Thursday, November 30, 2006

Funeral of Regret

Category: Issue 5, Short Story Winners

Funeral of Regret

Life is a cliché and the stereotypes are drawn from it.

I’d wanted the sun to shine for Ron on his last day above ground. Like most funerals I’ve attended, the sky turned metallic grey. Occasional clouds scudded above the church roof and tossed down a sprinkle of rain, which lay like scattered jewels on the shoulders of the mourners as we waited for the coffin to arrive.

‘Poor old, Ron, it was bound to happen in the end,’ said a man in a black raincoat.

His companion shook his head. ‘Yes, couldn’t have ended any other way really, not with the chances he took.’


Ron had been my childhood mate and I’d loved him. Not in a sexual way, but in the manner of affection and loyalty a strong friendship arouses

Thirty years before, he’d been the other side of the coin to my confrontational character. I loved fighting, swearing and everything that went with the rough nature of being male. He’d been gentle and nervous, his already pale face would be a shade paler when he followed me to places he’d never have ventured on his own. Once he’d fallen out of a tree I’d urged him to climb. He’d looked up at me white lipped, his arm twisted at a strange angle and said ‘I’m sorry, Luke, I think my arm’s broken.’ That was Ron, always apologising.

I roughed my way through teenage years, playing rugby and swimming for the school team. Ron wasn’t good at sports, but he was always in the crowd cheering me on, his distinctive white blonde hair a beacon at the finishing line. He’d joined the drama group and I must admit I didn’t show as much support as he’d shown me. I was too busy with my own life to notice the direction of his. I suppose in the back of my mind I’d known he was different from the rest of my mates, but I’d chosen to ignore it.

We’d sat at my mother’s kitchen table. Ron played with his teaspoon, twirling it in circles on the yellow plastic surface. ‘I have to tell you something, Luke, and I’m afraid.’

I looked at his thin shoulders hunched over his mug of tea. ‘Afraid - what of?’

‘I’m afraid you’ll hate me.’

I remember feeling confused. There was nothing Ron could do to make me hate him. I thought he should have known that and was mildly irritated. ‘Don’t talk crap, get on with it, what?’

‘I’ve met someone.’ He lifted his head and his soft blue eyes held mine in a pleading stare.

I grinned at him. ‘So? It’s about time, I was beginning to worry about you.’ I waggled my eyebrows in a lascivious manner. ‘Who is she, then?’

Ron looked back into his mug as if he were about to dive into its contents. ‘It’s not a She, Luke. It’s a He. Someone I met at the drama club.’

I never did see the horse that kicked me in the stomach as his statement hung in the air. My mouth opened to speak and there were no words to fill it. I finally found my voice. ‘Who else knows?’ I whispered

‘No one - only you. You’re disgusted with me, aren’t you?’

‘No, I just don’t understand. When did you decide to be a …’ I couldn’t bring myself to say the word.

He leaned across the table to touch my hand and I snatched it away. ‘I didn’t decide, Luke, I just am. I’m sorry.’


The minister stood primly above the open grave, his face arranged in a suitably sombre expression. I followed his gaze to the black lacquered lid of the coffin. The gold handles nestled against the green of the baize material, meant to hide the cold, dirt sides of the grave. I gave a half smile as the thought entered my mind, that the grandeur of the coffin was the metamorphoses of the shy boy I had known. I hadn’t been there to witness it. I had stepped away from him. I felt a flush of guilt. Had I thought his homosexuality would rub off on me?

Drama had been his providence. His voice, always melodious, charmed an audience. His boyish good looks thrilled his female fans. The theatre was his womb, secure, his sexuality un-judged. I’d watched his rise from my self-imposed exile. As his billings grew bigger, I was as proud of him as if I had some hand in his success.

The majority of the mourners were male. Some of the faces were familiar, I’d seen them on TV or watched them in the cinema. None were big stars. These are his real friends I thought as I searched the sad faces, half expecting to see plucked eyebrows and make up. All I saw was people.

The mourners filed past the grave. Each threw a flower, turned and drifted towards the gate. A dark wave of humanity that slipped away like a silent stream. The man in front of me spoke. His voice rang clear in the stillness of the almost empty churchyard.

‘Did they ever catch the bastard’s that beat him to death?’

The dark haired man clasping his arm, replied ‘No, I heard it was some foreigners off one of the boats in the East India Docks. What was the matter with him - inviting three of them home?’

The first man shrugged. ‘Well, you know what a chancer he was and he loved a bit of rough, the rougher the better.’

My heart contracted and I stood still. Was I the catalyst for the path he took? Did he start off by loving the rough side me?

I walked back to the graveside. Tears were hot on my cheeks. I knelt, the scent of flowers wafted around my head as I bent towards the coffin.

‘I’m sorry, Ron.’ I whispered.



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