by Belinda Rimmer

Made in China wasn’t made in China at all. He came from deepest, darkest Pershore. His so called friends had named him on account of his infatuation with all things Chinese: food, clothes, gadgets, people. Made in China loved to scour the charity shops for clothes. His favourite trousers were a pair of red and blue checked tweeds, bought from the charity shop on the high street. The trews were two sizes too big, but held neatly in place by a black leather belt. His mother forbade him to come anywhere near her when dressed in the offending article. Needless to say, she would wholeheartedly disapprove of his choice of attire for his grandfather’s funeral. The problem was, he knew this was exactly the get-up his grandfather would approve of, especially for his passing out ceremony. If he took care with his top half – black shirt, black tie, black jacket – perhaps he could detract attention away from his legs. Standing in his underpants, Made in China fondled the rich cloth of his trousers: the bobbles of well-worn, well-loved wool. He let his eyes devour the brightness of the red and blue checks until he saw double.

His mother stood at the door. She wrinkled her nose. ‘Put those disgusting things away and get dressed into your suit trousers.’

It was a real shame he couldn’t dress up for his granddad. But he couldn’t afford to upset his mother either, not on the day she was to bury her father.

Suddenly the room felt unseasonably chilly. Made in China turned to shut the door. In the exact spot his mother had just vacated a shape was emerging – human, but not quite human. And the more he stared, the clearer the ‘thing’ became. This was impossible! There, in front of him, stood a man. He didn’t stand exactly for he was stooped, almost bent double. The man wore a red bowler hat, which partly obscured his face, but it was clear to Made in China the fellow was of Chinese origin.

‘Isn’t the world black enough already,’ the man said, and his voice rattled like a vintage tambourine, ‘without you adding to the bleakness in those dull as dishwater suit trousers. May I suggest you don the red and blue checked ones so you don’t look quite so much like the Grim Reaper. It’s what your grandfather would have wanted.’

Made in China swallowed hard. ‘How do you know about my granddad?’

‘Let’s just say I’m on the welcome committee. Only he hasn’t arrived yet. He will once the funeral is over. And when he does, I want him to say he had a good send off. Not that his only grandson was dressed like a member of the Mafioso.’

Made in China opened his mouth to argue but the old man of Chinese origin had disappeared.

Once he’d pulled on his red and blue checked trousers, Made in China grabbed a trench coat from the wardrobe. If he adjusted the fall of the coat, so it hung from his shoulders, he could just about hide his coloured trousers so only the hem showed. With any luck, his mum would be too busy crying to notice.

On his way out to the funeral car, which was to transport him and his mother to the crematorium, Made in China spotted a red bowler hat on the coat stand. Would the old man, if he was a man, come back for it? Made in China wondered. He sort of hoped so and sort of dreaded ever seeing him again. In an act of reckless abandon, he put on the hat. He took a good long look at himself in the mirror. Though he said so himself, the hat suited his features. In fact, it fitted him like a glove. A very big part of him knew this would set off his trousers perfectly – the red matched the red of the checks. But he’d pushed his luck already with the almost but not quite concealed trousers. Best not stack up any more misdemeanours.

‘Hurry up,’ his mother called from the garden gate. ‘You can be late for your own funeral if you want, but you can’t be late for your granddad’s.’

Made in China raised his eyebrows so high they got lost in his hairline. Why hadn’t his mother mentioned the hat? If he didn’t know any better, he’d say she hadn’t even seen it. But that couldn’t explain it; the hat was red and felt and bowler shaped and firmly placed upon the top of his head. Yet his mother had just looked directly at him and smiled.

Belinda Rimmer has worked as a psychiatric nurse with troubled teenagers, a school counsellor, a dance/drama practitioner in primary schools, a Poet in Residence and a lecturer. She has had some writing successes: numerous poem publications, a short story published in an anthology, several recommendations and three long lists.