Oh, hello. I’ve been expecting you. Come in, sit down, make yourself comfortable. Here I am, the corpse-in-waiting. I may not be moving much, I may be breathing like a knackered vacuum cleaner, I may be unable to speak out loud and I may smell of piss, but I assure you that, for now at least, my mind is fully functional. I know what’s going on.
I’m dying. Well, you know that. That’s why you’re here. Looks like today will be my last hurrah. And what a hurrah it is, lying here in puke-coloured pyjamas while my daughter tries to spoonfeed me yoghurt. She’s forgotten to change my bag, although I daresay she’ll remember when it starts seeping onto the bedsheets.
I’ve spent the last few days trying to concoct some famous last words, a rousing couple of sentences that will be forever remembered; inspirational words to change the lives of all who hear them. And I’ve actually got some. Unfortunately it took me too long to think of them, and now I can’t say a bloody thing. Life’s a bitch. Those aren’t the words I’m talking about by the way, but it’s true nonetheless.
I didn’t know you’d be able to hear my thoughts. It’s nice to have someone able to understand me in these last hours. I like your cowl. Very… black. And the scythe is just how I imagined it. I tried to buy a scythe once; I dropped it in the shop and cut my little toe off. Never go to hardware stores in sandals, that’s my advice. Those would be good last words too. Then I spent hours in the hospital, only to be told they couldn’t put it back on again. Bloody amateurs run the hospitals in this country these days. Do you really have time to sit and listen to me natter on? I might be here for a while yet. You know your own business, I guess. Do you know how lo–? No? OK. Madam over here can’t see you, I notice. Probably for the best, she always was a bit sensitive. Oh, she’s dropped the bloody yoghurt on the rug. Yoghurt never comes out, not properly. Off she goes to get some damp towels. Hurry up, love, it’s getting properly in the fibres.
So… busy day today? Lots of… scything? You don’t give much away, do you? Ah, she’s back again. Wait, wait, those are the good towels, don’t use those. Oh, for… Scrub, scrub, scrub… look, she’s wrecking them, and she’s just making the stain worse. Rub in spirals, girl, that’s how you get stains out. Oh, look at the mess. It cost me a lot of money, this rug. I bought it from a posh old furniture shop in London; it once belonged to some obscure European monarch or other, years ago. I told Sarah – this is Sarah, by the way, scrub harder, lass – that, and she said they have just same rugs in Ikea. She’s never appreciated the finer things in life, that’s her trouble. Still, at least she cares. She’s been here for me day in, day out, these last few months, wiping me, brushing my hair, reading to me, cleaning my tooth. She’s a good’un really, not like those sons of mine. Rotten, the pair of them. I mean, neither of them has come to visit. Here I am, desiccating by the second, and can they be arsed to even pop round for five minutes? Course not. They’re too busy. Number one son’s too tied up with his stupid trendy cocktail bar, and number two’s got his social media consultancy, whatever that is. Not that I want them here, couldn’t stand them when I was healthy, can’t stand them now. They were fine when they were kids, then they grew up and buggered off and we hardly saw them again except when they wanted money. Then they set up their businesses – which surprised the hell out of me, I thought between them they had about as much brainpower as a gnat’s chuff, but they did it – and did well off them, so after that they didn’t even bother to phone at Christmas. They popped up when their mum died with a bunch of sunflowers – sunflowers! At a funeral! – and then disappeared again. I wonder if they’ll turn up for my do. At least I won’t have to see them myself then.
There’s the doorbell. Off she goes. Now if this were some sort of comedy on the telly, I’d have given that rant about not wanting them in my house, then the bell would go and it would be them on the step.
It better bloody not be them on the step.
So it was them on the step. You heard all that, I suppose. Coming round here, pretending to care how I am, then suddenly changing the subject to what’s happening to the house when you take me to wherever the hell, ha ha, I’m going. When are you taking me, by the way? These bedsores really are giving me jip. Sarah here tried to get them both to shut up, fair play to her. She deserves the place, she really does, and that’s what my will says. But I know those two, they’re greedy, grasping little swines. They’ll challenge it, and seeing as they’ve got more cash than they know what to do with – son number one bought a speedboat last year, a speedboat, he lives in fucking Nottingham for crying out loud, in a top floor flat, god knows where he keeps the thing – they’ll have better lawyers than she will, so they’ll probably win. Anyway, they kept on about the house, how much it might be worth, getting it valued once I die. I don’t suppose they’re towards the top of your to-do list, are they? No, I don’t reckon they are. Son number two especially is despicably healthy, he lives off raw eggs and radish smoothies, made from organic radishes of course. Mind you, maybe if I’d done that, I wouldn’t be here now, with you making eyes at me. If you have eyes, that is, it’s hard to tell under that hood of yours. Then son number one moaned about me smelling of piss, and they both left, telling madam to “call us when it happens”. ‘It’, like it’s not a big deal. It’s not to them, I suppose. So it’s just me and her again. Well, and you, of course. Oh, look, that stain’s still in the rug. That’s never coming out now. I loved that rug.
Hang on, was that me?
‘Dad? Dad! You’re talking! Speak to me again, Dad!’
Hey, does this mean I’m not going to die yet after all? Does it? You’re shaking your head. Oh. No, don’t stand up. Don’t come over here… look, do I have time for those words now? Don’t just shrug your shoulders. I’d have thought a man… person… thing that meets so many people would be better at communicating, to be honest. You’re not exactly a welcoming ambassador for the afterlife! Okay, okay, hang on, I’ll do it now!’
‘I… have to say…’
‘What, Dad, what is it?’
And now I’m having a coughing fit. Brilliant. The last chance to get these words out and my lungs are trying to leap out past my gums and make a break for it. Come on, Jim, get a grip. God’s sake, I can’t stop!
Let me finish coughing! Don’t you raise that scythe now, I need to say this! Don’t you dare! I want to say my famous last words, like Nelson or King George the Fifth! My history-making, epoch-defining words! Don’t swing that scythe! Don’t! Oh, you… you…
‘You bloody bastard!’
Bugger, did I say that out loud?