“Where are you off to at this hour?” She asked. She exuded waves of dreary, grey, disapproval. There was something about the way she stood wrapped in her old cardigan. The way her spectacles sat on her nose. The set of her shoulders. This was not a woman who approved of fun.
“I’m just going to have a look around. I love exploring a new area. I’ve never been to this part of the world before” I responded. I realised that her demeanour had reduced me to the level of a young boy again, making excuses for something when I did not really have to. I was an adult on vacation and this person was the landlady of the guest house I had decided to stay in.
“The door is locked at 10pm every night, so be back prompt” She demanded.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was my holiday and If I wanted to stay out until the early hours of the morning, then that should be allowed. Who was this busybody giving me a curfew?
“Don’t you have a spare key?” I asked politely.
“No. Ten pm sharp,” she said, crossing her arms underneath her bosom and giving me a glare that any hunted animal would recognise from its predator. An eagle could have taken lessons from her in how to stare menacingly.
“Well, how about I just take my luggage and find somewhere else to stay?” I retorted, beginning to lose my patience.
“Ha! You could try. I run the only guest house in these parts that takes in people out of season. Why anyone would want to come to this place in October is beyond me. Have a look around, if you don’t believe me. Be back by ten pm though.”
I strode out of the open front door and walked along the street. There was one other guest house on that street and a hotel on the main square but both had signs stating that they were closed.
The small town was deserted. Apart from a few pigeons playing amongst the rubbish and autumn leaves, there wasn’t any sign of life.
I sat down on a park bench to have a brood over my current predicament.
Why did I decide to spend a couple of days in this empty town? Just because my grandfather had been born here. He’d chosen to leave it behind when he was just a lad and now having seen it he could see why. He’d sprinkle the ashes in the churchyard, say a quick prayer, then go back and grab his stuff and drive home.
I walked across the park, a few squirrels were still jumping around gathering acorns and conkers in the dimming evening light. The church loomed large on the far side. A large building for such a small town, built of grey stone blocks with a steeple that towered above. This was the place. The iron gate squealed as I pushed it open. The sound was strangely comforting, like a familiar old tune. I could still smell the incense left over from the last service. It had been a long time since the smell of frankincense had assaulted his nostrils. It took me back to my childhood when I’d been a choirboy. So long ago now.
I didn’t want to go into the church. I turned instead and walked into the graveyard. The old stones were leaning at all angles with moss and lichens obscuring the words on them. After a brief search, I’d found the one I was looking for.
“Here Lyeth Jacob Nathaniel Crain, 1881 – 1938. May his soul be at rest.”
Whoever carved this did not know the family secret. They could never rest. Not ever.
Pulling the wooden box out of my pocket and turning the old key, I tipped the ashes onto the grave.
Maybe now I could rest a bit easier. For now, at least. Before the hunger came again.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 17/October/2018
This story was inspired by the following word prompts: