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When Mad Mike Cried by Norman A Rubin The story of a hard-boiled detective who shed a few tears at a funeral of a friend when he ... [1,832 words]
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Brooklyn Cowboy by Lawrence Peters - [2,364 words]
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A disturbing discovery...
Frustrated Storyteller Seeks Salvation From Mind-Numbing Day-Job!
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (11)
Away From Earth (Short Stories) There's so much that we take for granted... [1,758 words] [Science Fiction]
Double-Act (Short Stories) A dark tale of temptation and betrayal... [4,386 words] [Horror]
Eve (Short Stories) Who knows what is just around the corner...? [3,230 words] [Romance]
Mightier Than The Sword (Short Stories) How much do you hate your boss...? [2,506 words]
Peripheral Vision (Short Stories) In some places, the past and the present are very close... [2,838 words] [Mystery]
The Moment Of Truth (Short Stories) A once-in-a-lifetime achievement... [4,539 words] [Science Fiction]
The Music Of The Spheres (Short Stories) Can you hear that noise...? [3,946 words] [Science Fiction]
The Painter And The Horse (Short Stories) Beauty can also be in the *soul* of the beholder... [3,015 words] [Popular Fiction]
The Serpent (Short Stories) Beware your sins... [6,543 words] [Horror]
The Spice Of Life (Short Stories) Sometimes memories are all we have... [1,527 words] [Popular Fiction]
While I Wait (Short Stories) Memories of a long life... [1,992 words] [Popular Fiction]
I do the route quite often. I’m a delivery driver, you see. Computer spares. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was on the run into Beeston, just outside Nottingham. Not a remarkable place, and the route I take is pretty dull, too. But this particular day, a Thursday it was, I had to stop at a set of traffic lights, and for some reason, there was a hold-up. I think a tractor or a digger or something had snarled everything up. Well, while I was waiting, I happened to notice, just to my right, several bunches of rather bedraggled flowers, tied to the railings running along the central reservation separating one side of the busy road from the other.
I was close enough to the railings, and therefore to the flowers, to be able to read the cards that accompanied them, even though the rain had smudged the various samples of handwriting. “To Dad. We miss you. Love, Sarah and Luke”; “To David. All my love, now and always, Karen”; “Goodbye, Son. You will always be remembered, and missed. Love, Mum & Dad.”
It was pretty clear what had happened. This man – called David, evidently – had been killed crossing the road, at more or less this exact spot. Very sad. Plainly, this David was a family man, and his family was mourning him. The fact that the flowers were drooping both because they were past their best, and because of the recent heavy rain, somehow made the sight all the more poignant. Maybe it was that which caused it to stick in my mind, I don’t know. But stick it did.
It was about four days later when I saw the newspaper article. It made the front page of the local paper. “Man killed at accident blackspot. Police hunt for driver.”
“Police today confirmed the identity of the man killed on Derby Road last Saturday night. He was David Andrews, of Queen Elizabeth Drive, Beeston. Mr. Andrews died when he was hit by a speeding car whilst crossing the busy road. The driver of the vehicle did not stop, and has not come forward. Police are appealing for witnesses to the accident, and are looking for the driver of a blue Vauxhall Vectra seen later that evening in the Nuttall Road area. Mr. Andrews leaves a wife, Karen, and children Sarah, nine, and Luke, seven.”
Well, straight away I knew they’d made a mistake, because I’d seen the flowers days before Saturday. I looked up from the paper and shouted through to Doreen, my wife, who was in the kitchen, making the tea. “Another misprint in the Post, Dor. They say this accident happened on Saturday, but I saw the flowers. Must have been the Saturday before last. And that was the end of that.
About a week later, I was on my way to Stapleford, another nondescript town a few miles from the city centre. That’s one place where there always seems to be roadworks, and this day was no exception. Temporary traffic lights were in place, and seemed to be permanently set on red against me. As I sat in the queue, I idly looked around, and noticed a row of flowers outside one of the shops along the high street. Looking up to the top of the windows, I saw that it was Hughes the butchers. I don’t really know the town, except for the computer shop I deliver to, so this meant very little to me. In fact, I would probably have forgotten about it very soon afterwards, had it not been for the article in the Post several days later. “Local businessman dies after long battle against Cancer.”
“Stapleford butcher Harry Hughes, MBE, died yesterday aged 63, after losing his four-year fight against cancer. Mr. Hughes, whose shop on Ilkeston Road has been the centre of the local community for over twenty years, raised thousands of pounds for Imperial Cancer Research, and was given his commendation by the queen in 1999. He leaves a wife, Gloria, and two sons, Gary and John.”
I knew that the central heating was on, but suddenly I felt a bit chilly. When Doreen came in, I showed her the article in the paper. “I passed that shop last week”, I said. “There were flowers outside it then. I can’t believe this, they’ve got it wrong again.“
Doreen read through the article, then looked at me. “Are you sure it was the same shop, Tom?”
“Of course. Hughes’ butchers, Ilkeston Road, Stapleford. I’m telling you, there was a row of bouquets. That’d be Friday. According to this, he didn’t die until yesterday, Tuesday. How can they get something like that wrong?”
Doreen didn’t know. And to be honest, she wasn’t all that interested. Why should she be?
The next one was about five days later; a delivery in Bramcote. I had to walk past a cemetery to get to the shop. On my way back, I could see over the wall, and I noticed that there were fresh flowers strewn over a newly covered grave. Perhaps, if things had been normal, I wouldn’t’ve noticed the name on the cards. But given what had happened, I most definitely did notice it. Alice Williams. Various flowers from various relatives and friends. Seems she was a popular lady. There was no gravestone, obviously. The burial had clearly only taken place a day or two previously, the earth and the flowers still fresh.
You know what I’m going to tell you next, I’m sure. That’s right. It was in the death notices in the evening paper a week later. “Alice Williams, 80, of Sandiacre, passed away on Wednesday morning. Much loved wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Will be sadly missed by all her family and friends. The funeral will take place on Friday morning at 10:00am at Sandiacre Parish Church, the interment afterwards at Bramcote Cemetry.”
Needless to say, the date of death quoted was several days after I had seen the flowers on the grave. This time there was no blaming the newspaper. One such mistake was entirely possible; two, just about conceivable. Three? No way. But, if not simple printing errors, then what?
I tried to speak to Doreen about it; but, you see, we’re simple people. We’ve never had time for all this hokum about ghosts and UFOs and goodness knows what else. She said, as she usually does when such things come up, that it was just “one of those things.” The panacea for all problems of incomprehension.
I started to get paranoid, looking round everywhere I went for patches of colour that might be collections of cut flowers. Over the next three weeks, I saw two more sets of flowers. Another group at the side of a winding country road I had taken to avoid a traffic jam, and one set outside a school. That was sad. Little girl had died of leukaemia. I read it in the paper the following week. I’d seen the flowers four days before she died.
I still don’t have any explanation for it; I can’t tell you that it went away, or that I found some deeper meaning to it all. Because it hasn’t, and I didn’t. All I can tell you is that I am, at this moment, sitting in my delivery van, at the side of the road, shaking like a leaf. Why? Because of what I’ve just spotted at the crossroads at the end of our street.
Three bunches of flowers, two whose cards I couldn’t see. And the third? “To my beloved husband Tom. I will love you forever. Doreen.” Fuchsias, they were. Funny. Doreen has never liked fuchsias. I’ve always loved them, though.
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"Nice creepy little tale, made even more scary because the setting is so ordinary. Satisfying ending" -- Moya Green, Tamworth, UK.
"Many thanks for your time and kind words, Moya. Much appreciated by this hopeful scribbler :)" -- Simon King.
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© 2001 Simon King
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