End of life is never easy, Alfred Marwood thought. But at least he could have the television as loud as he liked now, without Susan’s nagging. “The television is a bit loud, Alfred, can’t you turn it down?” And then there was the dishwasher. He’d never known there was a wrong way to empty it before Susan. And come to think of it, there were a dozen other things he’d miss about his wife like a hole in the head. He sighed and knocked on the door.
Susan Marwood did not leave a great deal of money when she died, and her will was a simple one. With the exception of a few small bequests to relatives, she left all her property to her husband. Mr. Atchity, the solicitor, and Alfred Marwood went over Susan’s will together in the solicitor’s office, and when the business was completed, the widower got up to leave. At that point, the solicitor took a sealed envelope from a folder on his desk and held it out to his client. “I’ve been instructed to give you this,” he said. “Your wife sent it to us shortly before she passed away.”
Alfred took the bulky envelope, wondering what on earth was in it. Perhaps Susan wanted to tell him – in retrospect – that she’d loved him, that he’d been a good husband to her, maybe even to apologize for her constant nagging and criticism of him? Well, that’d be something, he thought, as he bade the solicitor good day and made his way out of the office.
Back home, Alfred put the envelope on the mantlepiece and poured himself out a whisky, something Susan had always chided him for. Damn it, he’d have a large one, he thought, adding an extra splash and some ice.
Alfred turned the television on and was pleased to see there was football. Chelsea versus Everton. He turned the volume up nice and loud and settled back in his chair. He enjoyed the company of the crowd roaring and singing. But somehow, he found he couldn’t enjoy the game. His mind and eye were constantly drawn to the envelope on the mantlepiece. Finally, he could stand it no more. He got up, snapped the television off and took Susan’s letter down. He sat at the table and slit the envelope open. Then he began to read, his jaw dropping progressively towards the floor.
Dear Alfred, well, if you are reading this you’ll have seen Mr. Atchity and he’ll have gone over the will with you. I’m sure you’ll be happy with the arrangements.
Well, you know I was going to Tranquil Beginnings, the therapists, for my little ‘problem,’ something I have to say you were not in the slightest bit supportive of. But that’s over and done with now I suppose, now that I’m dead, so to speak.
Anyway, the woman, June, who saw me, told me how she treats people whose souls have fragmented and bits have left the body, sometimes even gone to hide, can you believe it? That’s when the person has undergone something extremely traumatic, she says.
Well, June told me she had one client who hadn’t got a soul! Extremely unusual apparently but there we are, it had just up and gone, and they couldn’t find it anywhere!
Of course, I didn’t mention any of this to you, you’d just have pooh-poohed it in your usual way. But then she told me how they could transfer my soul to this poor person after my death. It was all rather complicated and I won’t bore you here with the details, Alfred. But it means that, although my body will die from this ghastly cancer, the real part of me, the part where my personality and memories reside, will live on in a new body. Isn’t it thrilling, Alfred?
So, you just need to phone Tranquil Beginnings to find out how it all went, and I’ll be back home in a jiffy!
By the way, dear, do you really need to have the television so loud? You know it’s not good for your ears. And you really should cut down on the whisky too. It’s not good for your heart, you know ….
Alfred put the letter down without reading further, feeling quite cross. Just a list of other instructions and complaints. Maybe he’d look at them later, or maybe he wouldn’t. And what on earth was all this hogwash about Susan having her soul transferred to a new woman? Was such a thing even possible? Surely not. He poured himself out another whisky, not quite so large this time, and added two cubes of ice.
Hmm, he wondered whether to phone Tranquil Beginnings and ask their advice. Pah, it was all nonsense! He turned the television on again and settled back to watch the match. Presently the doorbell rang. Who the hell was that? Alfred got up with annoyance and proceeded to the door, opening it to a large brute of a man with a pronounced belly and a beard.
“Yes, can I help you?”
“Alfred, dear, it’s me, Susan,” said the man, beaming. He stepped forward and embraced Alfred, kissing him on the lips.
Alfred pulled away. “What. Get off!”
“Don’t worry, Alfred, dear, you’ll get used to my new appearance, and, by the way, the television’s a bit loud you know, and you’ve been drinking whisky again!”
Featured in the book, Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth
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