Exclusive Excerpt from The Signal Box
by Lazlo Thorn
Davy opened the heavy iron gate and entered the graveyard. The birds were singing in the nearby trees. They sounded happy. He closed the gate behind him. He preferred the graveyard at this time of year. In the winter, surrounded by the dead trees and the squawking ravens, it was a depressing place. But now in the spring, when the trees were in bloom and the birds were preparing to nest, it spoke of hope and renewal. And his gran had been a big advocate of hope and renewal.
He walked the short distance among the graves to where his Gran was resting. It was a simple grave, but then she wasn’t a fussy woman. The gravestone read: Emma Buckland, beloved wife and grandmother, born 1849, died 1913. He knelt and cleared a couple of small fallen branches in front of the headstone. The daffodils he had brought, her favourite flowers, were still wet with the early morning dew. He laid them reverentially on the grave. He stood up and took his cloth cap off. He wasn’t a particularly religious man. Praying wasn’t really his thing. But a part of him still trusted what they used to tell him in Sunday school that somehow life would go on and standing there among the sights, sounds and smells of spring, the yellow daffodils and the rising blades of fresh green grass, he could almost believe it.
“Hello, Gran,” he said. “Sorry it’s been so long. You know how it is. I’ve been busy with work and things. Look, I’ve brought your favourite flowers. I know how much you love them. So, what can I tell you? Jackie’s fine, doing well at her new school. A friend from the village, that Roberta girl, she’s gone up to spend a few days with her in Swindon. She’ll like that. I’m sure she misses her old friends. Life at the sheds hasn’t really changed. Well, it hasn’t but I have. That’s another reason why I’ve not been out to see you. I’m working extra shifts at the station. Mucking in with other jobs. I need to get on see, and I will. It’s all just a matter of distinguishing myself in the right eyes. So that’s what I’m doing.”
He paused. He had something big he wanted to tell her. But he just wasn’t sure how.
“I made a new friend. Mr Bixby, he’s the signalman. Don’t know if you ever met him. Nice chap. But then I guess you know that. In fact, I guess you see a lot from where you’re sitting right now. So, you probably also know that I’m in love. I’m in love with the signalman. You always did say I were different. Well you was right and maybe I ought to feel bad about that but I don’t. All I know is he makes me happy and he cares for me and he looks after me and why should it matter that he’s a man if we make each other happy? And he needs someone too. We all need someone, Gran. There I’ve said it. I can’t tell no one else so I’ve told you. I hope you understand.”
He drew a breath, relieved to have heard himself say these things at last and taking strength from the smell of new life lacing the fresh spring air, he straightened up and put his cap back on.
“I’ll not leave it so long next time. I promise. See you, Gran. I love you.”
Davy turned and made his way back to the iron gate. As he closed it, he looked up in the direction of his gran’s grave. A red squirrel darted across the graveyard and sat atop his grandmother’s tombstone. It looked back and studied Davy with its very big, dark eyes. Eyes so big and so dark you could fall into them …