© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014
(Formerly published, in a shorter form, under the title, My Father’s Ashes, in Fitzpatrick's short story collection, Bearing all Gods and Goddesses, published by www.independencejones.com.)
Deep within a dark, dark cave the ashes of my father have been spread out across the walls, in line with his Last Will and Testament. The walls of the cave are moist, not excessively so, most of his ashes being easily absorbed by the dampness. There was intermittent lichen but I worked around them, my father’s will being quite adamant that his last resting place was to be on solid rock. I spread them out in a loosely artistic shape, vaguely resembling a bird, because I didn’t want my father to spend the remainder of eternity in boring, unimaginative straight swipes across the cave’s wall. We were all surprised when his Last Will was revealed, especially with the fact that he had picked out the specific cave and that he specifically wanted me to perform the act. Maybe simply because I am the eldest son with two younger sisters, Leanne, and Daisy, the youngest. I won’t tell you where he has chosen his last rest; let him remain in peace.
They have been there for just over a year now, and I spend a lot of time wondering why he would want his last remains treated in this way. I am not sure if he meant the act to be a boon or a bane. Did he expect to merge with the Earth in some fundamental manner? Or was he rejecting the Earth, ultimately prone to change? Was he choosing to become somehow more fundamentally solid, real, and more impervious to time, by partaking of stone’s nature? It could also have been a desire to reach Paradise by the most direct route possible, by by-passing the Earth altogether for an eternity of quietness. But then again my father was never a man who liked quietness. Growing up he always put on a classical radio station upon coming home from work as a bank teller (which he worked at until five years before he passed away at 94. He looked in his 60s until the last), have only the one can of beer, and spend the rest of the evening in joshing around with us.
And then again, he may have been seeking utter oblivion, choosing to escape the natural recycling of his self had we emptied the urn containing his ashes over the vegetable garden that he had created. Perhaps his life was simply too full, and all he needed now was eternal rest upon a solid base?
That garden was almost a farm it was so large. He gave us ten dollars every week when we were pre-teens if we watered it properly and did a bit of maintenance, and he always paid with a grateful heart and on time. I don’t think though that I, or my mother or sisters, would have eaten from the garden, which my sprightly 89 year old mother still maintains, should Dad have chosen to have his ashes scattered there. Dad mustn’t have also wanted to be that close to his wife and children, forming their cells as he was absorbed through the produce, whilst at the same time being so very far away and powerless to help if his family needs it.
I asked my mother, yesterday, again, soon after the start of Aus’ very hot 2014 summer, if Dad had given her any insight into this strange last request. I visit my mother every Sunday in Redferne, an inner city suburb of Sydney, having one of her superb lunches with her. My sisters can’t visit as they moved to other states years and years ago to take up good work promotions.
‘Well, Denis, he often thought life was a burden, even unnatural: I think he did it purely out of spite. Many times out of you and your sisters’ hearing he was sarcastic about modern society. Society in general.’ She isn’t usually so frank.
‘That’s not like him. In fact the opposite’s true.’
‘Remember how he always laughed at news of murder?’
‘Only because it wasn’t him or any of us.’
‘Still, it’s pretty peculiar you’ll have to admit. He also thought burglaries and thefts in general were funny but didn’t let on because he didn’t want you three thinking stealing was fun. He knew he could laugh at murders because neither of you have ever shown the slightest hint of violent attitudes.’
‘But he didn’t seem unhappy. In fact whenever I think of him I just hear him chuckling. Very contentedly.’
‘He just didn’t let on. In bed at night sometimes, admittedly very, very rarely, he would complain long, long and hard that everyone else was an idiot, taking the world with them to Hell in their collective idiocy. I used to hate it when he spoke like that, so full of venom and scorn. The opposite of the man that I fell in love with.’
‘I guess that would also explain why he kept his Last Will so secret at the last. He didn’t want us to see his eventually revealed possible dark side.’
‘We all have a dark side, sweetie, he simply kept his hidden from his children, the better to start them off in life. He told me of his last wishes soon before he went but I felt that there was nothing I could do to talk him out of it. After all, it was his Last Will, completely under his own control, like all of ours’.’
Still, I’m not convinced that he did it out of spite, for my first clear memory of my father is that of his loud laughter while he tickled me. I had discovered his excellent tickles accidentally as a young child and remember thinking that he would tickle me again if I asked him nicely. So I went up to him on the couch while he was reading and asked, ‘Daddy, can you tickle me, please?’ He eagerly responded, the first of my many fond memories of his tickles.
I hope he’s alright. Mind you I fully expect that he really is alright. Such a contented man must surely have only Paradise to look forward to throughout eternity.
As for me, I want to be buried, not burned, most certainly in my father’s grotto. At least that way I can be nearby if his spirit needs me. I have stipulated a shallow grave in my own will, the better to assist him if he needs it. After all, his unusual plan for being so laid to rest may have run into unforeseen consequences. I’ll be the more able to rescue him if I am whole and within easy reach, and the more likely to be able to give him any needed strength with my bodily nature, perhaps a somewhat decomposed bodily nature, but far, far more solid than his ashes.I really hope he’s alright.
If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books andpaperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing in 2018.