Future Memory

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A father wakes on a normal day, or is it? A story of memory.

Submitted: October 11, 2014

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 11, 2014

A A A

A A A


You’re not alone
Together we stand
I’ll be by your side
You know I’ll take your hand

When it gets cold
And it feels like the end
There’s no place to go
You know I won’t give in
No I won’t give in
(Lavigne/Gottwald – Avril Lavigne - Keep Holding On, The Best Damn Thing)

 

?
“Dad, wake up”.

“Mr. Roberts?”

“Dad, please wake up.”

Neil Roberts had opened his eyes slowly, his focus adjusting to the dim light. It had been his daughter’s voice that had woken him, but something hadn’t been quite right. Had there been another voice? He couldn’t remember clearly, but he had been sure that someone had called out his name. Lillie would not have called him Mr Roberts, of that he had been sure.

He decided it didn’t matter. It was Saturday. No work today, no early rise, no long drive. He had turned over expecting to see his daughter’s radiant face on the far side of the bedroom but there had been no one else in the room. “Must have been dreaming”, he had thought.

The sun had already been up for some time, when he dragged himself out of bed. Sat on the edge of the bed he had drawn back the curtains slowly, to see what sort of day awaited him. There had been thick curtains in his, and his wife’s bedroom, so the brightness had taken his eyes by surprise. They had taken a moment to adjust, and left him temporarily blind. As his eyes had adjusted he had been greeted by the usual sight of the green outside.

Nothing unusual there.

He sat contemplating the view, absentmindedly rubbing his left forearm with his right hand. The nagging buzz of mild pins and needles present in left arm, hadn’t really registered, “Just slept funny,” he had thought.

The green outside Neil Roberts’ house had not been large, perhaps 30m by 30m. Bounded on two sides by his, and neighbours’ houses, and on the other two by the road on which their houses had sat. The green had been separated from the road by a black, three railed fence. The fence was supposed to look traditionally wooden, but if you had got up close enough you could have seen that it was actually strong plastic. The odd rail had been dislodged, probably by the local kids, who had liked to climb it, and the council had never bothered to fix it, but other than that it had been intact enough to provide protection from the road to the kids who had played on the green.

There had been no one on the green on this particular morning.  No kids. No cats. No dogs. Just the green, in its solitude. The green grass, covered in a light dusting of dew, a couple of hedges, slowly losing their leaves, and a solitary tree, which was already bare. He sat contemplating the view, watching a light steam rise from the black fence rails where the suns fingers touched them, warming them slightly in comparison to the frigid air around. 

Neil had risen to his feet, still absently rubbing his arm, to rid it of the buzz that had still not really registered in his brain. He had walked around the bed, and crossed the room toward the landing with the aim of going into the bathroom. This aim had been a hopeful one, because with a wife and two daughters in the house the bath room had seldom been empty.

He had been in luck on this day. The bathroom door had been ajar, a sure sign that no one was in there. “My luck is in”, he had thought as he crossed the landing, being careful to avoid the odd shoe, toys, and general mess that had been seemingly ever present over the years. “Gotta tidy this later”, he had thought as he had entered the bath room and closed the door behind him.

Lillie and Samantha had been watching telly when he got downstairs. Disney Channel, as usual, had been on. Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven, Suite Life or some such American import being the source of their early morning entertainment. Neil hadn’t minded really. It kept them occupied for a couple of hours on a weekend morning, allowing him to get the lie in he never got during the week.

Samantha, usually called Sam, was the eldest of the two. She was ten, but Neil often thought she was much older than that because of the way she acted. Children seemed to grow up so much faster than when he was young. Her light brown, shoulder length hair, was tied back in a pony tail that morning. This was generally a sign that she could not be bothered to brush it, but Neil was not going to say anything. Her face was partially obscured by her favourite teddy, and she absently sniffed at its ear, but her dark brown eyes could clearly be seen fixed on the telly. The teddy had been a present from her aunt when she was born. A constant companion in her early years, he was still a sleeping buddy and a comforter when she was at home. A small tie to her early years, he was however now not allowed to accompany her to sleepovers.

Lillie, the younger by two years, had been more slightly built than her older sibling. Her wiry frame gave her both speed and flexibility which her older sister envied, even if she would never admit it. Her skin was paler than the olive hue of her sister, and her face was highlighted by freckles which ran under her eyes and across her nose. Her hair, also tied back, was what some called strawberry blonde. She often complained that it was ginger, and Neil and Janet spent many hours convincing her that it was not, and in fact in the summer when the sun had done its work, the blonde highlights that flowed through were stunning. 

Logan, the dog, had sat snuggled between them.

Logan had been the latest addition to the family. A decision that Neil had never regretted, despite the loss of the hall carpet, part of the kitchen lino, various shoes and socks, and the odd moment with a paint tin. Logan had still been a puppy, just over a year old, and he still occasionally had too much bounce.

They had rescued him from a local animal centre the previous New Year. It had been something they had been thinking about for a while and the time had apparently been right. Neil had had a couple of days off work over the Christmas break and they were used up going around the local centres looking for the dog that caught their eye.

Neil had been adamant that they would not get a puppy. He didn’t want all the hassle that would go with it. The training, the inevitable “accidents” around the house, the chewing, etc, etc. But what had he known. Two kids and a wife to contest with, there was never a contest. Logan had entered their lives at the third centre. They had been just leaving, having failed to see anything that they could all agree on, when Logan came bounding up and sat down at Neil’s wife’s feet. He was a small very dark brown bundle of fur, with a white bib, eyes that really were “puppy dog”, and a tail that hadn’t stopped wagging. And that, as they say, had been that. Logan, a Staffordshire Terrier cross, had become part of the family.

Logan had looked up briefly as Neil had entered the room. With no intention of moving, he had settled right back down, with his chin rested on Lillie’s lap, apparently watching the telly. He let out a large exhale, which they had all come to call ‘slowly deflating dog’, and licked his lips absently.

“Tea?” had been the query from the kitchen.

“Thanks,” he had replied, moving the usual flotsam and jetsam from the second sofa so he could sit down.

As he had sat a small pain had risen in his chest. Nothing major, just a minor inconvenience he had put down to indigestion. ‘Too many Doritos last night’ he had thought.

His wife, Janet, had brought his tea some minutes later. He had looked at the telly whilst he waited for it to cool to drinking temperature. He didn’t watch the programme, had probably seen it before, as these channels seemed to repeat the programmes on and endless loop over the period of a month or so. It was just background whilst he considered what it was that he needed to do today.

Lillie had removed Logan from her lap, got up from the sofa, and crossed over to Neil. “Snuggle?” she had asked.

Neil had raised an arm, he always liked morning snuggles with Lillie. Sam had been going through a no physical contact stage, so Neil took a snuggle whenever he could get one. Lillie sat down, knees tucked up, and snuggled in. Once settled she returned to watching the telly.

The minor pain in his chest had not gone away, tightening into a fist inside his ribs. He had grimaced, and reached for his tea. A couple of sips had been all it had taken, and the pain slowly subsided in to nothing. He was glad because he needed to walk the dog this morning and he didn’t want to do it if suffering from indigestion.

Walking the dog was always a pleasure, either on his own, where he could indulge in a brief spell of solitude, or with other members of his family. It was also his only real form of exercise. Neil had never really been a fitness person. He had never really understood the pleasure that some people gained from putting their bodies through a rigorous workout, only to pay for it the next day. The number of times he had heard people moaning about how they over done it in the gym the day before was beyond his belief. A steady half hour walk for him was enough. He was not over weight, didn’t suffer from any serious medical complaints, and was therefore of the opinion that if it wasn’t broke don’t fix it.

On this particular day Lillie had decided she wanted to go too. Neil didn’t mind as it would give them a chance to chat, something that there was little time for during the normal working week. With Neil either leaving for work early in the morning, before the kids were generally up, or coming home late, just as the kids were going to bed, there was little chance during the week to just sit and chat with his kids. Neil regretted this, but life had always been a balance between earning enough to allow him to give his kids what they needed, and some of what they wanted, and spending time with them enjoying what they had. He liked to think that he had the balance right. He had worked close to home while they were small, to allow him to spend time with them, rather than commuting. Now they were older they wanted less of his time, preferring to be together or with their friends.

Logan was a bundle of nervous excitement, as usual when a walk was in the offing. He dashed around the downstairs rooms, first the kitchen, then dining room, then lounge and finally hall, before repeating himself. He got under feet, but they didn’t mind, he was excited. Lillie grabbed is lead and harness from off the rowing machine, which stood on end in the hallway. Janet had wanted it, so Neil had bought it, but Janet seldom used it, so it now served as a dog lead hanger. Neil had thought that maybe he would just move it out into the garage but he never had got round to it, not wanting to add yet more clutter to his garage hideaway.

Having seen Lillie remove the lead from the unorthodox hall stand that was the rowing machine Logan altered his pattern of excitement. This was the usual prewalk routine where he began to back away from the person with the lead. He had never liked putting the harness on over his head. He knew it had to go on if he wanted to go for a walk, but he was reticent to submit to it. And so had developed the pre-walk dance. He would take a few steps forward and then, as he saw the harness lowered towards his head he would skip back out of range. The trick had been to back him in to the sofa, where he would then submit without too much of a fuss, satisfied that he had made his feelings known.

Neil bent down to fix the clasp on the harness. This was never a simple task, making sure that Logan’s skin didn’t get caught as he did it, but that morning it was made more difficult as Neil noted that the dull tingle of pins and needles had returned to his left hand, making the tips of his fingers numb. Just as he had adjusted his thinking to accommodate the numb fingers, and was about to lock the clasp, a stinging pain registered in his upper arm. Almost like he had been stung, Neil dropped the clasp and grabbed his upper right arm, half expecting to squash a bee beneath palm. With nothing obvious beneath his palm he pulled up his shirt sleeve only to reveal nothing. No bee, no mark, no nothing. Slightly perplexed at this occurrence he rolled his sleeve back down and went back to sorting out Logan’s harness. After a couple of seconds of careful manipulation, also noting that the pins and needles were gone again, the clasp was fixed.

And so with coats on, and Logan under control, Neil and Lillie had set off on that Saturday morning walk.

The local park had been just across the road from their house. Its location had been one of the reasons that Neil and Janet had decided to buy the house. A short walk, out the back gate, along their road, across the main road, and there was the park. Logan behaved himself for once, not pulling too much on the lead as he often did, and Neil and Lillie had chatted easily about school, homework to be done that weekend, and football. When they reached the main road Logan sat nicely at the kerbside when asked, before crossing the main road.

The sun had risen higher now, but there was still a chill in the air and the shadows were still fairly long. Neil stood in the park entrance and surveyed the scene. He had been looking for other people, or actually their dogs, sizing up whether today would be a day when he could let Logan off the lead. There were one or two in the distance, which Logan had already spotted, so he would have to wait to be let free. ‘Maybe when we get down to the bottom’, Neil thought.

The park had been a fairly large expanse, mainly grassed with a few trees, and a tarmac path that ran all the way round. The grassed areas were used by the various local sports clubs for rugby and football mainly, but there was still plenty of room to just wander about. On the far side of the park to where they lived was an industrial area, focused on the manufacture of aero engines, and the planes themselves. The tall industrial stacks rose from here looking like cigarettes stood on end, as the water vapour escaped from their top into the sky like smoke floating.

Once around the park was a mile, near enough, if you stuck to the path. Long enough to get a fair workout, but not too long to get exhausted. Lillie was keen to get going. Bouncing up and down, as she did when she was impatient, almost as much as Logan.

“Come on Dad”, she had said and skipped in to the park. Logan, keen to follow, pulled at his lead.

“OK, OK”, Neil said releasing the loops of lead that he had held in his hand until now. Logan set off at a brisk pace, the lead trailing out behind him, until it reached its ten meter limit, at which point it stopped Logan in his tracks.

Lillie stood just beyond Logan, called to him and he again strained at his lead. “Let him off Dad,” she had said, “those other dogs are gone.”

 
Neil, looked around again and, seeing that Lillie was right, called Logan to him. Logan bounded up and sat quietly at Neil’s feet. Neil bent down and unclasped the lead from the back of the harness. Logan was now free and immediately set off toward Lillie. As Neil stood back upright a crushing pain hit him in the chest, seemingly threatening to crack his ribs. He had nearly cried out, but not wanting to alarm Lillie he had bit it back behind clenched teeth. And then as soon as it had arrived it was gone.

Neil sat down on the bench which had been present just inside the park entrance. He felt no pain now and had begun to wonder whether it was sort of phantom pain. As he sat he watched Lillie and Logan.

The two of them had torn around the field without a care in the world. They left behind them trails in the grass, which still had a heavy covering of dew despite the now fully risen sun. Criss-crossed all over the field the phantom trails made a crazy paving pattern not dissimilar to the trail of a slug across the garden path. Lillie’s laughter had lit up that morning. The sound soared from her little lungs, almost visible because of the “dragon’s breath” that issued from her mouth in the cold morning air.

“Dragon’s Breath” had been Neil’s saying for the girls when they had been really young. Playing in the garden on cold winters mornings he had pretended to be a dragon, chasing them round and round, breathing “smoke” in great lung-fulls, and promising to roast them with fire if her ever caught them.

Logan caught Lillie up and, tangling round her feet, brought her to the ground. Defenceless on the floor, she would now be subject to Logan’s ultimate torture. Face licking. Sure enough he had set in on her straight away. Lillie curled up in a ball as tight as she could, but this was not going to save her. Logan was relentless. Slobbery tongue on the back of the neck, then a quick dart in to the ear. This made Lillie stretch out a bit and Logan was straight in with a full smacker to the face. Lillie roared with laughter, not minding that her clothes had quickly become soaked with the dew. Her laughter only made Logan try even harder, which in turn had solicited more laughter. Round and round they went, the best of friends together.

Neil, sat on the bench, laughed so hard that tears began to roll down his cheeks. The pain was forgotten under the comforting veil of happiness. Life was simple at times like this and how he wished they would always be like this. But time moved on and he knew that they must too.

He had risen from the bench, and crossed the field to rescue his daughter from the slobbery clutches of the mad dog. Logan came when he was called, which allowed Lillie to get to her feet. Covered in slobber, and wet through. Janet would not be happy, but none of them minded.

“Come on”, he had said, “time to get moving.” And set off across the field once more. Lillie came a few steps behind, Logan in the lead. He sniffed the ground as he went, no doubt on the look out for one of those rabbits that lived under the hedges which had bounded the park.

The stream at the bottom of the field had been almost dry. It had not rained much in the previous few months, and the stream looked pretty sorry for itself. The mud banks were dry and cracked, and the water itself was barely a trickle, trying to find its way through the stones and rubbish that laid on the bed. The Tesco trolley, which had been present the previous week, was gone.

“Guess they sent out the trolley wrangler”. Neil said.

“The what?” Lillie had replied.

“You know, he’s like a cowboy, only he rounds up trolleys rather than cows.”

“You’re daft,” said Lillie, “we don’t have cowboys here.”

“That’s because they are now employed as Trolley wranglers.”

Neil had started to laugh, but was stopped short by another searing pain in his chest. This time it was more focused, in two distinct locations on his chest rather than one. Not far part, near his heart. Once again, as he did not want to frighten Lillie, he didn’t cry out but the pain was obviously clear on his face.

Lillie who had been looking straight at him, trying to work out the Trolley Wrangler conversation, saw the pain. “Are you OK Daddy?” she asked.

“I will be in a moment, don’t worry.” With that, once again it was gone. “See, I’m fine.”

Lillie was not convinced but she said nothing more.

Around the corner, up ahead, a young lady appeared with a large chocolate Labrador. She was far enough away to not be a concern, but Logan’s time off lead was over. He got over excited with other dogs, after all he had still been young, and it was better to be safe than sorry.

With Logan back under control, the three of them had continued their circuit of the park.

They stopped briefly to watch some kids playing football. Neil thought they were around nine or ten years old, rushing about the pitch chasing the ball as only kids that age did. Standing on the sideline was the coach, trying to instil some order to the chaos, but Neil didn’t think the kids were paying much attention. The kids continued to tear around, chasing the ball, and having a wail of a time.

Lillie was keen on football, and she was good. As an added bonus she was fast on her feet. Neil could see, as he had watched her, that she was itching to join in but their previous attempts to get her to join a team had met with indifference. Neil did not want to be one of those pushy “touchline parents”, so he would let her decide for herself. Maybe in time she would join a team and be a big star. He always had liked to dream. As she watched, Neil could see her foot twitch, as if making a tackle and then, as the ball was lofted in to the air by an overly eager foot, she rose on to her tiptoes and nodded as if heading the ball goalwards.

“Did you score?” he had asked.

“What?” came the reply. Lillie was obviously unaware that she had tackled the kid with the ball, run around, and headed the most superb of goals beyond a despairing goalkeeper.

“The goal. Did you score?” Looked liked the perfect move to me.”

“Dad!” Lillie had said clearly embarrassed.

“Come on Lillie”, Neil had said to break her embarrassment, “time we were getting home. Want to take Logan?”

“Thanks Dad”, she replied, and taken the lead from Neil.

 
Both dog and daughter had immediately taken off on a steady jog, leaving Neil to saunter along behind them. Admiring the view across the park, as the dew slowly evaporated in the slowly heating sun light. He caught them up just before the entrance, where they had stopped at the bench. Lillie was sat, swinging her legs idly back and forth, with Logan sat quietly to her left.

“You take him now, Dad”, she had said, “I don’t want to take him across the road in case he pulls.”

Neil accepted the lead from his daughter’s hand. Lillie was nervous because Logan had pulled her over last time, and left her with scrages on her knees as a reminder. She would get over it soon enough, but that day had obviously been too soon.

They had crossed the road without incident, and were soon back in their garden. Logan was released from his harness and made a quick dash down the path to the open back door. Thirstily he had lapped up the water waiting for him in his dish.

“You OK?” Janet asked as he stepped through the door.

“Fine”, he had replied, as he always did to such questions. No pain now, no need to worry.

Coat off, he sat on the sofa in the lounge. Lillie had disappeared off upstairs to her room but Sam sat on the other sofa, watching Animal Planet now. No doubt her mother had told her that she had watched enough Disney. The programme had been Meerkat Manor, or something similar. The tale of wild animals in the wild, doing what wild animals did. And that was what she wanted to do.

Having started off wanting to be a vet, Samantha had quickly realised that she didn’t really like the idea of blood and all that. She had still been keen to work with animals though and, having recently discovered her liking for filming during a film and animation club at school, had decided that she would actually like to be a wildlife camera person. This was an idea that Neil and Janet whole heartedly encouraged.

Neil was glad that at least one of his daughters had an idea of what they wanted to do when they were older. He himself had not had a clue at that age.

Neil felt tired. It had not been a long walk, but maybe the week had taken more out of him than he thought. He closed his eyes, hearing the narration on the telly mixing with a song coming from the CD player in the kitchen.

He hadn’t intended to sleep for long, too much to do, as there always was at weekends. 
 

*Waking up I see that everything is OK
The first time in my life and now it’s so great
Slowing down I look around and I am so amazed
I think about the little things that make life great
I wouldn’t change a thing about it
This is the best feeling


Only he found that he couldn’t wake.

“Dad, wake up”.

“Mr. Roberts?”

“Dad, please wake up.”
Lillie’s voice again. And the other one that he didn’t recognise.

Something was not right. He didn’t know what yet, but he needed to figure it out.


*This innocence is brilliant,
I hope that it will stay
This moment is perfect, please don’t go away,
I need you now
And I’ll hold on to it, don’t you let it pass you by


He didn’t think he was sat on the sofa anymore, but could not remember getting up. He was laid down, he thought, but even this did not really register with him. He was still tired, even more now than a minute ago, and that didn’t make sense either.

“I’m sorry Miss Roberts, but I don’t think there is any more we can do.”

Miss Roberts? Why would anyone be calling Lillie, Miss Roberts?

“Are you sure?” That was Lillie again, her voice sounding tremulous.

“His blood pressure was low when we arrived, as you saw. The drugs we have given him have had no effect, and we have shocked his heart twice. I am afraid that his heart has not restarted. We can continue to attempt to restart it if you wish, but I advise that the chance of restarting it is extremely small.”

‘Were they talking about him?’ Neil thought, waiting for Lillie’s response which was a while in coming.


*I found a place so safe, not a single tear
The first time in my life and now it’s so clear
Feel calm I belong, I’m so happy here
It’s so strong and now I can be sincere
I wouldn’t change a thing about it
This is the best feeling


“No, that’s enough” she said, tears clearly in her voice. Neil knew that she was holding his hand, but could not feel it. He knew that she was knelt beside him, but could not reach out to touch her. He knew that she leant forward and kissed him on the cheek, but he could not sense it.


*It’s the state of bliss you think you’re dreaming
It’s the happiness inside you’re feeling
It’s so beautiful it makes you want to cry


‘Time to go’.

The thought just popped into his head. ‘Go where?’ and then he remembered.

 


The walk in the park had been one of many, and many more impressive things had happened in his life, and that of his family. But it was strange how the simple pleasures had a habit of sticking in the mind best of all. Many things were forgotten with the passage of time but some became your future memories.

Neil Roberts died at the age of 83.

His wife Janet, who had died 3 years before, and his beloved friend Logan, who had died at the impressive age of 16, were waiting for him.

oOo

Lillie stood on the pavement outside of her father’s house as his body was loaded in to the ambulance. Phone to her ear, she tried to contact her sister but without success. As usual Lillie got her sisters voicemail message telling her to leave a name and number so that Sam could get back to her. And so she left a message for Samantha, wildlife camera person and winner of three BAFTA awards, and would have to wait to pass on the news of their father’s passing.

And then with the phone still attached to her ear the tears began to flow. Neil Roberts’ daughter Lillie, capped twenty three times for England before damaging her knee and moving in to coaching, stood on the pavement outside of his house and cried for the loss of her father.

She didn’t notice the car that passed her, and screeched to a halt a few doors up.


*(Lavigne/Taubenfeld – Avril Lavigne - Innocence, The Best Damn Thing)

 

 

 

 

 


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