He lay there, in bed, looking out the window. The sun crept across the front of the yard and lit the pink abelia hedge. He looked at it without moving and the pink faded as a cloud drifted across and then the brightness came again – and went again. He looked at the clock on his bedside table – 9.54. Another two hours and six minutes and that would be the whole morning gone. He’d been awake since six o’clock and this was his third cup of coffee. He’d found the apple pie he’d made yesterday still on the bench and cut a slice and had eaten that for breakfast. And then with a sigh of resignation he got up and went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. I can’t waste the whole day, he had said. But he turned the shower off and switched on the kettle and made another cup of coffee and went back to bed.
The phone rang.
‘Good Morning father dear. What have you been up to today?’
‘Are you still in bed?’
‘If I want to stay in bed all day I will. I’m not hurting anyone,’ he said.
‘What are you cranky about?’ she asked.
‘It certainly sounds like you are. What are you cranky about?’
‘Nothing. I’m not cranky about anything.’
‘If you say so,’ she said. ‘It’s just that you sound cranky.’
‘Alright. If you want to know I am cranky. I’m cranky about being old and being alone and thinking about all the black miserable mistakes I’ve made and the damage I’ve done to you and your brother and your mother. And I can’t go back and fix it. None of it.’
‘Well it sounds like you’ve got it bad. Did you sleep well?’
‘How do I know. I was asleep until the sun came up.’
‘Well get up now because I’m coming over in half an hour and I want to go for a drive.’
He hung up and grizzled back to the bathroom. He showered and shaved and felt better.
He rang her back, ‘Thanks for the phone call. It amazing what a shave and a shower will do! Don’t come over now, I’m fine. I want to go and see your brother and tomorrow you and I will go down to the beach and walk on the rocks.’
‘Good, Dad. That’ll be really good. I’ll see you tomorrow. Midday. OK?’
He was sick of drinking instant coffee. Nescafé: Made in Russia. How about that! He took some beans from the fridge and blitzed them and pulled down his old copper briki and made some decent coffee. Then he went up the road to the shops and headed to his son’s place. It was a decent drive and took about forty five minutes.
Just as he was getting close he drove alongside the park where he used to take the dog to catch frisbees. That was when he had the dog. There was a flower stall at the edge of the park and he recognised her van. It was her flower stall. He stopped about a hundred yards farther along the road and sat. She had had that same flower stall for twenty odd years and he’d forgotten. It had been three years since they separated and he hadn’t ever said how sorry he was – how it was a lot his fault. He wondered how she was. Maybe I’ll go back and buy some flowers for Lizabet. That was his son’s wife. It’s Easter and haven’t got any Easter eggs to give them. Maybe flowers.
He walked back to the flower stall. She was serving another fellow and looked up and then went on serving as though she hadn’t recognised him. The other fellow left with a bunch of flowers and she looked at him.
‘Good afternoon Sir. How can I help you?’ There was that quirky smile and sense of humour he had always liked so much. She could always play that game of not recognising him.
He pointed at a bunch of mixed flowers. Roses meant love so he avoided them. Pink carnations – I’ll never forget you. He had to be careful. She had some fine patter when talking about the messages that flowers send. Mixed flowers mean ‘think what you like’.
‘I’m going to see Jimmy and Lizbet.’
‘Say happy Easter to them for me,’ she said.
She wrapped the flowers in tissue paper and he paid her. He turned and walked away. Stopped. Turned back. She was looking at him. He walked back and handed the flowers to her.
‘Happy Easter, Meg.’ She took the flowers and looked at him and said nothing. When he had gone a few yards he looked back over his shoulder and she had just tossed the flowers in the rubbish bin.
He drove on to his son’s place and they sat and talked a while.
‘What’s the matter Dad? There’s something on your mind.’
‘I just saw your mother.’
‘Is she at the flower stall today?’
‘What did she say to you. You seem a bit out of sorts.’
‘Nothing much. I bought some flowers. I bought them for you Liz. But then I gave them to her.’
‘Oh No! You didn’t,’ cried Lizabet. ‘How could you?’
‘I’m sorry. I’ll get you some more. Next time I come down.’
‘No, no, no. What did she do with the flowers?’
‘She threw them in the bin.’
‘Good on her. That’s what I would have done.’
‘What’s the problem? I was just trying to be nice. No hard feelings and that sort of thing.’
Lizabet stood up and picked up her car keys.
‘Where are you going?’ Jim said.
‘I’m going to see your mother. She must be miserable.’
‘For goodness sake I was only trying to be nice.’
‘Maybe she would have liked you to have been a bit nicer a while ago. Maybe the flowers reminded her of how nice you used to be.’ She walked out the door.
He turned to his son and raised his eyebrows.
‘I agree with Liz. It was a bit careless. But don’t go and say you are sorry. You’ll make it worse.’
As he was driving home he thought it would have been better if he had stayed in bed all day. How easy is it to do the wrong thing without knowing it.