Day 4: A Mountain Rises From The Ashes

Write a story/excerpt to include the line, “Sorry, we can’t insure you for a journey like that.

I looked at the urn on the table in front of me.

David would have been so disappointed. It was the only thing he told me before he went into hospital.

‘I want my ashes left you-know-where.’

Julie thought he was just being daft. Making light of the situation. We all knew there was a possibility he wouldn’t be coming home again, it wasn’t a cheery day. He always tried to make others feel better in situations like that, always telling silly jokes to brighten up a bad situation. At Aunt Mary’s funeral he spent most of the time in the church making animals out of the leaflets with the kids. Julie spent her time scowling at him from the end of the pew, trying silently to make him stop. It was disrespectful and embarrassing, she told him afterwards.

‘It kept the kids quiet, did’t it? Better than having them restless and bored sitting in a church hearing about an old biddy they never met and never will, now.’

Julie scowled again and walked away. She didn’t like to admit it, but he was right. And his little origami animals kept us all entertained for the evening as the kids ran around the house with them. Aunt Mary’s funeral became a much more endurable day with his efforts.

But I knew that’s not what he was doing this time. He wasn’t making jokes to make his operation seem less ominous. He was giving me orders about what to do if the worst happened. And unfortunately it did. Not right away, although maybe it would have been better if it was. If he’d died quickly on the operating table or before he woke up from the anesthesia. But it was a drawn out and painful process. He was in that hospital bed for two months. The transplant seemed to have been a success at first. But after a couple of weeks he complained of feeling dizzy and unwell. The doctors were worried that he was rejecting the heart. It’s what we all thought. It’s what we were all worried about from the beginning. Everyone was so busy worrying about that that we forgot there were other things to worry about. Infections. A ‘superbug’ I heard someone call it. I stayed beside his bed every day until the end. I can still see his eyes as the light left them. I couldn’t bring myself to let go of his hand. I can still feel his fingers on mine now.

‘Gran?’

I look up, startled. I forgot that Charlie was sitting beside me. He is clutching my hand and handing me a tissue. I’m suddenly aware of the tears falling down my cheeks.

‘I’m sorry you can’t go on your trip.’

He squeezes my hand now and smiles a pitying smile. He has his grandad’s eyes. I remember the first time I looked into those eyes, David’s beautiful brown eyes. I was in a cafe in Dublin and was admiring a photo of some snowy mountains hanging on the wall.

‘Beautiful, aren’t they?’ A voice said from behind me.

I turned around and there he was, six foot tall, broad shouldered like a rugby player and grinning his cheeky one-sided grin. But it was the eyes that got me. They were a deep brown and they shone like the sun itself on a July morning. I was convinced that he was looking straight into my soul when he turned those eyes on me.

‘Yes, beautiful,’ was all my infatuated brain could come up with.

‘They’re in Peru. Part of the Andes.’

I could tell that he knew well how interested I was and he was being cocky. He felt like he was impressing me with his knowledge of the photo.

I smiled. ‘Really? You know a lot about the Andes then?’

His eyes faltered slightly, but he kept up his boldness. ‘Yeah, they’re fantastic mountains. So awe-inspiring.’

‘So, which mountain is this one?’ I asked, stepping in front of him so I was blocking the sign that said View of Huascaran.

I could see the slight panic in his eyes. He opened his mouth to speak but them decided against it. This happened two more times before he finally said, ‘I have no idea.’

I laughed and I could see how relieved he was. He bought me a coffee and we talked for a few hours afterwards. We were married a year later.

For our tenth wedding anniversary he managed to track down the photograph. The cafe was still open, being run by the daughter of the owner. She had kept the photo in the storage room after redecorating. David was so excited about me opening the present that morning. When I pulled out the picture he immediately started a spiel he had clearly learned word for word about the Andes.

‘I’ll never be caught out again,’ he laughed at the end.

That photo was still hanging on the wall over the mantle. I knew this was where David had meant when he said ‘ I wan’t my ashes left you-know-where.’ We had always talked about going there someday, seeing the mountain in person. But life got in the way, as it is wont to do. Julie came along, unexpectedly but happily nonetheless. A bigger house was needed, with it came bigger bills. Peru was put on the side for a long time. I had almost forgotten about altogether.

Julie wasn’t keen on the idea of scattering her father’s ashes when I told her. ‘Are you crazy, Mam? You can’t just jet off to Peru, you’re seventy-five.’

‘What’s that got to do with anything?’

‘Mam, come on. Are you gonna just saunter off and climb the Andes?’

But I was adamant. It’s what David wanted.

Julie gave in, one one condition. I took out travel insurance.

‘You’re gonna break a leg at least, I can’t afford to pay for that when you get back.’

She’s always been a crafty one, our Julie. It turns out being seventy-five is a bit of a hindrance to going to Peru because it’s impossible to get covered.

‘Sorry, we can’t insure you for a journey like that.’

In one sentence my hopes were dashed and Julie had won.

So here I was, sitting in my living room with my dead husband and our grandson. Not going to Peru.

‘Well, you know yourself, Charlie, when your mother puts her foot down that’s the end of it.’

He scoffed, ‘That’s what she likes to think anyway.’

I looked at him, ‘I hope you’re not telling me you make a habit of disobeying your mother?

‘All I’m saying is, if she doesn’t know, it can’t hurt her.’

I tutted at him, shaking my head. ‘Sure how could I get to Peru without her anyway? I wouldn’t even know how to go about getting tickets on that bloody machine.’ I gestured to the laptop that Julie had insisted on me and her father getting a few years ago, on the shelf opposite, gathering dust.

‘Gran, she’s not the only one who can use a computer.’

Charlie grabbed the laptop and pressed the button that Julie had shown me a hundred times, but I could never find if she wasn’t beside me. He started clacking away on the keyboard, grinning to himself. I looked at the urn again and smiled myself. Say what you want about teenagers these days, but they have their uses.

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