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 Instagram so it’s kind of freaky I found you.
What have you got planned for the weekend, anything?”
“It’s late now, but tomorrow 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.
I’m going to start you off with a big breakfast. I’ve got some prime cut bacon and some Newmarket sausages.”
“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, it’s no problem. Egg on toast will do fine. I’m not really 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?
So, how long have you lived in Rye now, ten years I think you said. I’ve visited loads of times, but you must know it well. Tell me something I don’t know about it.”
“I’m sure you know its history as a fortified town. Being so elevated, it has clear views out to sea, and you can see a potential enemy coming from miles inland.
It’s probably best known from its association with the Hawkhurst gang though. They were a band of smugglers who operated here around the seventeen thirties and forties. It’s far too posh for smugglers now.
They used to have their meetings at The Mermaid Inn. There’s a maze of secret tunnels under the town which they used as an escape route and to hide their loot. You can actually get from The Mermaid Inn to the The Olde bell Inn underground. 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.”
Six weeks later
“Hello Peter, I’m Joanne, James’s daughter. I found your name at the end of his address book. I’m afraid 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?”
“Well we know he had been vomiting so we’re pretty sure it was some sort of food poisoning. We found the wrapper of a pork pie on the kitchen table. The label said eat by March the 14th. You probably guessed he had dementia.”