We Saved These For You

To the cemetery gates, someone had attached a notice about two missing budgerigars.

I stopped to read the couple of sentences, thinking I had not written anything much longer in months.

It seemed unlikely that the budgies would be in the cemetery, flitting among the gravestones, perching on one and then another, but if there was a chance of some kind of reward perhaps it would be worth me returning when it was not raining so hard, and stalking them with a fishing net.

The notice had been printed in black and white.  I thought a colour picture of what were presumably bright and beautiful things would have packed more of an emotional punch.  Though the sign had been taped inside a plastic sleeve, the wind and the rain had got in, and the ink had run.  I had the hood of my cagoule pulled up and the drawstring pulled tight so my face was small, and that was doing the trick for now.

Something about those sentences being written, the wind and the rain, my making my way home from work and not knowing what would happen next… something compelled me to push open the gate and make my way in to the cemetery to explore the probability of spotting those lost birds.  I stepped from the path and begin to wander soggily through the overgrown grass, winding between stones bearing old-fashioned names.

My brain quickly became accustomed to comparing the two dates on a gravestone and subtracting one from the other to establish the age of death, until I was processing this calculation without thinking; my routine only changing when the deceased had passed at a young age, in which case I made a second calculation to work out how many years older or – hell’s bells – younger they had been than I was now.

Soon I realised I had completed a circuit of the cemetery, without spotting a flash of a colourful wing, without hearing a tell-tale chirp.  As I left, I wanted to write on the notice, “Went in, had a look.  No luck but hope you find them soon,” or something along those lines.

As I carried on my way, I thought of sentences I might write down, feeling revitalised by the dead and lost, those who were still alive and searching, as if together they had pushed and pulled me back in to a world of thinking, noticing, speculating.

At the top of our road was a house we had considered abandoned – rotten windows, crumbling roof, it looked as though it were dead inside.  We had never before seen anyone come or go from that house, but now a man tottered out from the back door and into the rain.  He looked like a character from the Bible, dressed to play a part in a Victorian novel, for a production by the BBC.  It was mid summer and he was taking from the house a Christmas tree.  He carried it out of the house in to the garden and stacked it carefully alongside the hundred and fifty or so other Christmas trees that were in that garden, as if one for every year he had celebrated the festivities in that house.

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