When Ron entered the shop through the open front door on Tuesday dinnertime he found Gary behind the counter with his head on it, sound asleep. As was his wont, he went up to the counter and slammed his hands down on it making as much noise as possible. Gary jumped out of his skin, looking wildly about him, in a blurry vision, disorientated kind of way.
"That's a 'bad air raid' kind of jump Gary, how you doing mate?" Ron asked.
Gary stared at Ron like he'd seen a ghost.
"My little trip out into the country was wonderful, thank you for asking." Ron added.
"What?" Gary asked looking like he had been run over by a challenger tank.
"I had a trip into the country, it was very nice." Ron repeated.
"Oh, right." Gary replied.
"So, what have you been up to while I've been away?"
"Oh, nothing much, you know, the usual," Gary replied vaguely.
"Bad air raid obviously?"
"Yep, bad air raid Ron," Gary added.
"You look like shit, mate." Ron commented.
"Why don't you get off home, I'll stay here till closing," Ron offered.
"Want to talk about it?"
"Not now Ron OK?"
"Must have been a bad one," Ron observed.
"I'll be off home then," Gary said standing up.
"I went there this morning, Yvonne has come home early, and she's wondering where you've been."
Gary looked like he was going to crumple up on the floor.
"So you had better have a shower and a change of clothes before you go home," Ron added.
"Why?" Gary asked.
"Because you smell rather strongly of Marijuana, Gary, obviously."
"Hmm, obviously," Gary said disappearing into the back of the shop.Epilogue 2
The sky was heavy with clouds and a crack of lightning shot across the nighttime sky. Xavier stood at the gate in the back yard, the place where the time portal used to be. He leant against it feeling the sharp metal dig into his forehead not caring about the pain. An old man quietly crossed the yard and came to stand beside him. He almost jumped out of his skin when he noticed him. Xavier stood upright away from the gate, trying to compose himself.
"Hello Xavier," the old man greeted him.
"What are you doing here?" Xavier snapped.
"I came here because it's the fifty third anniversary of the portal closing down." The old man answered.
"And my meeting Gary at the end of his time travelling adventures tells you that it is finally over?" Xavier managed to add in a near to normal voice. He wished that his father would just leave him alone, now was not the time to talk but he wouldn't understand that.
"Yes," Ron said, "You met him a few months after he got through to the 19th century, it makes sense really; it wouldn't have occurred to him before then. By May 1999, May 1945 and also, we now know, May 2052; the portal had closed down for him."
"Yes, they had already had the last Christmas, he told me the story about the time engineer."
"I miss him you know, still do after all this time," Ron offered as he fingered at the metal of the gate, "Tell me, what did you two guys get up to?"
"Well, I just did as you told me to, kept him away from girls, took him out, had a good time." Xavier answered as vaguely as he could.
"Smoked a few joints?" Ron added jovially.
"Yep," Xavier answered, "One or two."
"That's how I knew," Ron added.
"That he got through. Gary wasn't the sort of person who would go looking for that sort of thing but he was the sort who would try it if it just so happened to be lying around."
"When in Rome," Xavier added.
"Yes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do," Ron said with nostalgic thoughts going through his head, "When it was made legal, that's when I knew, or thought I did. I found him one day sitting in the shop stinking of the stuff and for once he wasn't keen to talk about what he had got up to; he never could stop talking about it."
"Maybe it was because he believed that you were dead when he came through." Xavier offered.
"Maybe, though I would say he looked exactly as you do now."
"I hated having to lie to him, ironic isn't it? He would have loved to have met you again."
"I think the shock would have killed him, you kept that other stuff to yourself didn't you?"
"Hmm," Xavier muttered, he couldn't risk more.
"Well," Ron said cheerfully patting Xavier on the back, "At least in this era nobody gets their heart broken; thanks to you!"
Xavier couldn't say anything; he just clenched the gate till his hand bled. His father waddled off back into the shop. Xavier let his head fall against the rails of the gate. Ron was inside watching on the security camera as he waited for Xavier to join him. Minute after minute passed and he didn't come in, even as the rain lashed against the bar front window.
"Oh Gary, I miss you so much," Xavier whispered to the gate, then cried silently in the dark as the thunder rumbled in the sky.Acknowledgements
'Don't say goodbye, leave the past behind', Quake - Mantra (Forever), 1999, Ministry Of Sound Recordings.
'Until forever fades away', Lost Witness - Red Sun Rising (Lange Mix), 1999, Ministry Of Sound Recordings.
'Into the arms of temptation', Matt Darey presents Mash Up – Liberation (Temptation – Fly Like An Angel) (Matt Darey Remix), 1999, Incentive Music.
'Everything will be perfect, tonight and forever' Lost Witness - Happiness Happening, 1999, Ministry Of Sound Recordings.
'Here's a lot of danger' Brother Brown featuring Frank'ee – Under The Water, 1999, London Records.
Quote - Ron: Life's not a movie Gary, there are no grand farewells, no famous last words.