We Are the Pickwicks (extended remix)

By | 1 August 2012
Years later, I married and got a job at a small law firm, just like Father. My wife gave birth to my son, and to accommodate space, my father moved into my grandmother’s room, while my son moved into my old bedroom. We were prosperous and my wife was hard-working, so we all managed to live in good, harmonious comfort.

My son grew quickly, and he was a quiet, studious little boy who got high marks at school. He looks much like my flaxen-haired wife, but to my relief, shows every sign of promise as a Pickwick. I was happy to lecture him on the finer points of being austere and sensible – as my father, grandmother, and obviously myself has demonstrated.

Every night before bedtime, I would come to his room and talk briefly with him on his lessons at school, and to see that he has brushed his teeth. Most of the time, he would answer politely that he has, and I would wait, almost with trepidation, to see if he had anything else to report. He never did, but I steeled myself for the day when he will start enquiring about the … things that flew by his window every spring. Luckily, I already had a speech prepared, and I expect to send him on the straight and narrow with it, if he ever asked.

All was going well, until one morning.

Father had died in the exact same pose as grandmother – face-down, with arms and legs outstretched. From the pose, it looked almost as if he was … flying. As I looked at his body, I felt my blood run cold. The world spun, and old memories dredged themselves up from deep within my mind, circling my head despite the years I spent burying them in a sea of test scores and schoolwork.

Those malicious jack-in-the-boxes sprang up first, leering smiles on their twisted faces. ‘She didn’t fall … she didn’t fall …’ they whispered over and over.

‘She had enough of life, and so she leapt …’

Of course! Why didn’t I notice? My grandmother had died right outside her bedroom window, a small detail back then, but the only plausible explanation right now. My grandmother’s bedroom was on the second floor, and her window faced the same direction as mine. At the time of her death, her window was wide open – a strange fact, given the chilly spring air.

Her room has long since been Father’s room, though he rarely mentioned anything about it. Perhaps it was futile to expect him to – for my father, the one who used to be so sensible, had in his later years become an old man who barely said a word. He would sometimes stand on our front lawn in the cold spring night, staring up at the stars and muttering in a language only he could understand. When that happened, barely anything could be done to coax him back inside the house. He was gone, flown away with that faraway look in his eyes, a look that stayed longer and longer as the years went by.

Whatever he was looking for just over that horizon, he has finally found it.

My heart ached, and I shook my head slowly, as a burning sensation came to my eyes. So much did I lose. Not just Father and Grandmother. As I stood over the frozen body, I feared to look up. I feared the mermaids, the pirates, the adventures, and the ‘boy in green’; but most of all, I feared that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, even if the trolls who guarded it were all dead.

Was the window to the Father’s bedroom open? Was it?

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