by Charlie Bilton
The opening bars to Band on the Run hiss from the van’s tinny little radio, breaking the dream I had last night. Roy keeps it tuned religiously to a reliable MOR station that actually devotes more airtime to adverts than tunes. The music — when it comes — is a stodgy buffet of The Eagles, Bryan Adams, Genesis, that kind of fare, and — occasionally — Wings. They also sometimes play all three and a half hours of Freebird. We never get to hear the whole thing, thank fuck.
We’ve just delivered a wardrobe to a third floor flat with no lift. Roy is sucking on a can of Red Bull — his second of the morning — and tearing the wrapper from a Twix. And — somehow — driving at the same time. Sweat bastes his sandy curls. By lunchtime, beads of it will be dripping down his forehead.
“I killed Paul McCartney in my dreams last night,” I tell him.
“Yeah?” he says. “Why d’you wanna do that?”
I tell him I didn’t. It was just a dream.
“But at a subconscious level,” he explains, “you must want to.”
This hangs for a moment. He squeezes the Red Bull can, deforming it brutishly, and skitters it across the dashboard over to my side.
“McCartney’s a genius,” he says. “And under-rated. You listen to this song. It’s like an opera and a symphony combined. Full of layers. Beethoven couldn’t have written this.”
I listen more closely than I ever have before to the track, which isn’t easy, given the quality of the sound. Roy is thoroughly old-school when it comes to audio technology.
“Everyone worships Lennon,” he goes on, “but he was just a hippy. Lazy. Some good tunes, don’t get me wrong. But McCartney understands the value of hard work.”
Roy’s view of the world is a little to the right of centre. I’m starting to wonder how he votes. He tells me — through a mouthful of Twix — that it’s no surprise it’s the rhythm section of the Fab Four that’s still alive.
The undertaker is drawing a heavy sigh. Roy takes a speed bump too enthusiastically, and a dusting of biscuit crumbs escapes his mouth, settling into his lap.
I ask him who he thinks is going to be the last living Beatle.
“Paul,” he says without even pausing to consider it, bringing the van to a halt outside the house where we’re making our next drop. Bed frame. King-size mattress. It’s a pretty vanilla part of town.
“You seem very sure,” I tell him.
“Of course,” he says. “Richard Starkey is an anagram of Risky Car Death. It’s a prophesy, innit.”
He’s already out of the van and on the pavement, delivery note in hand, whistling along with the music. That evening I take a piece of paper and a pencil and confirm my suspicions; Roy’s not as good as he thinks he is at anagrams.
Charlie Bilton is an aspiring fiction writer based in the UK, new to the world of publishing. No certificates, no formal training, just always on the lookout for the next sentence. Visit Charlie’s blog at https://charliebilton.wordpress.com/.