Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 1
The scorching wind ruffled his hair and irritated his face; he didn’t take any notice. John stood in the desolate cemetery at the foot of his father’s freshly covered grave, hands clasped in front of him, tears rolling down his face; oblivious to the outside world.
Jack hadn’t been an old man; it had cut him down in his prime. And John had expected him to beat it, even convinced himself that he would. His dad was invincible, his dad could do anything; his dad was a superhero! But the truth had to be faced now he was standing here looking at his grave stone; his dad was human and as fallible as the next person to the ravages of such a destructive disease. And now he was gone.
John’s whole body jerked when a hand landed on his shoulder. Caught up in his grief he hadn’t heard anyone approach; it was Michael.
“Hey John, I thought I’d find you here. Come on back to the house. Your mum needs you.” He didn’t push John; he just stood patiently waiting for him to collect himself.
“I can’t believe he’s gone Michael, you know?” Michael nodded gently, letting John talk. “I thought he’d be able to fight it, rid himself of it. I mean he was my DAD, Michael, he could do anything!”
Michael didn’t say a word. He knew that there were no words to comfort John, nothing he could say that would make a difference, so he simply listened.
“When mum first told me I thought she was being melodramatic; I thought there was bound to be something that would work, that would stop it, that dad could take, you know, to break it down. But she was right there wasn’t. And now he’s gone.”
John paused trying to contain his emotions, but they got the better of him and he started to sob. Michael put his arm round his shoulders and squeezed them tight. John spat out the rest of his feelings through his sobs. “And all I could do was watch him go, just fade away, totally fucking helpless! Totally fucking useless!”
The tears came thick and fast. He could no longer speak. Michael pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to him in silence.
They remained there for some time, staring at the wreaths of flowers, waiting for John’s tears to stop. Then they slowly walked back to the house.
John and Michael had known each other all their lives. Their mothers had been best friends at school, so they’d grown up together and were like brothers. If they didn’t see each other every day, they spoke on the phone. Not a day passed without contact.
So when Michael had called John up at work one afternoon a couple of years later, in a complete state, John had dropped everything and gone straight to him.
When he walked into Michael house, after letting himself in with the spare key, he heard sobbing coming from upstairs. But just as he was about to head that way he noticed Michael in the lounge sitting on the edge of the sofa, tears streaming down his face, staring into space.
After a quick glance at the stairs John entered the lounge. He’d realised that it was Michael’s mother crying upstairs and a renewed sense of dread filled him.
He sat down next to Michael and put his hand on his shoulder. Michael registered John’s presence with a slight turn of the head and started to explain what had happened.
“He was right here John, right here, talking to me.” And that was enough, John knew what had happened, but he let Michael tell him.
“Mum was sitting there,” he pointed at the armchair by the door. “And his image went all funny, sort of opaque. We knew before he did, you should’ve seen his face John, when he realised what was going on - the panic! Then mum started screaming.” He paused remembering. “He won’t be back, John, I just know it. He won’t be back.”
“Oh come on Mike, you don’t know that.” John tried to comfort him.
“No, he won’t, I can feel it. There’s no point living like that, in constant hope - no point at all.” His tears had dried up.
John didn’t like it. “You can’t think that way Michael. There’s always hope.”
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