Fiction Friendship

It was two o clock in the morning. Jock looked out of the window, tears threatening; knowing that his wife’s death was imminent. Seeing only the bright city lights in the distance, and hearing the wind whistling, swaying the branches of the tress at the park across the road, the shock was setting in. He was going to be alone. After fifty years with the love of his life she was slipping away; her breath raspy, her face as white as the snow in winter, her skin clammy.

“Jock, is …that…you?” oh she sounded so tired.

“Aye Marilyn, I’m here love.” he took her hand.

“It won’t be long now.” she said “I’m ready… to go.” she looked straight at him “wee Meg’s music…box.” it was an effort to speak “send it to her.”

“Aye, love. I fix it…” Jock said sadly. The dull tone of the monitor told him what he knew instinctively.

Widowhood had just begun. Looking up again facing the window, conscious of the nurse behind him, he remembered the day he saw an opportunity and took it with both hands. Their neighbours emigrated, he and Marilyn moved into the bigger flat Meg had left something precious behind. Finally found, he had to get it back to her.

CIRCA 1965

Guess what?” Jock Shaw burst into the tenement flat he shared with his wife of ten years.

“You’ve won a million pounds!” Marilyn suggested as she continued to count the stitches of the cardigan she was knitting.

“I wish because we might need it,” he replied

“Eh?” Marilyn looked up “is your job, okay?”

Jock laughed and patted her shoulder lightly.

“You do not need to take extra hours at the shop yet, love; the job is fine. I have been speaking to Bob.”

“Next door?” asked Marilyn

“Who else?” asked Jock, “he tells me they have applied to emigrate!”

Marilyn looked shocked. Though the neighbours were not terribly close, she thought she might have heard sooner than this.

“He always had a hankering for Australia,” said Marilyn “I can’t imagine Kate wanting to go, she loves Glasgow, and with a wee lassie and new baby…” her voice trailed off “what can he be thinking?”

“Probably of the children love. Meg is five now and Australia would be a better place for her to grow up. As for the baby…”

“Luke.” supplied Marilyn

“Aye Luke, he will be fine. Besides Aussie rules football is not bad, even if the ball is egg-shaped!”

“Jock, have a listen to yourself.”

“What?” Jock had two loves in his life; Marilyn and sport.

Later he had a thought and asked Marilyn

“What is the name of the owner of this flat? I think he owns theirs too.”

“Yes, he does,” said Marilyn “hold on I will get the card.” she went over to the dresser where most of the important documents were hidden.

“You don’t want to know why I’m interested?”

“To ascertain the possibility of moving into their flat?” laughed Marilyn, handing him the card. Jock laughed also.

The flats in the tenement all had bathrooms complete with water closets, except theirs. It indeed was a relic of the old days and while the Shaws’ kept it clean, a visit to that place chilled you to the bone for about nine months of the year.

Jock rang the number and waited.

“Good afternoon, reception, this is Sandra.”

Oh, good afternoon, Sandra, my name is John Shaw, most folks call me Jock. Could I speak to or make an appointment to see Mr McTavish please?”

“Certainly, Sir which one? There is Mr Andrew McTavish or Mr Robert McTavish”

“Oh, Andrew please.” Jock heard a polite command to wait, then:

“Andrew McTavish speaking.” he was quiet while Jock spoke, “ah Mr Shaw I had a feeling you would be calling.”

Meg’s father had always spoken of Australia in glowing terms; how warm it was, how big it was.  When he took Meg to the circus to cheer her after illness, they were allowed to see the animals in their cages. Lions, bears and in one of the cages was a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch.  To young Meg, the mummy kangaroo was so enormous, she could not believe her eyes. One man saw her, smiled and said hello.

“Is this kangaroo from Australia?” Meg asked him

“Why yes love, and see that cage over there to your left…that furry thing in the tree is a Koala.”

“Oh yes I know that.” the five-year-old Meg said wisely. “Daddy has a toy koala he brought back from Australia.  He’s called Bonza.”

“Is that a fact?” said the man whom she later found out was one of the clowns, she would know, he was not wearing makeup.

“I was in the Merchant Navy,” Bob mumbled by way of explanation.

“Will you be going back?” the man asked looking at Bob Morgan quizzically.

“Someday” answered Bob wistfully “I have not convinced my wife yet.”

“Give her time, Mate. Scotland is a lovely country too.” he patted Meg’s shoulder, “enjoy the show.” He was a nice man, she thought, though he spoke “funny”. It was her first introduction to the Australian accent.  

Going home her father talked about Australia, that people from Britain were being encouraged to make a new life there or in Canada. Then they passed a shop that had tins of fruit produced in Australia, but Daddy could not explain why the letters “Au” sounded like “O’ in pronunciation. Daddy did not know everything, and Meg was disappointed. 

Soon after this incident, Marilyn bumped into Kate. She was her usual cheery self and looked into the pram where Luke was sleeping, and smiled.

“Hello, Kate,” said Marilyn “how are things?”

“Oh, we are fine,” Kate answered, “how are you and Jock?”

“Oh, Jock’s fine very busy, but that’s okay; you except that in the police force, I just muddle along.”

“Wish I could. Did I tell you Bob has resigned from his job effective from mid-April?”

“Has he? I assume for a better…”

“No, not this time Marilyn; we sail out on the first of May.”

“To Australia! How did Bob convince you, Kate?” Marilyn looked shocked.

“With difficulty, but Meg has talked non-stop about Australia since she went to the circus with Bob and saw a real live kangaroo.”

They laughed, reaching their front doors, both anxious to get inside out of the cold, Marilyn asked:

“What does Bob’s mother think?”

“Last I heard she was making enquiries to venture with us.”

“Plucky woman,” said Marilyn in admiration. “Kate, would you mind if we made enquiries about taking over the tenancy of your flat?”

“Not at all you always said you wanted something bigger”

“Aye the modern amenities would be a blessing too.” they laughed

“I must dash it is Meg’s birthday and we are having her favourite dinner…chicken.”

“Tell her Happy Birthday from us,” said Marilyn 

The birthday dinner was cooking beautifully, but Meg had a job to do. She opened all the cards methodically then her eyes feasted on the enormous gift duly wrapped and clearly from her parents, Inside was a music box. If you twisted the big Kangaroo, a tune played indeed several tunes all nursery rhymes. Meg was fascinated. It did not matter what other gifts were there, she focused on the music box. Bob and Kate were not surprised. This little girl was destined to live in Australia. Kate had misgivings.

Several months later, the big day of departure to Melbourne loomed.  Kate Bob and Mrs Morgan packed feverishly. The Shaws had arranged for the Morgans to have dinner with them the night before departure and breakfast the next day.  Somehow in the excitement, the music box was left behind. Meg cried for days, and though time healed she always wondered if she would see it again.

When the Shaws moved into the flat they recognised the toy and kept it in the proverbial safe place. It was too expensive to send overseas but Bob vowed he would get it back. He thought he would catch up with the Shaws, one day.  Though they wrote he never made it. Marilyn found it and had started to make arrangements to send it.

Meg was having a nap one afternoon, so deep was the sleep she was dreaming. She was back in the tenement flat where she had lived with her parents prior to the decision to emigrate. Mr and Mrs Shaw were looking after her because Mummy was busy packing and it was easier to watch television at the neighbours’ house. It was the Flintstones and all her young life Meg loved the Flintstones. It appeared Mr Shaw liked it too, he was greatly amused by what he saw.  There was a knock at the door in fact it was persistent and irritating. Was Mrs Shaw not going to…?

“Meg, Meg darling,” it was her husband Ross “someone’s at the door.”

Opening the door Meg smiled

“Mrs Baker? Meg Baker?” the young woman asked

“Yes, that’s me.”

“This is for you; it is heavy.”

She thanked the lass and closed the door. Turning she saw Ross approach, clearly riddled with curiosity.

“Open it Meg.” he said,” otherwise you will drive me daft!”

She duly opened the attached letter.  She could not stand the thought that her darling would be driven any dafter than he already was; after all, he was married to her, and that would try anyone’s patience.

“Well!” said Ross “do enlighten me, darling.”

“It’s from Jock Shaw, our neighbour in….” she said almost on automatic pilot “Ross, Marilyn is dead. I don’t believe this.”

“What she was bound to die one day…” he smiled “why would this affect you?”

“Ross it’s been found.” Meg looked up at him “the music box has been found….” she opened the package, brought the contents out and twisted the kangaroo key several times. It was old but the tune was recognisable. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

To his credit, Ross looked just as surprised as Meg felt. She started to weep, tears of pure joy.

June 11, 2021 06:09

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