Web Site: Peter: Author
A version of this story has recently been performed in two London theatres by a fringe group 'Cock and Bull Productions'.
It is daytime in an urban park somewhere near you. In this park is a bench and on the bench is a middle-aged man. He manages to occupy the entire seat, he has a paper bag in his hand and is making cooing noises at the ground.
A woman of, let us say, mature years enters our consciousness by walking down a path leading to the right-hand side of the bench.
Staring at the man occupying the seat, the woman asks, somewhat pointedly one must admit, "Is it alright if I sit down?"
The man starts and looks round in surprise. Seeing the woman, he smiles uncertainly. "Of course," he hesitates, "Sorry."
The man shuffles to the other end of the bench. The woman sits down gingerly at the far end.
The man says suddenly, "I come here every day to feed the birds."
The woman, wary of this stranger, cautiously replies, "Really?"
"Rain or shine, I'm here."
"I used to come with my wife."
"Not now, of course. She died a while back."
The woman, having been put in the uncomfortable position of having to at least feign sympathy for someone she didn't know and now never will, says, "Oh. I'm sorry."
The man continues to stare at the ground. "Yes, we'd sit here, rain or shine, feeding the birds. She loved birds. Now I come here on my own. I think of her, of course. She'd sit just where you're sitting."
The woman is now made even more uncomfortable, "Oh!" and she fidgets on the seat.
"I don't mind. Your sitting there, I mean. Anyone can. It's a free country, sort of."
The woman is driven by a desire to be polite and say something showing a degree of interest. "Illness was it? Your wife, ill was she?"
"No, not really. Never had a day's illness in her life. Cooking dinner one minute and then pow! Down she went. Sudden like. No warning. I heard a crash and found her."
"Her heart was it then?"
"No, baked beans. A large tin fell off the shelf overhead and hit her on the head. Instantly fatal, the Coroner said. But the tin was OK, just dented. That was one good thing."
The woman, amazed, says "The tin was alright? Just the tin?"
The man smiles in recollection. "Funny thing. She was cooking chips . They went on the floor, too. But she'd already had hers, so to speak. I couldn't use them afterwards. I had to go to the chippie. Such a waste."
"Your poor wife."
"Well, it's not all waste really. After the inquest and so on, I asked if I could have her body back. A friend of mine runs a meat pie factory. I had him put her through the mincer."
Unsure if she really had heard this, the woman repeats, "Through the mincer, your wife, surely not?"
"It's alright, it's an industrial sized one. Didn't hurt it. Then I packed her in paper bags and put them in the freezer. I'd take out two bags a week and defrost them then I'd bring them down here to feed the birds with. Better than cremation. She always liked feeding the birds."
The woman turns away and begins to choke. With her eyes streaming tears and a hankie pressed hard to her mouth, she leaves the bench and hurries away in the direction from which she came.
A second woman now enters our little scenario but this time from the opposite direction. She is younger by far than the first woman and, indeed, a casual observer would note that she is much younger than the man, too; probably by a good twenty five to thirty years
When she speaks, we hear that her English is good but her accent is heavy and Eastern European in its intonation.
"Hello, dear. You have been waiting long? They were so busy in the travel agents but the girl she gave me some lovely brochures for second honeymoon. I tell her, my first, my husband's second! She laugh! Many short breaks ideal for celebration. You look when we get home."
The man smiles, gets up and begins to collect his paper bags.
The second woman, or second wife as we should perhaps now call her, nudges him playfully (or it could be painfully) in the ribs.
"Who was that woman you talking to? You know her?"
"No, she just came and sat down but she didn't stay long. Funny woman, I thought. Didn't look well at all. She suddenly rushed off."
And the second woman says, "Well, never mind her. Let's go home, sweetie."
"Ah," says the man, "with all this talk of holidays, you did remember to get the baked beans, didn't you, large size?"
His spouse nods and they link arms to wander off together down life's unpredictable path.
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