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C.C. Hogan

Just One Memory - A short story

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Memories, he decided, are a feast best appreciated when alone. No, he corrected himself, when one is nearly alone. They are something that can only be shared with others in the same way as a passing smile; it brings momentary pleasure, but the love behind it will forever be a mystery.

He was full of memories: old, new, young, fun, painful. His memories were not that important, not all of them. He didn't want to wallow in his memories as that would make him sad and pitiful and would mark him as someone who had nothing left to live for. He sighed. It was true of course. It had taken every last bit of energy he had left to travel here, to this park, to this bench.

His home, or at least the place he slept, was two hundred ridiculous miles north; chosen by his fussing, middle-aged daughter, the girl who thought she knew him so well. She said she knew his needs, said he "missed mum" and should be near her. "Mum" was buried two hundred miles north, and "Daughter" lived two hundred miles north, and so he had "moved" two hundred miles north.

Today, he had come two hundred miles south. Intentionally. He had not gone to the graveyard and told "mum" as he didn't want to. He had not phoned "daughter" because he had given up on her and her fussiness. He did not want the memories of "mum" or of "daughter."  Not today.

Today he was two hundred miles south. They would never understand why. 


Just one memory left.


The sun shone as the young man climbed up the tree, cursing.

"This is really nice of you, mate," said the young woman.  "It is meant to be for my little brother, smelly little git that he is. He always wanted a kite."

"So why are you flying it if you are going to give it as a prezzie?"

"I don't know!"  The young woman started laughing, embarrassed, stupid, nice.  "Sorry!"


Just one memory.


"Did he like it then?" asked the young man, standing beneath the offending tree.

"No! He said he had gone off kites. Smelly git!"

"What did you do?"

"Nothing. My mum would have been angry.  Thanks for being here."

"Thanks for coming back."


Just one memory.


"I like London parks at night," said the young woman, leaning her head on his chest.  "I like the orange glow of the sky."

"I like the sound," whispered the young man.  "Listen. It is like a sleeping dragon, rumbling and purring."

"I can feel it."

"Kiss me?"

"Not yet."


Just one memory.


"Our tree, our park, our night."  She was crying. "It is like our home."

"You gave yourself to me."

"I wanted to!"


Just one memory.


The young man stood beneath the tree.  He had been coming here for a year, every week, at the same time.  And every night he had been alone.  He did not know why.  Two weeks earlier the park keepers had installed a bench under the tree.  It had a plaque on it: "To our beloved.  She was too young."  It filled him with fear.


Just one memory.


Two hundred miles south.  The plaque was worn now, rubbed smooth by the backs of all the people who had leant against it for sixty years.  Memories were overrated, he thought. At least most were.  It was getting cold, and his energy was spent.  The sun settled.  The orange of the London lights warmed the sky as the dragon purred. He lay down on the bench and closed his eyes.

"I've been waiting for you," said the young woman.

"I know," said the old man.  "I remembered."


The park keeper looked sadly at the bench.  When they had found the old man, he had had nothing on him, nothing to say who he was or where he had come from. He had been well dressed and not like the usual they found after cold nights in the park. In his hand had been grasped a small piece of paper.  It was tied in a bow like you would find on the tail of a kite.  On it were three words:

"I am home."


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