'Happiness' by Richard Taylor
upper was over. They had cleared the table, stacked the dishwasher and put away the half-finished bottle of wine. Kate had found her glasses and settled down with her book. He brought her a cup of coffee and moved the lamp nearer to her chair. He didn’t sit down. There was an urge to be alone, just for a while.
‘I’m going to have a look round the garden while it’s light’.
‘Don’t you get cold,’ she said. ‘Here, put your cardigan on.’ She picked it off the arm of the chair and watched him button it up.
‘It’s warm,’ he protested, but Kate was having her way; she’d been cosseting him more recently, with good reason, and it would only upset her to argue. Not that they’d argued over much in the last fifty years.
He fetched his stick from the hall.
It was warm. The heat of the day lingered in the stones of the terrace and in the scent of the lavender hedge. An orange sun was setting over the wisteria on his right and the delicate sliver of a new moon was gathering brightness in front of him. The slender branches of the silver birch swayed in the gentle air. An owl hooted. He walked carefully over the uneven paving and sat down on the bench by the rose bushes. Kate’s trug and secateurs were there; he must remember to bring them in before the dew settled. He turned his head (slowly now; obey doctor’s orders) to look at the sunset. The sky was reddening and Venus was there, a piercing bright pinprick. It was so beautiful, the garden fading now into greyness, the trees darkening into silhouettes, the world, the universe, and here he was, sharing in all that beauty and magnificence.
Stars were appearing. How far away? Billions of miles, and beyond them, billions of galaxies each with their billions of stars. There must be countless other beautiful, wonderful worlds out there, and he was a part of it all. He smiled. A part? An infinitesimal part, totally insignificant, but still a part. And when that tiresome lump of muscle in his chest decided to stop beating he’d still be a part of it; his atoms, his essence, would disperse and mingle and contribute to the ground, the air, the sky, the stars, the whole of the universe. He smiled again; I’m happy. I’m going to die some time soon, but I’m happy because this beauty will still be mine and I’m going to share in it and play a part. They would mourn, Kate and the children, but he must tell them about this happiness, and maybe that would help. Or perhaps write it down for them. He must do that.
The breeze was freshening. He picked up the trug and his stick, stood, and carefully made his way back to the lights of the living room where Kate put down her book and smiled at him.