After the Funeral
After the Funeral
I ducked out of the… I want to call it a wake, but in truth our family have always just called it ‘drinks’, because that’s the default way of putting a punctuation mark on anything. Either way, I ducked out just after they unveiled - took the cling-film off - the buffet. I grabbed a couple of slices of that pie with egg running through it, and went.
There are parts of the world where sunset will bathe the horizon in golden warmth, then there’s here, where it just means the sky turns from a greyish-blue to a greyish-grey. The sea wind caught me as I stepped from the alleyway and onto the front. It was too cold not to be wearing a proper coat, but it was too late now. I stuffed the last shard of pie into my mouth and buttoned up my suit jacket, brushing pastry crumbs away as I did.
This place had always been one of joy, from the beaches, to the mini-golf, to the mobile funfair which seemed to have grown roots at the top of the harbour steps. In my memory it had always been sunny too, probably because whenever the rain fell mum and dad would just roll us into the arcades, or the play area with the ball-pit and that vertical metal sheet which acted as a slide and left us with friction burns every year.
As I shuffled round a cluster of broken bottles, I looked along the prom, the high-tide lapped at the flood-walls to my left; any sand-castles which had survived the day now sat beneath the waves; a tiny medieval Atlantis. The place still wore the mask of its former self, you could see it in the celebrity emblazoned sign over the old Baron Tussauds - lord knows how they got away with that - both the paint and the painted were now faded. Most of the arcade fronts were corrugated shutters, but Joyland still stood proud; a cacophony of 8-bit tunes and primary coloured light-bulbs.
I took a breath, turning it into a sigh, and pressed on toward the harbour. As the lights faded from the amusements behind me, new ones blinked on at the fairground in front. The plinks and plonks from one were chased out by the booming beats of the other, thumping bass echoed against the wooden boards of empty rides, as stall holders leant and smoked, threadbare fleeces tied round with leather pouches.
This place wasn’t desolate as much as it was discarded, like an old toy, still functioning but no longer in favour. My mood calmed with the familiarity. A buzzing in my pocket spoiled the peace just as the thick smell of oil and waffles hit my throat, my brother’s name flashed on the screen, suggesting my absence had been noticed. I put the unanswered phone back in my pocket and took a lungful of the greasy sweetness in the air.
‘They can wait,’ I said to nobody, rummaging in my pocket for change.