This one’s a little bit different, more a good memory I want to share with you all and hopefully will cheer some people up. Enjoy!
Edit: Realised too late the prompt said start the story with the pointing out of spring, rather than end.
The sound of the phone calling reverberated through my car speakers as I cursed myself yet again for having the music too loud. Two beeps and it hangs up, opening the gate that bars my entry to the works yard. I do a lot of cursing in the morning, for multiple reasons. Always waking up just in the nick of time, causing the typical morning rush to beat the clock. Curse. Trying to creep downstairs to avoid rousing the house, stand on the creaky floorboard I've been fixing for months but have never actually done. Curse. Realising I’ve forgotten my lunch and having to turn around. Curse. You get the gist.
But the biggest curse is getting out of the car in the morning, walking through the black yard to get to the canteen. Always done tentatively since all the old timers have convinced me the yard is haunted, the man creeping around when it's dark. With my job, every morning is early enough to be dark. The spotlights always coming on a fraction too late, tricking your eyes in to seeing the 'ghost' they try to persuade me there is. Course, it's a load of bollocks, but you try telling yourself that at 5am in the pitch black.
I begin to rush as the outside light to the canteen becomes visible, glancing at the eerie bushes to the side, leaves whispering to announce my passing. Punch in the code in a fluster, wrench the handle down and leap through the door, letting it slam behind me as I fumble for the light to the side. Light flashes on and I can breathe again. Someone has left the radio playing, as per tradition. Gotta give old ghosty something to listen to.
"Morning Ted, another day in paradise" I say to the smiling picture of an old friend pinned to the wall. A pang of sadness as it hits home again that I'll never speak to that old friend again, followed by the feeling of idiocy as it sinks in that I've just said good morning to a picture. Shrugging my shoulders with a small smile, I got a crisp new set of overalls from my locker and ventured back in to the ghostly yard, the beginnings of dawn greeting me over the tops of the previously ominous bushes.
Tension easing slightly with the dim light, I walk at a leisurely pace past the office windows, glancing at the red-painted planter that the same old friend had built in his day. Ted's Garden. The sign stood proudly awaiting its spring time friends, which currently lurked beneath the soil biding their time, planted mere days before by the garden’s new tender. Standing waiting for my pickup, I let my mind begin to wander, inevitably going towards the man who’s brightened my morning. We called him Ted, but his name was Paul. It’s great how English nicknames work, reversing a whole name because he looked like somebody off a TV program. He was a man who never stopped smiling, who would do anything for you, who came up with sayings that the rest of you remember and say in turn. That last one always brought a grin from the team, all knowing the source.
He was the only man I knew that could be a friend, a teacher and a parent all rolled in to one. He taught me so much about our profession and never failed to make time to show you more. His insistence to teach me knots even though I always failed miserably was always an eye roller. It’s been three years since we lost him, and every year we’ve been for a drink in his town. He always got a huge turnout; his daughters joined the party each time and danced the night away, at least until Covid got in the way.
Thinking of Covid brought another curse, ripping those memories away. A few of us have had it, luckily not seriously. Probably took the isolation time as a blessing to be at home with our families, I know I did. But all the new rules and regulations stopped us meeting our wider families, our friends and new people. Stopping this particular night out was just one of the things we missed, the reminiscing of a great man’s life and the things he did for us.
As the faint light slowly began to give birth to the suns first real rays, my eyes were drawn to the grass verge, opposite to his private garden. Every day, he would walk on this verge and pick up half the litter that mischievous birds had stolen out of the skip as their plaything; always leaving at least half of it there, winking as somebody mentioned he’d missed a bit and saying “Saving some for later, lads”. But one thing we didn’t know, was that during this small clean up each day, he’d scattered seeds. These seeds sprouted each spring, and the glittering light triumphantly illuminated the heads of Ted’s daffodils, running wild on the verge.
Clanging broke my reverie as the gate opened to admit another passenger, in the van that would carry me away from the sight. The rumbling of the engine finished the daydreams about my old friend, as my Dad pulled up to the side of me looking as grumpy as I probably did ten minutes earlier. Least he likes coffee. I jump in the van and gesture to the verge.
“Ted’s back again Dad” I say, knowing that each mention keeps him alive in our hearts, as the daffodils bloom and time moves on. We both take a moment to appreciate the man who was family to us all, then began to leave towards another day in paradise, as we like to joke. Looking in the mirrors of the van, I take one last peek at those glowing heads and smile.
“Miss you, mate” I mutter under my breath. But I know I'll see him again, each spring.