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Cap on a Fox’s Head

November 10, 2013

I shall be wearing a poppy with pride today, for it is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, when those killed in the First and Second World Wars, and later conflicts, are commemorated.

In my flash fiction story below, a young infantry officer on home leave during the Great War finds himself in bizarre company on the eve of his return to the trenches.  His account, written by the light of a gas mantle in a village pub, charts his anxious descent into the surreal…

 

CAP ON A FOX’S HEAD

Paul Beech

 

It’s a rum do when a man is driven to speak to the mounted head of a fox.  Yet there is something of life about you, a diabolical vulpine humour, the product, no doubt, of this excellent tipple – that and my cap, rakishly aslant your honey-brown eyes.

You laugh at my khaki; laugh at mankind, the old enemy.  You laugh at our predicament – the cosy illusion, the ghastly reality: Old Blighty and The Somme.

Even as I raise my jar, the familiar world is dissolving.  The old boys at their porter and cards are wraiths in the fug already, their banter a queasy blur.  You are dead, your honey-browns glass.  Yet I hear you somehow, insidious, gloating, sly.

“Watch Pa,” you say.  “See the way he polishes a patriotic sermon for Sunday.  Ma, the way she fusses over your kit, frets over your comforts, as if packing you off for another term at boarding school. And Florrie – oh, sir, where is your betrothed?  Working late at the munitions factory, or…?

“You enjoyed your walk this morning, didn’t you, sir?  Your walk along the causeway… Remember the mud pool, the frogs?  You blew without your whistle, led without your pistol.  One went over the top and impaled itself on a long thorn…”

[Here the paper is stained brown, the writing indecipherable except for a scribbled note at the bottom: “Trains to Folkestone, for tomorrow…”]

-oOo-

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2013

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One Comment
  1. Hi Folks,

    I hope you got something out of my little story. I worried it might be too obscure. I used the fox as a means by which my young soldier might confront his feelings – frustration over the failure of people at home to grasp the horrific realities of trench warfare, and fear that his sweetheart might have found another. Such concerns were not uncommon. I find it very sad to think of brave young men facing imminent death with minds troubled in this way.

    Yours, Paul

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