‘Harvey Cotton Jnr, yeah that’s him,’ I say.
We’ve gotten hold of a copy of yesterday’s paper and I’m pointing at the black and white photograph next to the obituary. The article was in a few days back. Middle pages, nothing major. The trial was a quick one, very quick.
His name, we always used to laugh about it, I always used to laugh about it, when he told us why he kept the Jnr on the end. I’m all for respecting your elders, especially if it’s your parents, because you respect them, you owe them everything, but Harvey, well, Harvey told me this one time that he kept it instead because it would sound better when he got his name in the national papers. That was his big dream, to make it to the national press, into the New York Times. He told me that he’d thought about calling himself Harvey Cotton II, but had stuck with Harvey Cotton Jnr. Made him sound more youthful. The Industry, as he called it, they liked youth. He sent a few articles in to them, but they never got published. Then he sent a letter in, on this topic he felt really strongly about, and he told us all, he said that it was such an individual issue as well that it was bound to get printed. A few days later another letter turned up, about pretty much the same thing, by another guy. Harvey was pretty torn up about it, but he was the kind of person who never really complained to your face. He didn’t ever give the impression of being dissatisfied, with anything, but he must have been. His wife was beautiful, she still is. I’m glad I wasn’t at the funeral to see her with the veil that widows tend to wear.
The obituary itself is short, glosses over certain facts, highlights others. It is a list of the good things that Harvey did. It is his sainted life pressed into a space smaller than my hand as I take the newspaper up in it, and begin to read it out to everybody gathered round.
‘He was a very popular man in the town, everybody knew him, and he knew everybody.’ It was a small town.
‘He regularly helped out at the church.’ He went around collecting hymn sheets after everybody else had left, to save the vicar’s wife the job.
‘He was a fine businessman, and the co-owner of the best store in town.’ It was the only store in town, unless you counted the diner, but that only sold Tacos and coffees to take-away, so it didn’t really count. Harvey was actually probably the only one who bought coffees from there, to take-away. He used to show up on days when I was fishing, towards the end, with a cup for me and a cup for him. ‘I just fancied a chat,’ he’d say.
‘He was the editor of his local paper, and contributed some of his salary to charity.’ He was the editor of the local paper, although it’s more of a weekly pamphlet. It was. It’s ended now, though, I think.
‘He is survived by his three children, Lucy, 10, Mena, 14, and Dolly, 15, and a wife, Sara. He was a loving husband, and will be missed.’ His children are good, kind kids. You don’t expect that so much anymore, even in a small town, but they were. I feel sorry for them, and for Sara. I do feel sorry for Sara. Sara in her widow’s veil.
But the bottom line is that Harvey Cotton Jnr was dissatisfied, clearly, maybe even pissed off with the way things were going, with his dream and everything. He was only thirty-eight, you know. I kept saying to him, ‘Harvey, you’re only thirty-eight, you’ve got plenty of time, another ten years maybe.’ I think it was two weeks before it happened that I last said that to him, when I was fishing, and he’d brought me another one of the coffees. I think maybe I should have wondered why earlier, why he was bringing coffees out to me and nobody else. We never really talked much before then. It should have given things away.
Harvey Cotton Jnr got so dissatisfied he took to fucking my wife instead of his.
The guard comes in, asks, ‘Where did you get that newspaper? You know you can’t have the newspapers in here. Is that the New York Times?’ We shrug our shoulders. We don’t know, we say. We weren’t reading it.