my boy builds coffins
for rich and for poor
kings and queens
have all knocked on his door
They tell us stories of the end of the world. How it ended and why. Nobody really knows, so they make myths out of it. Fire, flood, famine. The dark came down; lives lived in perpetual twilight.
But none of it really matters anymore; we don't care about the 'how'.
It's all about what you can do, at the end of the world.
My father was a sea-faring man; he captained a ship that went out across the grey ocean and he never came home.
My mother was a dancer; she went touring with her company and we never saw her again.
My brothers were soldiers and off they went to war. The war went on; my brothers did not.
And then it was just my boy and me.
My boy used to make toys, boats for my brothers, trains, dolls with working joints. He made a chess set and taught me to play one night when the power stayed on. He played badly and let my win. I wiped my eyes with a scrap of silk that would have been a dress for a doll. That was the way it worked for us; he made the dolls, I stitched the clothes, but then people stopped asking for toys and started asking for other things instead. I remember the day he looked at me and shrugged.
So now my boy makes coffins and I sew shrouds.
His coffins are works of art and there is no shortage of takers.
People die so often now. We used to be made of stronger things but we're so close to the edge; the world is unravelling and we're going with it.
They all come. We've seen people who couldn't afford to walk through the door, people who lied to us about how long they'd got left, girls with dancing shoes and people who paid us with other people's things. It wasn't just the important people.
They all come to my boy and they ask him to make death beautiful.
And he does. But he's saving his best work for me.
I've been trying to remember the last beautiful thing that I saw. Was it trees? The last leaves were when I was a small child. Somewhere, in a book, I have pressed leaves, gone brittle and greyish where once, they were so so green. Maybe green itself was the last beautiful thing I saw? It's gone from the world now. Or maybe it was the day that I watched a bird fall against the grey sky, gaining speed and catch itself at the last moment? I wonder where the birds went, in the end.
Or maybe it was poetry or music or that girl who stood at the cross-roads with her hair blowing out in the breeze when we went to deliver a coffin to the man who'd bought it?
My boy. My boy is beautiful too.
On my coffin, he's carved two hearts and our names. He's carved a ship for my father and a bird for my mother, toy soldiers for my brothers. I'm waiting to see what he carves for me. My boy is working on our coffins side by side and, one day, we'll be ready to lie down in them.
I just hope that there's someone left to throw us in the ground and walk away.
The whole world can't end in coffins.
I have to believe there's hope.
Or maybe he's already planned for that. Maybe we'll leave an extra one waiting, my beautiful boy and me.