of those.
Of the ten people who read his ‘published’ books, the reality was perhaps sadder than that – to my knowledge only three of the ten expensively printed copies were ever read. By myself, my Aunts husband the published author and one of my Father’s friends. My Sister who always received a copy fresh off the press conceded to the fact that she could never be bothered to read anything written by him, and only pretended to him that she had read the content. She was surprised therefore to discover that l had read the books.
When asked why? I answered, that l had hoped that l might, just might have seen something to my Father that l never knew. The only things l ever discovered was that he had proclivity to writing the same story, but different ways, that it was always about Jeanne his forever love and that he seriously liked to embellish the truth, but as to hidden secrets or skeletons in closets? No.
Her answer was expected “So l missed absolutely sweet fuck all then?” I considered that a pretty fair response. “No, you didn’t miss a thing.” I replied.
There may be answers in this mountain of paperwork, his diaries and the stories l still find myself by ploughing through them. Perhaps even the semi-finished autobiography promoted by him to revealing all the answers may show something l didn’t know? However, he died with an unfinished book in his computer. The manuscript comprises of 199 pages, thank god that it is in the computer and not saved to paper as was his way, and l will be tackling that sometime next year at this rate. One of our last conversations on his book this year before his death last month, was that he he had reached 1992. So who knows what l might find in there?
But, Dad was a lover of fiction. This particular part of the series specially entitled “On Writing”, are some of his stories. Every one of us have to have an interest.
There is a strange familiarity to this story, as my Father was always instructed to write on what he knew, that is no different to any of us. However this does remind me of many years ago when l lived in Australia, in Springvale South, l was about 10. We had a neighbour who hated cats, hated dogs, hated children, hated my Father and my Mother and in fact l think he hated life in general. After he mowed his lawn, he would then attend to it with a pair of scissors and a ruler on his hands and knees, scrabbling around the garden – just to make sure everything was level. There was a feud between my Father and this man, that became quite heated on more than one occasion, each yelling at each other, my Father threatening to box his ears and the neighbour threatening to cut off his head whilst he slept! Which was pretty mortifying at the time admittedly!
“Two of a Kind!”
Henry straightened from his digging and leaned on his spade, breathing heavily. “God, I’m getting too old for this,” he chided himself as he surveyed his extensive garden with lawn running over fifty yards to the tall copse of oak and elm trees through which the sun streamed in shafts of gold. In the near distance a church tolled its tribute to this June Sabbath as Henry savoured the suspicion of an aroma of woodsmoke drifting at nose level from an anonymous neighbour’s fire. The promise of the day was limitless. It was perfect.
Henry Miles stiffened as he heard the hated voice of his next door neighbour. This perfect day had been destroyed in an instant. He turned around slowly, ramrod straight, his face a mask. He regarded the man on the other side of his garden fence with no attempt to hide his contempt and distaste. There he stood, Oliver Leach, the neighbour from hell. Henry could only see his neighbour’s head and shoulders. “He looks older and thinner”, he thought, “but as arrogant looking as ever.” He hadn’t spoken to this man for years, except through lawyers.” Were you speaking to me?”
“Yes, I was.”
“What do you want? Come to complain about the moles, or my cat?” He could not bring himself to use the bastard’s name.
“No, nothing like that. I was just thinking that it was time we settled all our differences. We are too old to keep this up for the rest of our lives.”
Henry stood still, shocked beyond measure by what he had just heard. “What do you want, Leach?”
“Perhaps we could have a drink sometime and resolve things between us?”
Henry could not believe his ears, but here it was, an opportunity to wash away twenty-five years of enmity. He spoke slowly, clearly, as if speaking to a child. “Very well. Come over to my place this evening. Eight o’clock all right for you?”
Leach nodded. “Eight would be fine.”
“Do you still drink malt. I have a very fine Laphroaig?” With considerable effort he added, “Oliver.”
“Yes, I ‘m still a whiskey man. Eight o’clock then.” And he turned away towards his back door.
Henry stood for a full five minutes as he tried to absorb the impact of their conversation. Slowly he put his gardening tools away in the shed. His heart was no longer in the tasks he had so eagerly anticipated when he got out of bed on this beautiful day. After all this time Leach wanted to talk. His mind slipped back to the start of their feud. That dammed back fence. Had it really been important that it was built twelve inches on the wrong side of Oliver’s land? It had seemed important at the time, and especially after three court appearances. That had been the start. Afterwards it was everything; the kids, the noise from their records and the television, smoke from the barbecue, the cat crapping in his flowerbeds and the damage to Henry’s car which he had been certain was caused by Oliver Leach. One thing led to another. Neither side would take the first steps in making peace. When the children left, it got worse. So bad, in fact, that Henry’s wife just upped and left and Oliver’s ran off with her driving instructor. And still two bitter old men maintained their feud, the reasons for which were almost forgotten.
Henry went into the house, his mind full of the past and the implications for the future. As he remembered all the misery he had suffered because of Oliver Leach, he felt his anger rising. He felt he now understood what ‘blood boiling’ meant. “I wish I had never asked him here”, he muttered to himself, as he pushed the cat away from rubbing itself against his legs. Still, he had asked him, and he had better prepare.
At eight o’clock precisely, the doorbell rang. Henry glanced at his watch. “Bastard, he always so punctual.” He opened the front door, and Oliver, resplendent in grey slacks, blue, open necked shirt and sports jacket entered. He presented a bottle of Wolf Blass, white Australian Chardonnay. “Good evening, Henry.”
They talked in general fashion for twenty minutes or so, and Oliver had two whiskeys in that time. “Another?” Henry indicated the empty glass.
Henry moved away to the drinks cabinet to fix the drinks. He sensed, rather than heard, Oliver behind him. He half turned, stopping as he felt the searing pain in his back. It was a knife, he knew that, and felt the blade drive into him, a tearing, unbearable pain. He could feel the hilt of the knife hard against his back and then the indescribable agony as the knife was twisted and then withdrawn. He turned slowing to look into Oliver’s twisted face and he was immediately stabbed again, the blade sliding into his abdomen just under his ribs. Slowly Henry subsided into a sitting position on the floor, his back against the cabinet. He was dying, he knew that. His shirt was stained with blood, blood poured from his mouth, salty on his tongue. Blood everywhere. Painfully, he raised his head to look at Oliver’s hate filled eyes. He could smell the whiskey on the man’s breath, his dammed whiskey.
“Why? Why? You said you wanted to sort things out.”
Oliver laughed harshly. “No, I said I wanted to settle things between us, and I have, you loathsome bastard. I have cancer of the colon and I will be dead in three months. I didn’t want you to outlive me and think you had won. Now I am going to cut your repulsive head off.” He grasped Henry by the hair and forced his head back.
Henry laughed, the blood spraying from his mouth. “You won’t have that long, Oliver. Maybe twelve hours. Why do you think I drank gin? Did the Laphroaig not taste strange? I put strychnine in your drink. We are two of a kind, you and me.” The last thing Henry saw was Oliver’s face convulsed with hate, dissolving in front of him, as the blade sliced through his throat.
Written by my Father B.M