The War Hero the Film Star and the Footman and Another Story
"When Frederick came home from work one day there was a strange bike leaning against the porch. He cussed; the last thing he wanted was having to be polite to visitors after a hard day in the fields. "As his eyes became accustomed to the gloom of the kitchen he found himself being stared at by a middle aged man. He was wearing a better suit than normally seen in the village and the best china was out. ""They said you were a beanpole and they didn't lie." the main said approvingly."
Rebirth in Earth
An estranged daughter goes to her father's funeral. "I am sitting on the fourth step curling my toes around the stair where the carpet is worn; the naughty step. I was left there once, forgotten; so I’d picked at the wallpaper. And here it is now, the same ripped hole. It’s almost time for my father’s funeral. A man who insisted on a vertical burial underneath a tree. This, of course, is understandable – he was a sixties teenager and wore a garden in his hair. I now imagine his body being lowered into a hole feet first, then being covered with soil, then being topped off with a baby oak. I can see the roots winding themselves around his neck. While picking at the wallpaper, once again – it’s been twenty years – I hear a van arriving. So, rising from my naughty step, I turn and give it a little pat before descending to heaven knows what. The van is yellow like my plumber’s, except this one has REBIRTH IN EARTH written on its side – thankfully with no painted flowers. Dad is inside the van, inside a cardboard box painted blue with lots of clouds on it. It looks like a screensaver..."
An affair years before leads Meg into an adventure ending with success and catastrophe. "Meg ran with abandon, uncaring of kerbs, of hedges overhanging the pavements, disregarding cars, crossing junctions, running until her legs ached and she collapsed, heart pounding, onto a bench looking down at the dark water of the river. Her hair a mess from the rain, she gasped for breath. ‘It can’t be. He would never have hurt anyone,’ she sobbed. Yet he had hurt her, not in her body, but with the long lonely hours she had waited for the telephone to ring, pretending to her husband she was reading a book, to his pleasure as he thought her ill-read; fearing he would ask her about the book on which she had no opinion or interest. Her then husband was not Oswald, it was her first marriage to a much older, professor of a subject so arcane she had never understood its purpose, the husband that had left her a childless widow at thirty-five. The picture on the screen was ‘Danny’, she knew it in her heart. Only she called him Danny, the young man who had come to the university knowing nothing of life, shy and nervous, whose delicate fingers could spin a cricket ball to such effect he was in the university team from the moment the coach saw him bowl a few balls in the nets. Danny, that far-off figure seen from her picnic place on the boundary on warm summer days; yes, he had hurt her when he took up with the rich set and went off to heaven knows where with nubile young things ogling the lovely stranger that had come to town..."
Carmen Nina Walton
Ahead of a visit from her returning sister, a woman considers the effect of her father on their family. "In the wedding photo on Ruth’s sideboard Mum is at the back of the crowd of relatives. I have to pick the frame up and bring it close to my face to see her there, behind Graham and Julie, slight with her hair cut short and that pale blue dress she liked so much. Da’s at the front of the picture, bold and bluff with pink cheeks and his paunch, standing where the best man should have stood if Da had had any decency, which he didn’t. The photographer tried to tell him but he’s not a man for taking advice he didn’t ask for."
David Churchill Barrow
Christmas goes terribly awry for a Hessian Colonel in America. "Colonel Count Karl Emil Ulrich von Donop was once again mesmerized by the visage and cleavage leaning towards him, pouring the wine into his crystal goblet. It all seemed as if it was a storybook fantasy – the crackling fire keeping out the damp December cold, the holly (for which the little village was named) decorating the mantle and table pieces, candles all aglow – and a young hostess who could fill Greek goddesses with envy. Christmas had not been this comfortable since he left his home in Hesse-Kassel years ago..."