Fiction | Short Story


…the cyclops makes monsters of us all” Roy Braithwaite (taken from a taped recording made by his Niece Geraldine Braithwaite 1987)


I first found out that Jack had an “operation” as he called it, about a month later during one of our rest furloughs from the front line. I had just finished my lunch, which was “soup” though it were poor meat that formed a rubbery magma in my mouth; it blended sickly with the rice and pasta, with the cooked potatoes, that blended together to this thin gruel; that was insipid and lacked any vitamins or decent vegetables for that matter.
               I have to say here, that It was only after it ended I heard ‘ow the distribution of food to the front-line canteens was a joke, simply because of the huge task in hand. Yer see, word never, or rarely, got back to the kitchens about troop advancement, this was since it was supposedly secret. This meant that the supplies intended for a certain detachment, would only reach their destination after that detachment had departed. So many did without food at all, this led to a huge black market in food distribution…Yer, well, anyway, I, I sat in the mess tent, pouring’ over which o’ me tabs, I was goin’ to smoke, when jack, -‘oo was sitting across from me- asks me if I want a pack of players. Fags in the trenches were rationed, so if you liked a smoke and couldn’t keep control of your ration, you were fooked. I rememberlooking’ at the large stubs a thinking’ well I’m fooked. I I looked up an’ I must ‘ave had a face on me, as Jack simply smiled. An hour later we were ‘bout a quarter- mile away, sitting almost out of full sight of the dirt track road that led to the front. I remember It was a warm clear day an I was on lookout, faking’ rest, with my back leaning’ on a, a large part blasted flint walled barn. The doors,I remember, that they had red paint which was, was peeling off and blistering’ off revealing the, the pale sun bleachedwood underneath.In the distance, I could hear the thumping’ of the shells and to my right, I could just make out between the green line avenue of majestic trees, the clumping thump of soldiers an’ horse trotting’ or marching’ either towards the bombs or away from them…T’was a Thump…thump…thump like a heavy heartbeat. We were sitting there Jack to the left to me, wit’ this this big bag he was carrying’.
              I ‘ad finished my second to last stub an’ was crumbling the fag into the dry grass an dirt. I watched the blue smoke curl up from the green grass as I stubbed the tab out. Churning the earth an with it feeling a sharp pain rise up me arm as the orange embers of the fag burnt me thumb


There isn’t much to Frommel, its really just a  line of trees, towards an old farmstead. Oaks and birches slide off towards the west.The odd painted house with large grey blistered  windows, like you might see in an early Van Gogh. By the time we reached the place, the sun was a huge orange ball that that settled in the dusk.But even in the dim light, I could see in front of us, ahuge pile of bodies.