In death his father had accomplished something that he was unable to do while living. He had summoned Michael home. Returning for the funeral had taken its toll, disturbing memories that had long settled and tactically been ignored. There had been multiple offers of support but he had wanted to make the trip alone; the unpredictability of his emotions threatening to destroy his carefully constructed persona. He had long ago walked away from the sleepy seaside town his father had chosen to make home. Having quickly outgrown the confines of an intimate community, he had envied the transient nature of the seasonal visitors. Those able to escape their everyday lives for a couple of weeks at a time, just long enough for them to acknowledge that they actually missed it. His early fumbles on the beach had been less about the journey into young adulthood and more about the stories of grey cities and his yearning for freedom and anonymity.
He had chosen to stay at one of the new hotel chains that had infiltrated the area. An act of defiance on his part and one that had not gone unnoticed; “Oh Mickey you should have said. You’re always welcome at ours.” The use of the name Mickey caused an involuntary shrug of his shoulders as if trying to dislodge it. Nobody knew him as Mickey in his real life. He had pre-empted many things over the days leading up to the funeral but he had forgotten his old name and all that it represented. He had been asked if he wanted to “say a few words” at the funeral and he had declined, not having anything to say. To simply stand up and say goodbye seemed unnecessary. The eulogy was of a man Michael neither related to nor recognised.
He declined the invitations to attend the wake, ignoring the disapproving looks. As always the community wanted something from him that he was unwilling to give. Instead he walked back to his hotel stopping for chips along the way. Waiting for him in his room was the opened bottle of Famous Grouse that he had liberated from his father’s bedsit, the only thing of his father’s that he had felt compelled to save. Pouring himself a generous measure he toasted the end of a chapter that had long awaited completion-the end of a story that he would never revisit.
Having asked for a onetime favour from a friend of his father, Michael climbed into the front car of the roller coaster train. Even before the line of cars started to move he could taste the sea spray on his lips. As the coaster rumbled its way slowly up the track he looked out towards the sea and was struck with awe by its rolling grey hills. Looking down at the urn in his lap he said “it looks unforgiving today dad.”