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Victor Calling

Victor drove his red Micra onto the pavement and pulled on the handbrake. He turned off the engine, then sat for a few moments, enjoying the cessation of noise and motion.

The flowers on the seat beside him were pungent, sickly sweet, with an undertone of stagnant water. He looked down at them grumpily. Some of the petals were already turning and he noticed now that a couple of stems were broken. They'd been the best the supermarket had to offer, so they would just have to do.

He opened his door and levered himself out, grimacing at the familiar pain in his knees. He shuffled around to the passenger side and took out the flowers, shaking them gently to get rid of the worst of the water. Then he slammed the door closed and locked the car.

He visited her every day, come rain or shine. The only day he'd missed was January 3rd, last year, when the snow had fallen so hard and fast that ground level had risen 7 inches in a couple of hours. He had forced his way out of the house, and had even started to clear the snow from the windscreen but his young neighbour had stopped him.

“Victor! You can't go out in this,” he had admonished. “It's too dangerous. Stay inside and keep warm.”

Victor had bitten back a retort, knowing that the young man had meant the very best. Still, it was hard to accept that you were now so old the young could tell you what to do. He had shuffled wearily but not altogether ungratefully back into the house and spent the day, rather guiltily, by the radiator in the living room.

But that was the only day he hadn't made it, and he had no intention of letting her down again. He pushed through the old iron gate and tottered up the path, clutching the flowers in his left hand, leaning on his stick with the right.

Yes, every day. Every day he would bring her what news he had. He had even taken to bringing the newspaper now, and would sit beside her, reading out snippets. He always started with the celebrity gossip, though it stuck in his craw, because he knew how much she loved that. Having filled her in on which z-lister had slept with which footballer, and who was the latest celebrity mum to have a baby and then immediately release a fitness DVD, he would turn with relief to the more serious news.

Today, however, he lowered himself onto the seat and placed the newspaper by his side. He had important family news to relate, news that would trump even the celebrity gossip. “Hello old thing,” he said, resting his stick on the arm of the seat. “I have exciting news. Molly is expecting a baby! A great grandchild! She's due in April, so a spring baby. You've always said how you love a spring baby.”

He smiled contentedly, his heart warmed by her happiness. He nodded his satisfaction. “Oh yes, she's very excited, though I gather she's having a rotten time with the morning sickness. Yes dear, I told her about the ginger. She says she'll call into the health food shop next time she's in town. Apparently they sell it in tablets now. Whatever next, eh!”

He picked up the paper and turned to the celebrity pages near the centre. “Now then, oh yes, I was telling you yesterday about Cheryl Cole being a judge on the American version of X-Factor or Sing for Your Supper or whatever it is. There's a bit more about it in today's paper,” he cleared his throat and read the story out, carefully reading every word, knowing she'd be cross if he skimmed it.

Finally through all the gossip, he turned to the headlines, unable to stop himself having a rant about the latest fiddling politician found to have been cooking his books. He sometimes thought she had it right, following the celebs: they might be pointless but at least they had the decency to realise it, and they didn't make a living out of conning the taxpayer.

He read through the paper, stopping at the business section. She'd never been interested in all that. Besides, it was jolly difficult to read out the shares figures in any way that might make an ounce of sense. He folded the paper and put it down beside him.

“So, old thing. How are you? Are you comfortable? I see your figurine has fallen over. Don't worry, I'll see to it,” he crouched on his knees and picked up the figurine, squinting at it. “It's a bit grubby, old thing.”

He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and rubbed the figurine clean, then set it back in place. Suddenly overwhelmed with exhaustion, he rested on his knees, his right hand propped on his stick.

“What's that, dear? Well no, I've not been feeling too well these last couple of days actually. Probably need more iron in my diet, eh? Perhaps I'll just stay here for a while, we can have a chat while I get my breath back.”

Molly's shoulders shuddered as she watched them lower the coffin into the ground. Her husband put his arm around her and held her close as she sobbed, loud and long. He gave the vicar a weary smile and led his wife away, stroking her hair as he sought words of comfort.

“At least the snow won't keep him away from her ever again,” he said helplessly, as her sobs doubled and she ground to halt. He enveloped her in his arms as the diggers started to refill the grave.

He shook his head sadly. To think of the old boy, kneeling there beside her grave for six hours before anyone found him, still leaning on his stick, the flowers on the seat beside him, still in their cellophane wrapper.


© 2011 Kay Lawrence.

line Richard
5th September 2011

A lovely story. I think he was the victor in the never ending war of life and death - was that the why of his name? Very sad but also uplifting, especially with the new life to come from Molly. I really enjoyed it, thank you.


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