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Billy`s Last Stand

by leliann 

Posted: 04 June 2009
Word Count: 693
Summary: For Graeme's 'Woods' Challenge

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A black hearse bumped slowly up the rutted track towards the edge of the forest. Billy gripped the wheel tightly, his knuckles showing white against the darkening gloom. His heart was pounding in his chest as he drove the hearse into the cover of the trees.
He was struggling to see where he was going but did not switch on his lights, not caring if he hit anything. Not caring if he hit anybody. He put his foot on the accelerator and went over a rut at speed, his neck snapping backwards uncomfortably at the impact. He slackened his foot a little.
They would probably still be there, waiting for him. Stupid banners. Stupid balloons. Stupid grins on their faces. Billy screwed up his eyes against the gloom. He was nearly at the trees now. He could see the opening in the trees and the yawning blackness beyond. He sped up again. He was leaving the path now, travelling over soft grass, glistening with evening dew. He was heading straight for a large tree. He would hit it head on. He unclipped the seat belt, to be sure.
There were still six payments to make on the hearse.
The thought popped into Billyís mind suddenly and without thinking, without really meaning to, he applied the brake. The car slipped and skidded over the wet grass and halted a few inches from the tree. Billy laid his head on the steering wheel and cried. They would be checking their watches now, wondering where he was. Billy Morris was never late. Maybe they would know that something was wrong. How long would it be before they started to make enquiries? Maybe they would call the office. Maybe they would go round.
And then they would know.
He got out of the car and opened the rear door. Under the shelf that usually carried the coffin was a small space that held the spare wheel, the toolbox and the length of rope. Billy was nothing if not prepared. He picked up the rope, moved to the tree that he had so nearly crashed into and began to climb it. He climbed easily, much more agilely than his sixty eight years suggested. When he was ten feet off the ground he sat down on a thick branch and began to tie one end of the rope around the tree. He worked quickly and efficiently. His hand did not shake as he tied the knot, as he measured the length of rope needed, as he tied the free end around his neck.
He looked down. The hearse was glinting back at him in the moonlight. Sparkling clean. Billy Morris always had a clean hearse. He was proud of his reputation. Proud of the business he had built up. Whole families had been laid away at his hand. He was glad he had not crashed the car.
Maybe it would be used to carry his body. Rage welled in his throat until he almost choked. He felt in his pocket for a pen and paper. He found an old envelope and scribbled on the back.
ĎIím sorry. Please donít let THEM bury me.í
He stuffed the envelope back in his pocket. He didnít know who would find it. He had no family. Except for the half dozen people who were waiting at The Labourer Refreshed, patiently eating the sausage rolls and waiting to surprise him on the thirtieth anniversary of his accession to the business. He tested the knot in the rope around his neck. It seemed good and firm. He tried not to think about how his staff would feel tomorrow when they turned up to work and found the foreclosure notice stuck to the door, or the Under New Management sign hung right next to it.
Billy struggled to his feet, crouching on the branch, the wood cracking horribly in protest.
ĎIím sorry,í he called into the night air. Iím sorry for all of it.í
And the branch gave way at the same time as Billy jumped.
And the last thing he saw before his eyes closed was the black hearse, perfect and glinting in the darkness.

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Comments by other Members

jenzarina at 10:44 on 04 June 2009  Report this post
How sad! Well written- I really felt for Billy. And horribly poignant at a time so many people are losing their businesses.

V`yonne at 15:25 on 04 June 2009  Report this post
I'd have found it easier to read with paragraph breaks but that's just layout. A good take on the challenge and as Jen said, topical.

tusker at 16:00 on 04 June 2009  Report this post
How sad. How topical, Hazel.

A good visual flash. I so felt for your MC and could feel his lonely desperation.

'Don't let THEM bury me.' Now what does that tell us? Gives me the shivers.

I always thought that funeral directors were the last to go out of business, but there's so much competition these days, even with the task of burial or cremation.

Agree with Oonah about the paragraph breaks.


Bunbry at 16:07 on 04 June 2009  Report this post
One of the candidates on 'The Apprentice' said "If I became an undertaker, people would stop dying!"

A quick look at google tells me that an average bloke needs a 6 foot drop to break their neck, otherwise a slow horrid death awaits. If neck to feet he is five foot tall, then you will need a higher branch!

That aside, a fine tale well told.


leliann at 17:28 on 04 June 2009  Report this post
Hmm. Not sure what happened. There were paragraph breaks when I uploaded it, but they seem to have disappeared. Will have to keep an eye on that in future. thanks for the nice comments

GraemeR at 12:08 on 05 June 2009  Report this post
Excellent story Hazel - dark, sad, moving and very well written

Prospero at 17:58 on 06 June 2009  Report this post
Well done Hazel, a very effective piece of writing.



Laurence at 11:49 on 07 June 2009  Report this post
Well written Hazel - a story for our times!!!

I loved the imagery throughout.

I am left wondering if he unfortunately survived????


GaiusCoffey at 21:35 on 16 November 2009  Report this post
A quick look at google tells me that an average bloke needs a 6 foot drop to break their neck, otherwise a slow horrid death awaits. If neck to feet he is five foot tall, then you will need a higher branch!

Nick, you are my hero.

Liked the fast moving story, but was a little confused at the ending. TBH, I'm not certain he actually died? I think the point of the branch breaking is to add humiliating insult to injury, but suspect that what he will end up with (especially as he will be feet down as he hits the ground) is a broken leg and some discomfort rather than death from a broken neck or head injury (unless the branch lands on his head?).

But, got quite involved in that. Lots of fun.


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