The ringing of the phone appeared in his dream before he awoke and realised the sound came from the kitchen. As he lifted his body from the bed, switched on the bedside lamp and examined his alarm clock, 3:45am, it stopped and the house was silent again. He stood up, reached for his dressing gown, pushed his feet into his slippers and walked through the quiet house.
The atmosphere in the house was neutral, as if it was preparing for a new day. Resting before getting started. Big old barn of a place, thought Desmond, as he walked the short distance from the guest room to the kitchen. The hallway was lined with paintings, modern mixed with old masters. Norma had a great eye and the furniture and art in the house reflected this. Desmond pushed open the swinging kitchen door and switched on the light. The room suddenly became unnaturally light-filled. Desmond squinted as he put on the kettle for his morning coffee.
He looked at the phone, willing it to ring again and reveal its secret. But it sat there, still and mute, as did the toaster and kettle. Only limited comfort in things. It's people and place that matter, not stuff, thought Desmond.
He loved functional objects like cars, yachts, motorbikes. Means of transport. Objects of desire. Oh a motorbike! He thought about his first bike and the ride he did with Pete and Tom to the Blue Mountains. Camping in Blackheath on the top of a cliff. The night coming and the colours of the bush fading. The glow of the campfire reaching only so far and then darkness.
One day he would own a yacht and sail up and down the coast and through the Caribbean. What a romantic figure he would cut! Marvellous really to think of it. All in white pulling up the mainsail and letting it fill with wind. Cutting the ocean's waved surface sending spray into his face and nothing between him and the sandy coves of Jamaica.
The phone rang, jingling on the wall, made louder by the silence of the morning.
He already knew it was bad news and again his universe began rearranging itself.
'We need you to come to the hospital.'
'We think it's best if you come straight away.'
He took the kettle off the stove and switched off the gas. He switched off the kitchen light. In the bedroom he pulled on his clothes and grabbed his keys.
The garage was dark and silent. The car sat like a giant beast waiting to carry him, like a knight of old, to save a princess. His mother spoke to him: 'You silly goat.' He blocked out her voice, or tried to. 'Who do you think you are, Desmond Furey?' His dead mother had a whole filing cabinet full of put downs and reprimands. Slaps in the face. 'Would be if you could be.' 'Too good to be true.' He tried to block her face again, and her voice, but she was persistent. 'You're not fooling anyone, Desmond Fury!' 'If you could only see yourself. Pathetic.'
He opened the car's solid door, then pulled it shut. He loved the feel of the big leather seat and stretching his arms out to the steering wheel. He turn the key and the car's engine whirred into action. Ah! How he loved this car and the pleasure it gave him driving the broad streets of the city. He and Norma would drive down to the beach. There they would set themselves up on the beach blanket, with a hamper, laying there arm in arm looking out at the sea. She knew, instinctively, how to take care of him. He was grateful for her bountiful goodness. He regretted his moments - moments! ha! - of churlishness, tight independence, quiet arrogance, distance. Oh! But when they were happy! God how they laughed. Such kindred spirits. I mean, she was a bigger pirate than he would ever be and vastly more experienced and adventurous. All that steel wrapped in tulle. No one gets to be a movie star for over a decade without having balls.
They would lay there and watch the ocean pull in and out. Him semi naked. An Adonis. She with her broad hat and sunglasses. A star. And people would look at them and whisper and turn around. And sometimes someone would stop and ask Norma to autograph a scrap of paper and she would do it and smile and wish them well. Then Norma and he would return to their own private world, and their private reverie of time and space.
By now he was making a right turn into the hospital carpark. He tried to focus on his steering and on the morning street. The houses all lined up, quiet. People still asleep in their beds. The occasional car passed, headlights still shining.
As he looked at the nurses desk, a pool of light surrounded by darkness, and at the serious faces that looked up at him, he thought of two things: first of one of the Rembrandt reproductions in one of his father's art books and secondly that something bad had happened.
The doctor walked quickly towards him. They shook hands.
'Mr Furey. I'm sorry I have very sad news. Miss Norma had a massive heart attack at 3:10am this morning. All efforts to revive her were unsuccessful. Her time of death was 3:20am. We called you straight away. I'm very sorry '
Desmond felt his heart trying to push its way out through his throat. His hands began to shake. He suddenly needed to sit down. His hands continued to shake. He was surprised by his physical reaction. Behind his skull he felt tears swirling around wanting to push out so he closed his eyes and grasped his hands to stop the shaking. Then his whole body began to convulse and before he knew it - who was this person?- he was in a ball on the floor, curled up , sobbing and sobbing. After a time this stopped and he stood up and followed the doctor into the operating theatre where obviously they had tried to revive her. He looked down at her lifeless face and held her clammy hand. He pulled up a chair and sat there for a long while. The morning came and then mid morning they came and took Norma's body away. He did some paperwork then got in the car and drove home.
Clinton De Vere