Free at last: The Coffin

The time passed, and apart from the radio not a sound could I hear from the outside world. The darkness was all pervading.  I felt as if I were buried alive.

Only for the sounds of Richard Harris’s MacArthur Park and the voice of Radio One’s Tony Blackburn I think that I might have panicked. But I didn’t.

‘Breathe slowly’,  I thought,  ‘conserve what little air that you might have! Wait; just wait; and don’t move;  let him make the next move.’

Eventually I could feel my captor moving as he shifted his position on the coffin lid.  He moved again, and then again. My jailer appeared to be getting a little fidgety.

‘Was he cracking?’ I wondered.  ‘Was my captor beginning to panic?’

At last there came a tap on the coffin lid and a voice said,

‘Are you all right in there?’

I didn’t make any reply. I just stayed quiet and still. This was a waiting game.

Again came the tap, louder this time and a rather panicky voice enquired,

‘ I said are you OK in there’?   

 Tap. Tap. Tap.

‘Do you hear me in there?’

I still made no reply. He was beginning to panic. Any time now he would start to raise the lid.  I just had to bide my time and wait.

After a short time I felt my captor slide himself down from the coffin and a slight crack of light appeared around one edge of the coffin lid. Then the other edge began to illuminate. This was better than I thought. He wasn’t just going to tilt the lid up a little to peer into the box as I had imagined he would. He was in the process of lifting the lid completely away.

When the coffin lid had risen about six inches or so, I helped it on his way by pushing upwards, at the same time sitting up and placing my two arms outside the box.

The young man stood there with the coffin lid in his two hands. He had a look on his face that I think was more relief than surprise.  He just stood open-mouthed and silent.

I was the first to break the silence saying,


That was comfortable in there!

A little cramped, I must confess.

But none the less, not as bad as you might think!

You’re doing a good job with this one! Keep up the good work’.

My one-time captor was dumfounded! He just glared at me open-mouthed.

I think he expected me to be a nervous wreck by this time, or to have been rendered unconscious by him slamming the coffin lid down. Perhaps he even thought that he might have smothered me to death inside that box.

I was smiling to myself as I retrieved my discarded footwear and went on my way.  In the background the radio still played on, this time it was Dave Dee’s ‘Last Night in Soho‘. The sound of that radio followed me up the entryway to the street, like some kind of victory march.

Many, many years later my wife and I set out from the hotel we were staying at in Beverly Hills. We were headed for downtown Los Angeles. The route we took was by way of Wiltshire Boulevard.  As you approach downtown LA the road passes through the real MacArthur Park.

Seeing that park with its lake shimmering in the hot sun, its palm trees and the backdrop of the LA skyline took me back to an undertaker’s store in Ireland many years before.  It seemed such a long time ago but in reality it’s only a heartbeat away.

I remembered again those muted tones on the radio, hearing again the voice of Richard Harris through the wooden walls of that dark prison, and I thought to myself,

‘Where is that young man in the clean white shirt? 

What is he doing now?

And can he still blow those fabulous smoke rings?’

Macarthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!


… end … The Coffin 


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