My wife, Phillipa, had been dead a week before I discovered she'd reprogrammed the Satellite Navigation System. Every irksome instruction had been replaced with her own soothing voice, whispering directions.
I wouldn't have known how to do it, but Phil was a wizard with new technology. She spent hours online, shopping, browsing and blogging. Our son called her the Silver Surfer.
Friends told me it was morbid; they suggested I leave the SatNav in the car – or, better yet, delete it. They didn't understand why I brought it into the house, and shook their heads in stunned disbelief when I told them I'd plugged it in next to the bed.
Ted Hunter choked on his morning rasher of bacon. “You're mad!” he spluttered, spraying bits of gristle all over the paper.
Old Dave MacNish spilled half his pint down his best pair of trousers and stormed off to the bar on his own. When he returned, he shoved a half-pint of whiskey under my nose. “You need a wee dram, lad! Move on with your life!”
I thought the SatNav made a rather splendid conversationalist. Better than Frank Drummond, who only ever came over to grumble about his wife's latest hairstyle, or Bill Prendergast, who, after fifteen years of Tuesday night poker, still hadn't worked out that I had no interest in football, whatever the score.
No, the SatNav listened, and when it spoke, it spoke sense.
I lifted my head out of the financial times, my bottom lip gripped between my false teeth. “I'm thinking of investing in CalCo.”
“Turn around when possible, Jim.” Her voice was so calm and measured, I felt sure she was right. Phillippa had always been hot on the financials.
“Should I go on a diet, Phil? The doctor seems to think I've put on weight.”
“Get into the right lane, my dear.”
Each evening I plugged her in by the bed and whispered “I love you, I miss you, sleep tight,” and it felt good to hear her guiding me, this way or that, away from my home and off, off into the night.
One day I had her on in the car, driving home from a busy day at the office. It was a journey I'd made ten thousand times, if not more, but it wasn't really about knowing the way – more about sharing the journey.
“Turn left just here, Jim.” Her voice was sincere, as always, but the instruction unexpected. I slowed and stared at the gravel road she'd directed me to. My house was in the other direction.
“Turn left now, please.” She only ever said please when she was getting annoyed. I turned and felt the tyres crunch on limestone.
The road led past a copse of sycamores and turned down towards a glimmering patch of water.
“Ahead, we're to keep left,” whispered her beautiful voice.
I did as instructed, and narrowly missed a large, mean-looking pothole.
As we pulled up to the side of the water, I felt a strange sense of recognition. I'd been here before. Sometime. Yet the place was different.
“Did we come here, love? Together?” I asked.
“In twenty metres, I have reached my destination.”
I peered through the windscreen. Twenty metres? That would be in the water.
“You want me to --” I stopped, realising what she'd said. “Your destination?”
“Keep right,” she whispered back.
I opened the car door and slipped out. I recognised it now, of course. The old lovers' spot. We had made out here, long ago, in our teens. All hot bodies and passion. There had always been a few cars here, then, back in the days when rebellion was limited to certain, well recognised places. Beyond the far bank, a forest had grown, obscuring the view of the city we'd once enjoyed. But it was the same spot.
“I have reached my destination.”
My shoulders sagged. I'd been putting this off.
The latch on the trunk was sticky, but I leaned back and gave it a well-practised kick. It popped open.
“You're totally sure?” I shouted.
“Keep right,” she called back.
I hesitated, just for a moment, then picked up the urn and started down towards the lake. It was time to say goodbye.
copyright © 2014
Hailing from the south coast of England, Leo Norman is a teacher, father and teller of tall tales.