Bucket List. Lists have been on my mind all day…

not my usual kind of list; what to do and not do so I can snatch more time to write, but a list of books. A friend from university rang and asked me to let her have a list of the top ten books I’d learnt most from about creative writing. All disciplines: writing for the stage, writing for radio, writing from life, poetry, short stories, flash fiction and writing a novel. I started on it and then, as happens, I went off at a tangent and remembered this short story.  Here it is…I’ll finish the book list tomorrow 😀



Bucket List

 Thomas Aquinas Maguire, parish priest, born on a sunny 13th August 1947, would die on 13th August 1997, sunny or not; it was decided.  He bleakly accepted that no one would mourn his passing and though it went against all he had been taught, he wouldn’t drag on and on. Surely it was the manner of living that mattered, not the length of life.

As he shifted his weight to reach his back pocket, the boarding house bed groaned and parodied the passion of endless nights of dirty weekenders.  He pulled the crumpled letter from his pocket.

 ‘…and as you resisted gradual disclosure of your long term prognosis, it is with the deepest regret that I have to inform you that, at best, you have only a matter of months left…’

 It was his fault. He’d been adamant that only the truth would do, but now he had it, he had to live with it. 

         He closed his eyes against the sun bouncing off the faded glory of the cabbage rosed wallpaper.  He could hear the distant clink of cutlery against crockery and, now and then, the front door opening and closing. Parents, pink after a day on the beach, pushed their ice-cream stained children toward the bathroom before they too joined the other diners.

He roused himself to sit on the side of the bed.  Nausea washed over him but he knew it had more to do with last night’s task than his illness; drinking Jack Daniels until he passed out. The fifth task on his ‘To do before I die list.’  He’d acquitted himself well.  To night a prostitute and then he could go home.

It had proved easy to find some one to accommodate him; the first number he’d tried from the many displayed in the phone box.

‘First time with a professional, luvvie?’ she’d asked him.  It was his first time with any one, though he hadn’t told her.  ‘Why don’t you get comfy?’

The bed looked surprisingly clean, although he knew without looking that the sheets would have a history of loveless stains.  He had already given her the £20 note she’d requested on the phone.

‘Good to get that out of the way,’ she’d said. ‘Come on then, don’t be shy!’

He looked down at her pale flesh which had reminded him of day old milk.  He realised with a shock that she was a few years older than him.  He thought of a husband perhaps, or grandchildren looking through a suburban bay window for her return.

She stifled a yawn as he slowly undressed.  He lay down beside her and she cradled his head on her shoulder.  She breathed soft warm clouds of cider scented breath over him as he watched the blood flowing in the raised blue veins surrounding her nipples.

‘Any thing you like luvvie, only no kissing, alright?’  She turned toward him.  Her eyes fluttered and then slowly closed.  Comforted by her heartbreaking ordinariness, he lay and considered his last six days in Blackpool.

He’d spat in the wind from the top of the tower.  The Jack Daniels he didn’t want to dwell on.  The driving lesson had been interesting and the meal, at the large hotel on the front, accompanied by the finest wines, had been worth waiting a life time for.  Ringing the village gossip, Mrs.Mulholland, had been special, telling her how much, and for how long, he had hated her and her pious interference; most of all her blind adherence to a religion which had stolen his life and a God in whom he no longer had any faith.

The woman slept on as he released himself from the comfort of her bought embrace.  He wondered if this actually qualified as sleeping with a prostitute.

 Tasks completed, he left the resort.  His journey home had been uneventful though tiring.  Once inside his house he found the provisions Mrs. Toomey, his housekeeper, had left in a box on the kitchen table. A note told him that she would be back later to prepare an evening meal for him, by way of welcoming him home, which meant he had a decision to make.

‘Nothing ventured…,’ he thought opening a bottle of Jamiesons and taking the top off a drum of 72 morphine based painkillers.  He estimated he had six hours, which should be more than enough time to do the job properly.  Curiously, he felt quite calm and had very little fear.  He’d turned his back on the church, fulfilled the list of things he wanted to do and saw very little point in lingering just to suffer the indignity of a protracted death.  He swallowed the tablets and his only regret was that they spoilt the taste of the whiskey.

 For three or four hours he drifted in and out of consciousness, until woken by his gut  feeling full of broken glass.  Thinking he ought to perhaps find some more tablets, he tried to raise himself but was unable to do so.  The ringing of the telephone drifted through the haze in his head. Unable to reach it, he listened as a message was left.

Imperative to speak to him, the Doctor said, could he ring the surgery urgently?


Copyright Eileen Brown @theeditoffice

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