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Lonely People

DATo

Active Member
Lonely People

by

DATo


The red, double-decker bus threaded its way slowly down damp streets through the cold, early morning, English mist and fog. A young man stood at the door as the bus coasted to a stop.

“Where ye off to with them flowers this time o’mornin mate?” asked the driver, as the bus hissed to a stop.

“Off to see me girl. Her birthday. Gonna make a day of it.”

“Well, she picked a right fine day to be born. Try not to get too wet.”

“I’ll do me best.”

As he stepped off the bus he heard behind him, “An give ‘er a peck on the cheek from me too will ye?” Followed by the sounds of a hearty laugh and the release of hissing brakes.

The youth began the remaining four block trek along a street bordered by an old cemetery. He stopped. Barely visible through the mist he could see several figures in the cemetery. A tall woman in a long dress ... no, it was a man, a priest, ... throwing something into an open grave. The man then pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, wiped his hands and then nodded. Two other men began shoveling dirt into the hole. The youth continued to watch as as the two men completed their task, touched the brims of their hats, and then left the priest alone as they returned to their lorry.

The youth continued to watch the old priest for a minute and then took several steps in the direction of his appointed meeting with his girlfriend before his footsteps were arrested by a compulsion he could not ignore. Surprised by his own bravura he made his way slowly to the man in the black robe. The priest did not see him approaching.

“Hello Father.” said the boy.

At once the surprised priest’s face burst into a radiant smile.

“And hello to you too! You’ve come to pay your respects to my departed parishioner?”

“Well, no Father. Oh, I see, the flowers. No, they’re for my girlfriend. Her birthday today you see. I just saw you standing here all alone and thought, well, maybe you’d like some company.”

“How old are you young man?” asked the priest.

“Fifteen Father, sixteen in three months.” replied the youth.

“I’ve come to not expect such consideration from members of your generation. It seems you are an exception. I thank you for the kindness of your company. Your presence is indeed welcome.”

“The person who died, was it a relative? Oh, yes, ‘parishioner’, you said.”

“She was more than just a parishioner. She was also a dear friend, and if truth be told, my only friend. She was just a wee slip of a woman, old and infirm, but her visits for tea would brighten my day. We enjoyed each other’s company and conversation.”

“I’m sorry for your loss then Father.”

“Aye, as I am. There were three of us once. We’d meet on Wednesdays for a few hands of cards and took tea together. When Sophie died three years ago it became just the two of us, and now only me. Sophie’s death prompted my friend to buy this cemetery plot and that wee headstone you see there in advance with the savings from her pension money. As you can see there is no one else to bury her but me. I suppose each of us was all alone in this world.

“She wasn’t alone Father. You’re here with her.” said the youth.

The priest smiled a lonely smile and then said, “I don’t want to keep you from your appointment with your girl. There’s nothing left for me to do here. Shall we go?”

The two of them began walking toward the gate of the cemetery when the young man said, “Excuse me a minute Father.” He then bolted toward the grave and left the flowers he had bought for his girlfriend before the tiny headstone. He then jogged back to the priest who was once again smiling broadly.

“That was nice of you boy, but what will your girlfriend say when you arrive empty handed?”

“I’ll tell her what I did with them and why. She’ll understand Father. She’s made of the right stuff.” said the youth.

“And so are you young man. And so are you.” replied the priest. “She was a fine woman - a great heart. It's sad to think that no one else knew her. She was the type of person who should have been famous. Would you do an old man a favor, boy? Will you remember us in your prayers?”

“I will. I give you my word, I will.” said the youth.

The young man extended his hand, “By the way, my name is Paul.”

“Pleased to meet you Paul. Mine's James - James McKensie.” said the priest.

The two men parted, walking in opposite directions, silhouetted against the backdrop of a grey and lonely cemetery in the midsts of which an observant passer-by might notice a vibrant splash of color illuminating and gracing a tiny headstone engraved with the name, Eleanor Rigby.
 
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