Hello again. It’s been a while I know but I’ve been busy with family things. Anyway, I read this piece of flash fiction at the Rattle Tales show at Brighton Fringe. It was original written for Paragraph Planet (a brilliant website that publishes 75 word stories daily) but the story felt longer so I decided to expand it. It seems a fitting post for Father’s Day especially as my Dad isn’t here anymore. I’m sure many of you are missing your fathers today but eventually painful memories can become sweet and that was the idea behind Duet. This one is for you Dad.
I walk into town despite the deep snow. It’s a necessary trip; I’ve left it late to buy my son’s birthday present and stuff for his party tomorrow. Besides I like the crunch of snow under my boots, the tickle of fresh flakes on my face. Snow makes me feel alive; its cold brief beauty.
I finish what I have to do by eleven and I’m starting to feel the chill so I decide to thaw out in the M&S cafe.
The warm café is buzzing with shelter-seekers. Easy listening pipes loudly through the speakers – Wham, Chicago, Enrique – teaspoons chink on china and the coffee machines whirr.
I settle at a table, bags at my feet, sip my coffee and relax.
Ella Fitzgerald comes on, Every time We Say Goodbye. Ella Fitzgerald was my Dad’s favourite. ‘No one sings like Ella,’ he used to say. ‘She could shatter glass!’ And I’d always roll my eyes and say, ’must have been very inconvenient at parties.’ And then Dad would roll his eyes and we’d chuckle at our incompatibility.
A few lines in a man’s voice joins Ella’s from the corner table, softly at first, barely a murmur. I look over. It’s an old man. He’s wearing a stained jumper, brown shirt and tie, a bedraggled hunting hat is pulled low over his ears. His eyes are shut. His face deeply lined, rosy nose bulbous and pitted. A small tea sits untouched in front of him. His voice grows with the song, becoming deeper and more resonant. By the second chorus it booms clearly across the café, word-matched to Ella’s, rising and falling in time, the perfect duet. Everybody stops, even the baristas, and turns to watch him.
‘There’s no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor…’
The song ends too quickly and the man looks down at his tea-cup, failing to acknowledge the smattering of applause.
The Spice Girls are on next.