Stanley Klepp deceased (5a)
By Simon Barget
With the man finally stationary having reached a bus stop, Kaminski was poised to make some spur-of-the-moment utterance, but then a bus roared in from nowhere as if sent on cue by prior arrangement
-- there were no other passengers at the stop -- and within instants the man was pressing his Oyster card to the reader, as Kaminski, regaining his breath, all angled forward and almost on tiptoes forced out: “h-e-ee-ey, excuse me, sorry, don’t I know you?”, attempting to throw his voice right into the belly of the bus above the engine drone and general clamour, and hoping that the prefacing ‘h-e-ee-ey’ might harness some unearthly power of homing in directly on his target, yet the words only seemed to get stuck somewhere mid-sinus; and though a few passengers looked round sporting the moderately gormless expressions of those pre-sensing a minor spectacle, the man numbered amongst the more resilient who didn’t flinch at all; and Kaminski suffered a moment of despair that the bus might pull off and strand him; then incurring the invention by his mind of an impenetrable barrier between the two, he vaulted on and went right up and prodded him in the back with his outstretched right hand -- he hadn’t intended to be so brutal, but anxiety stiffened his movements -- whereupon the man pivoted his head deliberately in an anti-clockwise motion over his left shoulder, the rest of his body fairly still, fashioning a nugatory expression of half-shock but eliciting a buried intention to be reachable, though not one that could actually enable Kaminski to communicate with him, but more an intention that forced Kaminski into saying what the man knew he was going to repeat or at least say again in some other guise: that he had definitely seen him somewhere but just couldn’t place where; and then the adjunct: could he just step off the bus for a second? Did Kaminski realise though that you couldn’t just ask a stranger to dismount from a bus upon such a flimsy pretext; but conversely, had the man appreciated that Kaminski had chased him all the way down the road like a madman for a good 100 yards? And he just uttered a peremptory ‘no’, showing no willingness whatsoever to get off, and Kaminski having now retreated to the threshold, one foot up, one foot down, couldn’t just stay on this bus with him as you didn’t do that if you hadn’t intended to go where the bus was going, plus he had no Oyster card and so a stalemate ensued wherein innocent passengers were kept waiting and Kaminski was trying to will the man off bus by force of glance only, though still partly expecting him to get off of his own accord in any moment, but the man wasn’t budging but just standing there basically staring at Kaminski as if he was really a nobody, and it was only when the driver cast a come-on-what’s-going-on-sidelong-sneer that Kaminski decided to give in and stepped off the bus, forlorn. As he caught his bearings, he breathed out a sigh of defeat, and then looked around him; incredibly, the man was standing next to him as well; for some reason he’d changed his mind.
They floated back a few inches from the edge of the pavement as the windrush from the passing traffic blew into their trouser legs; the man bided his time, moulding his irritation into an entirely more conspicuous creation than the irritation itself might have actually created -- in his mind he’d been ensnared and driven down from the bus -- patting down the errant fibres of his cashmere coat and intermittently stabbing and prodding his umbrella spike into the interstices between the paving stones, and in the moments where the connection had not yet established itself and he could risk a measure of haughtiness, his expression conveyed the expected imprecation: why have you forced me to get off this bus when it’s obvious I didn’t want to?; but all of a sudden it dawned on him who Kaminski was; it was really a horrifying moment of embarrassment, pregnant with the shame of having so blatantly to have altered his mindset and he reddened all the way down to the visible parts of his neck but attempting to regain some composure and rein himself in: he coughed and put it to Kaminski that he was Mr. Klepp’s son, he was so terribly sorry, profuse with his condolence; he hadn’t realised, perhaps because he was really rushed off his feet today, he himself was Kaminski’s late father’s solicitor, who’d been a client for many many years, Sheldon Pearson, proffering a bony right hand, had he been at the funeral, yes of course he must have been -- then surveying him up for funeral clothing -- but he hadn’t noticed him there and had had to rush off to a divorce hearing at Barnet County Court at 11 and that’s why he had been so reluctant to get off the bus. And with that awkward highly-animated expression of the contrite, his pressing appointment meant that he had to rush off now too or he would be even later than he already was, but could Kaminski come into the office for a meeting because there were a few things that needed to be taken care of in relation to his father’s affairs, they weren’t urgent but it would be nice to get things taken care of, and he pulled out a card from his coat pocked with a W1 address embossed in gold-leaf lettering and he asked Kaminski to call him and make an appointment with his secretary, looking up into Kaminski’s face all the while to check that he’d managed to retain at least a modicum of self-respect.
Kaminski floundered about on the pavement near a shop window for a few seconds before turning back to the cemetery, dawdling in a vacuum of thought. He’d had a vague expectation, or more of a hope, that this man would be a relation that he hadn’t met before; Klepp’s favourite bracing reminder of his son’s hopelessness was that his own father’s brother hadn’t married either and had also died childless and lonely, and so Kaminski was banking on the fact that this person might have been the very son of this man whose existence his father denied just to suit him -- that would make him a second cousin perhaps -- whose father he almost certainly didn’t get on with, giving Klepp every reason to deny his existence -- but how could they have found out about the funeral anyway, the whole thing was perhaps wishful thinking, yet it was well within the remit of his father’s usual trickery, since there was lots his father hadn’t told him or, more often than not, did tell him but which then turned out to be embellishments or outright lies; he also wasn’t sure if any other family members really knew about him since he and his father had been estranged for some time; and he had really been hoping to have a conversation with this man, to whom he could confide and relate some of his father’s eccentricities. All those not-normal things he’d been subjected to; and the person would understand and listen intently and tell him that he wasn’t wrong or bad but that his father had been wrong and bad; but it was really out of desperation because the man hadn’t looked Jewish at all; it had crossed Kaminski’s mind during the service that he was some observer for a church organisation, there to compare funeral services, so he hadn’t thought about approaching him at the time; in any case as soon as the man had revealed his identity, Kaminski had felt really let down: firstly because he wasn’t going to get that sense of resolution as he was hoping, secondly he’d realised that he’d altogether forgotten about this sort of legal/practical element which all deaths brought on which he hadn’t at all accounted for and did not want to tackle, and so he had become silent and just acquiesced to whatever the solicitor had been saying, partly quite content just to follow instructions and be guided. Even though they had been physically distant at the end, he had always felt his father’s manipulation as guidance, but without him, he was alone; without the pressure, he was horribly free, he’d lost a permanent anchor or backstop and how to proceed without the surety of his father’s judgment, providing that corrosive framework which he perhaps didn’t know he needed, and he really wondered, what was better for him: father dead or alive?
When this last thought petered out he caught his bearings, he’d been meandering in a fog of thought and had forgotten not only where he was but had lost awareness of his entire body, and he looked up and saw that he was almost back at the car park entrance, but he just didn’t want to go in, and they probably wouldn’t be there anyway, even if he did; and he really didn’t want to talk to the Rabbi any further because he was worried that he’d prattle on about how fabulous his father was, out of duty, or just out of his general goodness, and/or he’d try to console Kaminski or perhaps even ask him a fourth time to come to the synagogue for an evening service to recite the Kaddish prayer which was terribly important - - he’d absolutely no intention of doing that -- although he felt he probably should thank him for taking the service, but then he suddenly felt like going round to the flat, but then again he’d already made a provisional arrangement with Parkash and anyway he didn’t really want to go in and be in that bedroom with the same bed sheets, he could see it now; his father’s limp body like the corpses he’d seen on that Channel 4 TV programme with that nutty German anatomist in the fedora where everything had held that hideous contorted shrunken quality, and he also heard echoed snippets from the Rabbi’s speech, all the stuff about reincarnation, and he sort of imagined his father’s soul floating about in the flat, beckoning him haunting him, haranguing him; so instead he called Pearson’s secretary on his mobile and made an appointment for the following day.