The Expected Demise of Bernard Fish
Ed Halliday is not your usual writer of dark humour. It has often been remarked by agents and reviewers alike that his style of writing is unusual but in a refreshing and entertaining way. There is no rambling prose put there just for the sake of filling pages and therefore fulfilling the page count criteria of a publisher, every word is there for a purpose. This is why his stories make engaging writing that keeps you turning the pages. The reason his style is so different to most is simple. He has had no formal training whatsoever, no writers workshops, no degree in creative writing, not even an ’A’ level in English. Everything that goes onto the page is untainted by the restrictive rigours imposed by years of being told how to write, it is done by instinct and a desire to produce something that he himself would enjoy reading. Born in the industrial north of England in the late sixties, Ed spent the formative years of his childhood in France where he was educated in the French state system before finishing his education in an English boarding school. He has recently returned to France to live and to write, hence the frequent references in his books to the country of his childhood.
Of course one could simply say that THE EXPECTED DEMISE OF BERNARD FISH is just a humorous but heart warming story. It is about a very plain and ordinary man who accidentally finds out that he is going to die. He should not, however, have been aware of this impending event, and this has many knock on effects as he travels through the afterlife including muddying the waters as far as his final destination is concerned. Along the way he meets many interesting characters who are also on their final journey, as well as falling in love with the female grim reaper who has been sent to accompany him! All in all a fairly simple everyday tale, the sort of thing that could happen to any one of us! This storyline obviously offers many opportunities for dark humour ranging from the method by which Bernard passes away to the boatman on the river Styx dispensing health and safety advice to those crossing to the afterlife. This would be a fairly honest and accurate synopsis of the story, but it would also be a shameful simplification of this unusual tale. Bernard Fish’s death also impacts on the living that he leaves behind, and their stories are also told, exposing those less than attractive human traits we are all aware of such as greed and jealousy. Sides of human nature that are often ignored with good reason are brought to the fore and prodded and poked as well as the human fascination with faith and religion. There is also an intriguing but very amusing alternative explanation to the ultimate questions of life. How did we get here? Why are we here? What is our purpose? And did you ever wonder how the whole ‘Heaven and Hell’ thing came about or how God came to be so named? All will be revealed as you follow Bernard Fish’s final journey in an explanation that is both hilarious and profound but also scientifically plausible. Although there is a good deal of poking fun at many things in this book, there is also, should you wish to look for it, a far more serious and meaningful message, the kind of message we could all do with heeding once in a while!
On leaving the pavement Bernard was greeted by a screech as the number nine bus hit him full on, the ice cream parlour flashing before his eyes.
The bus couldn’t stop in time and Bernard disappeared under the front end leaving a bloody smear on the windscreen, only to re-appear at the back as the bus struggled to come to a halt, tyres screeching and black dust billowing from the brakes.
The number twenty two was only a couple of feet behind the number nine and also tried valiantly to stop when the bright red brake lights suddenly came on. The driver didn’t think he had hit the back of the number nine but he had felt a jolt, like he had driven over something in the road. The number nine had now come to a halt and lots of people had stopped and were covering their mouths in disgust and fear. A couple of girls were screaming loudly and another was vomiting in the gutter nearby.
Bernard picked himself up off the ground and dusted himself down. He looked at the two stationary buses, their engines still running. What was everyone screaming for?
“That was close” he thought, and then he noticed a pair of legs, wearing trousers and sandals identical to his own, sticking out from under the bus.
He felt very disorientated and slightly sick.
He was in no pain but just felt very odd. He was neither warm nor cold. He was not afraid or concerned. Just kind of relieved.
For a few moments he stood and stared at his own feet, unsure of what to think. Even though he had known this moment was going to come nothing really prepared you for the actual event, and he still didn’t really believe the pair of legs were really his.
He tried to establish some logical thoughts in his head.
The trousers were definitely his, he could easily recognise his own workmanship from the perfect crease in the denim fabric, and he recognised the sandals as being the ones he had polished only the day before.
Both articles were sticking out, unmoving, from under a large bus and so he must have been run over but he was standing , unharmed, looking at them.
There was only one conclusion.
Presumably he was dead.
He just didn’t know what he should do next. Was he supposed to go somewhere or would someone come and get him? Would there be some sort of sign he should be looking out for? Perhaps a bright light he should walk towards? He glanced around hopefully looking for some clue or other.
A policeman dashed up the pavement towards him but didn’t stop, he just passed straight through Bernard without even noticing. Bernard shuddered as the fluorescent yellow jacket went through his back and emerged through his rib cage.
If he still had any doubts then that kind of confirmed that he must indeed have passed away under the wheels of the public transport system.