By Marion Husband
Love and loyalty set in WWII
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He’ll be sat in that pub, laughing and joking. How can he laugh and joke, eh? ’ Her mother stared at her scornfully. ‘Coping! How do I cope, eh? ’ Badly, Hetty thought. Next to the clock her brother Albert’s photograph was draped in a square of black 38 crepe. In the parlour a candle was kept burning in front of another, larger photo of Albert in uniform, a crucifix propped against the ornate frame. Bertie’s shrine, her father called it once, and never mentioned it again. Her mother sat down at the table and picked up the ten-shilling note.
She laughed. ’ She turned to the bottles ranged in front of the mirror and poured a small measure of Scotch into a glass. ‘Here. ’ She glanced towards the group of men, wincing against their burst of loud, dirty laughter. ‘Go home, Patrick. ’ He downed the Scotch in one. Picking up his pint he turned towards the still laughing men. ’ She smiled grimly. ’ In confession he’d told Father Greene he hated his twin brother. Behind the intricately carved screen the priest had remained silent for a while before sighing, ‘You must pray for patience, Patrick.
Whatever they did they warned him in advance, 49 breaking from their private conversations to explain what they were about to do. Only when they changed the dressings on his eyes did they give him their complete attention. Then their voices were quiet, their commentary frighteningly precise as what seemed like yards of bandages were unwound. The last person he'd seen was Sergeant Thompson, an ex-miner with coal dust tattoos etched beneath his skin. The sergeant smiled into his memory, showing off the gold tooth that looked too soft to break skin and made his breath smell of gun barrels.