There can’t have been that many in the world with the name Clauderic Winslow McPherson; let alone many with that name living in the little hamlet he came from. Strawfordton-on-Tiddleswing had decided to erect a monument to honour the local folk who had died in the war. There were three names, and Clauderic Winslow McPherson was one of them.
The trouble was that Clauderic Winslow McPherson wasn’t dead. He certainly got the surprise of his life when he saw his name. As the only survivor of the village folk who had gone to war he was asked to lay the wreath when the monument was declared open. The mayor pulled the rope that released the flag that covered the engraved names, and there it was: Clauderic Winslow McPherson.
“But I’m not dead,” said Clauderic Winslow McPherson.
There was much muttering going on among the village aldermen, and among the considerable village crowd of twelve for that matter.
“Who does he think he is? He must have got his wires twisted. That fellow can’t be Clauderic Winslow McPherson. Clauderic Winslow McPherson’s name is engraved on the monument and therefore he is dead.”
Clauderic Winslow McPherson was arrested and thrown into the local jail cell. Impersonating a war hero! Goodness me! The level some people descend to. Clauderic Winslow McPherson was kept in the jail cell. It was a lot cheaper than having to redo the monument. And the town council was a bit short on the funds, which is why they kept Clauderic Winslow McPherson’s war pension that came in every month.
Ernst had no real life savings but through care and a little nous he could get by comfortably enough on the weekly pension. His rent was reasonable, although it ate up the larger part of his pension. He could buy groceries, and by careful planning could even get a little something extra on a special occasion. He could pay for his electricity, provided he was careful; for example he always took a cold shower to save on hot water. He had a cell phone which cost him simply a few dollars because he never used it but kept it in case of emergency.
His house had a wood burner, but since he lived near a pine plantation the forest owners were happy enough for him to forage. In fact over the summer he built up quite a collection of firewood in his woodshed. As well as that, Ernst loved to garden, so the house was usually bright with a vase of fresh flowers, to say nothing of the soups and vegetables he could freeze for when the growing season was over.
All in all, Ernst survived reasonably well on the pension.
And then he had a stroke. He made a fairly remarkable recovery, but was limited. No more could he take a cold shower. He couldn’t collect and chop the firewood. It was cold. Nothing that year had been frozen from the garden. He couldn’t afford the few dollars for his phone. The electricity bill grew too big to pay. Then he couldn’t afford the rent. He was evicted but it cost too much to move his belongings. Besides, he had nowhere to go. He tried to sell a few things but with little luck.
Ernst was homeless.
As Mrs. Angela Govind-Higginson, who used to know Ernst and his late wife many years ago, observed, “Mercifully, he’s now dead.”
Errol was excited. Well, not so much excited as pleased. He had worked as an academic all his life, in the field of electromagnetic radiation, so getting excited was little over the top. His birthday was next Tuesday, and the following Monday, exactly at midnight, he should get his first pension payment. His wife, Siobhan, was a little older and had been getting the pension for more than a year.
As had been done for Siobhan, the first pension pay out (it was a little rule the two of them had) was to be spent on oneself! Errol knew exactly what he was going to get with his pension money: books!
In the weeks leading up to his birthday he scoured the internet. In the end he had ordered twenty-six books, and paid for them including postage. He suggested to Siobhan that she collect the mail through the coming days and store the books in a hidden pile. Then on his birthday all the books would be there! What a way to start the pension! What a feast of present opening!
The books arrived in dribs and drabs. Siobhan collected the mail and stored the books in a closet. The morrow saw his birthday! Except, not even a barrage of canon fire could have woken him.
Thaddeus was a little sad. Sort of. He’d always, since his early twenties, wanted to own a little cottage with an orchard.
He’d worked hard all his life, but with the price of things – the rent, the groceries, his old car always breaking down – he’d never managed to save enough to get a mortgage for a house. He’d never married, but he wished he’d found that other someone. Sort of.
How he loved, when driving around, to see homes as he passed. That one has an orchard! That one has a lovely vegetable garden! Oh the flowers! How pretty is that old gnarled weeping elm! Look at the garden path with its rose covered gate! That house there’s for sale!
How did the people all have homes like that? How did they get the money? He couldn’t have worked harder if he’d tried. He couldn’t have saved more if he’d tried. He couldn’t have done any better than he did.
And now he was old. These days he was on the pension. Even if he had the money there wouldn’t be the time to see things grow. A mature orchard he had planted would never be his. A lily collection! A herb garden to defy belief! An old gnarled weeping elm! A dove cote!
These days, as he drove passed other’s homes, the hope had gone. Thaddeus was a little sad. Sort of.
Harold and Gertrude could barely live off the pension. And they had no other source of income.
Harold was dying. He was the one on the pension. Gertrude was unemployed. She was due to start the pension in two weeks. There was nothing could be done. Harold had to live for two weeks more until Gertrude got the pension. It would stop the week of his death.
They both knew and understood the situation. Gertrude encouraged Harold to breath.
“Keep breathing, darling,” she told him.
“I’m doing my best, honeybun,” he wheezed.
One week passed. Thank goodness for that! Just one week to go.
And, damn it! Harold passed away the day before the pension came in. That messed up their plans. The cost of running the house was almost the same. Gertrude had to pay for the funeral and for the living expenses for one whole week before she herself got the pension.
She scrimped. She wasted not. She saved. It took her three years, on the pension, to catch up to the standard of living they had before Harold died. And all for a day.