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Out Of The Darkness
I buried my father today.
As any person that has ever attended a family funeral, it is a genuinely horrible experience with an extensive and diverse array of emotions on show for all to see. Being English, putting on any aspect of emotional feeling is ‘not the done thing’ so we struggle even more than most nationalities in this way. I feel it would have been easier if he had been a good father, a loving father, an emotional man, capable of warmth and feelings but alas, he was far from this. Being an agnostic leaning heavily towards an atheist, the religious overtones smacked of hypocrisy and one could argue that no matter what kind of absolute bastard you were or are, all you have to do is repent your sins and God will forgive you and hey presto, your free celestial pass to heaven is assured. This did not sit well in my mind and I contemplated this silently in my usual sarcastic manner as family members I had purposefully avoided for many years sobbed and wailed in unison around me. Furtive looks, suspicious stares and openly hostile glares in my direction awaited me in the church and even more so in the graveyard as my erstwhile father was laid to rest. I stood a little way back from the close family unit and by that I mean; my cousins, uncles, aunts, his godchildren, nephews three times removed and even his beloved dog. Instead, I bowed my head, abused my father’s memory in the most colourful terms found in the entire English language and lingered with the plain clothes police officers in the background. It was a beautiful sunny day and when the comment; by great aunt Elaine was made; ‘the sun always shines on the righteous’ I am afraid to say I did actually laugh out loud. At that point, amidst a sea of tutting, I got ‘the’ look from my older sister; Paula, resplendent in her tight fitting black dress, looking every inch the gangster’s daughter, which of course, she was. Flanked on either side by two of my father’s enforcers, it was like a scene from Godfather, albeit if those Sicilian Mafia had educated Southern English accents. I waved awkwardly, aware that most of the huge congregation were surreptitiously watching the prodigal son’s return to the fold. Not perhaps the greatest analogy, as I left the family when my mother died, exited to Australia to begin a new life and in my own way, made a success of myself; as much as an area sales manager for a kitchen company can be deemed a success anyway. That was twelve years ago, in the midst of the ‘war’ with the Albanians, which my father won but at a cost I could and would never comprehend. I never spoke to my father again after that; the last words had actually been ‘Goodbye Father’ as he screamed at me down the telephone that I was no longer his son, I was a coward, a traitor to the family and other such dramatic one liners he had borrowed from every gangster movie ever made. I had stepped onto the plane then and had never looked back. My life was good, honest and loving. I had a wife; Carli, a son; Adam, a daughter; Sophia and a temperamental Basset hound called Kurt; I had a lovely home in a pleasant suburb of Sydney and wondered for the hundredth time why I had even bothered to attend the funeral of the one man I hated above all others. I blamed Carli; she was a much nicer person than me by nature and as a consequence, made me a better man; a man who could forgive. So I was here in England, surrounded by everything I had purposefully left behind, trying and fundamentally failing to do just that. The taller of the two policemen, who stood by the church gates, walked over to me. I watched him approach, thinking that if this was the law’s attempt to blend in and be invisible, it was a really poor attempt. Both men may as well have come to the church in full police uniform carrying huge banners emblazoned with the words we are the police. He actually reached into his inside pocket and provided me with his CID identity badge which did create a momentary flicker of amusement across my features.
“Mr Joseph Moore?”
“Joe is fine.”
I nodded and flicked my eyes to Paula who watched me like a hawk, a well-dressed, intelligent bird of prey. The image suited her.
“Will you be staying long in England sir?”
My hazel eyes studied his blank face then, allowing myself the time to dilute my instant mental response, being ‘what the fuck has it to do with you’ and replied more succinctly.
“There is no proof he was murdered sir, perhaps you could advise your sister of this fact.”
I chuckled drily, which evidently surprised him.
“I think you have as much chance of getting my sister to listen as I do Officer. We are not….close.”
The policeman nodded and turned around, ambled back to his colleague who now talked indiscreetly into a mobile phone. I looked back at my sister, through the mournful crowd as she scattered the dirt on top of the ornate, ostentatious and no doubt ridiculously expensive coffin, her face set; a hard face. It was attractive in a feline kind of way but she was cold; just like my father had been. Fortunately, I had been my mother’s child and as the congregation shuffled away, I lit a cigarette and enjoyed the hit of nicotine and waited. I watched as the various family members, friends and fellow criminal fraternity kissed, hugged or shook hands with my sister. It was like the crowning of a new Queen and I could not decide if I was amused or saddened by the whole sequence of events. My mind drifted back to when we were kids, when my mother was alive and I had no idea that my father was a murderous thug. There were happy times within my childhood, they were relatively scarce but they were there if I bothered to dig deep enough. There were holidays in Spain, Greece and Cornwall; there were times when my sister and I loved one another but I had to reach for these times, through the shadowy mists, for these glimpses of gold in what became a violent sea of shit. Books and films would have us reunite as loving siblings in the wake of such tragedy but in truth, I did not care that my father was dead; in fact, it was something I had wished for, for the past twelve years, one month, two weeks and four days. I finished my Marlborough Light, discreetly crunched it underfoot and stared at my sister, who now stood alone at my father’s grave. There were still no tears, I noticed, from either of us. I walked to her, immediately awaking the attention of the police and her underlings alike as numerous sets of eyes watched me cross the Rubicon to stand beside my sister. We stood in silence without looking at the other, she looked down upon the dirt that scattered across the coffin and I stood looking down at the oriental lilies on my mother’s grave, which I had carefully picked and placed there this morning.
“Why did you come?”
Her words were clipped, dismissive as only a sibling can be to another and I chuckled drily.
“To make sure the bastard was dead.”