Hobart at Home
SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES
I was standing by the edge of the cliff, gazing out over the turbulent sea pounding at the rocks below. The
frothy waves seemed hungry as they clawed their way up the cliff-face towards me. Tentacles of cold spray
wrapped themselves around my legs and I shivered, hunching my shoulders against the wind as I walked back
towards the graveyard.
The last sleek limousine waited with its back door agape. Bending forward, I slid into its warm interior
beside Uncle Hobart. He was huddled into the corner of the brown leather seat and glanced over at me as I
settled back with a sigh.
"They've gone on," he said.
"Right." I nodded, my thoughts still back with the sea. A shiver ran down my spine. "God, I think
someone's just walked over my grave!"
Uncle Hobart threw me a guarded look and my face reddened. I sniffed, looking out of the window to hide
my embarrassment. The rows of gravestones I saw didn't help my composure any.
"So, yer staying fer long then?"
I shook my head. "No, I'm going back tomorrow." Rubbing condensation from the window with my sleeve,
I stared out at the light-dappled grass, adding quietly, "I only came up for the funeral."
As the limousine moved out of the church grounds and into the narrow country lane, we sat silently, both
preoccupied with our thoughts. The wind eased and the sun broke through the clouds, flickering between the
trees. I felt a headache building-up behind my left eye. Uncle Hobart fidgeted himself into a more comfortable
"Didn't know 'im too well, did yer?" he asked.
I turned and studied him for a moment. His hands twisted back and forth on the carved handle of his
walking stick. They were hard, strong hands; a farmer's hands. He was well into his seventies and still worked
the farm. Removing a cloth-cap, he scratched his balding head and clicked his dentures - a habit that annoyed
"Funny old bugger 'e were," he said.
I raised my gaze to his faded blue eyes, arching my eyebrows.
"They used ter call 'im Jonah. Be'ind 'is back, like."
"That right?" I asked, only half listening.
He glanced out the window, nodding slowly, as though trying to remember something.
"And why did they call him Jonah, then?” It was more politeness than interest on my part.
Uncle Hobart turned his weathered face towards me, pursing his lips.
"No, really," I insisted. "Do tell."
As soon as the words slipped from my mouth I kicked myself. I should know better, bitter experience
having taught me that once Uncle Hobart started in on one of his stories, there was no respite. At least, not until
he’d rung every last drop from it.
After considering my request for a moment, he leant forward to rap the handle of his walking stick on the
partition separating us from the chauffeur. The driver reached back over his shoulder and slid it open.
"Yes sir?” a pretentious voice enquired.
"Turn the car around. I want ter go back."
The driver’s tone abruptly changed to an indignant squeak. "But I'm only being paid to drive you to the..."
"Stop yer bleedin' arguing man!” Uncle Hobart interrupted. "We've just passed a pub and the youngster 'ere
wants ter stop fer a wet."
"What's the matter with yer? Don't yer know we've just been ter a funeral? Fer God's sake man, I fought a
war fer the likes o' yer."
The driver held up a hand in submission. "Okay, okay. I'll go back to the pub, granddad. But it's going to
cost you a drink!"
The chauffeur struggled to turn the limousine around in the narrow country lane, keeping up a steady flow
of profanities. Uncle Hobart just sat back in the tooled leather seat with a smile on his thin lips.
A little later we glided to a stop outside the pub and when I trotted around to open the car door, I was met
with a withering look and muttered comments about the bloody impudence of young people these days.