The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

‘Here Comes The Sun’ (A short story written by me, in memory of my Granddad)

on December 5, 2015

It’s been a while since I last posted a short story, but I’ve been waiting until December to post this one, as it’s set around this time of year.

I wrote this last winter during my creative writing course. The task we were set was to pick a simple goal for our character (mine was posting a letter) and then make it virtually impossible for our character to achieve that goal.

The character that popped into my head was an old man named Henry, and this is his story, although this was really written in memory of my Granddad. It’s very different from the other stories I’ve posted, but I hope you like it 🙂


Here Comes The Sun by Jessica Strachan

 

Sometimes I forget important things. Today, it’s remembering to close all cupboards within reach of my dog.

Wendy looks up at me with innocent eyes, her big sloppy mouth full of chewed up postage stamps.

“What’ll I do with you, girlie?” I say, ruffling her fur. She drops the little ball of mulch at my feet, emitting a low, guilty whine. A rush of love swells my chest, though I should get mad; she’s ruined any hope I had of this card reaching my son before Christmas.

Maybe it’s for the best – was I ever going to post it? I haven’t a clue what to put on the envelope, and the page inside remains blank.

I’ve been sitting here forty minutes, turning it over in my hands. It’s a silly card really, not very Christmassy – four melting snowmen dressed like the Beatles, dashing across Abbey Road. The caption: Here Comes the Sun. I laughed in the card shop, and so did Maya, the girl who looks after me, but now I’m worrying it says something I never meant it to – about disintegration and time running out. All I wanted was to make him smile.

Wendy slurps the microwave ‘meal’ I’ve left congealing on the kitchen table. Somehow the thought of finishing this sad, cold dinner my German Shepherd’s slobbering all over seems easier than writing a simple message to my son. Then again, it isn’t all that simple – it’s long overdue, and I’m not a man to whom the right words come easily.


 “You don’t mean it, Dad,” George said firmly; “You’re hurting over mum, and you’re lashing out because of it. But Jas doesn’t deserve this. She’s kind, dad, just like mum was. I love her, and you can’t speak to her like this anymore. Especially now that we’re-”

“She’s no good for you, son,” I cried, determined to raise my voice, despite his own refusal to shout; “I won’t let you do this, you’re making a mista-”

“It’s too late, I already made it.”

Her hand with the glistening ring finger covered his, and the little girl I barely knew hovered beside them. I suddenly felt horribly alone out on the doorstep.

Jasmine spoke carefully; “I know things have been difficult, Henry, but it would mean so much to us if you were there for our Big Day. I want you to like me…us…”

“Well I don’t,” I snapped, unable to stop myself, “and I never will.”

“I think you should leave, Dad,” George said calmly.

He didn’t slam the door; he closed it slowly, his brown eyes, full of hurt, looking straight into mine.


The telephone rings. Wendy jumps and the plate falls to the floor. Gravy splodges everywhere.

My heart quickens as always – maybe it’s him, after all these years. “Henry Gable?” I answer.

“It’s me.”

“Who’s me?”

“Maya. Listen, I’m so sorry, I’m not going to make it today. I’m stuck at the stupid station – my train’s cancelled because of the snow.”

“Snow?”

“Do you ever open those curtains of yours?”

“I guess not. Thing is, Maya, I’ve an important letter to send. I was hoping you’d take me out to post it. Is there no chance?” Maya will know George’s address – I must have told her.

“I really am sorry; if there was any way, you know I’d be there. But please, don’t go out on your own – it’s lethal out, you could really hurt yourself… I’ll see you tomorrow, anyway,” she adds kindly. She’s a good girl, Maya – for some reason, she actually enjoys looking after crotchety old me.

“Yes – your last shift before Christmas! I’ll get together a few extra pennies, as a thank you…”

Maya says nothing.

She always acts funny about the money. I can’t understand why – it’s her job to take care of me.

“Thanks,” she says quietly, at last, “that’s very kind of you.”

“Oh, Maya, before I forget, can you tell me if I ever spoke of where my son lives? I’m having trouble remembering the address. Do you know it?”

There’s no reply. A train announcement fills my ears, then the line cuts out.

I contemplate phoning her back, but I don’t recall her number. I guess I’ll add that to the list of important things my muddled brain is hiding from me.


“What am I going to do, Wendy?” I sigh. I daren’t resume my seat – it would be too easy not to get back up again.

Wendy sniffs the gravy-soaked carpet.

“You’re right young lady, I should get on and write this card,” I nod at her infinite wisdom.

Still the right words evade me. The biro shakes – in wobbly, childlike script, I compose my inane message: I’m sorry. I love you. Merry Christmas.

I seal the stampless envelope with a lick, and worry hard about what to put on the front. If only I could remember the name of the road. I write “KENNINGTON” and his name, hoping it’ll be enough.

Drawing back the curtains, I’m met with a scene as blank white as the page I struggled for so long to fill.

This is hopeless. Without Maya, I’ll never make it to the postbox. Maybe I should wait. It’s been fifteen years – what’s one more week? I’ll only ruin George’s day with my silly card. He, Jasmine and the little girl are happy without me. I imagine they’re inside right now, decorating the tree with golden baubles. Or they’re watching a movie – that one where the princess turns everything she touches into ice. Maya says all little girls are obsessed with it; even she knows the words to all the songs.

But no – I have to do this, and it has to be now, because everything in my mind is turning into ice, freezing over. I’m forgetting things, and soon they’ll melt, like the Snowmen Beatles, and be gone forever.

“Wendy, we’re going on an adventure,” I announce.


George jumped up and down. If this were one of those cartoons he loved so much, you’d have seen the blur lines.

“Daddy, can I go on the sledge now? Can I?”

My wife Penny clutched my wrist; “He’s too small, I’m scared he’ll fall and die, aren’t you?”

I squeezed her freezing hand; “He knows what he’s doing, don’t you son?”

“I know best, not mummy,” George scoffed.

“Oi,” Penny huffed, crossing her arms.

 “Oi,” George copied cheekily, “I’m going now, watch me!”

“Us first,” Penny said, and we took off down the sloping driveway, landing on our bottoms in the snowy flowerbed. My head span with the cold.

George whooped as he whizzed down to join us – a little heap of family, cuddled together in the snow.


“Ye of little faith,” I tut at Wendy, “I can do that slope as well as he ever could.”

I place the old wooden sledge at the top of the drive. My knees scream as I bend down, and the sledge starts to slide away from me. I grab it with my foot, but it continues to slip with me half on it. What on earth am I doing? My heart is pounding – I’ll fall to my death if I’m not careful.

I stoop to reposition the sledge. Suddenly, Wendy leaps up behind me, and now I know I’m going to die – the wind is knocked from my lungs as I fall forward onto the sledge like a felled tree, hurtling towards the ground. This is it. I’ll never tell my son I’m sorry, that I love him. He’ll never read my messy handwriting, or laugh at the Snow Beatles.

 

The world goes white.

 

I lift my face out of the snow.

 

Wendy barks. “What do you see girl?” I say, digging my sledge into the snow to drag myself up. I wince at the pain in my chest, arms, legs, but I can’t think about that now.

Cold sunlight glitters on the postbox at the end of the road, a big red beacon of hope.


The road is lacquered with ice, thick as treacle. I put one foot forward, only to find it flying from under me, slapstick style. I land on my backside and the pain rips through my body, up my spine, into my teeth and head. A gut-punch of a fall. Not so funny after all.

Wendy waits patiently as I struggle to stand again. Everything hurts, but I have to do this, even if it kills me. If I could just make it to the fence, I know I can hold out until the postbox. I shuffle along the ice, knowing one slip could prove fatal. I quickly realise the sledge is too heavy for me, abandoning it at the side of the road. My son is more important than any nostalgic old toy.

“Wendy, wait!” I shout, hoping she’ll drag me along somehow, but she’s bounding ahead of me, used to energetic walks with Maya.

I stagger towards the fence, arms out like the world’s slowest zombie, until I touch the side with papery, gloveless hands. Edging along the fence, I stare up into the windows beyond, pleading silently that someone will get up off their sofa and take pity on me. But nobody comes.


With a final, shuddering breath, I collapse against the postbox. Relief floods my body like a nice warming brandy. I stand back to look at it, the most beautiful, red shiny postbox I ever did see, crowned with a little hat of snow. I survey the notice stuck on the front, the collection times for the last post before Christmas.

I’ve always marked the days off on my calendar, but now I’ve lost track of time altogether.

“Excuse me?” I shout to a passerby, “What day is it?”

The man peers at me strangely; “Christmas Eve… 2015,” he adds, as if I’ve just stepped out of a time-travelling telephone box.

No. No, it can’t be. “Thank you,” I say, and although I am not a crier, tears start to sting the corners of my eyes.

I look back, willing the collection dates to have changed. Then I see something I don’t understand. This box is marked “KENNINGTON”. This is my home, but Kennington is where my son lives, isn’t it? At least that’s what I wrote on my envelope. He’s been here all along. A fog of confusion swirls in my brain, but I know one thing: I can make it to him after all. And somehow, at the back of my mind, I think I know the way to where he is.


Wendy and I trudge through the quiet streets. As we get closer I start to recognise things – houses with glowing windows, and a church, shadowy in the shrinking sun.

I reach the gates, and realise I know them, with their twirling leafy pattern spiralling into a grand arch. I enter the garden, wincing as the creaking sound tears up the perfect quiet inside.

And then I see it. The place where my son lives now. The place I did not know how to write down, that my memory would not let me admit to.

I walk deeper into the garden, my feet crunching clumsily on the hard snow, until I find what I’ve been searching for; a frosted circle of holly, pine cones and little silver ribbons, resting peacefully in front of a smooth white stone.

Just as it always does, the shock of remembering tightens my chest, weakens my knees. I crumple, surrounded by walls of grief and drifts of snow.

I sit there for what seems like hours, with my face in my hands, damp from the wet snowy ground creeping up my trouser legs. The sharp corner of the Christmas card digs into my side through my coat pocket. I barely notice.


It’s dark when I hear a distant bark. Wendy must have slipped out without me realising. She comes bounding back into the garden, and with all the racket she’s making, I don’t hear the girl’s footsteps until they’re right behind me. As I place my hands on the cold ground to try and pull myself up, thank her for bringing Wendy back to me, she speaks.

“Granddad,” she says, “I’m here now, let’s get you home.” It’s the voice from the phone, the voice of the girl who looks after me every day, even though I do not deserve her kindness.

Maya, my boy’s little girl.

“Maya,” my voice cracks, “I don’t understand what’s happening to me.”

“I know you don’t,” she says softly, “Sometimes you forget things. Sometimes you forget he’s gone, and sometimes you forget who I am, and sometimes you forget that we love you … Mum and I both love you so much. And so did dad.”

“But I hurt you both. I rejected you, tore our family apart,” I say, fat tears splashing down my cheeks like a small boy with a hurt knee. I cuddle Wendy to me as she licks them away.

Maya shakes her head. “No – the argument that keeps coming back to you happened long before he passed away. It’s the stuff that happened in between – the good stuff – you seem to have lost. So you write to Dad, and you bring the letters here.”

“Yes, I bought him a Christmas card,” I say simply.

“I remember,” Maya smiles, “the one with the Snow Beatles? I knew you’d try to deliver it on your own, so I rushed back – three hours in a taxi on the M4! I’m so sorry I couldn’t get to you sooner. How long have you been out here? You’re freezing!”

“I don’t know,” I reply. “Please – help me up, Maya? I’ve fallen, and I don’t know how I’ll ever get up on my own.”

Maya takes my hand and pulls me gently up. “Where’s the card?”

I reach into my pocket, and hold it out to Maya. “You give it to him,” she says.

Ignoring the throbbing pain in every part of my body, I bend down and place the card on George’s grave.

The message isn’t what I wanted it to be, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe he can hear the words in my head, make sense of the thoughts and feelings better than I can. This is what I wanted to say:

 

Merry Christmas Son, wherever you are. Snow is falling on my memories of you, but I will continue to come here until they all turn to white. Maybe I won’t always remember how truly good and forgiving you were, but I’m here now, and I came to tell you that I love you. Even if I forget everything else about myself and my life, that will remain.


If you read to the end, then thank you and I love you for taking the time! As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I wrote this story in memory of my Granddad (whose name was actually George, not Henry).

The character of Henry isn’t necessarily based on my Granddad, but the experience of Alzheimer’s disease is.

My Granddad developed Alzheimer’s in his later life, which caused him to lose a lot of his memories and eventually forget who we were (as Henry does with Maya).

However, despite the illness, my Granddad never stopped being the kind, funny and lovely person he had always been. 🙂

We lost him almost 7 years ago, but I’ll always remember and love him. 

 

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19 responses to “‘Here Comes The Sun’ (A short story written by me, in memory of my Granddad)

  1. Your story was so beautiful ❤

  2. Annelise B. says:

    This was so touching! I was tearing up on the end, it was so beautiful! ❤ You have so much tallent, congrats!!

  3. This is such a sweet little story! I was tearing up. Your granddad sounds like a wonderful person. Beautiful writing!
    -Amy

  4. Aura Willow says:

    I’m so glad the end was heartwarming – I was worried that there would be a fatal conclusion (which would still be powerful no doubt). I did cry, both sad tears for the loss of his son after his determination to deliver the message, having forgotten the loss. But also gappy tears that May was his Grandaughter – nice twist which you subtle hinted at earlier on.

    I really think you should submit this to an age awareness charity – it is so moving!

    • mudandstars says:

      Aww thanks my lovely, I’m really glad you enjoyed it and it made you cry – I mean obviously I don’t like to make my friends cry haha, but I’m glad the story made you feel something 🙂 my mum and dad cried too! Thanks so much for your lovely comment 🙂

  5. Aura Willow says:

    Happy* Maya* subtly* (grrrrr autocorrect!)

  6. Helga Duffy says:

    Well done Jess, for a well written emotive short story. It is beautifully sad. I really enjoyed reading it.

  7. Eryl Thomas says:

    I love this story. So tender. So moving.

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