J is for John

John – from The Disappearance of Bernie Francis

John Francis was always spotlessly clean. It was what his wife liked about him first when she met him. The guys he hung out with were a bit scruffy. In the pub after the football match they’d look like they hadn’t bothered to shower or even brush their hair. John Francis always looked like he was ready to go to a wedding.

Maybe that’s all there was between them. She loved his clean nails and he loved the attention; but after they married and had their first child, that attention turned solely to her children. Over the years John just faded into the background and he put up no argument to that.

He noticed that the child who gave most trouble was the child who received most attention from his wife. He knew he should do something about it but he buried his head and ignored the guilt.

When I thought of him as a character first I had a modern day Mr Bennett (Pride & Prejudice) in mind.

When John’s daughter Bernie goes missing, his wife’s devotion to her turns to obsession and soon there is no one else in the world other than Bernie Francis; to his wife at least. At first to John, the absence of Bernie is a relief and he secretly hopes she is gone for good. Another weight of guilt he pushes aside.

He is glad that no one in the family knows what happened between him and Bernie when they fought. Not because he is ashamed of himself, but because he is embarrassed that he did not prevail.

When the story ends there is grief mixed with relief. But John Francis will always be pushing guilt around his heart and head like heavy luggage moved from hand to hand in the hope that, even for a moment it will feel lighter.

You’ll find John in ‘The Disappearance of Bernie Francis’ from ‘The Long & The Short of it’


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