Short Story - JJ's Note - Part 2

This is the second and final part of this little mystery story.

If you missed the first part, you might wish to click here and read that first.


I found Jim in the study grappling with one of granddad's crossword monstrosities.

If mum had been trying to turn granny's legacy into a lesson for me then Jim was without doubt the inspiration. For five years we had co-habitated in splendid non-marital bliss.


I suspected that mother secretly disapproved, not so much of our reluctance to wed as of our blatant success in staying together without doing so.

If she had calculated that granny's experience would spur me to the altar, she was misguided. All it had done was shatter the illusion of yet another happy marriage.

Jim looked up and grinned as I came in.

"He had a very devious mind, your old grandpa," he said. He had solved only three of the clues and yet I could tell he was inordinately chuffed with himself - his Northern Irish accent was very pronounced.

I handed him the note.

"What do you make of this?" I asked.

He read it quickly once, guffawed loudly, and then went over it again more slowly.

"It's terrible." He said.

"Apart from that."

I told him the story. In the middle of it he snapped his fingers and filled in 3 down in the crossword. I wasn't annoyed - Jim's mind worked on many levels but at least one was always reserved for me. When I'd finished, he got up and bestowed one of his patented friendly bear hugs on me. I must have looked as if I needed it.

"So old Faye was having it off with a Welshman?"

"Guess so, can you figure it out?"

"What?"

"Well, it is a bit of a mystery, isn't it? I thought maybe you could 'read between the lines' and tell me where JJ has been waiting for my granny all these years?"

He looked longingly over at his crossword.

"He probably wasn't at all. The amorous auld goat probably met some other old biddy somewhere on his travels and never bothered turning up. I mean, if Sophie and Faye went cruising every July twelfth to every place they'd ever been together then surely they would have found him if he was there, wouldn't they?"

"August." I said.

"August what?"

"They went looking on August 12th, not July."

Jim picked up the letter again.

"Naw, look it says the 'Glorious Twelfth'..." he blinked hard and then laughed, "Oh yeah! 'Glorious Twelfth' means different things to different people, doesn't it? To you it's the day the grouse hunting season starts but to me it's Orange day, the Twelfth of July."

"Oh God! Do you think they were looking for him in the wrong month?"

It was too much, I sat down.

"Well, it would be an excellent example of how certain phrases can be subject to misinterpretation but, no, it doesn't make sense. Look, the poem is dated August 12th and he says here he's going off for a year. Besides, what would a Welshman know about sodding William of Orange? No, it's not that - it's not anything except an old funeral-day fable and you shouldn't go annoying yourself with it. Here, I'll mind it for you."

"No!"

I snatched the letter out of his grip, surprising both of us by my ferocity.

"There should be a reason, Jim, an explanation, otherwise it's just too futile. Too...sad"

Before I knew it, I was being bear-hugged again, and crying.

"Get your coat. I'll take you home."

It sounded like a good plan.

I must have been with Jim longer than I thought because, when I came out of the study, mum was at the door seeing the last of the guests out.

I slipped into the drawing room, avoiding them. Granddad sat alone among the fire lit debris of paper plates and half empty glasses. I looked down at him. A string of saliva spun from his lips. I took out the poem and read it once more in the firelight.

...and if you don't
then you will find
old JJ by reading
between the lines.

A low, alien, chuckle made me jump. I looked down to see my Grandfather staring directly at me in a way he had not done in many years. I fell back in shock. His eyes were unbelievably lucid and clear.

"Correk teen fluid." He slurred, the saliva falling away.

"What?" I whispered.

His eyes jerked from me to the letter I was barely holding onto.

"'Didn't have any such thing then, 'weren't even 'vented. 'Had to scratch...take razor blade...scratch it out."

Unbelievably, his hand lifted from the armrest. A bony finger momentarily pointed at the open page then fell back.

Mother came in.

"Is he peaceful?" She asked.

Ignoring her and with trembling hands, I held the sheet of paper up before the firelight. Even by that fickle glow, I could clearly see the scratch mark on the paper. My stomach lurched inside me as I suddenly understood. He had changed one capital letter to lowercase, nothing more.

The tiniest alteration, two lives destroyed.

I swung angrily to face mother.

"You were wrong, he knew all about Granny and JJ."

"Nonsense!"

"No, mum, it's not! He must have found the letter in the hall before you did. He was probably going to burn it but, when he saw the golden opportunity it provided, he couldn't resist. He loved his word games far too much.

Mothers pupils were jumping from Granddad to me and back at an alarming rate. She didn't have a clue what I was saying.

"You said granny worked in Buckinghamshire but she didn't, did she?. It was Berkshire, wasn't it mum?

"Why yes, yes it was but_"

"JJ waited for her in the first place that he ever caught sight of her, ages before she ever met him. This poem doesn't say 'reading', it says 'Reading'. Don't you see? The London-bound platform of Reading station - the one between the lines - that's where he was."


(c) Ken Armstrong

29 comments:

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Well done. There's no way I could have ever figured that out because I don't know the train stations in England, let alone reading about one.

hope said...

Standing ovation!

[And from a girlie point of view, thanks for not killing JJ immediately after he wrote the letter.]

Yolander said...

Yo Ken!

Thank you!! I can rest easy tonight, although slightly saddened at the two who should have been not being. I probably would have been happier knowing JJ was deceased simply because it would mean he did not spend the next few decades weeping.

Oh well.

Erin said...

Ah, such a sad story. Makes me feel sorry for them both that they missed eachother. But liked the twist with the grandfather knowing all along and sabotaging things. Good story!

Vanessa said...

Great story! Poor JJ - I can't help but feel sorry for him.

Jim Murdoch said...

God, you're so clever.

(I will leave it entirely up to you to decide upon the tone of that precious comment).

Ken Armstrong said...

The dice was loaded against you, Matt - sorry about that. You've got my Paypal in case you might need it, yeah? :)

Hope (K takes a bow) Glad it passed a few moments :) For all I know, he's still up there, waiting.

Yo Yolander! JJ was fairly resilient, he would have wooed another old babe after a respectable amount of time had elapsed... and thus attained happiness.

Thanks Erin and Vanessa, I never really thought of it as particularly sad - for me it was more of a technical exercise but more of that anon...

Ha! Jim! I've thought about this and I'm going to assign a tone of 'Dismay at lack of true emotional content coupled with grudging literary admiration that such a silly story dragged you right to the finish'. :)

Seriously though, I'm going to follow this up (like I do sometimes) with my own criticism of the story *and* my writing so that might engage a little more... we'll see.

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Nope, didn't get the paypal...you must have sent that to a doppelganger or it was intercepted by a leprechaun.

jenaisle said...

I have to read the poem again and ponder on it for a few seconds. I'm not familiar with your trains stations too.

Nice one, I thought it was a place that was related to something funny.

Thanks for the conclusion. Cheers.

Jim Murdoch said...

Ah, Kenneth, you are so perceptive.

Pamela Plumley said...

Love the story!

Tony said...

I'm sure you've heard this a thousand times, but I'm certainly glad I found your blog. Your writing is wonderful, interesting, and I look forward to catching up on the archives.

Keep up the great work.

Ken Armstrong said...

Thanks Pamela Plumley, I'm glad you enjoyed it, I really am. I also love your name... can I perhaps put you in a play sometime?

Thanks Tony and sorry for doubling up on your fine joke yesterday over at you-know-where. :)

Ken Armstrong said...

Hi Matt: That P*yp*l must be unreliable - I'm going to give up sending anybody money for a year or two. I think I'll also give up holidays, movie rentals and, oh yeah, dinner. :)

Hi Jena, I like your use of the word 'ponder' in this context - you are a very subtle gal, aren't you :) Unlike me - 'not a gal and certainly not subtle!

Carole said...

Wonderful story. Your blog is like an oasis in my Entrecard drops! :-)
I rarely ever am able to figure out the ending ahead of time of mysteries, but I really enjoy them anyway. (Who wants to guess the ending ahead of time anyhoo? :-)

hope said...

Before Jim distracts you by tossing more bouquets your way, I posted a picture on my blog today that made me wonder what kind of story you'd turn it into. :)

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Hey, if you need help with your header, I'll be happy to lend a hand.

Matthew S. Urdan said...

@Carole...I guessed what they were going to do with "The Bridge to Terabithia", but it's not like that was a mystery, now was it?

Ken Armstrong said...

Very impressive Hope! Thanks for the mench. Jim tosses bittersweet bouquets, that's why he is my good friend-in-blogging.

Thanks Matt, Margaret has so-kindly seen me right for the moment but watch for the Matt-Signal over Gotham City - it will mean I am trouble again and I will remember you are out there, paddle in hand. :)

I don't get the 'Bridge to Whatever' thing but don't worry, talk among yourselves, it makes me happy just to listen in.

Margaret said...

My my! What an ending! Clever sot you are!

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hope said...

Gee Matt, I could've used that kind of help yesterday myself [as in fixing headers]. I must say there's something very satisfying about finally figuring it out...if you don't count gnashing of teeth. :)

Ken, your "musical" reference re that fishy picture is what hubby and I use as code when we run into people who just don't seem right. ;)

MR CANUCK BUCKS said...

man! i was way off - great story and i'll sleep better tonight knowing it the conclusion. cheers!

Ken Armstrong said...

Hi Margaret, thanks - I never pick up on comment typos - I do so many myself - but I trust you meant 'sod' instead of 'sot' :)

Hi Hope, yes, I use that tune as a little shorthand too - it's very self-explanatory.

Hi Linc, your eponomously-titled 'link' to your newest money-spinning blog doesn't work - I'm looking forward to seeing it and wasting loads of cash over there.

Rachel Fox said...

I didn't comment on this ending post to begin with because I couldn't decide how I felt about it. I've come back a couple of times...still the same. So why was that? Didn't I like it? What was it?

Sad to say I am just such a big romantic softie that it upset me, I think. I hate to think of people spending their whole lives with the wrong person...even fictionally. Oh dear. I think I may have to go and watch 'Love, actually' ten times as a punishment. That should beat the soppiness out of me!

xx

Anthony James Barnett said...

Great stuff. Not read you before. Will certainly try again, now I've discovered you.

Ken Armstrong said...

Dear Rachel! I'm sorry you were upset at the story - actually, strike that, I'm a bit pleased actually - we love to evoke a reaction, don't we? Do... watch 'Love Actually' but don't watch 'Brief Encounter' like I did one afternoon recently, that won't help.

Actually, I'm about to fire up a post where I give myself a bit-of-a-hard-time over this story so I'll be interested to see what you think of that.

Welcome Anthony and thanks. What you said, right back at you! :)

Dave King said...

I didn't get there. Brilliant!

Ken Armstrong said...

Thanks Dave - stay away from that bin now. :)

nicole said...

Damn, Ken. You are too good.

I was touched. And a little sad that the old coot had the final say in the matter. :)