Phil stood in front of the large blue front door, something he had done so many times before. The difference was he used to use his own key to gain entry, it didn’t seem appropriate these days though, especially after such a long time. He could feel the impression of the key digging into his palm. He wasn’t sure why he had brought it with him when he had no intention of using it. He noticed that the door was in a worse state of disrepair than it had done last time he had stood there. That wasn’t really surprising, two years had passed and thinking back the house had never been particularly well looked after when he lived there. The paint was grubby and peeling and there was a particularly odd smell about the place. The house was silent, he knocked again. Part of him wanted to walk away and not look back. Maybe it was a lucky escape that she wasn’t answering the door, after all, they hadn’t parted on the best of terms last time he visited. The details of the last meeting sprung from his subconscious to his conscious with one giant leap, leaving a trail of devastation. The shouting, the name calling all digging a bigger grove in his heart than was healthy.
He turned to leave but something caught his eye, it was something and nothing but it just didn’t seem right. The curtain wasn’t as it should be, she had always been a stickler for the curtains, they couldn’t be pushed back straight, always with a drape with the curtain ties on but they weren’t. Phil trampled on the annual primroses, pushing back the rhododendron that was just starting to show signs of the departing winter to get to the bay window. A fly landed on the window buzzing in front of his view but the dust on the windows was proving more of a hazard than the pesky fly. Still it didn’t occur to him that it was too soon in the season for flies. He used the side of his hand to try to clean a better view inside but it was futile. Something didn’t seem right, he pondered using his key, the hard metal proding his hand more now than ever. He pulled it out of his pocket and glared at it, praying for some kind of sign that he should use it, none came.
He decided to go round the back of the house first to see if everything looked in order. The swing that he once swung on was now only half the size because of the blades of grass that could easily be home to some African beast. The kitchen window was in a similar state to the front window and the back door was barely recognisable from the one that he used to run in when his big brother had pushed him off the swing. He cupped his hands around his eyes to search through the dust for signs of life but the only life was the fly that had obviously followed him into the back. He knocked on the back door but still no answer. There was nothing for it he would have to use his key.
Returning to the front of the house he pushed the key into the lock and turned it. Edging the door open with his shoulder as it met with some resistance. He didn’t like the feel of this one little bit. The emerging stench filled his nostrils and he covered his nose with his hand, bile rising up from his gut as he retreated back from the door. A stream of flies following in his path. Vomit emerged at the realisation of the situation, as he slumped to the ground, hugging his knees with his hands.
“You okay mate?” The boy, a passer-by, had run up the path to help. He couldn’t have been more than 18, his arms covered in tattoos and his hair flopped to one side with the other side shaved. He held out a hand to haul Phil up to his feet.
“Please could you call the Police and an Ambulance, although I think it’s too late for the latter.”
“Sure thing mate, what should I tell them?”
“Suspected deceased white female, 84 years of age. Please tell them to come prepared, I believe she’s been there a while.”
“Oh, I see.” The lad looked quizzically at Phil, “Do you know the lady?”
“Yes, she’s my mother.” Phil dropped his gaze, the guilt of the past two years crashing down on him, something he could never rectify.
4 thoughts on “The long goodbye”
Because of my seemingly dated tech I was unable to open this document once I had read the few lines captured with the image, and the sense of foreboding you have successfully created with those opening words caused some trepidation. Did I want to chase this feeling of dread? Even as I was trying different methods of opening the story I was conscious that I was already attempting to discern more about Phil. His age, emotional strength etc. When I finally had the full story in front of me, and it was being revealed with each paragraph I read, I very soon discovered the uncomfortable satisfaction of being correctly primed by that opening paragraph. I found this particularly poignant as it took me back to the moment I was standing outside my dear Mum’s bedroom. Already knowing what I was going to see upon entering. Thankfully I was not burdened with Phil’s guilt, or the additional, physical gruesome details he encountered, but this is a particularly powerful and emotional piece of writing that should sit perversely comfortable amongst your steadily increasing back catalogue. Well done, Tina. I look forward to reading more and more as you continue to hone your writing skills.
Thanks Shaun, I took inspiration from an article I read about the body of a woman in Italy that had been found 2 years after she had died in her home. It made me contemplate how sad it was that during that 2 years she had not been missed by anyone. I’ve always said I could disappear for a month without anyone outside my family noticing, this story made me realise how lucky I am to have close family who care. I may just adapt the story to take on another perspective.
A lovely story, Tina, brilliant pace and rhythm that ran me to the end. Very clever piece of writing, as usual!
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Thanks Mary, I enjoyed writing that piece.