“What will you do with Jack’s… Jack?” Jenny stumbled.
Helen glanced at the urn on the mantelpiece. Her blue eyes moistened. “I need to give it some serious thought.”
Jenny blushed. “Of course,” she said.
“I’m not putting it off. I just want it to be appropriate.”
Helen knew her good friend and neighbour only wanted to help but it was a difficult time. “It’s such a dilemma, but rest in peace was something Jack would have hated.”
Jenny smiled and patted Helen’s hand. “He certainly liked to have a project or two on the go,” she agreed. “I’ll miss his whistling while he worked in the garden.”
Later, after lunch, Helen sat alone reflecting on her loss. Despite taking early retirement, Jack was always on the move. If he wasn’t tending his plants, then he would be in the shed making another novelty toy for one of the neighbour’s grandchildren. Their home was an on-going challenge. When he had finished decorating the last room in the house, he would start over again.
“I’ve poured your coffee,” she would say.
“Busy, busy,” he’d laugh, grabbing a sip each time he passed. Inevitably he would drink it cold. Being industrious gave him immense pleasure, and he was never happier than when he was fixing some broken appliance. “Can’t understand how people enjoy sitting about for hours watching television,” he would say, “when there is so much they could be doing.” He didn’t judge those who preferred a more sedentary life. He just couldn’t understand how relaxing could bring any pleasure. “I hope,” he once laughed, “that I don’t end up sitting on a cloud all day playing a harp in heaven… that would be hell.”
Jack had always found time for Helen though. At then end of the day, when even his seemingly inexhaustible energy waned, he would sit and talk for hours with her. She had lost a good man. He loved her, and worked hard to make her happy. It was important that she now showed how much she had loved and understood him. How then was she going to lay Mr. Busy Busy to rest? It would have been comforting to have had a daughter to talk through the situation with, she thought. But Helen hadn’t been blessed with children.
Jack was very much on Helen’s mind as she went shopping. At the top of the hill she stopped at St. Mary’s, the small but imposing Norman church that stood watch over the village. She was looking over the wall at the garden of remembrance when a clerical collar appeared from behind a hedge. “Good morning,” the young vicar said, recognising her immediately.
Helen responded, “I was admiring the new landscaping of the garden.”
“Come in. and I’ll show you how nice we’ve made it.”
Water trickled gently over slate at one end of a pond edged with pure white water lilies. New wooden seats, merged into sculptured yews, looked out onto beds of roses decked out in an array of colours. It was only yards from the High Street but its tranquillity transported it to another realm.
Rev. Taylor had conducted Jack’s funeral service. He listened attentively as Helen explained what was troubling her. Despite his age and limited life experience, he endeavoured to show great empathy. They walked between rows of standard yellow roses lining a gravel path. Yellow for remembrance, she reminded herself. “What if we found a spot by the pond for Jack where the water runs by forever?” he suggested. She gazed again at the soothing waterfall, and the reflection of clouds moving across the surface of the water.
Helen sighed. “It is so beautiful. It would be the perfect place to be.” But then her mind added, laid to rest, and she reasoned that it would be the perfect place for most people, but far from what Jack would have wanted. She turned away disappointed.
It started to rain and she hurried back along the High Street. A sudden heavy cloudburst forced her to shelter in a shop doorway. It was Brandalls, the antique dealer. As the rain hammered the pavement Helen eyed the furniture in the shop. Jack used to wax lyrical about the quality of the antiques, and she remembered the times he would stop there and describe the various timbers that the items were made from. “Wood has life in it,” he once said. Her glance fell upon something standing on a mahogany bureau tucked away at the back of the shop. “Of course,” she smiled. In a few moments Helen found herself inside and parting with her money. As soon as the rain eased off, she made her way home with the parcel under her arm and a satisfied smile on her face.
The rest of the morning was spent cleaning her purchase. The brass shone, and the mahogany was polished to perfection. She was happy that she had given it the treatment that Jack would have lavished upon it. When coffee time came around that afternoon, Helen sat down on the sofa and placed two mugs on the coffee table. Reaching forward she took hold of the beautiful antique hour glass. Turning it over, she watched the contents slowly tricking down, and with a contented smile said, “Busy, busy, darling.”
Dan Keeble lives in Essex, UK, and writes articles and short stories. The plan when he retired was to produce a novel, but time is now very limited as he is his wife’s full time carer. But short works can be just as satisfying.