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Fiction Friendship

It was early January, the day after my seventieth birthday in fact, when the call came. Robby announced himself on the other end of the phone and I struggled to remember who he was. He must have heard the uncertainty in my voice and said,

“You know, it’s me, Robby - Gordon’s friend, from Brisbane.”

“Yes, of course. How are you?” I replied, trying to sound convincing.

“I’m afraid I have some bad news; Gordon passed away this morning.” Silence.

Gordon, a mutual friend, had recently suffered a stroke and had been hospitalised for several weeks. He’d become paralysed down his left side and was not making a good recovery. I remember saying to Peter, another mutual friend, as we left his bedside after one of the few visits we managed to make, that he wasn’t going to come good. In fact, he had deteriorated and now his speech was beginning to fail. He was a pitiful sight and I felt so sad at seeing him in this condition. “Wish I could slip him a pill to put him out of his misery,” I confided and Pete nodded in silent agreement.

Gordon had lived alone for the past few years after separating from his wife. It had been a brave decision to call it quits after so many years of marriage but, for reasons only they knew, it was no longer working and they had decided to live apart. They remained married and, as far as I knew, hadn’t even considered going through the trauma of a divorce. I remembered trying to get Gordon to open up and tell me more about it when we were on a bit of a binge one night, just out of idle curiosity, but he resisted, became very evasive, and even my best scotch wouldn’t loosen his tongue.

Peter and I had come to know Gordon through the local bowls club and he had eventually introduced us to Robby who often came down from Brisbane to visit. We were known by many of the club members as ‘The Boys’ and we often went out for a meal or a few drinks together – four old geezers enjoying each other’s company and too old to chase a bit of skirt so making do with a bit of booze instead.

Robby had known Gordon since before he was married and was closer to him than the rest of us and, even though he lived further away, Gordon had entrusted a set of his flat keys to him just in case something like this should happen. During his convalescence from the stroke, he had asked Robby to clean up the flat before his wife and other family members got in there. Robby asked me to help and we went over there one day to go through his stuff.

There wasn’t much to clean up – he seemed to live a fairly spartan existence but we did find a locked chest under his bed. On later enquiring about this with Gordon, he had given Robby a key to the chest and, without any further explanation, told him to dispose of the contents as he thought fit. The day after Gordon died, Robby came down from Brisbane and asked me to accompany him to the flat again saying that he was going to open the mystery chest. I think he wanted a witness present in case it was full of gold bullion or something!

We retrieved the chest from under the bed and I noticed Robby’s hand shaking as he inserted the key into the lock. It wasn’t a huge chest but it looked very old and was covered in brass studs. I think we both held our breath as he turned the key and opened the lid. A bit of an anti-climax – it was just filled with assorted papers - sheets of musty old paper! Some were receipts and some were house plans. There were faded photos, old letters and crumpled old sketches of different projects that Gordon must have worked on decades ago when he was a draughtsman.

“We might as well just burn the lot,” said Robby disdainfully. “It’s just a load of old rubbish.”

“Wait”, I insisted, “we really should go through it carefully; you never know what you’ll find.”

We spent the next half hour sifting through piles of yellow musty paper and, as we had suspected, it was just an old man’s life reduced to two-dimensional paper format.

Right at the bottom of the chest however, I came across a sealed envelope with the initials M. K. written on it. I assumed that it was Gordon’s handwriting though I had no way of knowing. I showed it to Robby, “Wonder what’s in here,” I said.

“Well you’ll never know if you don’t bloody look,” was his terse response.

So with that I tore the envelope open, hoping I wasn’t going to rip any of the contents in the process. I found just one sheet of notepaper folded in half and within it was a photograph of a handsome young man. The photo was a faded sepia colour and when I looked closely I could see it was none other than Gordon in the bloom of youth.

The notepaper contained a short message in beautiful script:

To my darling M.

It breaks my heart that I will never see you again. 

Take this photo and think of me sometimes.


I turned the photo over and was intrigued by what was written there in the same beautiful handwriting as the note.

I read it out to Robby:

           ‘And truly, I’m not worried

           That I’ll never touch a star

           For stars belong in Heaven

           And earth is where you are’  

Robby’s eyes seemed to cloud over and he looked across at me without speaking. The old mantle clock struck three and broke what seemed like an awful long silence. Slowly, we stuffed all the papers into a duffle bag and I slipped the note and photo into my pocket, already wondering what long-forgotten story they could tell.

Then we tidied up the bedroom and closed the door quietly behind us... 

July 19, 2021 08:52

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1 comment

Tom Skye
12:09 Feb 19, 2024

Nice story about love and friendship. The subject matter of death could have made this very sad, but the love the MCs had for Gordon, and that Gordon had for his wife was touching. Effective use of the little poem towards the end. I enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing


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