The Surprise, short story by Victor Roy Kirwan at
Suzy Hazelwood

The Surprise

The Surprise

written by: Victor Roy Kirwan



“Oy!” Somebody in the seat behind nudged me. “The bus driver’s talkin’ to you.”

“Isn’t this where you always get off?” she called.
I looked about, it’s my stop. I rushed up the aisle. “Yeah love. Thanks a lot.” I leaned in, “I’m a bit preoccupied – getting married shortly.”
She looked me up and down. “’bout time, Mate.”
“Cheeky!” I told her.
Then a five-minute walk home – smiling. I was about to turn into our front gate and remembered to give Mrs. White across the road a wave. The gap in the curtains shut. I was home just in time for a cuppa. I turned to the front gate and spotted a young woman sitting on my plastic chair on my front verandah and my Mum and Dad are just staring at her. Mum was looking a bit confused. Nobody’s sayin’ nothin’. Stone-faced, all three. She’s quite attractive, long dark hair, wearing a knee-length navy business suit. Just come from work or is she working? A holy-roller? Insurance sales-woman?
And now glaring at me. I’ve paused at the gate, pretending to fumble with the latch so I can evaluate the situation. She’s vaguely familiar? Yes. If she gets too familiar, I’ll tell her, “Sorry Sweetie, you’re too late. I’m engaged.”
“Hullo. Is anyone going to introduce me?” I asked.
“Al, this is Eve.” Dad said.
Well that explained it all, I thought. And nothing from Mum, is the poor old dear off her game?
I turned to Eve, yeah, she definitely looked a bit familiar and serious. I don’t think I owed her money and if she came to tell me she’s pregnant— Nah, I haven’t been that drunk for a while. “G’day Eve.” I said with a cautious smile.
She replied with a dead straight face. “Hullo Dad.”
I’m buggered! It took me a moment to realise my mouth was hanging open. I think I was trying to say. “What?”
“You’re my father. Is that any clearer?” Eve asked.
“Who? When?” I was trying to think. “This is a setup. Who put you up to this?” But it’s not April Fool’s Day or my birthday.
“Put me up to it? Any sensible questions, Dad?” She asked with a snarky emphasis on the ‘Dad’.
“Yeah. I strongly suspect you’re wrong. Do you have any proof?”
“My mum was not a liar. She had your name, army rank and serial number.” Eve quoted it all, “and a photo, a couple of letters and some postcards. Mum kept it all in a biscuit tin and never told me.”
Deep breaths Al, I told myself. You’ve faced down more serious threats than this. Calmly, “Who’s your mother?”



“Yvonne Smith. Hence me being named Eve. She’d hardly call me Alice or Alexis after you.”
“Yvonne, Yvonne,” I was muttering. Nope. “When did this happen?”
“I knew it! You’re a charmer aren’t you, Al?”
“For goodness sake, help me here, Eve. When?”
“Date of birth or conception, Al. Do you want to send me a birthday card, Daddy? Well this meeting is my birthday treat to myself.” She said, suddenly upset, “I won’t get many birthday cards now that my Mum’s just passed away.”
“Eve, I’m really very sorry to hear that. Please tell me about your Mum.”
“Well, what you’re telling me about my mum,” she paused for effect, “is that she was a one-night stand.”
“Please Eve! Date of conception.”
“Mum said I was a full-term baby, so early March 1999. I was a millennium baby. I’ve just turned twenty-one.”
I’m trying to think where the hell I was at that time. I was halfway through my army career. I must have been home on leave. “Mum! Mum pay attention.” I asked her, “when did Grandma die?”
“Um, early 1999 I think.”
“Yeah, it’s coming back now. I took a couple of weeks compassionate leave for Grandma’s funeral.” I said. “We were being shunted about the Middle East about then. I’m remembering, there was an insurrection in Syria when I returned from leave and our squad went in and provided safe conduct for some civilians outa there. We were all over the place for a while.”
And then I remembered. It was all blurred by time and beer. I was looking at Eve. That’s what triggered my memory. She’s the image of Vonny. Yvonne Smith!
“I remember Vonny.” I told her, “we met in the Unicorn pub about three klicks from here, drank and danced for most of that two weeks, except for Grandma’s funeral. Then I had to report back.” I’m trying to remember. “We did exchange a couple of letters then I thought she stopped writing.
Her letters must have got lost in the military machine. Receiving mail when you’re on the move was always a problem. So I thought that was it, she’d found somebody else. Then I stopped writing.”
“She kept your letters, Al.” Eve told me, “do you know why?”
“Dunno. Same reason people save photos and stuff. Mementos?”
“Well, I can see that my father’s not too bright.” Then she nearly yelled at me. “Because she loved you, you fool and was hoping you hadn’t been shot and that you’d write.”
I was going to say, ‘don’t talk to your father like that,’ but I didn’t. I said, “Oh, right,” trying to calm her. “Eve will you stay for dinner? It would be nice for us to get to know you.”



“No thanks. I came here out of curiosity or a quest even, to find my long, lost father. My birthday present to myself. But you’re what I expected. I’ll leave now with no regrets.”
“Eve have you got grandparents on your Mum’s side?” I asked.
She shook her head. “They went too early.”
“Look over there. Your only grandparents. They’re really nice people. I know what you think of me but give them a chance.” I was pleading. “They’d love to have a grand-daughter. If you stop for dinner and get to knows us a little, at least you’ll know for sure why you dislike us. That’s better than spending your life wondering. Besides, I’d love to have a daughter.”
She was looking pensive, wavering.
Mum stood up and said. “Wait a minute, Eve.” She disappeared into the house for a couple of minutes and came out with our photo album. What’s she gunna do? Show Eve photos of me as a cute kid? Nah. I wasn’t a cute kid, I looked like a fire-hydrant with a bad haircut. My cuteness came on me— Well I’m still waiting.
Mum riffled through the album and showed Eve one of the photos. Curious, I stood up and looked over Mum’s shoulder. She was showing Eve a photo I don’t recall seeing before. Then I remembered. A professional snapper took it when Vonny and I were standing on the steps of the Opera House. He’d posed us in front of the huge sails for a head and shoulders shot. It was a great photo, we were both grinning like loons. I’d forgotten how pretty Vonny was. It’s a wonder I didn’t desert the army and stay with her.
“Eve, that photo’s over twenty years old and your Mum and I were about the same age as you are now. Look at it Eve. See how happy we were. We were crazy in love.” I wondered if I really was or just crazy.
Eve took the album off Mum and stared at the photo for what seemed to be an eternity and then gave it back. She was crying and pulled a tissue out of somewhere. “I found a copy of that photo when I was clearing out Mum’s things. It was obviously one of her treasures.”
All of a sudden my Mum sprung to life. I’d given up on her. “Eve would you help me, please?” She stood up and held out her hand. Eve hesitated, took it and they went into the house.
Dad stood up and went to follow. “Sit. Stay.” I ordered. “Women’s business. I’ll get us a cuppla beers in a minute.”
I waited for a while and went in to the kitchen fridge, took out two beers, watched as Mum and Eve stood side by side staring out the kitchen window. Eve seemed to be in a trance as she stirred something that Mum must have given her. I retreated to the front verandah.
“How are they doin’?” Dad asked.
“They’re not punching each other.”



“A good sign.” Dad said. “You know, I like her.”
“So you should. She’s your only grand-child.” Five minutes later I said. “Listen, it’s still quiet. One might have killed the other.” I said. “Hang about. I’ll sneak a peek.”
I heard something odd. A peek I sneaked. Mum and Eve were hugging each other, both crying quietly. How about that?
“I think I’ve got a daughter.” I told Dad.

Latest posts by Victor Roy Kirwan (see all)