Last wishes by John Young

In the front pew of the church Mary Brokenworth stands trying to suppress a smile as the coffin containing the body of her late husband Charlie is wheeled down the aisle at the start of the final lap of its journey to the graveyard. A quiet piece from Bach reverentially played on the church organ by a student from the nearby university now competes with a loud squeak coming from a wheel of the coffin trolley.

“Charlie hated churches. He would have enjoyed that,” she hears one his golfing chums chuckling.”

Almost imperceptibly Mary nods.So he would, she thinks. So he would.

 “Straight into the ground with me, d’you understand?” he had wheezed on his hospital deathbed. “Sprinkle a nice malt whisky over the grave if you must do something spiritual but no, repeat no …” He paused gathering the remnants of his strength. “None of your churchy nonsense, hymns and prayers and all that.” 

I’ll do with your body exactly – exactly – what I like, she thought, exiting the ward. And you dear husband will be in no position to object.

“Defying Charlie’s last wishes, that’s important for you, a boundary marker of sorts,” said an insightful and sympathetic friend, with whom she had shared the endless difficulties of living with an increasingly grumpy husband.” 

For a childish moment Mary hopes that the squeak is Charlie’s doing, a final angry protest by a ghostly remnant of Charlie. “How dare you, how dare you?”, she imagines him raging into the ether. Do they have anger management classes for departed souls? she wonders?

 In the evening after the burial, after the reception, Mary departs alone for the graveyard. As she expects the grave has been filled in, the turf replaced. From a shopping bag she retrieves a bottle of fine malt, heavily peated, Islay whisky, Charlie’s favourite brand. She removes the cork and slowly dribbles the content over the grave.

“This is for you, Charlie,” she murmurs. “Rest in peace,” she pauses, then adds with a smile, ” – if you can.”

Author is an old chap living in St Andrews Scotland. Keen to explore themes of limits and longings through flash fiction.

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