A Life

The phone rang in the hall, but it wasn’t for him. It never was now, Graham thought, and froze momentarily, holding his hand over the receiver. He felt a tremor of disquiet run over him as the thought of a blank future intruded itself. Then he quickly pushed the thought away, like a man stepping back in terror from a gaping hole that had opened up without warning beneath his feet.

“Sue? Sue! It’s for you!”

A voice came distantly from the kitchen.

“Who is it? Tell them I’ll call back.”

He put the phone to his ear again.

“Hello? Fiona? Could you call back in a little while? Sue’s up to her armpits in something in the kitchen. Fine. Thanks.”

He went back to his armchair and sat down, puffing a bit. The wobbly feeling in his stomach had somehow transferred itself to his chest. He picked up the paper he’d been scanning, then after a minute put it down again, unable to concentrate.

Sue had so many friends and so many activities, committees, meetings to deal with, that he couldn’t keep up. She was far busier than he was. This wouldn’t do.

This retirement thing had got to be addressed, faced up to, dealt with. It wasn’t just going to happen by itself. The comfortable picture he’d had of a retirement in which his former partners from the office, or his secretary, or even the odd client, would call him up to discuss ongoing legal problems and situations, asking advice or at least having a discussion, hadn’t materialised at all. In fact it had been - what, six months now? - since the retirement ceremony, and he couldn’t recall a single occasion when he’d been consulted about anything at all. No, that wasn’t quite true. Mike Jones had rung to ask him if by mistake he’d still got the key to the store cupboard in the office hall, because he’d left his tennis things in there last year and couldn’t get the door open.

Oh, Graham had called in once or twice when he was in town and passing the office - well, he’d made a special journey pretty well every week if he was being perfectly honest - and although they were all very jolly and friendly with him, no conversation ever lasted more than a couple of minutes before the other person had to turn away to deal with some more pressing matter. Even Duncan, the new senior partner, had been a bit brisk last time. Why don’t you take up a hobby, old boy? he’d said quite crossly. Sailing or stamp collecting or something. Or go and write your memoirs. “My Greatest Cases” - that sort of thing? No shortage of those, surely. Give you something to put your mind on.

Graham struck the arm of the chair with his fist, then regretted because it hurt his chest. Yes! That was it! He’d write his autobiography. There’d be a big demand for it. All his friends would buy a copy, and a lot of other people too. Now, what should he call it? Some clever punning legal term, perhaps.

Already his brain was starting to whizz through the legal challenges he had faced and overcome throughout the years. There was the Boreham Bikeshop murder, that was a good one. And the Letchmore Heath bigamist. And that long drawn out affair when it turned out his client, one of his oldest golfing friends, had been steadily milking the local Round Table Christmas charity funds for years. But of course he would start with his early days as an articled clerk in the City of London, when they still wore bowler hats and stiff white collars....

Excited now, he rose to his feet, intent on going to his study and digging out some files. But he must have moved too quickly, and had to stop, gasping for air, his hands gripping the back of the sofa for support. The pain in his chest became acute, and his forehead felt sweaty. After a minute he tried to call “Sue! Sue!” , but it came out as a whisper. Everything was turning black. Then the room spun crazily round him as he crashed to the floor, and everything he had ever done or remembered vanished for ever.

Richard Vaughan-Davies

I retired to the Cotswolds ten years ago after selling the retail business in North Wales which I had built up over forty long years. Fortunately for my sanity most of my time was spent creating advertising copy and promotions, which dramatically increased the business and taught me the power of words. Being a member of the Chippy Writers’ Group encouraged me to attempt a lifelong ambition to write a novel. Recently published, In the Shadow of Hitler is a romance set in the ruins of bombed-out Hamburg in 1946.

... more

More from this writer