Bucket and Ball

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A Facebook tale

Submitted: November 08, 2014

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Submitted: November 08, 2014

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Today is the day I open the letter from Joe. It wasn’t long after Joe had gone that things started to happen.

First it was a friend request on Facebook: no mutual friends. A scammer? Lonely and bored, I clicked the Accept button. My new friend was called Louise Turner. Lou – as she preferred to be called – lived in Bayswater according to her profile. I immediately thought of The Pet Shop Boys, not because Lou looked like Neil Tennant or Chris Lowe but because she was a West End girl and I was always an East End boy.

Lou went to Margate not long after that. She sent me a photograph of her on the beach, holding a beach ball: “Wish you were here George.” Me too but there was too much going on in Bethnal Green for me at the time.

I didn’t hear from Lou after that. Things went quiet in my life. Dark days without Joe being around and during that time, I let things go, including myself. I became reclusive; a prisoner in my own home. I was lonely. I didn’t want to go out. Facebook was my friend. Friends I previously had disappeared. New friend requests arrived at a steady pace. Nothing unusual there, nor in the fact that I accepted them all and left it there.

It was only when I emerged from my dark days that I started looking through the new friends I’d acquired. The first was from France (I was supposed to take Joe there once). A two day gap, then one from Spain. Three more days and two more friend requests, from Germany. Then a week. A new friend in Italy. Four days, then three new friends from Africa (one from the north and two from the south). Nothing for a month, then several new friends in north and south America. Another six weeks and Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Russia and east to west across Europe. As I went through my new friends’ photos, it struck me that all had one thing in common: profile pictures of them holding a red, white and blue beach ball. Then a week ago, it stopped.

Yesterday I got a friend request: Louise Turner. I accepted and almost immediately got a message: “I need to see you. It’s very important.” It’s almost a year to the day since Joe went and in a moment of madness and curiosity, I gave Lou my home address.

And now we’re in the present day: 21st June. Summer solstice and the longest day of the year. It’s 7.42am as I look at the clock beside my bed. There’s a knock at the door. I hurriedly put on a dressing gown, go to the door and open it.

“Hello George”. I’m barely awake but I recognise the lady in the corridor: Lou Turner. “Sorry if I woke you”, she says. “This is for you”. She hands me an envelope. It’s unaddressed but I know what’s inside. The letter:

Dear George,

It’s been a year and if you’re reading this, I finally got something right.

The lady who gave you this letter is nurse Turner. After you had to leave me, Nurse Turner looked after me. You may not believe me but I knew more than you realised. I know that you wanted to take me to many places before I left. We never made it. You didn’t have the money but that’s okay. You were ill. You didn’t have to leave. As I write this, I have a mask which the nurses let me breathe into. I’m tired but the mask wakes me up. Nurse Turner has something else for you: ask her.

“You have something for me?” Nurse Louise Turner goes to the front door, opens it, reaches into the hall and brings in another envelope and a beach ball: red, white and blue. I open the envelope and take out another letter:

Dear dad,

You always insisted I called you George but you are my daddy. I went to all of the places you wanted to take me to. I blew one of my last breaths into the beach ball and asked nurse Turner to release me. I’ve travelled round the world daddy. Now you need to let me go and move on. Don’t be sad. You made me happy. I’ll always love you, wherever I am.

From Joe Aged 15, now 16.

Joe’s last breath continues to travel, by sea and by air. My lost life: I miss him.

 

(C) Steve Laker 2013


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