Leaving work early had never been one of Stan's habits. He could have tried to mask his departure, but that would have been futile. He could imagine only too well the whisperings which would have started the moment the door shut behind him. But today, Stan couldn't care less. His work had been his whole life. Now he was going to have to look for something more important.

Maybe sport was the answer. Rugby was, of course, out of the question. At his age it would probably do him more harm than good. Running would probably fit the bill. Several of his friends had taken up running in the latter half of their life, some even after retirement. Of course, no championships or anything like that. But it did give them the chance to open up their lungs.

What was it the doctor had called it? The word had meant nothing to him, so he had trouble recalling it. But what he couldn't forget were those words which had gone round and round in his head like an old vinyl record with a scratch in it.

"The best thing you could do now, is find some way of exercising your lungs day by day. The more you exercise your lungs, the better you will be able to cope."

Lungs! It was that word that had convinced him it could be nothing serious. He wasn't a smoker, never had been. Not even one single drag. Lung disease was only for smokers. So he'd be okay. He knew it instinctively. So the doctor's news came as a far greater shock. And what was he going to tell Erna and the kids. He hadn't even mentioned having been to the doctor's. For how long could he keep this to himself?

He stepped out from the staircase into the office car park. Then he changed his mind. If he was meant to exercise his lungs, then he'd forego the car; at least for today. At this time, he might even be quicker on foot than by car. Maybe he could get a bicycle. Like in his university days. He could do another charity ride, gather the boys together one last time. What an idea for the reunion they'd been planning! Scotland's team of 78, the front row leading the way. Passers-by turned and stared as he burst out laughing at this sight. Laughter, he thought. That would do the trick. But how can one laugh in the face of a horrible death?

The lights turned to red and Stan darted across the road. The thought did come to him that it might be easier to just lie down there and then and let come speeding car finish the job off there and then. But Stan was a fighter and he didn't want to end like that. Once across the ring road, he cut into Silk Street and crossed the footbridge into the old city. It must have been months since he was last in the part of the city, yet its charm was already beginning to rub off on him, when he stopped short in front of the window of a run-down music shop and began to read:

Bagpipe lessons.
Beginners welcome.
Enquire within.

The bagpipes! There couldn't be a more Scottish way of exercising his lungs. He remembered accompanying his father to the games at Murrayfield and watching the pipers perform their magic before the game. He'd always dreamt of being one of the them and stepping out before the cheering crowds. But music had never been his forte, so it had remained little more than a dream. Then came the rugby and the day he did step out in front of the crowds; not in a highlanders' kilt but in the blue jersey of Scotland. Just the one cap, and he'd hardly been a roaring success. Gareth Edwards, the Welsh scrum half had rung rings around him on that day. But the pride still shone in his eyes as the pipers led the crowd in a rendition of Scotland the Brave.

Success in rugby also brought success with the girls, and most of his weekends were spent at the country dances sizing up the local talent as the pipes invited scores of young ladies to take the floor. And when a young piper swept away his beloved Aggie, thoughts of 'if only' once again occupied his mind. Then, he met Erna, and life settled down. True, they'd had pipers at their wedding. What self-respecting Scottish couple wouldn't. But even then he had too much on his mind for dreams.

Until today. It took a good ten minutes for him to make up his mind. Then he pushed open the front door and entered into the bowels of the shop.

"Good evening, I'm interested in the Bagpipe lessons you offer. And I'd like to buy my own set of pipes. What do you recommend?"


I really enjoyed this Paul! You were able to capture the moment for the character really well.

I'd like to read his family's reaction if they find out-when they find out.


17 July 2009 at 21:21  

I couldn't agree more, what better way to exercise your lungs then with a set of bag pipes. I thought his inquiring within himself prior to entering the shop was very poignant.

18 July 2009 at 17:29  

Very well written, very realistic story. The thought processes he went through in trying to decide about the bag pipe lessons was captured well. Nice work.

19 July 2009 at 05:17  

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