ASHES. | By: Terry Collett | | Category: Short Story - Dark Bookmark and Share


Ashes. Millie's father's ashes. Her sisters, Molly and May wanted nothing to do with them; they didn't want to go to their father's funeral, but Millie begged and persuaded them; they arrived, sat in the church in blues and greens, glum and unfeeling. What was she to do with the ashes now that she had them? I'm not coming around to the house all the time his ashes are there, Molly has said. Throw them in the sea, May had said. No, down the lavatory, flush them away, Molly had countered. However, neither option appealed to Millie. She sighed. Turned the black wooden casket in her hands. It's like a small coffin, she mused. Hard to think you can condense a human being into such a small space. She stared at the casket; stared at the black wood. She found it hard to believe her father was in there now. She wondered if the dead could read thoughts; whether her father was watching her from his spiritual home, with that stern stare of his, his moustached upper lip huge like a walrus's. She had no idea where to put the ashes. On the mantelshelf seemed obvious, but she didn't want him staring down at her while she sat in the lounge watching the TV. He despised the box. Wouldn't let her have it on unless he was asleep or out at the club with his old cronies. Why'd you bring them home? Molly had asked a few days ago on the telephone. She couldn't leave them at the crematorium; not just abandon him there. Should have got them to bury the damned things, May had said coldly. Could have bought a plaque with his name on, I suppose, Millie had suggested. Ought to have put in bold brass here lies a creep who interfered with girls, Molly suggested. Leave it blank, May said. Best forgotten, Millie said softly. He's home now. Molly spat on the grass by the bus stop and said she'd not come and see her all the while he was stuck there. Millie stood up from the kitchen table, walked with the casket to the sink. She placed the casket down on the draining board and washed her hands. Where to put the damned ashes, then? She asked herself, giving the casket a sideward glance. Maybe if she hid them in her bedroom, the other two would be none the wiser; but the thought of him there watching her dress and undress each day and night made her cringe. No, not there. The old wooden shed, where he loved to spend his time when he was fitter, seemed a likely place, but it leaked; she didn't want the casket and ashes to get soggy. She reached for the towel to dry her hands, knocked the casket into the sink with a noisy clatter. She stared, her heartbeat thumped, her hands sweated. It was an easy thing to do, just to open it, pour the ashes down the sink, and flush them away once and for all. No, she said to herself, grabbing the casket, holding it to her breast, feeling the dampness seep into her blouse and bra. She walked around the kitchen clutching the ashes tightly. Where? She mused anxiously. She rubbed the casket dry on her blouse. Gazed at it for a few minutes in silence. Father's room. Why not there. Yes. Just where he belongs. Rest him on the old dresser. Lock the door. Molly and May never go in there, not after what happened. Those years ago. Best to forget. Millie nodded, walked up the stairs to her father's bedroom. She habitually knocked. Fool. Stupid fool, she muttered. She unlocked the door, entered in with the casket of ashes. The room smelt stale; smelt of tobacco and rotting flesh. He had died in here. She laid the casket on the old dresser by the window. It looked just right. Placed where it ought to be. Out of harm's way, she mused, folding her arms, stepping backward away from the window and the dark wooden casket with its ashes. The room looked like a tomb; felt like one too. Cold. A chill about the room. She gave the room a long stare. A lot had happened here. Dark things. Sins had been breed here. Touching, feelings, beatings. She closed her eyes. Echoes from the past filtered through her mind. Memories seeped. No, not here, not here. She grabbed the casket, rushed to the upstairs lavatory, opened the casket, emptied the ashes down into the pan, and flushed them away. She flushed and flushed until there was no trace of him left. She placed the lid back on the casket, carried it downstairs, and out into the backyard. There she stuffed the casket into the dustbin underneath a plastic sack and slammed down the lid. She sighed. Sensed the sweat under armpits. Her hands felt filthy. All of felt unclean. She would bath; lay and soak; steam away every particle of him that may have found its way onto her body and clothes. She stared up at the sun; it seemed brighter now. Birdsong sounded; far away, a child laughed.

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