Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Jamie's Wishes






Lawrence Handock was a thin old man who wore a monocle that magnified his crazy left eye. The monocle terrified his grandchildren, who had secret arguments over whether Grandad could look at the sun without his head catching fire. Lawrence Handock's grandchildren loved him more than they loved themselves, partly because he scared them more than the vampires that came when the toilet flushed, and partly because he gave them money when their parents weren't looking.

Lawrence Handock was a self-conscious eccentric who wore a fake monocle that blurred his vision, but scared his grandchildren and gave them reason to whisper about him when his back was turned. He had been completely happy now for twenty five years, ever since he had given up melancholy as a waste of time. Lawrence was happy because he confused and confounded people. He knew that the story of how and why he had completely changed his external personality a quarter of a century ago was a truly great one, and that satisfied him because he also knew that he would never have to tell it. That chapter was all his.

Not that Lawrence didn't like a good story. That was one of the things that he had loved about Jamie. Jamie had always had a good story to tell. In fact, Lawrence reflected, as the sun burnt his neck and the birds of prey circled above him, this was a pretty good story now. Being here, doing this, this was a surprising twist for his life to take at such a late stage. He never could have predicted it.

He carried on digging.

Thirty miles east of where Lawrence was burying the cadillac, Celia Handock was sitting on a swing bench on the porch of a motel. It was seeringly hot and the flies were buzzing around her face. She took her feet off the ground and the bench rocked her gently back and forth. It wasn't soothing.

"For goodness sake!" she whispered to no one in particular. "For goodness sake! How long can it take for a seventy two year old man to bury a car?”

Some holiday this was. Things like this just weren't supposed to happen to her. She was meant to be a dignified woman, entering old age gracefully, making fruit cakes for village fetes, shouting at the children who stepped on her lawn. She wasn't supposed to be doing this. When she had married the nice but grey Lawrence Handock forty three years ago, she had thought a sedate destiny was guaranteed. Burying a dead man's car! The very idea was ridiculous. The most interesting experiences were meant to be in the past now. Life was meant to be settled.

Celia looked at her watch, and then down at the mobile phone. She shook her head. Why hadn't she told Lawrence to phone her every twenty minutes, rather than once an hour? He could have collapsed in the heat fifty minutes ago for all she knew.


"Are you all right Ma'am?" said a voice from behind, making Celia jump.
"Hmmm?"
"Is everything all right for you?"
"Yes, dear." said Celia. "Very nice of you to ask."
"Pleasure, Ma'am. If you need anything, I'm-"
"Well, thankyou, dear. I'm fine. The service around here is wonderful I must say. Now you-"
"Not as nice as you're used to in England I'm sure."
"Better, dear, much better." said Celia, hoping the clean shaven motel attendant would just leave her to worry on her own.
"England's just my most favourite place in the world. I went there a couple of years ago, as a missionary for the church of the broken bell jar."
"Really dear?" said Celia, beginning to realise this motel monkey had nothing better to do than talk to her, and he wasn't going to forsake the opportunity. "That's lovely."
"Oh yes. The church is really gaining strength over there now. We believe in full immersion baptism in paint and salvation through crying."
Celia's brain switched into auto pilot.
"Really? That's lovely."
"Tell me, Ma'am, I hope you don't mind me asking, but could you tell me when the last time you were visited by our church?"

Celia stayed quiet. 'My God.' she thought, as her stomach began to ache with nerves. 'If Lawrence doesn't come back soon, we're screwed. Seriously screwed.'

"Ma'am?"
"Sorry?" said Celia, aware of the attendant again. "What was that?"
"Don't worry Ma'am. Our church will never pressurise to convert. I've got some leaflets inside somewhere. Would you like one?"
'Where are you Lawrence?' Celia thought. 'Why did I ever let you do this?'

"It's no trouble at all, Ma'am, honestly. They're just inside. I can see them from here, under my tarot cards…"

Burying a dead man's car! The very idea was ridiculous. The most interesting experiences were meant to be in the past now. Life was meant to be settled. Lawrence felt a little guilty about admitting it, but he couldn't really help it. He was enjoying himself. He was hotter now than he had ever been, but he was loving life.

He tied a knot in each corner of a hankerchief and placed it on his balding head. His heart was pounding and it worried him slightly. The heart attack two years ago had left him nervous about every judder and hiccup that he had. This really wouldn't be a good time for an attack to take place. It would take years for people to find him for a start, especially if he fell into the hole he was digging.

'No.' Lawrence decided. 'I'm not dying now. No chance.'

The hole was almost big enough now. He had started digging it at about midnight last night, just an hour or so after Jamie's sinister son Henry had gone to bed. It must have been about nine o'clock now. Celia would be worried sick, not that you could ever tell with her. She always seemed to take things in her stride. Lawrence had spent the last twenty five years trying to shock her, ever since he had bought his first monocle, and he hadn't succeeded yet. She knew him now better than he knew himself, as she continued to prove. It was only a few days ago that she had amazed him last, when she had told him on the way over that she knew they weren't flying to Phoenix for the holiday of a life time, but were actually going to steal Jamie's car from his sinister son and bury it in the Nevada desert.

"How did you know that?" Lawrence had asked, flabbergasted.
"What on earth do you think you're playing at, Lawrence? You're not in your thirties now. You're seventy two years old and you've had one heart attack already."
"I've got to do what Jamie would have wanted."
"Jamie's dead and he won't care now, Lawrence."
"I've got to do it. Jamie loved that car. Why should his son get it? We've got to do what Jamie wanted. He asked me to do it, before he died."
"I know you cared about him a lot, but he's no longer with us, Lawrence. It's not worth the effort. Let's not sentimentalise the dead."

Lawrence really did believe that doing what Jamie wanted was important, no matter what Celia thought. He wasn't just trying to be eccentric now, he was acting with genuine conviction. He was sure he was. Celia must know that.

"Honestly, Lawrence. Maybe customs won't notice, but I know what's in that urn in your suitcase."
Lawrence raised his eyebrows. His monocle fell out.
"You never cease to amaze me." he said.
"You never fail to get on my nerves." said Celia. "You're just lucky I love you."
"You're darn tootin' right I am."

Lawrence wiped the sweat off his brow and decided to give Celia another ring, just to check Henry wasn't up yet. He reached into the car and took out the phone.
"Hello, is that Celia?"
"Of course it's Celia, you great lump. How are things going?"
"Fine. Fine. Just phoned to say things are going fine."
"Don't stay out in the heat too long, Lawrence. If you're too hot sit in the car and put on the air conditioning. Drink lots of water."
"Yes, dear. I'm fine. Is Henry up yet?"
"No, not yet."
"Good. Good. I'll get on with it then."
"Have you got long to go?"
"Not long now. I'll call again in an hour."
"Call in half-" said Celia, but Lawrence had already hung up.

Celia sighed and then took a sharp intake of breath as she realised that Henry had just emerged from his room. To her relief he didn't look over to the parking lot, but walked over to the ice machine. Poor boy, thought Celia, he really was sinister looking. His face was all pointy, and his hair was just too black. He didn't look a bit like Jamie.

Henry walked back into his motel room and Celia was left sitting on the bench. After a few minutes her eyes began to droop, as they seemed to more and more these days. As much as she tried to deny it, she knew things weren't the same as they used to be. She knew that she was getting old, and even in the middle of the most tense situation she'd been in for years she needed a nap. Her eyes closed.

Lawrence heaved the moped out of the back of the car and laid it down on the dry earth. He was exhausted, but felt satisfied that the job was nearly done. He took off the car's hand brake and walked around to the back. He placed his hands on the bumper.

"Woh!" he shouted, and took away his hands sharply. "Hot."

He wrapped a handkerchief around each hand. Then he took a deep breath and pushed as hard as he could. The car rolled gently towards the hole, making an enormous noise as it toppled in.

"Woooooo!!!" Lawrence cried, throwing both hands in the air. "WOOOOOOOH HOOOOO!"

It was a few seconds before he remembered the seriousness of the situation. He picked up the urn and walked to the edge of the hole. "Jamie," he said, as he removed the lid. He paused for a moment and then repeated himself, this time shouting his words to the sky, saying each word slowly.

"JAMIE, YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE FOR ME.
YOU WERE MY BEST FRIEND.
YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE IF I NEEDED YOU.
WE GREW UP TOGETHER AND YOU STUCK WITH ME THROUGH GOOD TIMES AND BAD.
YOU WERE BEST MAN AT MY WEDDING AND I WAS BEST MAN AT BOTH OF YOURS.
MY CHILDREN CALLED YOU UNCLE JAMIE AND YOURS CALLED ME UNCLE LAWRENCE - RIGHT UP UNTIL THE TIME OF YOUR UNPLEASANT DIVORCE WHEN YOUR FIRST WIFE TURNED BOTH YOUR CHILDREN AGAINST YOU AND ANYONE YOU ASSOCIATED WITH…"

Lawrence paused. He had a feeling that he was meant to brush over these things in a eulogy, but Celia wasn't here to tell him otherwise. His speech began to speed up.

"AFTER THAT, YOU WERE LEFT WITH ALMOST NOTHING. SHE TOOK YOU FOR EVERY PENNY YOU HAD, JAMIE, EXCEPT FOR THE CAR. I REMEMBER THE DAY WHEN THEY TRIED TO TAKE THAT AWAY AS WELL, BUT YOU STOOD YOUR GROUND, SAYING IT HAD BEEN STOLEN AND KEEPING IT HIDDEN AT MY HOUSE FOR TWO YEARS. I HARDLY SLEPT AT ALL FOR THOSE TWO YEARS JAMIE, BUT I STILL STOOD BY YOU, WILLING TO BREAK THE LAW BECAUSE I KNEW YOU WOULD HAVE DONE THE SAME FOR ME. WELL, I'M BREAKING THE LAW FOR YOU AGAIN JAMIE.
SOMEHOW, EVEN IN DEATH, YOU MANAGE TO BE A BAD INFLUENCE.

CELIA ALWAYS DISAPPROVED OF MY RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU, EVER SINCE YOU MADE FUN OF HER SIZE IN THE SPEECH ON OUR WEDDING DAY. DESPITE THIS, I STOOD BY YOU THEN AS I STAND BY YOU NOW. I'M GLAD THAT YOU FOUND HAPPINESS IN YOUR LATER YEARS WITH MARY AND I KNOW THAT YOU ARE WITH HER NOW. I DON'T THINK I WOULD HAVE APPROVED OF BURYING YOU WITH THE CAR IF YOU HADN'T EXPLAINED TO ME THAT THIS WAS YOUR WAY OF BEING WITH HER IN DEATH, AFTER YOU ACCIDENTLY SPILT HER ASHES OVER THE BACK SEAT. CELIA ALWAYS THOUGHT YOU WERE LAZY, BUT I KNEW THERE MUST HAVE BEEN ANOTHER REASON WHY YOU WOULD NEVER CLEAN THIS CAR, JAMIE. I BELIEVED IN YOU. I MAY BE GOING AGAINST POPULAR OPINION WHEN I SAY THIS, BUT I WILL SAY IT ANYWAY:

JAMIE SPENCER GRANT, YOU WERE A… GOOD MAN."

And with these final words, Lawrence emptied Jamie's ashes over the car. He took a few moments of silence and then started shovelling earth back into the hole.

"Can I help you, sir?"
The nasal twang of the motel attendant travelled through the walls behind Celia and into her semi-conscious mind. "Yes you can help me. Some bastard's stolen my car!"

Celia opened her eyes.

"Are you sure, sir? We do pride ourselves on our car park security at the MotorStop Motel."
"Of course I'm bloody sure. It was there last night and it's not there now!"
"Well, if it has gone missing we should have it on video tape, sir. Please don't panic."

Celia sat up. Video tape! Of course. Video tape. Lawrence would have been recorded stealing the car. How could they have been so stupid? Lawrence was too old to go to jail now. He wouldn't make it. Celia took a deep breath. She couldn't panic. She had to get Lawrence out of this mess. How could she have been so stupid?

"Just a moment's rest." Lawrence murmured, as his legs gave way beneath him.

Just a moment's rest and he'd get on his bike and go home. Lawrence shut his eyes and lay back on the ground. The ground was so hot. So hot and so dirty. Lawrence realised he was falling.

"No Jamie." Lawrence said. "I can't be falling. I'm on the ground."

The ground. It was so hot. So hot and dirty and hard. It hurt his back. Lawrence tried to take deep breaths. Just one moment's rest, he thought. A few more seconds and then he'd get on the bike and go home. Just a few seconds more and he'd stand up. He really did feel like he was falling. He was diving head first, but he knew he couldn't be. His head was on the ground. The hot ground. It was so dirty and hard and noisy.

Lawrence opened his eyes. Noisy? He shifted onto his side and put his ear to the ground. It took him a few seconds to realise what it was.

"NO!" he shouted, sitting up. "I DON'T BELIEVE IT."

Lawrence thought about digging it up for a second, but realised it was pointless. He had to get back. He had to get back and tell Celia that the only reason why he wasn't answering the phone was because he buried it by mistake. He wasn't dying.

Well, that's that then, thought Celia, matter of factly. He's dead. Forty three years of married life finished. She was a widow. She took the phone away from her ear and was surprised to find that she felt amazingly calm. People always thought Celia was amazingly calm, but she wasn't. Even Lawrence thought she was immensely cool-headed, but inside she was a bundle of nerves. Every time he did something strange it made her edgy. Acting in a nonchalant manner was the only way that she could really deal with it. Normally even the thought of Lawrence in danger made her feel ill with worry.

She really did feel calm now though. Strangely calm, as though Lawrence was perhaps guiding her actions from the next world, as if he was looking out for her.

'The first thing I've got to do is confess', Celia thought. 'There's no point in them looking through those video tapes if they don't have to.'

She got up off the bench and stretched. Wow, her back hurt. She had no idea how long she had been sitting there, but it definitely hadn't done her any good.

"Ouch." she said out loud, to no one in particular.

Then, suddenly, the pain stopped. Her back didn't feel stiff and she felt twenty years younger. She smiled.

"Thankyou dear." she said to the air. "Thankyou."

Celia walked into the office, where Henry was still shouting at the motel attendant.

"I thought you had security guards here?"
"We do sir, I'm sure if he'd have seen anything suspicious it would have been reported."
"Well, he can't be doing his job properly can he?" said Henry. "Someone stole my car last night!"
"As you've said, sir. We'll review the tapes before jumping to any more conclusions."
"Who's jumping to conclusions? It's not parked where I left it! How much more evidence do you need?"

Celia coughed and the two men turned round to look at her.
"Hello Ma'am." said the attendant. "I'm really sorry about this. I'll be with you as soon as I can."
"Well, actually I think I can help with this problem."
She really didn't feel any anxiety at all, she hardly even felt hot now. She could feel Lawrence beside her: he was dressed in white with a gold rimmed monocle, guiding her as she spoke, gently fanning her face with three large white feathers.

Henry turned around and jumped back slightly with shock.
"Auntie Celia?"
"Hello Henry. How's your mother? Keeping well I hope."
"She's… She's… fine. Wh… What are you doing here?"
"Well, I would say a holiday, but that's not exactly true. I'm afraid my husband has taken your car."
"Uncle Lawrence stole my car?"
"Well, technically yes, dear, though he did have a key."
The motel attendant looked back and forth between the young man and the older woman. "I don't think that the MotorStop motel is allowed to get involved in legal disputes between families." he said.

Henry looked at him blankly. "We're not family." he said sternly.

The attendant stepped back a little. "Oh, I'm sorry sir. I thought you said your Uncle took your car."
"Yes, but… he's not my real Uncle. He's a… a…"
"He's a special Uncle." said Celia, winking at the attendant.
The attendant smiled. "Oh, a special Uncle, I get it." His smile dropped. "I'm not sure what our rules are about special Uncles."

Henry ignored him and turned back to Celia. "Why would Uncle Lawrence take my car?"
"I'm afraid he took umbrage to the fact that you didn't respect your father's wishes when he died."
The attendant took a shocked intake of breath at the mention of death.
"What wishes?" asked Henry. "My father had wishes?"
"Yes dear. It appears so. He wanted to be buried with the car."
Henry's jaw dropped. The motel attendant put his hand to his mouth. "What?"
"Don't ask me dear, but Lawrence thought it was important."
Henry was silent.
"You really have picked up quite an American accent over the years, haven't you dear?"
Henry stayed quiet, his jaw hanging open. "Where did Uncle Lawrence take it?" he said finally.
"Well, he left at about midnight and he was planning to bury it in the desert."
"Where in the desert?"
"I don't know dear, I'll help you look for it if you want."
Henry looked at the old woman in front of him. She just seemed so casual about what she was saying.
"Is Uncle Lawrence coming back then?"
Celia sighed. "No dear. I'm afraid it seems to have proved too much for him. He died."
The motel attendant gasped for breath. Henry's jaw dropped again.
"Uncle Lawrence died? When?"
"No longer than an hour ago, dear. I tried to phone him a few minutes ago and there was no answer. That means he's dead."
The motel attendant's hands began to shake. "Ma'am, are you absolutely sure he's dead?"
"Oh yes dear. A seventy two year old man, lining up for his second heart attack, trying to bury a car in a desert? In heat like this? He's definitely dead."
"You… You just seem so calm about it."
"I am calm, dear. It all right. He's here beside me. I can feel him. Lawrence is keeping me calm."
The attendant clasped his hands together, desperately trying to stop them shaking.
"He… He's here? Now?"
"Yes dear. Here beside me now, dressed in white and cooling me with a fan of white feathers. He's keeping me calm."
The attendant stared at the old woman, and then at the space beside her.
"Yes." he said. "Yes… Of course… Beside you." He paused, squinting at the space beside Celia. His eyes opened wide. "I think I can see him!"
Henry looked. He stayed silent for a moment before the stupidity of it hit him.
"What are you talking about?" he yelled at both of them. "What are you talking about? What's going on here? My Uncle Lawrence has stolen my car and I'm supposed to believe he's dead because he hasn't answered a phone call? Look, Auntie Celia - I don't even know why I'm calling you that, I've seen you three times in the past twenty years - I'm sorry to say this, but unless I get my car back soon, I'm calling the police."
The attendant had to sit down. This was too much. It was just too much.
"I'd show you where it is, dear, but I haven't got a car. Lawrence assured me this would be a train and taxi holiday all the way."
"Well then, I'm sorry Aunt… Mrs Handock. I'm going to have to call the police."
The attendant stood up. "NO." he shouted. "NO. WAIT. We'll take my car."
"What about the motel?"
"The motel's shut!"

Lawrence wasn't exactly sure of the way back to the motel. It was dark when he had left this morning and things looked different in the light. At least he was out of the desert now and sitting in the cool. Celia would be furious when he got back. Burying the phone! What a stupid thing to do. Still, no doubt she'd be relieved that he was alive when she saw him. At least he hadn't died of heat exhaustion. It had been a close call for a second back there, but he felt much better now. He'd done what Celia had told him, he'd taken on liquids and now he was sheltering in this air conditioned service stop cafe, where a waitress was about to bring him a big greasy breakfast. Celia would have a fit if she knew.

Lawrence looked out of the window. He would have expected the sky to be bluer when it was so hot, but it wasn't really. It was more a kind of greyish, almost yellow colour. He looked over to the petrol station and raised an eyebrow slightly when he saw the motel attendant filling up with petrol. He really didn't look well.

Lawrence looked away to see if his breakfast was anywhere near ready. His arms were really aching now. He was much too old for this. Lawrence looked back over to the attendant.

"CELIA!" Lawrence shouted, waving a handkerchief at the car driving away. "CELIA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

The car was in the distance by the time Lawrence ran outside. What on earth was she up to?

"Are you sure it's okay to shut the motel just like that?" asked Henry, as they drove along the desert highway.
"Oh, yes sir. We're encouraged to help the customer in any way we can."
Celia leaned forward from the back seat. "This is very good service." she said. "There's really nothing like this in England, no matter what you say."
"Thankyou, Ma'am. Thankyou. Is… Is your husband with us now?"
Celia nodded. "He's always with me, dear."
"Is he sitting next to you now?"
"Yes, dear. He's here. But he's also everywhere."
The attendant looked into his rear view mirror.
"AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!" he squealed. "AAAAARRRRRGGGHH!!!"
Henry put his hands to his ears. "WHAT?" he shouted. "WHAT?"
"AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!"
"WHAT?"
"HE'S ON A MOTORBIKE!"
"WHO?"
"Mr… Uncle Law… The… Your husband!"
Henry and Celia both turned around.
"Oh my God." said Henry, as he slowly broke into a smile. "HA! OH MY GOD! HA HA HA!"

Celia's eyes weren't as good as they used to be and she put on the glasses that hung around her neck.

It was definitely Lawrence.

"AAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!" screamed the attendant, as they began to slow down.
"HA HA HAAAA!!!" laughed Henry.
Celia began to take deep breaths. It was so hot all of a sudden. Blotches began to appear in front of her eyes. It was so hot. Her head hit against the window.

Everything went quiet.

"Celia?"

It was Lawrence's voice.

"Celia?"

She felt a kiss on her lips. It was definitely Lawrence, no one else's lips could be quite that wet. She opened her eyes. She was still in the back of the car, but her head was on Lawrence's lap. He was smiling at her.

"Don't you smile at me." she said. "Why didn't you answer my phone call? I was worried sick."

Lawrence looked a little embarrassed. "Well… It's… It's…"
"You buried it with the car, didn't you?"
Lawrence looked surprised. "How did you know?"
"Well," she said, sitting up. "That was my second guess." She hid her face in her hands. "Oh!" she said
"I feel so stupid!"
"There's no need to feel stupid, dear." said Lawrence, putting his hand out for his wife to hold.
Celia ignored his gesture. "That's not much comfort coming from Mr Dummy himself is it? How could you bury the phone?"
Lawrence shrugged. He had a feeling she wasn't going to let this one go in a hurry.

Celia suddenly realised they were moving. Henry and the motel attendant were in the front seats.

"Where are we going?" she said.
"The same place as we were always going Mrs Handock. We're going to get my car." said Henry.
"Now, look, I mean, is this really necessary?" said Lawrence. "It's what your father wanted."
"Well, he never told me that, Mr Handock. He never told me that."
"THAT'S BECAUSE HE KNEW YOU WERE A SINISTER MONEY GRABBING RUNT WHO NEVER CARED WHAT HE THOUGHT ANYWAY!" shouted Lawrence, suddenly overwhelmed.
"Lawrence!" said Celia.

Henry stayed quiet in the front. The motel attendant had both hands on the steering wheel and for once he wasn't getting involved.

"I'm sorry Henry." said Celia. "My husband always gets like this if he hasn't had a good night's sleep. Take no notice."
Henry turned to look at Lawrence. They both had tears in their eyes. "Did my father say that?" he asked, suddenly seeming more upset than sinister.

Lawrence looked away from him and clenched his teeth. "Well," he said. "not in so many words."

Henry turned back. "Is it far from here?" he asked quietly.
"No." said Lawrence, looking out the window. "In a moment you'll see the tyre tracks going right as they leave the road."

Celia shook her head. "I can't believe you buried the phone."
Lawrence sighed. They drove the rest of the way in silence.
"Wow." said Henry sarcastically. "You did a good job there then."
The three of them were standing outside of the car now. The motel attendant stayed behind the driving seat, not quite sure of what to do with himself.

Now that he looked at it more objectively, Lawrence did feel a little disappointed. The hot Nevada air had blown a lot of the top soil away, and you could quite clearly see a car's roof shining from a distance.

"I'd like to see you do a better job when you're my age, sonny." he said.
"I wouldn't be senile enough to want to bury a car." said Henry.
"Look here!" said Lawrence. "I'm fed up with you. You were his family! You were meant to care about Jamie's wishes."
"I did care about Jamie… my Dad's wishes!"
"You didn't even go to the funeral. We were left to scatter the ashes!"

Henry looked at the ground and shuffled his feet in the dust. When he looked up he stared into the distance somewhere, making sure he didn't meet Lawrence's gaze. He spoke very quietly now.

"I wanted to go to the funeral. I honestly did. I just… couldn't. I knew everyone else would be looking at me. I couldn't stand the whispers."
"Your sister managed it." said Lawrence stiffly, suddenly feeling as though he were telling off one of his own children. "Why couldn't you?"
"She's different. She can handle things like that. I can't. I did what I could though. I organised what I could. I let you scatter the ashes because I thought that's what he wanted. I didn't leave you to do it because I was too lazy. I didn't see it as a chore."
Lawrence shook his head. "I hate people who make excuses."
"I'm not making excuses!"
Celia stayed quiet. This was none of her business. She had known Jamie for a long time, but he was never her friend. She didn't like the way that her husband felt he could tell Henry off though, or the way that Lawrence seemed to see Jamie as a perfect figure. He wasn't a bad person, but he definitely had his flaws.
"It's easy to say that now." said Lawrence.
"You don't know me." said Henry. "You think you do, but you don't." He paused. "Look, why don't we all just go back to the motel and I'll get someone to dig up the car. There's no need to take this further."
"HA!" laughed Lawrence. "Is that what you think being decent is? Not taking this any further? Well, thank you very much. I changed your nappies once, and you're repaying me by not getting me arrested. If you cared about your father at all you'd leave the car here."
Henry shook his head. "You honestly think my Dad gave a damn about being buried with the car? Really? He used you, can't you see that? He used you because he didn't want my Mom to get what was rightfully hers. Do you know why? Because he was selfish. I cared a lot about him, and I don't care what you say. I loved my father more than you'd ever know, but the fact remains: he was a self serving, arrogant miser. He used you like he used everyone around him!"
Lawrence swallowed hard. His children would never have talked to their elders like that. "You ignorant… arrogant bastard! You have no idea why he wanted to be buried with the car. He loved your mother, no matter what she told you. I didn't want to say this, because Jamie promised me not to tell anyone. The reason why Jamie wanted to be buried with the car was because of your step mother, Mary."
Celia frowned. She wasn't really sure where Lawrence was taking this.
"Your father accidently spilt her ashes over the back seat of the car. He wanted the car with him in death so that they could be together."

Celia coughed. What utter rubbish! Jamie had scattered the ashes when Lawrence was in hospital a couple of years ago. He definitely hadn't spilt them in the car, she would have noticed. The car was dirty, but only through Jamie chucking his cigarette butts in the back. He'd gone too far this time. Lying to Lawrence about something like that. It was just sick. She opened her mouth to speak.

"I… I didn't know." said Henry. "I didn't know."
"Well, I wasn't meant to tell anyone. Celia didn't even know until now."
Lawrence looked at her. Boy, did she look annoyed.
"I didn't know." Henry repeated.
"Well… that doesn't change the fact that you thought your father was only out for himself, does it?"
"I didn't know!" said Henry. "I didn't know what else to think."
"Well, does this change things? Can we leave the man in peace?" asked Lawrence. "Hmmm?"
"I… I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"It's…" Henry was almost whispering. "It's an expensive car."
Lawrence stamped his foot and dust scattered everywhere. "I knew it!" he said. "That's all you care about-"
Henry interrupted. "Of course it's not. I didn't mean that. It's just… Oh forget it. Okay, we'll leave it there. Look Uncle Lawrence, why didn't you just explain it earlier, rather than stealing the car?"
"I wasn't meant to tell." said Lawrence stubbornly.
Celia shook her head. She couldn't believe what a clot she was married to. He never failed to surprise her. She sighed. Perhaps things were best left as they were. There was no point in upsetting either of them more. Anything for a quiet life.
She got back into the car and the others followed.
"You're… uhhh… You're leaving it there then?" asked the motel attendant.
"It's what my father would have wanted." said Henry.
The four of them drove back to the motel in silence.

*

The attendant decided to leave it for two weeks before digging up the car. It took him hours and he nearly died of heat exhaustion. He was guilty and scared for the entire time he was doing it, but it was such an expensive car and working in a motel just didn't pay that much.

He sold it soon afterwards and gave his money to the church where it belonged. He cried for salvation. Perhaps it was just guilt, but somehow, every time he drove near the desert after that, he was sure he could here a phone ringing deep beneath the ground.

2 comments:

  1. That was very good indeed. Surprisingly good. It made me laugh several times, and it was very gripping. You WILL be famous one day.

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  2. Very amusing and really well paced. I could see this becoming a fun short film.

    Favourite line: "he scared them more than the vampires that came when the toilet flushed". How did you get into my childhood brain?

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