Coffee Break Shorts:

For Christmas I was bought 642 Things to Write About , a book which is full of weird and wonderful topics to inspire a budding writer . I love writing stories but sometime struggle to think outside the box when in comes to the plot so this is a great resource for me.

642 things to write about

Anyway, I have decided to start a new series of posts where I share some of my mini creations with you, hence the birth of coffee break shorts. Here is my first attempt. So put the kettle on, sit back  and hopefully enjoy.

Never underestimate the lives of old men sitting on park benches

I have decided to use this topic as an opportunity to explore what the war was like for the men who fought in it. In A Bridge Too Far Lt. General Horrocks said ‘This is a story you will tell your grandchildren; and mightily bored they’ll be.’ And I think it’s true that the relevance of what the older generation did for us is being lost. We can never really understand what it was like to be in that situation so it is hard for us relate. But next time you see an old man sitting on a bench, remember that he could have fought for you to have your freedom.

 “Fancy another?” McCoy asked, handing a cigarette over to Jackson. They had been marching the terrain to God knows where for almost three days now. Jackson didn’t care to know where they were going, not anymore. They would be stationed there until they got comfortable and would then be uprooted and moved to the next hellhole. He wasn’t even certain they were in France anymore.

A couple of soldiers up ahead had paused to fill their canteens with the water from the adjacent river. Jackson felt his parched lips separate around the cigarette, taking fragments of skin with them. He stared ahead and took his mind off his thirst. He would not drink from the river, not when he had seen the barricade of bodies oozing into it several yards back. He was not that desperate; Not yet. He was yet to experience the deep separation of his soul from any material part of his body, the aching dejection that would leave him praying to a God he did not believe in like many men before him.

Thompson laid a hand on Jackson’s shoulder, the pressure forcing his feet deeper into the marshy ground. “These boots are fucking killing me. You’d have thought they would have issued something a little more practical” he said upturning his footless boot, releasing the stodgy mud that had crept in.

“Suck it up will you” said McCoy teasingly. McCoy was nineteen but held his own amongst the older men. His slight chin and windswept hair made him appear guiltless, and Jackson had taken to him with an almost fatherly fondness. McCoy lightened the mood on these long journeys and the men appreciated him for it.

Jackson turned to him in response to some crude joke. McCoy’s eyes, dark and wide, lit up brightly as he smiled a glimmering smile. The sun shone over the terrain, its rays dancing over McCoy’s face. He had kept his greatcoat on and the arms wrinkled with unnecessary length as he took another pull on his cigarette. The way his uniform had swamped him made Jackson laugh.

The men were ordered to stop. They crouched down low, feeling the awareness of space engulf them. Jackson swallowed hard and his throat scratched loudly.  Eventually they were told to carry on.

Jackson pushed forward with the other men. A shrill, intermittent sound of gun fire pierced the air hitting several of the men up front. The men fired wildly, unsure of where the enemy was. Jackson, Thompson and McCoy fell to the ground in defence. Several of the men who had done the same were hit. Bodies of men, who a minute before had been laughing, now shrouded the ground.

Jackson grabbed McCoy by the collar and rolled him down the bank into the river, where he hoped the mound might offer some protection. McCoy was shaking. “Where’s Stanley?” He mustered through trembling lips.

“I’m not sure.” McCoy’s eyes had begun to swell, their blushed lids engorging all sense of the elated young boy. More men began to follow them into the river, some willingly, others pushed down by the force of a bullet.

“Oh God. Jesus” McCoy pushed away a body that had landed beside him. A boy, around eighteen lay wide-eyed; a bullet clean through his head. “Fucking Jesus”

“McCoy. McCoy?” Jackson shook him. “Jimmy? Tell me again about you’re plan for after the war.” McCoy looked uncertain. Jackson wanted to calm the boy, protect him, take his mind of death for a single second if he could. He hoped that in return McCoy’s story would do the same for him.

“After the war?”

“Yes. You remember? The girl with the dogs”

“The girl?”

“The girl. The prettiest girl in town. Prettiest in England. You’re going to marry her and you’re going to spend the evenings walking dogs by the sea…”

“She’s not real Donald, it’s not real,” he said despairingly

“Sure it is Jimmy. It will be. After the war.”

McCoy smiled, something in him had calmed and Jackson felt it calm him to.“After the war…” He smiled. His bright smile gleaming as blood trickled down the side of his face.

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