A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.
“James! It’s so lovely to see you. I’ve been looking forward to meeting up for weeks.”
“Well, don’t just stand there, come on in.”
“And I love Rye. I’m so jealous that you live here.”
“Yes, Rye is nice.”
“So, how long has it been, almost fifty years since university? I’ve lost track.
I don’t do much on social media so it’s kind of freaky I found you.
What have you got planned for the weekend, anything?”
“It’s late now, but I thought it would be nice to get out and have a walk around the town, have a coffee, watch the world go by. Nothing too hectic. Everest can wait for another day.
The following day
I’m going to start you off with a big breakfast. I’ve got some prime cut bacon and some Newmarket sausages. Then I’ll take you on a grand tour.”
“James! I’m so sorry. I should have told you. I’m a vegetarian now, have been for forty years. I feel terrible, you’ve gone to all this trouble.”
“A veg-e-tar-i-an.” James repeated the word as a wave of confusion spread across his face. It was as if he didn’t understand what the word meant.
“Look, egg on toast will do fine. I’m really not a big eater, especially in the mornings.”
“This coffee is good. And I see the tourists are out in force. But wasn’t the waitress odd? Problems in the attic?”
“Problems in the attic? What does that mean? I don’t understand?” James said.
“It’s just me being metaphorical. Let’s skip it. Anyway, how long have you been living in Rye now, ten years I think you said. I’ve visited several times but you must know it really well. Tell me something about it I don’t know.”
“Well I’m sure you know its history as a fortified town. Being so elevated it has clear views out to sea and over land. You can see any potential enemy coming from both directions.
It’s not so well known for its association with the Hawkhurst gang though. They were a band of smugglers who operated here around the seventeen thirties and forties.”
“You would think Rye was too posh for smugglers.”
“Now yes, but not then. They used to have their meetings at The Mermaid Inn. And there’s a maze of secret tunnels under the town which they used as escape routes and to hide their loot. You can actually get from The Mermaid Inn to the The Olde bell Inn using nothing but underground tunnels. I know people who’ve been down there.
The smugglers were all eventually caught and hung.”
“A happy ending then?”
“Yes, but enough of that. It’s time for dinner. I think you’re going to like what I’ve got for you.
“We’re having salad, and I’ve got a lovely Melton Mobray pork pie.”
“James, have you forgotten? I don’t eat meat now.”
“But I got it specially.”
“You’ve lost me. Why would you get a pork pie specially for me?”
“It’s 14th March, it’s Pi day. Have you forgotten. This is the day we celebrate the Pi ratio. We used to joke about that at university. We were always eating pies then. Remember? Every day was pie day.”
“Right, now I get it. But that was then James. I don’t eat pies now. You could say I’m more of a Tau man.”
James looked confused again. “Tau, you know, the ratio that applies to the diameter of circles. Some mathematicians believe it is the more important ratio.”
Six weeks later
“Hello Peter? My name is Joanne Hunter. I’m James’s daughter. I’m sorry to bother you, but I found your name at the end of my dad’s address book. I’ve got some bad news. Unfortunately my dad has just died. I thought you’d like to know.”
“Oh my God! I was with him only a few weeks ago and he looked absolutely fine. What happened? I’m assuming this was unexpected?”
“Yes, well it was. That’s why the police got involved. I was the one who found him and it was obvious that he had been vomiting but we didn’t know why. The police thought he might have been poisoned and they started questioning me as a possible suspect. When they investigated further they found the wrapper of a pork pie in his kitchen bin. The pork pie was several weeks out of date and that became the prime suspect. The label said eat by March the 14th.
You probably guessed he had dementia.”