First and Third Saturday

gray concrete cross on green grass field during daytime
Image by Waldemar Brandt found on Unsplash

This was first posted some time ago, and was inspired, in a way, by my late grandmother’s dedication to the family graves and how, as a small child, they seemed like such an adventure and expedition, with a ritual tidying of the grave and a milkshake on the way home.

The first and third Saturday are set in stone

And nothing may disturb them.

It is inviolable that she goes, through wind and weather

No let or hindrance permitted

First the train ride, then the bus,

Then the long walk up the wooded hill.

Dragging the flowers and the cleaning kit

Into the murmuring cemetery.

It is a ritual, disposing of the old flowers from the grave

The browned leaves and petals on the heap,

The washing of the neat urn on the grave

The snipping of the stems

The flowers renewed, she wipes the headstone,

Trims the edges, picks up the gravel

Waters the tiny alpines in the cracks

Brushes off the dead leaves.

Nothing stops the pilgrimage.

And once the grave is neatened, then she sits and reads

Perhaps in the shelter near the church

Perhaps on the stone seat near the tree

The first and third Saturday are hers, defended

And who could argue against tending to a grave.

Who’s grave?  She doesn’t know but cares

Because they gave the gift

Of the first and third Saturday, unassailable.

Wanderer in the Mist

brown leafless trees on brown field
Image from Unsplash taken by DimitriyAnikin

The wanderer couldn’t believe how long he had been walking in the woods. It felt like days. The mist between the silver trees softened the edges of the world and blurred any sounds into a faint hiss. Everything looked the same and the faint echoes of song that tantalised him on the edge of his hearing were impossible to place. He paused and put a tentative hand on the ice cold trunk of a tree. Perhaps he had passed it before. He couldn’t tell. He had tried arranging stones on the paths to see if he was going in circles but when he found the stones again they were not quite the same as he remembered. They had been a little jumbled and he couldn’t be sure if they were the stones he had left there or not.

He regretted taking the dare. Everyone said that the lane led to Fairyland if you went on a full moon on May Day Eve. He hadn’t wanted to go but Harry had dared him and he hadn’t wanted to look scared. He stopped again and leant against a tree. It was funny. He didn’t feel hungry or thirsty, but he was sure he had been here most of the night. He shivered.

He looked around. It felt like days but there was no sign of dawn. Perhaps the mist was hiding it. He looked around. He didn’t remember this fork in the path. Perhaps that was the way out. He frowned. He could hear voices! He finally could hear voices!

“I don’t know, father.” The voice of a young man said. “The signs are mounting up. There is something coming to Leeds and I’m not sure what.”

“I do not wish to believe it, Steve.” An older voice said. “But I fear it is true.”

The wanderer ran towards them. “Hey, hey there! Can you help me? I’m lost.” He ran into the clearing and then stumbled to a halt. A tall, dark man with devilish green eyes was dressed in what looked like Medieval armour and was facing a slim man in a sharp suit.

“I am Lord Marius,” the man in armour said. “This is my son, Steve Adderson. Why are you here?”

“Harry dared me.” The wanderer looked between the two men. “This is Fairyland, right?”

“Yes, it is.” Steve looked at him. “Have you been here long?”

The wanderer smiled ruefully. “It seems like days. Do you know the way out? It’s just that if I’m out too late my mam won’t let me listen to the coronation on the radio.”

“Coronation?” Lord Marius asked, amused.

“Yes, King George VI. He’ll do a better job and at least he’s married to a proper lady.” The wanderer looked between the two men and their suddenly set expressions. “What’s the matter?”

“I’ll explain it.” Steve said. “I’ll meet up later, father.” He turned to the wanderer. “We need to get out of this domain and have a long talk. What’s your name?”

The wanderer stared at him for a long moment. He had come into Fairyland, some time ago. He had come because of a dare from Harry. He wanted to get back to listen to the coronation on the radio and he couldn’t if his mam was cross and he seemed to have been wandering for a long time. Those thoughts had run a track around his mind for longer than it seemed, with nothing else on his mind. “I can’t remember.”

Kitty!

closeup photo of brown tabby cat
Image from Unsplash taken by Diana Parkhouse

“Come on, kitty, come for a cuddle,” Kane hoped he didn’t sound as helpless as he felt.

“Can you see him?” Adele called over his shoulder.

“He seems to be stuck behind the bookcase,” Kane said, “Come on, Kitler, come on.”

“I’ve never liked cats,” Adele said, trying to get a look. “But when my aunt died, well, I couldn’t let him go to a shelter. I mean, my aunt loved the evil creature.”

Kane stared helplessly at the ghost of the cat. The ghost stared back. Kane recognised the expression of bland assurance, the hint of secret wisdom and knowledge, and the pause of waiting for a thought to turn up between the furry ears. “Come on, Kitler, there’s a good kitty.”

“He was supposed to be called Sam, but after he terrorised next door’s rottweiler and dropped a live rat in front of the vicar, we thought Kitler was more appropriate.” Adele said. “He was a bit of a character.”

Kane reached out and tickled Kitler under his ghostly chin. The cat snuggled down onto the cuddle and edged forward. “He sounds a little difficult.” He could hear the phantasmal purr echoing.

“Do you know, the first week he was here, he chased a postman down the path,” Adele said with a hint of pride. “We had to collect all our post in the end, and we were blacklisted by Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

“Who’s a good kitty?” Kane said, as the spirit of the cat edged closer.

“I didn’t expect to miss him when he went, but I do,” Adele sighed. “I wonder if that held him back from crossing the Rainbow Bridge?”

“I think he was still happy here,” Kane said, watching the shade of Kitler push blissfully against his tickling fingers.

“I suppose so,” Adele said. “I mean, next door’s Alsatian still runs away from the post where Kitler used to sit. But he makes such a noise at night, racing around and knocking things over. It’s like he never left.”

Kane looked at the smug spirit in front of him. That’s why the ghost hadn’t moved on. He was having too much fun terrorising the household to want to see what happened next. “He is a strong character.” Any minute now, Kane thought. Any minute now the purr will turn to a hiss. I wonder if he can still scratch?

“But I’m not getting any sleep, and it’s unnerving having a ghost in the house.” Adele said. “So can you do something?”

“I’ve only really done people,” Kane said, pulling his hand back quickly as the cuddle turned instantly into an attack. Kitler glared at him. “I’m not sure how to get a ghost cat safely over.”

“Could you bribe him with ghost treats?” Adele asked. “He used to do anything for Dreamies.”

Kane stood up. “To be honest, I really don’t know what to do.” He looked around. “Aunt Brenda, do you have any ideas?”

The ghost of his foster mother tickled Kitler behind the ears. “What a sweetie. I wish I could take him home with me.”

“I’ll take it from here, my good woman!” A disembodied voice rang out before a spectral figure shimmered into view.

“Aunt Charlotte,” Adele whispered, holding on to the back of the chair.

“You can see her?” Kane asked.

“People always said I had a presence,” Aunt Charlotte said smugly. “And now I’ve come for my Sam before he gets exorcised or some such nonsense.” She grabbed Kitler firmly around the middle and hoisted him, unprotesting and stunned, into her arms. “He’s coming home with his mummy.” She turned to Adele. “You did your best for mummy’s little kitty. You should get that painting I left you valued, the one that you put in the spare bedroom.” She sniffed. “If you appreciated art, you would already know about it. The certificate of authenticity is tucked behind the frame at the back.”

Adele and Kane watched the ghost of Aunt Charlotte with her malevolent companion fade from view.

“Have they definitely gone?” Adele asked. “I mean, both of them?”

Kane smiled reassuringly. “I’m pretty sure that they won’t come back either.” He watched Adele sag with relief.

Auntie Brenda nodded in approval. “You’re going to find it very quiet around here now,” she said. “Perhaps you should get another cat.”

Kane decided that was one message he was not going to pass on.