Simon Parke  
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Uncivil wars!

CHAPTER 23

In the last episode, Dr Hafiz and Patricia shared brandy and nuts; Jane and Azure found themselves by the hole; Cromwell heard of gold in a beautiful village somewhere; Rex and Mrs Post both denied drink problems – before Azure leapt. What was Jane to do? Find Dr Hafiz! But what was he doing in the doorway with that woman?

Not everyone slept in Misty Longings on the night of the Winter Fayre.

“So we are talking about the funeral of your father?” asked Rex for clarification, because it wasn’t completely obvious from Mrs Post’s jumbled delivery.

“That is correct, yes.”

“Your father has just died?”

“Yes!”

“I’m sorry to hear of it. I don’t believe we met, but this must be a very difficult time for you.”

“He hasn’t just died.”

“You mean he’s done something else as well?”

“No – I mean he hasn’t died recently.”

“I see,” said Rex, not seeing at all.

“He died some while ago, but what with – complications – it hasn’t been possible to bury him yet.”

“A post mortem was required? They can be difficult times. But presumably his body can now be released and laid to rest. I can handle all that with the undertakers.”

“I don’t need you to handle it!”

“I’m sorry. I understood that – “

“You don’t understand anything. This is ridiculous, quite ridiculous!”

“Then help me to make it sensible. I understand your father has died, and that you would like a funeral for him, but between the death and the funeral, it all gets a little bit hazy.”

“Oh, I can’t be putting up with this! Really!” said Mrs Post.

“I feel you’re getting angry, and I’m not quite sure why.”

“Me? Angry? You, Reverend, are both an alcoholic and a disappointment. Accusing me of being hazy! Accusing me of being in error in some way! And now accusing me of being angry? I’ll see myself out.”

With that, Mrs Post made her exit, and had she been less lock-jawed and furious, she might have noticed Jane and Dr Hafiz walking together, as Jane finished recounting the events of that night:

“And then Azure just leapt inside.”

“Perhaps she was trying to leap over the hole.”

“She leapt down, believe me, as though from my windowsill to the floor. And it was almost as if – “

“Almost as if what?”

“Almost as if she wanted me to follow.”

“Why would she want that?”

“I don’t know. But she had led me this far, and that’s a fact.”

“Would you mind if I just returned to my house to get a coat?” asked the doctor.

“Not at all.”

“It is a cold night, and though we must never fear death, neither should we encourage it unduly.”

“Quite.”

“I will be back very shortly. Will you be all right?”

“Yes, of course I’ll be all right!” said Jane, though she did not feel it.

*

As Jane waited by the hole, uneasiness washed through her. She wished to be anywhere else but here. “It’s just a hole in the road,” said Jane, who noticed everything apart from how she was feeling. What she felt now she could neither place nor name. She looked around for Dr Hafiz’s return. She didn’t want to stand by this hole alone any longer. And then out of the blue, a voice:

“Are you all right, Jane?” called Rex, who was just disappearing into the graveyard.

“I’m fine, yes!” said Jane.

“Are you sure you don’t want a little chat?”

“Absolutely sure, Rex. Really very sure indeed,” said Jane.

“Because if you want to cry, then I’m a very good shoulder!”

“Thank you Rex, but you just get on with whatever you’re doing. I’ll be off home soon anyway. I’m just checking things, before turning in.”

“Well good for you, Jane. I’m sure we can all sleep much safer now you’ve – er – checked things!”

Jane couldn’t imagine what Rex was doing, entering the graveyard at this time of night in the freezing cold, but whatever it was, she hoped it was important, and would keep him and his counselling away from her.

“My door is always open!” called Rex.

*

Dr Hafiz found his coat quickly enough, but did not return to Jane straightaway. He needed a moment alone. There were so many unopened presents in this village, and he must start the unwrapping with a phone call to Mrs Pump. He remembered their conversation last week, in his surgery in the functions room of the Dog and Whistle:

“So what do you think, doctor?” she had asked, after a thorough examination.

Of course she rubbished him behind his back, but when it came to diagnosis, she knew he was second to none.

“You are human,” said the doctor.

“I’m glad I’m not paying for this.”

“You are dying.”

“Dying?”

“We are all dying! Falling from the womb into the tomb – yet falling so wonderfully!”

Like most of us, Mrs Pump desired rather more basic information.

“But is there anything wrong with me?”

“The good news is that you are dying a lot more slowly than most.”

“Ahh! That’s better!”

“You are physically fit in many ways, Mrs Pump. You lead an active life, and your heart beats well.”

“At last – some science!”

“And your blood pressure is very satisfactory.”

“More science. This just gets better and better.”

“But do you know what shows up from the scan most clearly?”

“What?”

“A huge unopened present inside you!”

“You mean I’ve swallowed something?”

“You could say that.”

“Well, what is it?”

“You’re going to call me unscientific now.”

“I have called you worse, believe me. So tell me – what have I swallowed?”

“You’ve swallowed a lie, and it touches every nerve ending in your body. But there is no drug for it, so as a doctor, I must now fall silent.”

“Thanks very much,” said Mrs Pump, packing up her things in a businesslike fashion. “I’ll listen to the science – and ignore all the rest. Good day to you.”

And then by way of a parting shot, she said: “Talking of lies – do wigs count?”

Yes, it was late, but he must definitely give her a ring.

*

Rex wanted to sit with the gravestones and have one of his chats. He didn’t think he’d been quite as bad as Mrs Post had made out, but after an assault like that, needed reassurance. He had hoped Jane might unburden herself, because sometimes someone else’s troubles help you with your own.

“Your troubles make mine seem very small,” was something he often said to people.

But Jane was clearly busy – busy checking things.

He looked at the moonlit words on the stone by which he sat. So often these inscriptions said something uplifting in moments of crisis; like those Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms. Not so tonight, however:

The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay.

“How consoling!” said Rex with some irony. “That may be true, my friend, but right now, they are not the words I need to hear.”

He tried to fish back into his past for words of hope. He tried to remember his bishop’s cathedral words when he got ordained, but couldn’t. He tried to remember what had set him on this dog-collared path in the first place, but couldn’t even do that. He looked up at the cold sky, and felt the cold universe, and beyond the cold universe, a cold, cold God. This would be a fine sermon for tomorrow; or rather, today. Yes, it was 1.00am, Sunday morning, and he didn’t seem to believe anything anymore!

It was then that a word popped into his mind. Where it came from, who can say? But it pinged in his mind, like a pop-up doll, and though Rex had an idea what it meant, he needed to go back to the Vicarage and check to make sure.

*

Mrs Pump was surprisingly quick to answer the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Mrs Pump. It is Doctor Hafiz.”

“I see. And why are you ringing at this hour?”

It was a fair question, and the doctor did not have an answer.

“I don’t know, really. I must be mad.”

“Please don’t ask for sympathy. It’s not my strong hand; particularly with quacks.”

“I just feel it is time for the opening of presents in this village.”

“I’ve changed practice, Doctor. You are no longer my GP.”

“That is quite fine. I do not ring you about that.”

“No, but I answer like that. So please don’t disturb me again. You have no right to. And I’m so sorry to hear about your hair today. The bats rather found you out, I’m told. Well, all I can say is – they were truly the last to know.”

*

“Ah, here we are,” said Rex, ‘‘Transference – the process by which the patient forms a strong attachment, whether hateful or seductive, to their healer.”

Well, Mrs Post was certainly hateful, thought Rex. And then he read on:

“Discovered by Freud, largely by accident, the idea of transference was to be one of his most enduring discoveries. Psychoanalysis brings transference to light; and makes the unconscious, conscious. Feelings and wishes buried in childhood become apparent, and able to be worked through.”

Well, how good did that feel to Rex! There was Mrs Post imagining she was angry with him – while all the time she was unknowingly speaking to her dead father. Take a bow, Sigmund.

Rex really had no reason to go to bed a happy man that night – but he did.

*

“Where have you been?” asked Jane, as Dr Hafiz returned to her side.

“I had to make a phone call,” replied the doctor.

“A phone call – at this time of night? Who to?”

“It doesn’t matter. It is done. It is sometimes hard to carry your heart through this world, and now is one of those times. Perhaps it is for you too.”

“I’ve been happier.”

“Then we must make happiness; even as we stand by this dark hole!”

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