It’s a cold clear afternoon in Keldy Forest where Ben is lighting a wood-burning stove in an A-frame chalet he’s hired for a long weekend away with his newly pregnant wife, Frankie. Ben wants the chalet to be toasty when he returns from Malton railway station with her. Wife and husband are elated about the coming birth of their first child. Suddenly he’s overcome with emotion; choking back his tears, he makes a vow: Frankie, whatever comes to pass I will always love you. He laughs at himself for being so maudlin.
When Ben leaves for Malton, stars sparkle in the night sky. He wraps himself up warm, and rolls back the 2CV’s canvas roof; he loves driving under the stars and he’s euphoric as he thinks of becoming a dad. He inserts a cassette of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’, into the player and presses play. On the third attempt, Betsy, the 2CV, coughs into life. Paul Simon sings, “These are the days of miracle and wonder”. They sure are, Ben laughs.
It’s below zero and the bumpy road is deserted. Lights from the car’s headlights bounce against the forest. Looking up through the open roof he gasps as a tawny owl almost crashes into the car. God, I love this, Ben shouts into the night.
Ben sings along with Paul Simon, “People say I’m crazy, I got diamonds on the soles of my shoes”. The blind corner is sharper that he expects. A large deer stands in the middle of the narrow back road. Shit! he roars, stamping on the brakes. The car corkscrews round the icy corner and rockets into a stack of pointed fence posts that rip through the car’s body and into Ben.
At Malton station Frankie waits for Ben. She’s not worried; she knows how temperamental Betsy can be. After an hour she gets a taxi. On the road to Keldy the taxi driver slows; fence posts are strewn over the road. Frankie screams, Stop! That’s our car. Oh, god, where’s Ben?
In the same A-frame cabin in Keldy Forest that Ben hired in 1986, Frankie and her son, Sam, sit each side of the wood-burning stove. In the background Paul Simon sings, “People say I’m crazy, I got diamonds on the soles of my shoes.”
It’s like a religious service, Sam says. This song Dad was playing when he crashed and it stopped in the middle – it’s like a hymn.
I suppose it is.
When did you start coming here, Mum?
1987. The year you were born.
I wish I’d known dad.
Me too. I prayed that one day you would.
But I never have, Mum. I suppose it’s because I never met him.
Why have you kept coming year after year?
So you’re not alone.
I’m not alone. He’s here with me.
Maybe it’s time to move on.
She’s not crazy, Sam, a male voice says. I’d miss her if she wasn’t here every year.
Some love never dies.
© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.