THE PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM
Granny Bones sighed and turned the pages of her photograph album.
“Such memories,” she sighed, “such romantic, wonderful memories.”
And they were.
“Daniel was such a fine young man,” she whispered to herself, thoughtfully, as she stared at a fading image. “Sometimes, when we were together, it seemed as though the whole of the rest of the world didn't matter, which was daft seeing as there was a war raging across most of it!”
He looked like he had then, only in the photograph he was black and white whilst in life he had been vibrant with colour, the muted colours of men, the waving hair, dark as music, the bright eyes, neither blue nor green but an indistinguishable colour in between, his grey trousers with their snap-sharp creases, the jumper he wore, grey like the world, yet he himself was far from being grey.
That was before anyone had the right to call her Granny Bones! Back then she'd been a flibbertigibbet of a creature, a wisp of a teenager with love in her heart. She would have given all of her to Daniel, every bit of her spirit and her flesh, she would have lain back on his bed and not had to think of England or Saint George, but only of him, and he could have done anything he pleased.
And he had, which was where Danny had come from.
Not Daniel, but Danny.
Daniel hadn't known about Danny. She'd kept the secret to herself until she was absolutely certain, and that certainty came a day too late.
A war was raging, and like all wars it had a cost. It cost lives. It had cost Daniel's life only weeks before Danny had been born.
“The trouble with wars,” she muttered angrily – and she was angry so many years later - “is that they are the dreams of powerful men, of politicians, of kings, of führers like that last one, but it's the ordinary boys who pay, and they pay with their lives like my Daniel did.”
The thought made her angry. It made her dreadfully angry. It would be best, she thought to herself, if Isiah and Stella, her grandchildren, didn't see her like this, and they were due round to visit, like they did most days. She wanted them to know all about the carefree wonders of childhood rather than the pains of crusty old age.
So she cheered herself up.
She borrowed the man next door's push-bike and blew on its chrome-plated handlebar as if the whole machine was some complex wind instrument until a note came out. It was a beautiful note, yet within it was the very essence of her life-long sadness. It painted, in sound, the image of her long lost Daniel. It daubed a musical image of his fine features, his wonderful smile, that drip on the end of his nose, and spread it around everywhere. It could be heard for miles, and for miles around the folks smiled and nodded and saw, in their own hearts, the wonder that had been Danmiel.
Then she paused because a curious clergyman came by.
“Beautiful,” he murmured through his bewhiskered condescension. “I haven't heart music like that for … since last Easter when the choir sang a requiem...”
“It was no requiem!” she snapped. “It was a memory, that's all, not a lament! What' has been has been, who has lived and died has lived and died and there's nothing any blast of music can do about it!”
“You tell him, Granny,” came the voice of Isiah, running up.
“That was the song of my granddad,” echoed Stella just behind him where the two of them were when they ran up.
“Sweet infants,” broiled the clergyman.
“I'm a Senior and Stella's a Junior, so we're not infants!” almost snapped Isiah, not liking to be called a baby or anything related to babies. Being eleven he was, in his opinion, just about a man.
“Hush, child, hush,” smoothed Granny Bones. “He's a man of God, not a man of the people. He knows his prayers and already has his place in the graveyard earmarked for when his hour is up! Not in Heaven, mark you, and not in any other mythical place, but in the graveyard!”
“Really!” spluttered the dog-collared lump of indignant confusion, and he walked off after saying “They knew a thing or two when they said that children should be seen and not heard!”
“Why were you playing Granddad's tune, Granny?” asked Isiah.
“I know why,” put in the younger Stella. “You've been looking at old pictures again, haven't you, Granny Bones?”
She nodded, not trusting herself to speech for the moment.
Then she cleared her throat.
“He's inside my head, in my memories,” she sighed.
“And that's a good place,” grinned Isiah. “Granny Bones, it's the best place, isn't it?”
“It's the best Heaven my man could have,” sighed Granny Bones, “a place where he will never grow old like I've grown old, a place where forever is the time it takes between one heartbeat and the last...”
The two children looked sombre for a moment, but then the old woman's eyes lit up. “But we must dance!” she proclaimed. “Will nobody swap this old bike for a tuba?”
“Hey! It's not your bike to swap!” exclaimed her neighbour.
But a tuba arrived anyway, and Granny Bones pursed her lips and made that curious farting sound beloved by brass instrumentalists into its mouthpiece, and it came out from the other end like a melody from the choirs that sing between the stars with voices filled with love and hope, and Stella smiled.
“Granddad's tune,” she murmured.
© Peter Rogerson 11.02.13
Recently I wrote a little story in which I created Granny Bones, and someone commented that she'd like to know more about the old woman, and that suggestion inspired my kitchen sink saga, and others. Recent episodes are