His parents went to the chipper after funerals. Bill found this out when he drove them home from one – the dead husband of his mother’s long-dead sister. He’d driven them there because the church and the graveyard were down the country, in a small kip of a village that seemed untouched by the now dead boom, except for the fact that the priest was Polish. His father wasn’t happy driving off the main roads any more, and his mother had shrunk. She couldn’t reach the pedals.
So she said.
Bill had said he’d bring them, and they’d climbed into the back of the car like they were his kids and they were all going off on a picnic. Already, he was making it up. He couldn’t wait to tell his wife and kids – his real kids.
He even bought them ice creams on the way.
He didn’t actually do that, but it was what he told Hazel and the girls when he got home. He saw the big cone outside a shop ahead of them.
—D’yis fancy a 99?
—Ah, no, said his mother.—It wouldn’t be right.
—Go on. Where’s the harm?
He had them licking away in the back of the car while he turned off the main road, onto a glorified lane that was all corners and gear changes.
They found the village. He drove through it before he knew they were there.
There was the mass. The priest sounded like a culchie who’d spent his childhood in Eastern Europe.
—Paddy was populler wit’ al’ the neighbours.
—He was not, he heard his father whisper.
There was the walk to the graveyard.
—There’s the clouds now, look.
—We’ll be drenched before he’s buried.
—We might make it.
—Wait and see. The bastard’s up there, orchestrating the whole thing.
The coffin was lowered and they went back to the village’s one pub for coffee and a few sandwiches. Bill met cousins he didn’t know he had and an uncle he thought had died in 1994. He kissed a woman’s cheek because he thought they were related, then watched her filling a tray with empty cups and bringing it through a door behind the counter.