That evening, after dinner, I sat down with Mum and tried to talk to her about the situation. “We were thinking, all of us, that it might be an idea to get some of the lawn paved over,” I said.Mum looked at me blankly. “Why would you want to do that?”
I paused for a moment, trying to pick my words carefully. “Well, you know, without Dad around, it’ll be a lot of work for you to look after the garden by yourself. In a few days, we’ll all be going back to our own homes, back to work.”
Mum turned to look out the window, as though she was trying to verify what I’d just told her. When she turned back, she took hold of my hand. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, Peter. Your father wouldn’t stand for it.”
“Mum, Dad’s—” I stopped, and squeezed her hand. “Will you at least think about it?”
She smiled back at me.
Later that evening, I sat in the living room with Steph and Ruth, catching up over a bottle a bottle of wine, rapidly followed by another. It was the first time I’d really had a chance to stop since I’d arrived. It felt good, but all the while, I felt something else too, a little bit like guilt.
When it was getting late, Steph made a pot of tea and took a cup upstairs for Mum.
“So, how are you feeling?” Ruth said to me.
For a second Ruth tilted her head, as though I’d said something stupid, but then she leaned forwards. “About your Dad, I mean?”
“Oh, right.” For some reason, I felt my cheeks warming. I sipped the last of my wine and looked away. “It is what it is, I suppose. Just got to get on with it now.”
“It must be strange, the four of you all back in the house, but without him here?”
“Yeah. I suppose it is. I haven’t really thought about it that much.” I looked at the door, wondering what was taking Steph so long.
“Were the two of you very close?”
“In a way. I mean, he wasn’t always the easiest person to get on with. You know that, I suppose. But he was my dad, wasn’t he?”
Steph returned, still holding the cup of tea. “Mum wasn’t in her room, and I can’t find her anywhere.”
We scoured the house, but Mum was nowhere to be seen, and her car was still in the drive. I put my jacket on and stepped out of the back door.
It had been a light evening, but the sun had finally finished its lethargic slump below the horizon, and the still-warm air was now decorated by a light drizzle.
Mum lay in the middle of the grass. I sprinted forwards, worried she had fallen and hurt herself, but as I came closer, I saw what was going on. Dad’s arm, now three or four feet long, was clear of the ground. Mum was clutching it, her hands wrapped around his.
“Mum? Are you okay?”
She ignored me.
I crouched and put my hand on her shoulder. “We couldn’t find you, Mum. We were worried.”
She squeezed Dad’s hand. “I’m okay, really.”
“This isn’t sensible, Mum. Why don’t you get up now?”
“I don’t want to.”
“Come on, Mum. That’s not Dad there, anymore. Not really.”
Steph and Ruth joined us on the grass. Together, we tried to coax Mum inside, but she wouldn’t come easily.
“Mum, please,” Steph said. “It’s raining, and your dressing gown is getting filthy. You need to come inside. You need to let go.” She pulled at Mum’s arm.
Finally, she relented, and we led her back into the house. While Steph and Ruth made sure she was okay, I went to work with the shovel, digging up a whole swathe of the lawn before I was ready to put Dad’s arm back down. It was difficult work, particularly with the wine still sloshing around inside of me. By the time I finished, it was almost midnight, and I was covered with mud.
I put the shovel away and headed inside. Steph and Ruth were asleep on a foldout bed in the living room. I tiptoed upstairs and climbed into the shower, turning the water up as hot as it would go. Afterwards, I lay in bed trying to decide what to do. I was just starting to drift off when I heard the scream.
Anton Rose lives in Durham, UK. He writes fiction and poetry while working on a PhD in Theology (all fueled by numerous cups of tea).