A short piece of fiction

Last time we met up, the count was sixty. Three years later, with no reunions organised in that time due to the closed borders and restricted travel, and it’s six. And what do we talk about? The oldies, the deaths of pets, dogs mainly, and football.

No mention of those who aren’t here for the reunion. Not even a passing glimpse of a name, nor a drink in their honour.

Next year, there’s not going to be a reunion. Unanimous decision. Too spread out, costs too high to travel, too much inconvenience for the ones who could host – if they were still around. There’s no question that they’d offer. Someone always offers, but what if there’s no one left?

Or worse, only one of us left.

Who’s going to tell the tall stories about the things we did, the things we saw, who’s going to understand how we say things that no one else can understand? Who else will understand the moments of hollow-eyed blankness?

We put our lives on the line, our hearts in the big family rather than our blood family, our small matters. We trained, we went, we returned. And we brought with us the promise to meet up each year to remember those who didn’t make it back.

But this is the last time. There are some of us left, but no one has spoken of those who aren’t. We drink, our words swallowed with the beer, our fears buried between the buns of hamburgers charred on the barbecue, our comrades cold shadows in the darkness at our backs.

The oldies are a safe subject. We expect people to die as they get old, or frail, or mind-weary with life. We talk about them, say our distant farewells, disparaging the need to let them go while alone in a heartless place, disallowed from travelling to see them, let alone go inside to sit with them, to talk, to watch them take the final sleep.

And no funerals. There’s a coldness at that.

Buster, the dog we all got to know on social media. He’s gone. Another dog dug its way under a fence, or over a fence, and came to an end on the highway. There were lots of trucks still moving around then. There are again. Another dog just got old and passed to the veranda shade facing the back paddock.

All memories, shadows of the things we knew.

Football is a safe subject. The different codes, the different teams, the wins and losses. We don’t speak of the disruptions to sports all over the world. Not now. Sometimes, it’s best to leave the confirmation of a battle we can’t fight in the hidden recesses of the past.

We don’t talk about our people gone since last time. Some went down while fighting the good fight against fires, floods, putting themselves on the front line to help others. A few went that way. But most went the sad way, the lonely trip off the path with no hand to guide, no friend or family by their side. It feels wrong.

Lost to the vagaries of pandemics feels disrespectful. We can’t speak of it. It wasn’t putting the body on the line as a warrior. It wasn’t the mind that went, or the body, not the night terrors or the memories of things once seen and never forgotten. Not death due to the pain of loss. It’s just stupid loss. A virus that spread around the world, blamed on the way people travel, how people like to get together, to be close, the need to be part of something. To be connected. To be human.

In silence, I raise a glass and say the name of each of those who spurred the first reunion, the people lost in the first encounters, and then another toast for those lost since the last time we met. I say farewell to those who stand around the fire pit, knowing it is the last time. But my words are trapped. Unspoken. Unheard, but not unacknowledged.


Photo by Alexey Demidov on

Yes, it’s fiction, but even fiction cuts too close to the bone.

10 thoughts on “Reunion

  1. This is so close to the truth. I believe we live in an era that denies the reality of death. We just carry on as if it doesn’t happen. We have “celebrations” of people’s lives. Nothing wrong with this idea but in a way it implies that we need not mourn of grieve.

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  2. 7000 dead of Covid in 7 months. And they’re not even acknowledged. Peanuts in comparison to the losses overseas, but these were 7000 we didn’t need to lose. We knew better. And then we stopped caring.

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