Another short piece in response to the Microcosms 81 prompt
‘Where do you think Grandpa is now?’ Jessie studied the old man.
‘Fishing, I’d guess. He goes a lot these days. See how he grips? Big beast he has there.’
‘Did he take you fishing, dad?’
Colin watched his father’s gnarled hands, the sharp light from the window emphasising the liver-spotted skin. He shook his head. ‘No, he never fished after he got home, not that I saw him.’
Colin moved to the armchair and took the almost translucent fingers in his own. ‘I’ve got it, Jim. You can rest now.’
Two rheumy eyes sought out Colin’s face, refusing to focus. Eventually Jim relaxed and sank back into the cushions. Almost immediately he began to snore.
Colin hugged his daughter. ‘He goes back there a lot. Burma. Ever since that programme, a few months ago, about the railway and the POWs. It must have triggered something. If they didn’t get caught it was one way they avoided starvation. They just their bare hands. He said it was like tickling trout. Made it sound like a bit of poaching.’
‘I wished I’d had the chance to talk to him about the war. It must have been awful.’
Colin straightened up, his knees creaking. ‘Yes, truly. He’d never say much, buried it, apart from the pranks and the laughs. Butlins on Kwai, he made it sound.’ He looked at his daughter. ‘He lost him best mate fishing. Tommy Parfitt. Japanese shot him in the throat as they climbed the bank. Grandpa never said much but I got the impression he put him out of his misery, rather than have him suffer.’ Colin looked at the hands, twitching and squeezing, and wondered again at that deep buried memory which still bubbled to the surface across the fog of years.