End of Songs, by David Ford
I never knew my father when he was young. When I was growing up he was already an old man. Then he died and all I could conjure up was his thinning hair, his marbled cheeks and his baggy, rather sad eyes.
I remembered his voice though. He had a slight accent—I think his forefathers must have been Dutch or German—and he had a deep, rasping voice that came from too many cigarettes.
For years my mother hardly spoke about him; perhaps it was too painful or she just wanted to move on. I think they had been very happy once but like many marriages theirs had grown stale over the years.
But then, when she too was coming to the end of her life, she started to recall what my father had been like when he was a young man.
She told me about his passion for music, jazz in particular, and how he would go off to concerts several times a week, not returning home until the early hours of the morning, still buzzing with excitement.
‘He gave it up when we moved from the city,’ she said. ‘We needed a house to bring you all up in. He found other interests. We both made sacrifices but we didn’t see it that way.’
That’s when she gave me his favourite record.
He had kept it even when he sold off the rest of his collection. He would listen to it late at night, downstairs by himself while we were in bed.
The record was a bit battered; I was convinced it held some sort of secret but there seemed to be nothing special about it. The music was just modern jazz and none of the tracks was particularly memorable.
I couldn’t see why it had been so important to my father.
After the last track the audience began to applaud. And that’s when I heard his voice: the deep growl, the unmistakable accent.
There were a few whistles, and then his voice rose above the crowd and cried ‘Again. One more time.’
And I realised this is what loss is like. Standing in front of a stage as the music fades and the lights come up and you don’t want to leave.
You want just one more song before the evening ends.
A collection of David Ford’s poetry has been published by the Happenstance Press. His short stories have appeared in Litro and Shorts magazine