That world of the fixed and trembling moment
‘The coffin was in the back bedroom, where the two of us had slept. They put my cot into their room when he got so ill. He was coffined during the afternoon, and after I had gone to bed, in the evening, they came upstairs together. They looked in at me first, and I pretended to be asleep – I suppose because I had cried enough already, and knew I would cry again if anyone spoke to me.
‘And yet when they had turned away and I heard the noise of them going along the landing to the other bedroom, I was frightened. I slipped out of my cot and went after them – quietly because the whole house had gone quiet with death. I looked in through the other bedroom door. They had their backs to me. They were standing not quite together, and I could see one of the brass handles of the coffin through the little gap between them.
‘I stood there, shivering although it was summer, and waited for something that would break the silence and let me run to them for comfort. It seemed ages, but I suppose it wasn’t more than a minute or two. Then my father spoke. He said: “Why did it have to be him that went? Why not the other?”’
He heard Patricia say: ‘Oh, no!’ but that other world, that world of the fixed and trembling moment, was still the more real one. Tired sunlight on lace curtains, the little room, the two figures turned away from him, and the warm gleam of brass.