1. Read on, Read On, The Answer's At The End.

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Life is on long enigma, my friend, 
So read on, read on, the answer's at the end


October 2009

The older man had to shove the door quite hard to get inside, even though the key had turned easily in the lock. 'Jesus, look at all this stuff!' said the younger man disbelievingly, as they pushed their way inside.

Piles of papers, books, magazines, clothing, cushions, bits of old lamps and furniture, carrier bags with more papers and magazines were piled up. Impossibly tall towers lined the hall way corridor, blocking out the daylight and preventing the front door from opening fully.

'Yeah,' the older man said with a cough. 'Hoarders, they're the worst. This lot could take us four or five days to clear. Look at it all!'

He sidled his way down the hall with the younger lad following.

'Look at all this crap,' he said, picking through random things and then throwing them down again. 'Why do they do it? Why do they keep everything like this?'

'Haven't you done one of these before?'

'No, I've only been working here for two weeks. Do you get many like this, Andy?'

'Nah,' replied the older man, Andy, as he tried to pull back the floor length curtains of the living room. 'Sometimes they're worse!' He managed to open one of the curtains wide enough for the daylight to flood in.

'Really?'

'Oh yeah. Some of them are junkies, needles and shit left everywhere. This was just some poor old dear. No family, no friends. She'd been dead six weeks before they found her.'

'That's sad.'

'That's life,' he said bluntly and pulled back the other curtain, disturbing some dust. A small mountain of newspapers toppled over.

'It stinks in here,' the younger man said, putting his hand over his mouth and nose.

'They always do,' Andy replied, dismissively. 'We just need to get all the shit cleared out of here and then it can be industrially cleaned, steam clean the floors and that.'

'Look,' said the younger man. 'This must be where she'd sit. It's the only bit of floor space in here!' He sat down in a tall, hard–backed armchair upholstered in a red and gold baroque fabric, threadbare on the arms and the seat.

'I think that's where they found her, Steve,' Andy said unkindly.

Steve leapt up as if he'd been burnt. 'Eww! Oh, yuck! That's disgusting!'

Andy laughed at him. 'Right, well, we'd better make a start. Get a pair of rubber gloves on and grab a bin bag.'

'Still, it's a shame, isn't it?' Steve said later, as they began to shovel the junk from the living room floor into black plastic refuse bags.

'Mmm,' replied Andy, not really listening. 'If you find anything you think might be valuable, put it on the mantlepiece. We'll go through it all at the end.'

'Just dying like that, on your own. No family or anything. Don't you wonder what's happened in people's lives for them to end up like that?'

'No, not really.'

'Well I do. I mean, the old woman who lived here – she must have had a family once, a mum and dad, brothers and sisters, perhaps a husband and kids. What happened for her to end up all alone, living like this? Unable to chuck anything away?'

'Just get on with it, Steve. Or we'll be here forever.'

Andy hoisted his full bag up and over the piles of rubbish, hardly having even made a dent in it.

As he took it out, Steve went back to the pile of papers he was sorting through. He was about to spoon them all into the bag when a small piece of shiny paper caught his eye. Extracting it from the rest of the papers he saw it was an old small square photograph; the colours slight faded and the edges a little curled. The picture showed a young man with a mop of thick blonde hair, immaculately combed. There was a smile on his lips as he wrapped his arm around the shoulders and neck of a pretty dark haired girl, pulling her into him, almost in a headlock. She grinned at the camera.

The picture just showed their heads and shoulders, but you could see the top of what looked like one pretty funky paisley shirt. The girl wore a white off the shoulder blouse, beads round her neck. Steve turned the picture over. In faint blue ink on the back it said, 'Minnie and Brian, 1968'.

'What's that?' Andy asked, coming back into the room.

'Just an old photo,' Steve replied, offering it to him.

'Get rid then,' Andy said, without looking.

Steve went to put it in the bag but hesitated. He put the handful of papers he still held in his other hand on the floor and started to flick through them.

Amongst the papers was a ring bound notebook and in between another couple of sheets of paper were two more pictures. One of four lads who Steve thought looked vaguely familiar, as if he'd seen the photo before. He turned it over. It just said, '1964.' in the same blue ink.

The second picture was bigger, almost twice the size of the other photos. It looked like a more professional photograph, some sort of promo shot of four slightly sulky looking girls, dressed in matching black motorcycle leathers and knee high boots. Sullen looks on their faces, tall beehives on three heads and one girl at the front of the group with poker straight long blonde hair.

One of the beehive girls appeared to be the 'Minnie' from the photo with 'Brian', but she looked quite different. He turned the picture over but there was nothing written on the back of that one.

He was just about to throw the pictures out when one more small picture fell out of the pages of the notebook. He picked it up and studied that one as well, as if these pictures would somehow give him the secret to the lonely old dear's empty life. Again, the face of the man in the photo looked a little familiar but Steve couldn't quite place it. It was a man wearing flared jeans and a striped t-shirt. He had long brown hair and looked a bit like a hippy to Steve.

'Oh,' said Andy, looking over Steve's shoulder. 'That's George Harrison, isn't it?'

'Who?' Steve asked, turning the picture over. The reverse of it confirmed 'George, 1969.'

'You know, one of The Beatles.'

Steve looked up at him blankly.

'Surely you know who The Beatles are?' Andy said.

'Yeah, I've heard of them,' Steve said sulkily. 'I think my dad's got some old records.'

Andy tutted in disapproval. 'Your generation, don't know you're born! The Beatles! The sixties! That was real music. Not the crap you lot listen to these days.' He took the picture from Steve and examined it closer. 'It's a proper photo,' he said. 'The old lady must have met him.'

'There's these too,' Steve offered the other pictures.

'Ah, see, this is The Beatles,' Andy said taking the one labelled 1964. 'She must have been a fan.'

'What about this one, who are they?' Steve asked, offering the bigger picture of the four women.

Andy took it but shook his head. 'Dunno about them,' he said. 'I don't recognise them.' He handed them back to Steve.

'What should I do with them?'

Andy shrugged, loosing interest. He turned back to his own bin bag. 'Throw 'em,' he said, carrying on.

Steve considered it a moment then scooped the four pictures and the notebook up and put them on the mantlepiece instead.

* * *

A/N: If you've read this before and it's not as you remember, don't worry, you haven't gone mad! It's under editing as of 26/12/15. 



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