The Seven Five Nothing

The Seven Five Nothing are a collection of hyper-short stories, each written in a single sitting with no editting.

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19. My Father's Death.

I couldn't clear my thoughts but for the thousand and one things that were happening in there. It was driving me crazy, trying to get to sleep, fighting the inanity of my mind.

The phone rang. A welcome distraction I thought.

'Hello...?'
'Billy...'

It was my mother, and it was unusual to hear her voice. We'd not talked in a long time - years in fact - and hearing her down the wire was strange. I'd turned my back on that world, that place, so long ago that her accent cut through the air like a flying brick. It was familiar, but sounded mawkish, like an almost exaggerated version of an English voice. But it was true, and I tuned into what she had to say.

'It's your father,' she said, breaking to catch her voice. 'He's...' It went again. 'He passed away this morning. I just thought you should know.'

And so it was. He was dead. I remained composed, offered the most sincere words I could muster, and told her it was late here, quietly indicating that I didn't really know what else to say.

'Will you come home?'
'I...' But I couldn't find an excuse even remotely worthy.
'Your sister is going to help me with the funeral arrangements.'

Two days later, I was on a flight back from the other side of the world, heading to a place I loosely referred to as 'home.' But really, I didn't have one of those any more. I didn't understand what a home was meant to represent, and so when I got off the plane, I was no clearer in my head of why I had returned.

The cab went along streets that seemed smaller than I recalled, a trick of the mind and one of the soul. Your body grows bigger, but your memory cannot adjust in the same way - in your mind, everything is still amplified.

We passed the corner of my first kiss, and a little smirk crept onto my face as I remembered the excitement of it all.

On the left, the corner on which I would sit with my brother and his friends, counting out our coins and the things we had collected. The insects and the twigs and the stones and the bottle tops.

And soon, I'd walked through a hundred ghosting memories, only to arrive at the old oak door, which had patiently waited and watched so many times as we all came and left, came and left, came, and then eventually left for good. I rapped the door gently, out of respect, and waited. A sparrow of a woman opened it up. My mother.

In the house, the weight of sadness dragged the air down like an invisible curtain. My mother and sister both commented on how different I looked, but I chose not to talk of how much the same they were. The only thing that had changed were the number of lines across their faces, and their tear-swollen eyes.

I didn't know much of what to say, but they wisely didn't push me.

Eventually, my mother locked me with her eyes.
'Yes?' I questioned.
'Do you want to see him?'
I paused. Uncertain.
'I think you should. To make peace.'
'I didn't think...'

But she was stood up, waiting for me to match her, to follow her.

As we walked along the dark corridor, I was met by another memory, of the five-year-old me, racing past, almost physically nudging my leg out the way, eyes filled with sunshine, laughing. I watched the memory of me race to the stairs, and then as I turned back around, my father, thirty-years earlier, chasing, hands crooked, playing the grizzly monster. I step aside and let his ghost past.

And when my mother opens the bedroom door, I see him, in a coffin, remorseless and dead. The wallpaper, I notice, has also not changed, and so a curious thought runs through my head, wondering if he realised, as he pasted it up, that it would outlast him.

And that's the thing with time, you're either in it, chasing it, or being left behind by it. There's no rewinding, just going forward.

'Hello dad.' I'd not uttered those casual words since I don't know when.

My mother left us, and I knelt by his bed for a while, barely saying a thing. It was out of respect more than desire, and eventually, it was time to leave this waxen, solid body in peace.

I went to the garden, looking for a little solitude. And as I sat, letting go of the last of my anger and frustrations, I enjoyed watching the ghosts of us run and play.
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