It was a cotton-wooly day.
“It’s still bloody November,” said Jimmy out aloud, checking the calendar as he did so. “Who’s sending out cards so early?” He picked the envelope up off the mat. “Hmmm, quality. Expensive. Someone’s splashing out,” he thought.
He looked out the window. Cotton wool everywhere. And starting to come in through the windows. “Wow!” he said to himself.
Jimmy’s alright. Twenty six years old, decent job (insurance), good group of friends, blokes and the other, regular girlfriend Jenny; here’s Jimmy and Jenny they call out as the two of them wander into the boozer. Has his own two bedroomed flat in an up-and-coming area, well equipped kitchen from which he cooks up some great meals for friends or family and sometimes both. Medium sized car, economical but can give some voom if called for. Money in the bank, pension scheme and two holidays a year, one with Jenny and one with his mates. Takes care with his appearance without overdoing the deodorants.
Yeah, Jimmy Entwistle is sorted. Normal. No issues.
He picked up his letter opener, a prezzie from Jenny for their first “anniversary.” Silver, hallmarked, beautifully balanced. “The dame’s got taste”, he said to himself out the corner of his mouth.
Slit, slit, blade cutting through paper. Oh, not a Christmas card. An invitation to a funeral. Next Friday afternoon. Three o’clock. “Can do that. Who’s getting done?” Jimmy read the card. “Nah, that’s my name, I’m reading it wrong.” Confusion. You know the sort of thing. Lasts for a second or so and then you spot where you went wrong and give a little guffaw. But not this time! “Must be some other Jimmy E”. But RSVP to Mrs Elsie Entwistle, 14 Abercombe Drive. “What? Hold on. That’s me mum. What’s going on?”
A joke. A prank. In poor taste. “Especially when me mum’s name is used”. He pulled out his mobile and punched the shortcut to Dave. Dave Caruthers, best mate through school and then after they came back from their respective uni’s. Dave at Leeds, He at Birmingham. Best of mates. And Dave married his sister Lizzie. Shared confidences and helped each other through the occasional bad times. “Head screwed on proper, is Dave,” thought Jimmy. “This doesn’t feel like his hand.”
He spoke, “Dave, nice one. But not too sure where it goes.”
“Jimmy!” said the handset. “Wasn’t expecting to hear from you. Big surprise. As you can imagine. Busy with the baba, but a quick chat, okay?”
“This funeral thingy. What’s the score?”
“Ah,” said the handset. “Speak to Lizzie. You really must. Now. She’ll be at your mum’s place. The family’s working on this together. Speak to her.”
Jimmy swiped at the air, trying to shift the cotton wool. “It’s a plot, they’re in it together. But I don’t see the fun side of it.”
He dialed Lizzie. “Hi Lizzie. This funeral thing. Nice one. I’ll be there. You want formal dress?”
A gasp from Lizzie, “Oh Jimmy, I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have got that. Big mistake and when I asked the post office to retrieve it they said it was too late. I tried to stop it, honestly, Jimmy. You must believe me.”
“Lizzie, stop, I can’t keep up … .”
“Oh Jimmy. We all loved you so much. And then this happens. How can we live without you? You can guess what it’s been like for mum. And Jenny. And me. Poor Jenny, widowed before she’s even wed. It’s a tragedy.”
“Lizzie, Lizzie, whoa, a joke too far… .”
“Please don’t Jimmy, don’t do this to us. It’s bad enough as it is. Don’t play games with us, it’s not fair. You know how much we all loved you, me and mum and Jenny. And Dave, he’s gone all peculiar, he also loved you. Jimmy, I’ve never known grief like this before. It’s totally overwhelming. For mum too. Our lives are no longer the same without you and that’s also true for a lot of other people. Over 100 people are coming on Friday, proper church service it’s going to be. It’s a big thing. And we’ll be playing I Did it My Way, of course, and Roy Orbison’s It’s Over. The whole thing’s helping us, it’s therapeutic. We’re handling it well, we’ll be okay, it’s just mum and her dodgy heart, we need to avoid any more shocks, you understand that. Mum says she’s never been happier in her life. God she loved you. You were a good son and a great brother, we miss you so much. Don’t spoil this for us. Don’t be cruel. Leave it, Jimmy. Leave it.”
That night Jimmy didn’t sleep too well.