The Crack in the Pavement (I.P.)
The Crack in the Pavement! (I.P.)
I heard her shout.
“Mind the gap!”
But it came too late, I had already fallen between one of the cracks in the pavement and I was descending rapidly. I looked up and could just make out the shadow of my friend, Janice, as she was caught in the grand finale of the setting sun.
Anyway, I had to forget about Janice and consider my own position. I was in some kind of chute and I was hurtling downwards at an alarming rate. But although I was rushing headlong towards the bowels of the earth it was not dark or cold or damp. No, quite pleasant really so I thought I might as well relax and enjoy the trip but then as it started to get warmer I began to feel concerned. Where was this heat coming from? Had Lucifer lit his boiler?
I’d thought his pilot light had gone out a long time ago or had British Gas poked their nose in and got him to sign up to that scheme of theirs. I wouldn’t put it past them they’d done a lot of cold calling in our area so it would come as no surprise to learn that they had talked Lucifer, the unlovable, into a contract with them.
Suddenly, however, I was shot into a crystal cave so beautiful it made me catch my breath which came as something of a surprise. Well, as a child, I was never a good catcher although I always seemed to play a blinder when they were picking the netball team but once in, I was bloody useless!
Anyway, I landed on the floor of the cave and just stayed rooted to the spot as I tried to take in my surroundings. There were shards of light dancing all around me. Prisms of diamond and silver glints hovered over head and the atmosphere was cool but not cold, warm but not hot. Everything was pleasantness. I liked this place. Then I heard a voice,
“Hello Denzella didn’t expect to see you here so soon. What happened?”
I wheeled round in astonishment. I recognized that voice.
It was the voice of David, one of my brothers-in-law who had been dead these past thirty years.
“David, is that really you?”
“Of course it is. Who else would it be?”
As I allowed my gaze to take in more of this crystal cave I saw another brother- in-law. He had been dead just four years. It was Brendan, a favourite of mine. He had his head in a book just like when he was alive.
“Hi, Denzella,” he said, glancing up, “just got to a good bit so speak later.”
Then waft me with a feather boa as I spotted two more brothers-in-law, Jerry and Stanley. Both of whom had been dead for a number of years.
This was turning into a surreal situation. At this rate I might just bump into my two sisters-in-law who had passed over…one just recently and one sometime ago!
“Hello Denzella, have you got any ironing you want done?”
This time the voice was coming from behind a huge ironing board when suddenly up popped Jane. Jane was known for her washing, starching and ironing and if ever I was ill she’d be over like a shot and have the nets down and windows cleaned before I had swallowed so much as a cough sweet.
“Jane? I don’t believe this. What is this place and where is Emily?”
“Here, I’m here,” said a voice that I knew belonged to Emily.
She had obviously been gardening because she had on those funny gloves that plants stick to as well as knee pads and muddy trousers. Emily was known for her gardening expertise.
“I don’t believe this,” I said, “next thing I’ll be seeing my mum and your mum.”
“Yes, they’re over in the far corner. Our mum’s playing the piano and your mum’s drinking a Guinness.”
Mum-in-law was known for playing the piano and my mum was known for her long standing affection for Guinness.
Then I spotted Bill another brother-in-law who had been an artist. He was trying to hang one of his paintings. He just nodded recognition as his mouth was full of tacks.
My dumb was well and truly founded. What was this place and why was everyone doing the same things they were known for when they were alive?
“David, you’re never still cementing? That’s all you ever seemed to do when you was alive.”
“Well, this floor is very uneven and someone might fall.”
“But you’ll spoil it if you cement over this beautiful crystal floor.”
“No, I won’t this cement is made up of powdered crystal so it won’t spoil the look it will just be safer.”
Then I looked at Jerry, the eldest of my brothers-in-law and he hadn’t changed a bit.
“Hello Jerry,” I said, “how are you?”
“Dead!” he replied.
That was a bit of a conversation stopper so I had to think of something quick. I didn’t want one of them embarrassing pregnant pauses,
“Do you manage to play darts up here?” I enquired.
“Yes. In fact I’m just in the process of starting up a league.”
“Oh,” I said, “That’s nice. You always did love a game of darts.”
“Nothing changes just because you pass over,” said Stanley.
“Oh, Stanley, It’s lovely to see you looking so well,” I said, before realizing that was perhaps not the most appropriate thing to say given the circumstances. Then I had a brainwave. The very thing to get me out of this awkward situation, so I said,
“Stan, I must tell you, The British Legion gave you a lovely send off, they really did you proud when you passed over.”
“I know, I was there!” he said.
But still I let my tongue make a run for it, not knowing when to shut up because I continued with,
“The standard bearers wore berets and those long white gloves and someone said those immortal words that never fail to move me.
“Oh, you mean,
‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
we will remember them.’”
“I can never remember them, the words, that is, but when I hear them they always give me a lump in my throat.”
“I should get that checked out if I was you.”
“No, it’s just a saying. I’m fine. Will you excuse me, Stan, but I’m going over to have a word with my mum.”
“Yes, and I’m sure she’ll be pleased to see you.”
So, I walk carefully over that part of the crystal floor that David hasn’t started to cement and I can see what he means it is a bit uneven. Then when I reach the two mums I say,
“Hello Mum,” to my mum and she looks at me with surprise written like a bill board across her face.
“What you doing here? You’re not due yet.”
“Oh, so you know me then?”
“Of course I know you, you’re my Denzella.”
“Mum, this place is lovely what is it called?”
“Well it’s not Heaven if that’s what you’re thinking. No it’s just the annexe and we’re in one of the waiting rooms.”
“Waiting room, what…for Heaven?”
“I hope so; we don’t get on with the bloke downstairs. His boiler keeps us awake all night. That’s why I have to have a Guinness it helps me sleep.”
“Oh, that’s lucky then, your favourite drink helping you to sleep.”
Then mum calls to mum-in-law,
“Here, Lizzie, look who’s here?”
”Denzella, is that Denzella? What she doing here she’s not due?”
“That’s just what I said.”
“Well, all I can remember is hearing my friend Janice say
‘Mind the gap!’
Next thing, I’ve fallen in between one of the cracks in the pavement and I’m hurtling down this chute thingy and then I got sort of pushed in here.”
“This won’t sit well with Him upstairs. You’re supposed to wait your turn.”
“How come all my dead relatives are gathered together here in this one place?”
“We’ve been compartmentalized. We don’t have any truck with the people from the other compartments. Well, apart from Jerry. He’s hell bent, oops, shouldn’t say that, you never know who might be listening. Anyway, he mixes with them because he’s trying to set up a darts league.”
“When will you know if you’re going upstairs or downstairs?”
“Well, we were reliably informed that we were going up but your early arrival might have put the mockers on that!”
“Oh, I’m sorry I’ll go if you like.”
“You can’t leave just like that. You’d never be able to climb up that chute, not without help anyway.”
“Oh, never thought of that. So what can I do?”
It was then that I heard a strange whooshing sound and at the same time felt a sort of rocking motion. I seemed to be coming out of a tunnel. I rubbed my eyes trying to accustom them to this new light and then I looked around and people, strangers, were staring at me like I was some being from another planet. Then I pulled myself together and realised the train was pulling into my station and as I went to get off the train a familiar voice came over the public address system and I heard it say,
“Mind the gap!”