The second headstone had the spelling errors corrected, but the anger would not go away. Mollie said that it didn’t matter that the funeral home had arranged the replacement at no charge; they could still sue for emotional distress. Peter told Mollie to get over herself and let their mother rest in peace. Besides, she wouldn’t be so keen on suing if she bothered to earn some money rather than lying around with cucumbers on her eyes. Mollie said that chronic fatigue syndrome was to be taken seriously and before she could explain that cucumbers had been used by the Ancient Romans to raise energy levels he told her that chronic fatigue was serious in people who actually had it and she should just do something with her life.
At this point, the slamming of the door ended their argument. They gave each other looks of blame as they ran out after their father. He was striding quickly down the street to the shops.
“Where you going, Dad.”
“Go home. Both of you.”
“No, we’re here to support you, Dad.”
William snorted and rounded the corner. Mollie and Peter struggled to keep up.
“Look, at least let me cook you some tea.”
“I’m fine. I’ve got enough food for a lifetime in the freezer thanks to the ladies from the church.”
“I just don’t know that you should be alone.”
William stopped. He turned to his children. “I want to be alone. I crave to be alone. I’ve missed being alone for thirty-nine years. Please. Go away.” Their faces dropped. He shook his head. “I didn’t mean it like that. Just… I’ll see you on the weekend.”
Each of them awkwardly hugged their father and headed off. William could here their bickering as they went back to their cars. He rounded anther corner, entered the milk bar and stood behind the woman being served. He looked at the cigarettes behind the counter, matching brands with prices. Jesus, almost fifteen dollars for a packet. He hadn’t smoked since Mollie was born, but he craved it almost every day. He’d promised himself that when he lived alone he’d take it up again. But he hadn’t counted on this. He did some maths in his head. If he had a couple a day, let’s say three. If he got a packet of twenty-five, that was about a week. Fifteen bucks a week. By fifty-two weeks in a year, that’s almost eight hundred dollars per year. He reckoned he had another five or six good years left. Say seven. That’s about five and a half thousand dollars.
The woman in front of him had now paid and gathered up her bags, and the shopkeeper looked at him expectantly.
“Just the Age, thanks mate.”