Paying My Respects

‘Then, well, I have to tell you…’ he said, looking down at the table momentarily, generating the right kind of mood, mustering sobriety and suspense with the subtlety of a mime artist playing to the back of the crowd. ‘My mother, God rest her soul, was very ill, and on her deathbed I made a promise to her – a promise she asked me to make. She told me to follow my heart, follow my dreams and I promised to her that I’d make it in this business if it was the last thing I did. I promised her I’d do it for her, and that’s a promise I fully intend to keep!’

He shouted the last few words. From behind the bar and across the room, people were beginning to turn and stare. I had recoiled further and further towards the high back of the sofa. I felt compressed between the upholstery and this man’s quiet obsession. ‘Oh, she was so beautiful, so beautiful – a fantastic woman. Yeah, she really knew how to live life. And she knew what’s out there, too. Oh yeah, she knew the types that roam these streets, you know what I mean?’

I nodded eagerly. I had no idea what he was talking about. It was just a selection of random words to me now that had been strung together in some sentences that just weren’t right.

‘Do you want to see her? Do you want to see a picture of my mum?’

I felt like the world had stopped. I don’t know what I expected. But somehow it all began to add up. Damn Schneider Weisse! Damn talking to strange people in underground pubs. Where were my inhibitions when I needed them? I didn’t want to see a picture of his dead mother. I really didn’t want to lay my eyes on anything he was fumbling around in his jacket pocket for.

‘That’d be lovely…’ I said, my voice uneasy.

He placed before me a small portrait of a woman perhaps in her mid 50s. The photo was sepia tinged in a small cardboard frame. The woman looked far away, from a different time. A neat yellow ribbon was tied in a bow around one corner of the frame. It looked like one of the photos you sometimes see in junk shops, piled on top of old almanacs and books for identifying stamps from the far-flung edges of the Commonwealth.

He looked into my face as he placed it in front of my eyes, as if he was judging me, fathoming my reaction. I smiled and looked into his eyes. He was gone. Nodding and muttering to himself, the mediocre man put the photo back in his jacket pocket. ‘Isn’t she beautiful?’ he said quietly, insistently. ‘Isn’t she beautiful?’

‘You drinking up or what?’ said Mark, his hand on my shoulder.

‘Come on, fella,’ said Duxbury.

They were already on their feet, their pints long since drained. I knocked mine back and we climbed up and out onto Oxford Street. I wondered how long we’d been in there. It was dark now and the light drizzle had turned to frosty rain.

Lee Ashworth is an aspiring writer living in Bury and working as a teacher. He says: ‘I have a real passion for Manchester and have long since strived to mythologise and re-imagine the city through the lens of my own brand of contemporary fiction. I am currently working on an ambitious novel, where the main character is the city itself, entitled Look At What You Could Have Won.’

Pages: 1 2 3 4



Leave a Reply




Via email: