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The Brave

April 8, 2012

Happy Easter, everyone!

I’ve woken to a morning damp and grey with wood pigeons calling over the valley.  Daffodils nod and fence panels knock in the gentle breeze.  Later there will be the bleating of sheep in the top field as they chomp on chopped turnip.  Later there will be the church bell.  And this afternoon we’ll be having a big family buffet with everyone coming.  It’ll be quite a cram but good fun with an Easter egg hunt for the grandchildren and so on.  We’ll just have to be careful not to disturb the Blue Tits nesting in our birdbox.

Here’s a little piece I knocked up between childminding sessions last week, a sort of flash-saga linking the First and Second World Wars.  It’s only 390 words but I felt I’d got into the skin of my character.  Hope you like it.

THE BRAVE

Extracts from the diary of an Old Soldier, long since deceased:

Tuesday 16.vii.18, Netley Hospital

So many times have I followed the bayonet, Gerry bullets singing in my ears, the thunder-rush of shells bursting orange in mud & guts, yet nary a scratch sustained.  Oh, the irony of it, that a micro-organism should have caused my languishing here, in the company of one whose injury – as confided to me, & contrary to the official findings – was not so much accidental as self-inflicted, a contemptible “Blighty Wound.”

Aye, but I am guilty too, despite my citation and Military Medal: guilty of surviving good pals on the line.  So when, this morning, with a broken piece of cup, the wretch did hack at his wrists, it was with some rage I stopped him.

“Nay, laddie, that is not the way,” I bellowed.  “Give o’ ye best & be a man, damn you!”

The nurse came bustling at my summons, so pure of countenance and gentle her brogue that I thrilled as my pals in Picardy will no more.  Her name is Bridget & between us, surely, we have an understanding of sorts…

Tuesday 30.v.44, Larkin Lodge

So long has it been, I am almost beyond hope.  Oh Rosslyn, dearest daughter, with your lovely face pure as your late Irish mother’s, your gentle voice musical too.  Seven weeks – aye: seven weeks, three days, six hours, thirty-two minutes.  The rain came pelting earlier; now each passing second is marked by the slow drip of the gutter.

I press your knitting to my face, your every loving stitch a wonder.  They wanted you away, didn’t they?  France again, of course, to work with the Marquis by moonlight, with stealth & purpose, a fortune in francs on your head no doubt, that volume of poetry your constant companion & talisman.

It is time – time to summon my courage & open the package that arrived this morning by some mysterious means.  I fumble, the brown paper rips…& nay, I am not mistaken: it’s the Rimbaud.

“Elle a été trahie en Picardie,” runs the anonymous note enclosed.  She was betrayed in Picardy.

Mrs B brings watercress sandwiches on a tray & tucks a napkin under my chin.

Oh Rosslyn…

***

The Old Soldier received official word exactly one week later, on Tuesday 6th June 1944 – D-Day.

 

-oOo-

© Copyright Paul Beech 2012

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4 Comments
  1. thank you, its lovely

    • And thank you, London Flower Lover! I’m so pleased you’ve found my blog and hope you’ll call again.

      Paul

      PS: Love your site. I’ve given lilies and roses to my wife Stella for Easter. Chocolates as well, of course!

  2. Very nicely done, Paul. It’s good to read your Flash pieces again. I’m looking forward to writing some myself relatively soon.

    • Jackie, great to hear from you as always.

      I enjoyed writing ‘The Brave’ and finding my Old Soldier’s voice. I have the greatest respect for those like my Grandad Dawson who served in the trenches with gallantry during the Great War, and for those brave SOE agents such as Pearl Cornioley who, during World War II, parachuted into occupied France to work with the Resistance. I hasten to add, though, that the characters in my story are entirely fictitious.

      I look forward to reading more of your own flash fiction – maybe more Cajun tales?

      All best, Paul

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