I open the car boot and pick up the cushion, its green velvet sheen so recently indented by the weight of my father. I run my hand over the material to smooth out the colour, dark to light. It smells of car freshener with just a hint of bodily decay.
I’d removed it from the passenger seat after its final use. Think I’ll take it to the charity shop.
Next to it is a Tupperware dish, single meal size, clean, but discoloured by its contents. There’s been a lot of soft tomato-based food in there, easy to chew and digest. It’s a well-travelled container, back and forth from my home to his. I don’t intend to make lasagne ever again.
I pull out the collapsible walking frame. He’d never used it outside the house, so it had always remained fully expanded. Except when I’d folded it back into the boot. I lean it against the side of the car. Perhaps I’ll sell it on-line.
I gather up the duvet, stripped of its cover and wrapped in its laundry bag; the tumultuous map of my father’s existence now erased by the dry cleaners. Perhaps the homeless guy who sleeps in the subway might want it. I see him most days on my way to work, his dog nestling beside him, a family of two. Like us.
I lean into the boot to pick up the plastic crate. I’ll wait till tonight to sort out its contents, a bottle of white wine in the fridge ready for the ordeal. The photo albums are going to be the hardest. All those memories. They’ll have to go. The bumper crossword book fluttering on top is half completed, the final clues never resolved.
“I’ll finish it later,” he’d said. “When I feel less tired.”
“That’s all right, Dad,” I’d replied. “Now, why don’t you have some more of this hot drink; it’ll help you sleep.”
Finally, the pillow. An object of comfort, softness. Of oblivion. I use my car key to prise open a tiny hole in its fabric, releasing a few feathers into the atmosphere; they float away in a whisper of breeze. I’d heard that some people believe feathers are a gift from angels when someone dies. I don’t want any visitations.
He didn’t struggle much. Just enough to be satisfying. A disentanglement, our final release.
“Well Dad,” I say as I remove the cardboard box sent from the direct cremation service. The weight of him is heavy in my hands. I check the details printed on the label one last time, just to make sure. ‘The ashes of the late Michael Turnbridge.’
I pull apart the vacuum-sealed plastic bag inside. I stand still, inhaling the fresh air, as I hear the refuse truck approaching. Then I remove the dustbin lid and tip in the contents. It is surprising how light it feels now he has gone.
I slam the car boot shut, humming the tune I’ve just heard on the radio.