A Bouquet Of Flowers

Bouquets of flowers, each carrying a card, arranged on the dining room table. In the living room the conversation is halting, awkward. They stare at pictures scattered across a coffee table.
They point, talk. I listen to scattered phrases, implicitly understood. Pictures, memories, silent reminders of absence. Each add their own story, overlaying, embroidering, quilting these often awkward photographs with their own thoughts. Gaps are filled with smiles, slight gestures. They all mean something, have a value.
Two small square pictures, taken in quick succession, the same soft light illuminating the scene; backyard, water butt, dog kennel.
‘You don’t remember?’
‘The dog never slept in that, took one look and was straight back indoors.’

I think about a sunlit backyard, rosebay willow herb growing out of the brickwork. He’s leaning against the wall, sleeves rolled up, staring at the camera. His tattoos, a sailing ship on one arm, dancing girl on the other. Even then they were fading, being absorbed into weathered skin. He strokes our dogs head. Mickey, ‘Heinz 57 varieties. Our pedigree mongrel.’ And just out of sight, the outside toilet, coal bunker, next to the back door leading into the lane. Washing hung out, and waiting for kids to be chased by angry women.

‘Those little sods’ll feel the back of my hand. Look at my sheets, I’ve spent all morning washing them.’
‘Little devils, eh.’
‘Little devils with sore arses when I catch them.’

Another photograph taken moments later. She stands with her back to the same wall, caught in the same slanting light. By herself, separate, just like their lives. The photographs are gone, lost, no doubt left behind in one too many moves. I still have a few things: his Rosary, their death certificates, and a vivid memory of those two pictures.

Someone looks out the window,’They’ve arrived’, and we file out to the waiting limousines. The flowers follow.