The Visitor


They gathered in his small flat the day after the funeral.

Giants in a dolls’ house.

Quiet. Bereft.

A magpie warbled in the tree outside the kitchen window.

As if it were any other day of the week.

Noisy trucks came and went from the shopping mall opposite.

As did patients from the surgery beneath his flat, pushing prams, pulling along reluctant toddlers.

Or suited up, briskly walking.

His children began the task of removing the remains of his personal life.

Sorting and packing, his personality drifting up from everything they touched.

Their private activity a contrast to the public formalities the day before.

A fitting end to a hectic week of burying the dead.

The meagre remains of his fridge were expired; containers of soup stacked like toy blocks in the freezer.

Each meticulously labelled in spidery doctor’s writing.

One daughter thought of taking them home. Then cursed herself for the absurdity of it.

Eating a dead man’s food!

A kookaburra visited when they stopped for lunch, searching out its benefactor among the unfamiliar faces.

He had fed it every day. Until recently.

The bird watched from its’ leafy outpost – a stand of blue gums that bordered the property.

The offspring were still sorting at dusk. Then a son found a card in the kitchen drawer amongst neatly ironed tea towels.

It was inscribed to my sweetheart, a room away from the other letters on his writing desk.

He thought of the years his father had spent on his own since cancer took their mother. And smiled.

Not so alone after all.