Barry sat on the bed as he read the letter.
“Well that’s old Jim away.”
She sat down and put her arm around him.
“Are you okay?”
“I suppose so.”
“Nice of them letting you know by letter. Who sent it?
…When’s the funeral?”
“It was Claire, my cousin. She’s always been a bit old school. The funeral’s by, it was last week. She apologises but said that she was looking out for me. She took it on herself to let me know but she thought it would be better if I didn’t turn up. She didn’t want that wank of a husband of hers finding an email or a text. He must still be a controlling prick. And a fucking arse-kisser – I’m her family, he’s only one of us, or should I say one of them, by marriage. I think he’s shagging my dad.”
Lesley turned her head towards him, she wanted to see his eyes, “But was that her call to make? Not telling you about the funeral, I mean.”
He never hesitated, “Well yes. If she was willing to tell me, she could choose her terms. I’ve nothing against her. We always got on well and at least she told me.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Catch the train like we were going to. What’s the point in cancelling the hotel? It’s all done and dusted.”
“Are you sure?”
He slapped his legs, he smiled as he knew this was a trait he’d inherited from Jim,“Yes, I’m certain.”
Lesley gently pushed him, “Go on downstairs, I’ll finish packing.”
“I’ll bring up a whisky, we can toast him.”
She kissed him on the forehead. She knew how much feeling he had for his grandfather, “That’ll be nice.”
Barry went into the lounge and brought out two of the good crystal glasses and a bottle of Bowmore. He paused for a second and wiped his eyes. Maybe he should’ve went to see his granddad no matter what the fuck they said. But the old man was away with the birds. He didn’t know his arse from his shit so Barry reckoned that there’d have been no point rocking the boat. He began to snigger as he accepted that if he could’ve trusted himself, he may have went. But he couldn’t so he didn’t.
He went back into the bedroom and poured them two whiskys.
“All done. I didn’t pack much, we’re only away for two nights. I got it all in the one holdall.”
He handed her the drink and they both sat on the bed, “Thanks.”
“To Jim. My grandad.”
Lesley smiled and clinked glasses with him, “To Jim.”
Barry stared into his drink, “I’m glad I didn’t see him. I like to think on him as the man I knew and the stories that came with him.”
She began to laugh, “You mean the coalman?”
“Especially the coalman. I know that’s an old joke but it happened to him. The silly old bastard did three years for serious assault.”
She knew she was going over old ground but he was smiling and enjoying the memories.
“And your gran, I can’t believe she never said what happened?”
“Nope. The two of them clammed up whenever it was mentioned. Not that that happened much! It was one of his old pals who told me. A couple of rums and he was pissing himself laughing and spilling his guts. According to him, he only told me because my granddad had spoken well about me. I think it had more to do with the copious amount of rum I was buying him”
“And the coalman never said anything?”
“He didn’t need to. The old boy pleaded guilty. The coalman fucked off as soon as he got out of the hospital. Rumour was that granddad had put a hit out on him?”
She knew what was coming, “Go on…”
“My grandad’s hit was a drink for anyone who put him down by kicking him in the balls. Every fucking time. The whole village was ready to have a go. They never liked the coalman, he was an interloper”
“I’m sure I’ve seen a postcard or heard a joke. Maybe your gran was the inspiration for it.”
Barry smiled, “I’m not sure granddad would have liked that. And my gran certainly wouldn’t. She wanted it forgotten about. She hated being the woman who whitened the coalman’s finger.”
They both began to giggle.
“What I thought was hysterical was how he noticed, he was blind without his specs. According to his pal, he had his suspicions and that is why he came home early that day. It wasn’t in his nature to touch my gran.”
…But he sure as hell kicked fuck out the coalman.”
“Maybe the coalman had more than a white finger.”
Barry nodded, “He probably did but that was enough for the old man. Gran lived with whatever guilt she had…Or hadn’t!”
“Poor old soul. No wonder she didn’t want to talk about it”
“To be truthful, he did have a helluva reason to be suspicious.”
Again, she was feeding him a line, she started laughing, “And why was that?”
“’Cause they were all electric!”
They both rolled about.
Barry eventually composed himself, he topped up their drinks.
“I think it was something to do with the old dears that started all this family shite.”
“In what way?”
He thought for a second, “I’m not sure but there was something underlying, not granddad doing time, mind you that didn’t help. My father was a closet snob. But there was something else. That dick of a dad of mine ended up on his high horse and any fucker who didn’t side with him was disowned.”
“But to be fair you told me you called him a cunt.”
Barry shrugged, “I know. He’d been itching to throw me out, but I never knew why. The rest of them all pulled ranks and I was all the evil bastards. Before I knew it, every fucking one of them was bringing up every little piece of insignificant shite that I’d ever done; Not paying my mum back a few quid, driving his car without his express permission, they all had a memory of what I had called my parents at times. I mean fuck me, is any of that that serious?”
She kissed him on the cheek, “No, not really. We’ve all done it.”
“Fuck them. Why am I thinking on them. I just want to remember my granddad.”
“It’s weird but you’ve never spoken ill of your granny.”
“She had a lot to put up with. I don’t think the old boy would be the easiest to live with.”
She giggled again, “Apart from the coalman, what else stands out when you think of him?”
Barry finished his drink,“He never tried to get us all back together. He never sorted anything out.”
“Do you resent him for that?”
“I did…Not for long though. I think he knew that I was better off without them.”
“But he never said anything?”
“No. And even though I had my opinion, I never thought to ask him about his.”
“Just like you never mentioned your gran or the coalman?”
…Just like my gran and the coalman.”
“At least you’ve got that story.”
“I suppose I do. Maybe I’m being hard on all of them. Maybe that’s all most families have. No understanding, no reasons, just the odd legend and fuck all else.”
Image – Diane got if for me!