Sue returned with the party of eight residents in the minibus. Some staff said the ‘ressies’ loved a good funeral because it was a trip out and a buffet. Sue seemed a little quiet for the rest of the day. She didn’t fly around the house in her usual frantic way, holding as many cleaning products in her arms as possible, wearing her yellow marigolds, giving instructions to other staff; usually something like, “Can you go and calm Jim? He wants his baccy but he doesn’t have much left so he’s having a hissy fit down yonder.” There was a difference between ‘up yonder’ and ‘down yonder’ but only Sue knew which was which, so you had to ask additional questions quickly before she rushed off to her next destination.
So that evening we asked the eight residents, in sign language, how the funeral had been; and most gave a thumbs up, some elaborated and signed “Nice sandwiches,” or something of that kind. Some of the residents that went along didn’t even know John, so the buffet may have been the biggest draw. But no one commented on the content of the funeral.
Later on, Sue was sitting quietly in the office, writing her reports.
“You ok, Sue? You seem a bit…quiet.”
“I’m all right, ta, love. It was just a bit stressful today. Bit of a muddle. You know how it can be.”
“Did you take all eight of them, or is Brenda’s leg still playing up?”
“No, Brenda’s up and about again, so I had all eight, but I must’ve got the times mixed up or something because we missed John’s funeral.”
“What…what do you mean? They said the sandwiches were good…or did you just go to the wake?”
“Well, I had to think on me feet, and I didn’t want them to miss out, so I just took them into the next service that was on.”
“Hang on, Sue, you…you took them to a complete stranger’s funeral?”
“Well I felt bad they’d missed it, so I thought, well they can’t hear what that shrivelled old vicar’s saying anyway, so we’ll just go in to the next one.”
“But isn’t there usually an interpreter at a deaf person’s funeral?”
“Yeah, well, I just said I would interpret for them, so I just made up a few bits and bobs about John; how he’d had a trial at West Ham when he was a lad but the measles put paid to that, how he liked chicken korma, his favourite colour was yellow…that kind of thing.”
“Sue! And what about the order of service, with the name of the person on it? Didn’t that give it away?”
“Well, we were a bit late anyway, so I didn’t want us all bustling in through the main door, so I just took them up the balcony. They didn’t have any pictures of the bloke up there. Ronald, I think his name was.”
“Sue, didn’t everyone think it was weird, a bunch of deaf strangers turning up on the balcony? And Jack told me you went to the wake and ate all the sandwiches. What the fuck did you say to the family?”
“Well, I sort of said this bloke had made a donation to help the deaf a while back. They did look a bit shocked, maybe he was a bit tight or something. Anyway, I got them out of there as soon as they’d had a few scotch eggs and pork pies. But I couldn’t have let ’em down, though I do feel bad about it. Promise you won’t tell anyone, will you?”
“No, no, of course not.” Silence. “But Sue…probably best not to do that again.”
Sue heads off down yonder.
Dan walks in.
“Dan, Dan! You’ll never guess what Sue just told me! It’s so completely mental…even by her standards.”
© 2018 Rosie Escott
Rosie writes in her spare time and is currently working on a collection of short stories. She lives in Margate.