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The Coffin (standard:mystery, 1342 words)
Author: Ian HobsonAdded: Sep 04 2006Views/Reads: 3004/1190Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
I locked the door and turned around and there it was: a coffin!

The Coffin 

©2006 Ian Hobson 

Getting up for work had been difficult for the first couple of days, but
I soon got back into a routine.  In fact, everything was going fine 
until the Tuesday of my third week.  I was up at six-fifteen as usual, 
had my breakfast, and was out of the front door by a quarter to seven.  
I live in an old terraced house that used to belong to my mum  the 
same house I grew up in - and the front door opens directly onto the 
street.  As I left the house, checking the contents of my rucksack to 
make sure that I'd not forgotten my thermos flask and sandwiches, I 
locked the door and turned around and there it was: a coffin!  Sat 
there on the pavement, right outside my front window! 

Where the bloody hell has this come from? I thought.  It was a nicely
made coffin; nothing flash, just pine, by the look of it, though it had 
very ornate-looking brass handles.  I glanced up the street; it's on a 
slight incline, and I wondered for a moment if the coffin might have 
fallen from a hearse and come sliding downhill, but if that were the 
case, how would it have got itself up onto the pavement?  Anyway, there 
was no sign of a hearse, just the usual parked cars.  I don't have a 
car any more; I sold it about a year after my wife died.  I had other 
uses for the money then; though, thankfully, not any more, thanks to 

Anyway, I couldn't stand around waiting for someone to turn up and claim
the coffin; I own the house, not the pavement outside it, so it wasn't 
my responsibility.  So off I went to catch my bus. 

When I got to the factory, all hell had broken loose: during the night a
water main had burst on Coalback Lane and the water had flowed through 
the back railings and across the yard and almost completely flooded the 
boiler-house.  Of course, as a maintenance engineer, I got roped into 
the cleanup operation.  And so I forgot all about the coffin; until a 
quarter to five, when I got back home to find it still sat there 
outside my house. 

I suppose at this point I ought to tell you that the house has been in
the family for many years, as it used to belong to my grandfather, and 
that's who this story is all about really. 

Anyway, some bright spark had blue-tacked a sign to the coffin that read
Vacant possession on completion.  As I read the sign, old Mrs Gray from 
next door came out and asked me if it was my coffin.  I told her I 
wasn't planning to have a use for one just yet, and then, foolishly, I 
asked her how her husband was, as I hadn't seen Joe for three or four 
weeks and he had been quite ill throughout the winter.  She told me he 
was very well, thank you very much, and went back inside.  So, wishing 
I'd kept my stupid mouth shut, I unlocked my front door and went in to 
make a couple of phone calls. 

It only took a half-hour for a young copper to show up.  Fortunately I
was out of the shower by then, though I hadn't quite finished shaving.  
He examined the coffin and took a few notes and then suggested I phone 
the local funeral directors.  I told him I'd already done that and that 
they'd said that they hadn't lost any coffins.  At this point he got on 
his radio while I made us both a cup of tea, and then after another 
half-hour or so, two more coppers arrived with the undertaker.  A Mr 
Greenwood, I remember his name was, and he had a small tool-kit with 
him and, as quick as a flash, he had the lid off the coffin, and the 
five of us stood staring down into it. 

This is where my grandfather comes into the story.  He'd died during the
war and, according to my gran, on the day he was due to be buried in 
the parish cemetery, both he and his coffin had gone missing.  
Apparently there had been an air-raid just as the coffin was being 
carried out of the house.  I think most of those doing the carrying 
were women, what with there being a shortage of men, and all, and as 
the siren went off they set the coffin down and everyone, including my 
mum and my gran, scurried off to the air-raid shelter.  And then later, 
when they returned, the coffin and my granddad's body were gone. 

Black-marketeers were blamed at the time; not that my gran was bothered
about the coffin; she just wanted her husband back so that she could 

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