‘What did you do, sir?’ ‘Tell us about Jerry, sir.’
Always the same. Trying to distract him. The cacophony of fourteen year old voices rose to a peak. Old Gibblets will tell us about the war and then the class would be over.
William Gilbert took the chalk, writing etre, underlined it and then je suis, tu es and on.Then he started again.
Gradually the noise dimmed. The boys thought he wasn’t listening, but he was. The hubbub behind him brought back those nights andJean-luc’s moans, shivering in his nightly sweats; a fellow inmate at Stalag VII from whom he’d learnt French.
Each teenage cry echoed the men, trapped on Absolom Beach as they landed. Each hoot of laughter reprised the lads’ nervous release as explosions perforated that calm, terrifying crossing.
The class fell into an eerie quiet, while he crawled up the sand dune where all but he had died.
And as alone as he had been, surrounded by gore and death, he was lonelier here, secure in a class of the fourth formers, sure as he had been that death was a heartbeat away.
They were only boys. They didn’t understand what they were doing, each encouraging the other to defy their fears.
‘Are you writing lines, sir?’ One questioning voice.
Like the astonished German who’d found him, just a bloodied corpse yet oddly alive.
‘What have you done wrong, sir?’
The tear hit the toe of his highly polished boots. He had survived. A mistake for which he would pay in his imaginings for the rest of his days.
He turned on his inquisitors. ‘What about when we set fire to the RSM’s bed?’
The hooting and hollering exploded. Old Gibblets was back. They were just boys; they deserved a life.
My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too.
These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.