Uncle Robert was 64. Aunt Bella was 59. They’d met 25 years ago on a holiday. They’d both been married before but had had no children. Layower had heard about Aunt Bella’s old husband. From what his Mum used to say he was an alcoholic that spent his life in pubs getting arrested.
Uncle Robert’s wife had died over 30 years ago in a freak fire. It had been caused by sunlight shining through a piece of glass on a really hot day. The whole farm had burnt down.
Uncle Robert’s family had lived on that farm for 4 generations. They wanted their son, called Phillip, to inherit the farm. He didn’t want to though and had gone to university. This had upset Uncle Robert bit, and when Phillip went back they’d had an argument. They didn’t speak to each other any more. Since then he’d been getting depressed a lot and getting ill. He said it was just stress.
Eight days after Dillim left the hospital him and Layower went to visit the farm for the first time since Layower had stopped going. His excuse was to show Dillim around, but he really just wanted to see it all again.
Layower showed him the chickens first. He felt nostalgic, watching them. He left the cows for last; he worried he’d cry when he got to them. He didn’t.
They’d got a new cow. Aunt Bella was feeding it; Uncle Robert was ill again.
“When did you get this?” Layower said, more rudely than he’d meant.
“Well, since we didn’t have one any more we needed a new one. You’d know that if you still came,” Aunt Bella said. She’d been a bit nasty to Layower since Van’s death; she’d liked her as well.
“We called it Van II,” she continued. Layower felt a tear run down his cheek.
“It’s almost tea time,” he said to Dillim. “We…we should leave.” Layower just wanted to get away from the farm as fast as he could.
“But you haven’t shown me the hill yet,” Dillim said. It was the hill Van had broken here leg.
“There’s nothing up there,” Layower said. “Come on-.”
“I bet there’s a good view though,” Dillim carried on.
“Well I’m starving,” Layower lied. “You can stay but I’m going home.”
“Oh alright, can we come another day?” Dillim sighed.
“Of course, you’re always welcome,” Aunt May said. Layower didn’t think she actually disliked him, she was just taking out her anger about Van and Phillip on him.
When they arrived home, to Layower’s annoyance, his Mum had invited Aunt Bella and Uncle Robert for tea.
They arrived at 7. Uncle Robert was looking poorly but he said he was alright. All 7 of them sat down on the table.
“Has Layower told you about Van?” Aunt Bella asked Dillim. Layower suddenly felt very hot and wanted to leave.
“Van? What van?” Dillim asked.
“It’s nothing important…” mumbled Layower.
“It’s very important!” Aunt Bella said.
“I need to toilet then!” Layower said. He got up and left. He hid in the corridor and listened. After a while he went back. They were talking about politics.
“Layower, I’m sorry about Van,” Dillim said as he entered.
Layower said nothing for the next 10 minutes.
“So how are you getting back?” Mum asked Carol.
“Well-” she began.
Layower could never remember much else about that night. Uncle Robert had grabbed his chest and fallen onto the ground. Dad had phoned an ambulance but Uncle Robert died before they arrived.
He had a heart problem, which had been the real reason he kept getting ill. It had been made worse with the stress of Phillip.
It was the second saddest moment of Layower’s life. After Diana he hadn’t thought he could cope with another death. He had to.
The funeral was scheduled to be one week later. Layower was dreading it.
© Copyright 2016 Mathew Nicolson. All rights reserved.