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Back to Stephen Brookes Column Index



Who will remember?

By: Stephen Brookes MBE

Here in this hole of a building. The end?
I know that I am not going to survive this one. Funny though, it doesn't hurt.
He is opposite, on the floor, leaning against the wall, same as me.
Why did we both fire at the same time? And why such bloody bad shots?
Only we weren't that bad. We did what we are supposed to do. He won't make it back either.
Red…. Two different uniforms. Both nearly the same. Red now. Two Robin Redbreasts.
He stopped moaning a few minutes ago. But he is still breathing. I can see his chest moving.
I want to write a letter. They do that in war films.
I won't see anymore of those. Meg Ryan. Or any television adverts.
The blood is the same as in films. Same colour, his and mine. It would be wouldn't it!
I can see where it is coming from. Funny that I can't feel it, just see it. It's at a distance. It's not me.
What did they call them in the First War, the wounds? Oh yes Blighty Ones. But they made it, they were found. They went home, without legs, or eyes, but they went home.
We aren't going to be found. Not till it's all over anyway!
He's opening his eyes. He's looking at me.
He is trying to get into his combat jacket.
OK, if he gets his pistol - please God let him finish me. - I don't care anymore. Except for Laura.
Why has she come into my mind? And why has God, cause I never bothered with him any other time.
Hell. Cigarettes, that's what he wanted. He's got the packet out. He's trying to open the packet without moving too much. He's managed, but he can't light it with those matches.
Can I reach my lighter? Might as well let him try. I'll throw it to him.
Hmm. That wasn't good. Hurt a lot. But he got it. It landed near him. He's managed to light it. He's throwing one to me. It is too far away. But he's trying again.
Got it. Now the lighter. That's OK. Hurt again though. More blood through the dressing.
Field Dressing. Large, grey and white. Same as his. They were white and grey.
Blood. Wounds. The universal equaliser for soldiers. Spend days and weeks learning how to kill each other, then try to help each other when you don't do a good job.
I think I can just about hold the cigarette to my mouth. It's dry though, with the heat, and I haven't had any drink.
Blue smoke. Funny taste.
Wonder what the range sergeant would say about my shooting. Always having a go at me. Couldn't hit the side of a bus he said.
Well he was a target and I did hit the front of him.
He's looking at me now.
He's trying to say something. Can't understand though. A few words of English. But not enough, or am I losing it.
He's opening his pocket again.
His wallet. He's throwing it to me. It's open. There's a photo.
No. Not that. A kid, and a woman with him in a house. She looks alright in a way and the kid is a small girl.
I'm going to find out.
I am pointing at him, and the picture.
He's nodding. And his eyes are full. He's crying.
I'll throw it back. I can't cope with that.
Not that. I can't look at him.
I can't look at the picture of the kid after I have done for her father.
That's funny. I don't swear. Never have really. Well a bit.
He has picked it up. He is pointing at me. And at the photo. What does he mean?
What is he saying. Me, ah, got it. He wants to know if I have a wife and kids.
No. That's easy to show. Just shake my head.
Why am I taking out my wallet? I did it without thinking I was.
That photo of Laura. She looks bloody great. Should I let him see. Her body. As it was after we made love. She liked being photographed. Lovely long body. She knew it as well. Used it as a sort of male magnet. Well it worked for me.
Oh, Laura. You wouldn't want me now. All messed up. My fluids spilling out. But not those you knew.
I will let him see her. There. Have a look at that. Better than yours!
He is smiling. He is putting up his thumb. He likes her, the dirty bugger. He's chucking the wallet back.
Oh, Laura, what will they tell you. And will you care anyway. I hope you do. I think you did like me. Will you cry when they tell you. Will you go to the….The what!
There is blood on the wallet. His blood, must be, it wasn't off my hands. Red marks on my wallet. Not on her picture.
Red. Two uniforms. Both the same now.
Have I thought that before? I'm tired. Getting weaker I suppose.
My eyes are filling up. Oh God, I'm crying. Why, I don't hurt. It must be Laura. I don't know why.
Is this what its like? You lose your thoughts.
I'm thinking lots more than normal. I don't want to cry anymore.
Did Dad when he died. No, probably not. A Heart Attack is too quick for thinking.
Dying like this, opposite the man who hurt you, and who you hurt is different.
Wasn't there a poem by some First War soldier, two men in a shell hole.
'At going down of the sun. We will remember them.'
Remember what!
That I'm in a small barn with a guy who can't speak my language.
A white barn in the middle of the country. No one around, I thought, so I wanted to have a rest. Came in, and he was here. That's when it happened.
His eyes are shut again. But he's still breathing.
I want to write a letter. They do that in films.
I've got a small note book in my ammo belt. And that pen.
Shall I write to Laura? Can I write? I'll try.
Yes, but it's very shaky. And it makes it hurt a bit. I thought it wasn't going to hurt. That's what they always said. If you get a bad one, it won't hurt, because the shock will numb you. Yes. I got a bad one.
No, not Laura. To Martin. What shall I say? Yes. I'll tell him to look after the news, and tell everyone he can think of. Hang about. Will the letter be found?
I suppose so. They don't leave dead around long. Never find the wounded. They send in the old back groups. Like a load of cleaners. We're the dust in the corners of their war. Mustn't be seen afterwards. Get rid of the debris.
Wasn't that the line….. some part of a foreign field… Yes. I thinks so.
I'm tired. What am I seeing now?
Him. He has his eyes shut again. He's moaning a bit. His tablets not as strong as ours. Remember what happened.
Round the corner. That wall over there. I made the mistake. But then so did he. We showed ourselves. Careless.
Then it felt like a blow from a mallet. I was knocked off my feet. But I got him. Don't remember the sound. Just the blow.
I don't know if I was unconscious or not. Just saw the hole in my chest. And I had my dressing, but it's only on top. Can't tie it round the back. Same for him. Two minds with a single aim. Stop the body destroying itself. No. Not possible. Never possible. A complex package in a weak carton. Easily smashed.
Where am I? Oh yes.
Dying. At least I think I am.
He's opened his eyes again. What's he saying. I don't know.
Pointing to the door. That door. The one we should have never opened.
Two seconds to open it. The rest of our time to regret it.
How long? Why here? It's not fair. I'm tired.
He's still pointing. He wants the door open. I can't do it, but he must be worse than I am.
I am shaking my head. He is still muttering.
Air. He wants more air. It's too hot in here.
God, it's getting dark outside. Can't see my watch.
Ah, got it.
Can I make the door. Let's try. Yes. I can move a bit. But will it hurt me. Lets see.
Oh God, I can't feel my legs. But I can drag my arms. Not too far to the door.
He's looking at me. He's smiling. Why didn't we smile before we killed each other.
Why don't all soldiers smile at each other. Be difficult to kill then. Beat the politicians.
Beat the generals. They don't fight. They play chess. Trouble is we're the pawns.
Pawn to Knight two. Love chess. Never play it again though.
Him and me, both in the same square. Bad move.
Red on the square. Red on the floor. Our red, not the general's.
It's the soldiers who make wars happen. Stop them and wars stop. But I'm a soldier.
Or, I was. Not anymore. Like him, debris of war. Debris of the politicians.
I can just get my hand to the door. But it's too hard to open it much. Just a bit.
There. But it hurt. Tablet wearing off. Won't be long now I think.
Stay where I am. A bit cooler. Shut my eyes for a while.
He is calling out. His head nodding. He smiles a bit.
No, I mustn't sleep. That'll be it.
Turn the clock back. Yesterday. Where were we? Yes, at the air base.
Clean. Quick. We were moved to the huts. But we only had a few hours.
Tired. That was it. Too tired to beat him. Better trained we are.
Trained to kill, and clean up. Trained to be hated. Policemen of the world.
Lousy job.
Thought it was better than not working. Remember the adverts. All fun and excitement.
Exciting to die. The big excitement they say. But I don't think God happens.
Maybe I'm in for a surprise. But I don't want to pray.
I'm so tired. He just moaned a bit. He's shut his eyes.
Red is turning dark. His life is going away.
He is slipping down the wall. Slowly.
I was going to do something.
Yes. Write to Martin.
Where's the paper. Can't see it. Oh, it's there were I was. Can't get back. Hurts too much.
It's getting dark anyway. And colder now. I can't see him breathing now. But it's darker. No, I think he's stopped.
I'm getting cold. It's late. So, I'm surviving him. I killed him then.
Is that good?
I win……….Don't I?

© Steve Brookes MBE
Copyright © - Stephen Brookes MBE 2002-2003 - All rights reserved


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