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Other Writing

This page contains a few non-crime/paranormal fiction stories published by Colin.

Letting Go
On A Monday Morning
Heart of a Child
Under the Skin
Once a Borderer

Letting Go

A riverside somewhere in Scotland. Two elderly men are out fishing at dawn: John has neglected everyone who loves him; Cameron, a lifelong pal, refuses to let him go and holds out his hand in true friendship. Another tear jerker from Galbraith and worth the price of the magazine alone.

Published in Open Wide Magazine, October 2010.

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On A Monday Morning

When Edinburgh cemetery worker, Walter Harris, stumbles upon a tattered old dictionary while doing his rounds one Monday morning, the last thing he expects is for it to consume him.

Published in Static Movement, May 2008.

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Heart of a Child

Rarely was Tommy Mills allowed to sit in the front seat of his father's car. Today he had been given the coveted front seat and vowed not to act silly and ruin the privilege. He had sensed his father’s sadness lately by the relative silence in the house and how his pranks had gone unpunished. Instead of spanking, his mother banished him to his room. Scolding's became: "Sshhh - your Dad needs some rest."

His father buckled him in without a word and started the engine, the car coughing into life. It had been in the family for as long as he could remember, the rust stains and scratches on the body the least of its problems. Sometimes on a cold morning it never started at all, but as Dad always said, "If it ain't broke…"

Today the car started without much of a fluster, whining a little as the mechanics kicked in, like an old man straining to get out of his dusty armchair. They pulled out the driveway and Tommy looked out to see his mother watching from the kitchen window, smiling with her hand half raised. He remembered two mornings ago when he heard her muffled sobs and knew she was crying into his father’s chest. He knew something had happened, but had been too scared to ask.

They drove for about an hour, the city streets slow to navigate at first. Rolling hills, lochs, and fields of cattle soon replaced the urban surroundings. The smell of fresh manure from the local farms drifted through the car. Neither spoke as the engine purred quietly and brought them into a small town.

Tommy vaguely remembered the narrow streets from his young and limited memory. He peered over the top of the passenger window and recalled the old bridge they crossed. Coal-black stones arched over a shallow stream, clear as ice and trickling slowly beneath them. Beyond the stream a large clothes store stood prominently in the main street, its distinctive old-style appearance marking it out from a row of shops. His father parked the car in front of a small café and Tommy felt a strange feeling, that maybe he had been here before.

"How about a Coke, son?" his father asked, turning off the engine and unbuckling his seatbelt.

"Yeah, Dad,” Tommy answered. “Can I get a cake too?"

"Why not. Maybe I'll have a wee scone as well eh?" And for the first time in days, his father smiled at him.

Tommy helped to check the doors were locked then took his father's hand while they walked up the creaking wooden ramp into the cafe. Inside it was small and warm, a real fire blazed in the corner and the wooden floorboards protested underneath their feet. The aroma of freshly baked cakes, coffee and pipe smoke filled their lungs. Numerous small, wooden tables dotted the space, giving the appearance they had been squeezed into the room. The red padded chairs surrounding the tables looked old and worn. Tommy took his jacket off and sat down at an empty table while his father went to the counter.

Looking around, he knew he had been here before. The café seemed so familiar and in particular the elderly rosy-faced woman now talking to his father. They spoke as if they already knew each other. His father turned around and pointed straight at him. Tommy froze when the old woman waved towards him, unsure if it was meant for him. She smiled sympathetically and he felt his cheeks warm from her attention. He knew they were talking about him and had become used to it happening. Though he never asked what they were saying, he presumed it was adult talk not meant for his ears. Perhaps they were talking about what happened the other morning that made his mother cry.

The display cabinet contained all sorts of cakes and delicacies - strawberry, banana, caramel, cream; the list went on. Tommy wanted one of each but did not dare ask in case he annoyed his father. Today he would take what he was given, and watched while his dad picked out some cakes.

His father returned to the table, sat down and handed him a piece of caramel shortcake and a glass of Coke. Tommy thought how his father always ate the same thing – hot coffee and a scone. Sometimes the scones had currants in them, sometimes not, but they always had plenty of butter. He thought how his dad always drank tea in the morning and then around lunchtime he would switch to coffee. But in the evening after dinner it was hard to tell which he would have. Whichever he eventually chose though, he knew it was always nicer with a scone - his Dad told him.

“Didn’t you recognise the woman that waved to you?” his father asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, looking over at her friendly face. “Not really.”

His father put his coffee down and pulled his chair closer to the table, “She was a friend of your grandmother's. They used to go bowling together. Your gran used to come here for her dinner sometimes.”

“Doesn’t she come here any more?” Tommy asked.

His father reached over and held his hand, “No son. Not any more.”

“Why not?”

“Just eat your cake son.”

* * *

The surrounding countryside rolled past, pleasant and green. Through the clear air Tommy could see the hills and fields of Ayrshire. No bustle, no people, no cars; just a peaceful elegance. The only sound other than the engine came from seagulls screeching high above, soaring and dipping in the bright blue sky. After a short while they pulled up outside a small bungalow sat in a wide and empty street. Tommy recognised it immediately; it was his gran's house.

He got out of the car and looked up at the small building before him. It was different somehow from the last time he visited. The small lawn had grown long and the surrounding weeds grew aplenty, the entire area lacking the life only flowers could bring. A ‘For Sale’ sign poked out at an angle from an earthy patch where roses once grew.

“Where's Gran?” he asked.

His father never answered and turned the key to lock the car door.

"Do you remember this place?" his Dad asked, his tone serious.

“Yeah, it’s Gran’s house. Where is she? Is she in?” Questions started to swarm inside Tommy’s head - confused feelings and emotions, none of which made sense.

"No son. She’s not lived here for a couple of years now. She wasn’t well and she moved into a special home. Come on - it's okay," he said, and held Tommy’s hand while they walked inside.

The atmosphere of cessation inside the house was prevalent, the main hall dusty and vacant. A grubby shelf lay bare along the wall and dents where furniture used to sit could be seen marked in the carpet. Tommy dragged his hand along the radiator leaving an uneven white streak and a dirty black finger hidden in his pocket.

"Have a look around son, but don't touch anything okay?" his father said, as Tommy wiped his hand on his jacket.

"Okay, Dad," he said and wandered through to the kitchen.

A large window sealed with dusty cobwebs framed the view of an un-kept garden. He peered over the empty sink and looked through the murky glass; memories of a summer afternoon zipped into his mind. He watched lots of happy people eating and drinking, the air filled with their laughter. Dad was pointing his video camera at people and Mum was in a group of grown-ups who were all talking. Other children ran around playing but Mum told him to be careful because they were a lot older than he was. Gran sat on a deck chair over on the small patio talking to an old man wearing mostly brown clothes and thick, dark spectacles.

Curious to see the rest of the house, he walked through another door to find himself standing in what was once the living room, sparking yet another memory. Mum and Dad were sitting at the big table talking seriously to Gran, who was upset. They were shouting a lot and getting angry. The old man who had been with her before was not there anymore. Tommy listened through the crack of the door and heard Dad demand she must go somewhere she didn’t like.

An eerie feeling washed over him and tingled the back of his neck as though someone stood behind him. The muscles in his back tensed up as the feeling of a hand pressed on his right shoulder. He spun around startled, but no one was there. Frightened, he ran from the room, through the hall and into the only other room with its door open.

He found his father sitting inside on a large, bare bed facing the window at the far end of the room. He could see he held something in his hand, holding it close to his chest, staring at it as if in prayer. Tommy walked slowly round the bed, his father still unaware he had entered. In his father’s hand, he saw a small, tattered book with a dark cover.

"What's wrong, Dad?" he asked hesitantly, unsure if he wanted to hear the truth.

His father turned to him, and Tommy saw he had been crying.

"My mother's Bible," his father said, and held up the withered book. "You know this is even older than your Gran was?"

Tommy felt his heart reach out towards his father, a lump swelling in his throat.

"This has been in the family for generations. She took it to Church every Sunday without fail - well until we had to put her in that awful place. She must have left it here when we moved her out.”

"What do you mean, Dad?" Tommy said, feeling left out and that his father was talking to himself.

"Nothing, son. This was her companion. That’s all. Not like a dog or anything, but it was her Old Faithful nevertheless. She turned to it even more than she ever turned to me. This book never betrayed her, and it’s not like it’s anything special to look at either. It wouldn't have looked out of place in a bring-and-buy stall, but it was priceless to her." He looked up towards the window, "No guilt in this book though."

None of this sank into Tommy’s young brain, but he got the feeling his father was feeling alone and sad. "Are you okay, Dad?" he asked.

"Come here," his father said as he picked Tommy up and placed him on his lap. "This book - Bible - belonged to your Gran, who was my Mum. When she got ill we put her in a special home. You never went to see her there; it wasn’t a nice place for children. Then she got really, ill, Tommy and never got better. Do you understand?”

Tommy felt the lump in his throat tighten and he tried not swallow, but couldn’t prevent it provoking a swell of tears in his eyes.

“Is Gran in heaven?” he asked.

“Yes, son,” his father said, and hugged Tommy tight. “When she was ill she only ever asked for this book, nothing else. This was all she remembered she loved. And now she's gone. So I want you to have it."

Tommy looked at the old book in his father’s hand. He knew why it was being given to him, but not what he would use it for. There were no pictures in it and it looked boring.

“I can’t read though,” he said.

His father smiled. “You will one day, so make sure you look after it, okay? Then you will understand. Keep it close and don't lose touch with it - or me, when you grow up. Promise me, son. Promise me."

A tear slipped down Tommy’s face as he reached up and gently slid his skinny arms around his father’s neck.

Published in The Scruffy Dog Review, September 2006.

Under the Skin

Alex listened in disgust as the woman blew her nose into a paper handkerchief. The muffled sound sent bullets of revulsion through him with each breath and blow of her nose. She thought no one could see her as she carefully examined the contents held in her hand. Surely not, he thought, and knew his face did nothing to hide his horror when she folded it up and tucked it inside her handbag.

He had seen many things on his five-hour daily commutes between Edinburgh and Glasgow, many amusing and frightening things, but to Alex this was simply stomach-churning. There was nothing he reviled more and after a hard days work in his city centre office, shifting other people’s money from investment account to investment account, the last thing he wanted to see was an obese female enjoying the collection of her own nose-phlegm.

And she was huge. Too large, in fact, to fit comfortably into the seat of Scotrail’s standard fare chair. When she bounced onto the train at Haymarket with seconds to spare, the only seat remaining was the one she was currently prised into. She had missed the opportunity of a more spacious seat at a table and Alex had enjoyed watching her squeeze into the two-person space, bumping into the people already sitting front and back with her overhanging belly. He had revelled in her discomfort as she pushed her posterior into the narrow chair, and the awkwardness as the centre hand rail dug sharply into her plump posterior. Punishment, he reckoned, for having no self-control in front of the fridge.

Alex had been commuting between Scotland’s two major cities for two and a half years. Since joining WorldNet Finance he had quickly grown in confidence and rank and was now a leading junior investment analyst for the small Edinburgh firm. The company was becoming a small pond for him to swim in these days, but at the moment it was rewarding him very well. There was no need to go anywhere else while the bosses continued to be impressed by his financial talents.

His social life had suffered but it didn’t bother him. He never had one to begin with. There would be time for play later, he reasoned, once he had made some serious money, conquered the world of finance, and made his mark in the industry. Then he could take the pick of any woman he wanted. All they were after was cash anyway and he planned to invest his wisely, and play hard with the rest. He was still young and there would be plenty of time to for all that later.

He opened his worn copy of the Guardian and scanned the pages for something interesting to read. Ever since the broadsheet had changed to the handy tabloid-sized format, he had found it much easier to read on the train. There was no more having to awkwardly manipulate the pages each time he wanted to turn over, but the whole package had become a lot heavier as a result. His briefcase had almost doubled in weight as a consequence.

He couldn’t concentrate on the financial reports, his mind wandering back to the fat woman sitting across the aisle. He watched her out of the corner of his eye, her cumbersome posture magnetic to his uninhibited stare, bumping and bouncing each time the train moved over a junction. “How can she live like that?” he thought. “She can’t possibly be happy.”

He turned the page of his compact daily newspaper to keep up the effect and watched discretely as she pulled a packet of sandwiches from the bag at her feet. She ripped open the plastic and the smell of cheese and pickle wafted through the carriage. “Wonderful,” he murmured. Alex hated pickle.

There was no escaping this disgusting woman, this pig. She munched on her wholemeal bread, layered with a triple load of cheese and watched as she pushed more and more into her mouth as if trying to suffocate herself. Crumbs fell like snow from her chin onto her over-sized dress and with her chubby, yet delicate hands, flicked them to the floor.

Within minutes the sandwich was gone, though the aroma remained in Alex’s nasal passage, tattooed to the walls of his nostrils to remind him how much this repugnant woman had ruined his journey home.

At least the feast was over. Or was it? “Can’t she wait till she gets home like the rest of us?” he groaned. “Mind you, she’ll probably have a steak pie and chips waiting for her.” He chuckled inwardly, self-impressed by his own cutting wit.

A large packet of crisps followed, filling the carriage with the greasy aroma of cheese and onion and the sound of gnashing teeth crunching on crackling crisps. “She loves her cheese,” he thought, and resigned himself to having to suffer the fat blimp while she ate her full evening meal. He felt anger swell inside him, an impatience that rose slightly with each mouthful of crisps and accompanying crunch.

She finished her crisps and perversely Alex knew - hoped - she wasn’t done. He was almost looking forward to seeing what she was going to pull out of her food-filled bag next, just to annoy him. “Of course,” he snorted, as he eyed the can of Coke in her hand. He shook his head and looked out of the window, but the reflection of her only shone back at him no matter where he averted his eyes.

He shook his paper and tried to find something to read that might calm him down. Meanwhile the woman held the can away from her body and pulled the ring-top. A small burst of gas exploded from the aluminium container and sent a single drop of cola soaring out the drinking hole, expelled by the sudden release of energy. The drop soared through the air, over the first page on the Guardian and landed on Alex’s report of yesterday’s Hibernian versus Rangers football match.

Alex struggled with his anger. He turned his head and glared angrily at the fat cow who had overstepped any line of decency that had ever existed. She had gone too far this time. Ready to explode with rage, he waited for a response – any response from her that would prove she knew she was a fat mess and a burden on society.

She looked up at him, her cheeks tinged with red and her long eyelashes spread above her kind eyes, with a hint of blue to match her outfit. Her jet-black hair looked soft and plush against her white skin. Her attractiveness caught him off-guard. It was the first time he had actually looked at her face.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, in a soft and pretty voice.

Alex felt his anger draining away. He was confused, annoyed at himself for not having a pre-prepared line ready to bombard her with. He stuttered, unable to speak.

Eventually he spoke. “That’s okay,” he said. “It’s only the Guardian. Load of rubbish, anyway.” He found himself smiling back at her, amazed she was talking so nicely to him.

She laughed at his remark. “That’s funny,” she said, and looked out of her window.

If it weren’t for her exterior, he could imagine her as one of those girls you get working on phone-lines for desperate men. Sexy voice but an ugly body; total deception of the male race. A few seconds passed and she looked back at him to meet his stare. It was Alex’s turn to blush but she smiled kindly again, a comfortable smile to put him at ease, as if she knew what he was thinking.

He relaxed back into his seat. “What am I thinking of?” he thought. There was something about her, though, something he couldn’t put his finger on. She sounded nice, spoke well, had lovely hair and eyes – but she was fat. God she was fat! Forget about it.

Alex shook his head and attempted to put her out of his head. He turned his attention back to the newspaper and articles about nothing in particular. After a while he noticed she had stopped making noises; nothing that annoyed him any more at least. He felt a desire to look at her, see what she was doing now. He glanced in the window’s reflection but it didn’t help much; he couldn’t see her face. He wanted to see her face again, see if she would smile once more.

Curiosity won over and he adjusted his head slightly, just so much as to get a look at her, but no more that she would realise she was being watched. “Funny,” he thought. “It never bothered me before when I was slagging her off.”

He wondered what she did for a living. Must be something good judging by her shoes. That dress didn’t look cheap either. Maybe she had family somewhere, a mother and father who probably loved her no matter what size she was. She had a masked Scottish accent; maybe she had foreign parents or had lived in another country. Wonder where she lives now, who she goes out with, what she likes doing at weekends. She looks the busy type; probably got more of a social life than he had. He wondered if she liked drinking wine alone in her flat, wishing she had someone to talk to, maybe to order a Chinese meal and watch the latest DVD with.

Alex finished the journey to Glasgow with a lot more questions he wanted to ask her. There was a touch of guilt when he remembered how he pleasured in her discomfort at the start of the journey. He felt something, not pity, not love, just a desire to be closer to her, to someone.

The train pulled into Queen Street and the passengers disembarked. He never noticed her get up from her seat and leave the train. He grabbed his coat and briefcase and walked onto the platform, head stretched out to see where she was. “What am I doing?” he asked himself, but deep down he knew.

He followed her into the main part of the station, saw her head for the underground, probably to a flat she could actually call a home. He only wanted to talk to her. Somebody to talk to.

He tapped her on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” he said, and she stopped, a little surprised.

She turned to face him and smiled when she recognised the face. “Oh - hello again.”

“Hello,” said Alex, adrenalin pushing him forward. “I’m Alex.”

She held out her hand confidently. “And I’m Tracey.”

“Em – I don’t suppose you’d like to go for a drink?”

And she smiled that beautiful smile back at him. It consumed him, it was all he could see, her gleaming white teeth and pink lips.

“I’d love to.”

Published in Wildchild Publishing, March 2006.

Once a Borderer

"Are you okay mister?" the young lad asked, his hand held out to offer help to the stricken old man.

"I'll be fine thanks," Jack Snape answered. He picked himself up from the cold pavement and dusted down his jacket. He looked up at the tall, young lad and smiled, pleased to see a member of today's youth offer an old man some assistance. He watched the boy wander down the street and disappear into a throng of people. He was reminded of himself when he was that age. Keen and helpful; something most young people could today not seem to grasp.

Balancing on his cane he shuffled forward. He took only a few steps when his weak eyes caught the stare from another man; someone that had been watching him intensely. He turned uneasily toward him, and felt his bad hip start to ache. He looked sharply towards the ground, frowning, but could still see the man, who continued to stare directly at him, and who now laughed in his direction.

Like a thump in the guts, Jack felt it hit him. He turned slowly to face the man who was staring at him in the middle of the busy, windy street. They stood and gazed at one another for what seemed like several minutes, the rest of the street now a blur as the hoards of shoppers streamed past. Cars and buses inched their way along the road, some passengers noticed the two static men from their seats. It couldn't be, he thought, surely not after all these years.

"I saw the whole thing you old bugger!" the man said to Jack with a broad and welcoming smile.

"Raymond," gasped Jack, his mouth gaping, the icy wind freezing the full army of dentures contained within.

"Yes Jack, it's me," Raymond said. He moved closer, and placed his hand on Jack's shoulder. Jack stepped back and surveyed the aged man. He was dressed much the same way as himself; both wore suits pressed to a crease. Both were bald, with silver hair brushed back and matted to their heads. Both held canes, and both proudly displayed the crest of 'The King's Own Scottish Borderers', neatly sewn onto the front-breast pocket. In fact, both men looked very similar.

"I don't know what to say, it's been almost - what - sixty years Ray!" Jack stuttered. "What the hell..." he demanded firmly, "...have you been doing?" and he stared at the man, as if waiting for an instant, yet brief explanation.

"Looking for you Jack," came the reply. "Does it really matter though? After all, I have found you now. Do you have time for a drink?" Both men started silently up the street, their canes taking their full weight with each step.

Not a word was spoken as they made their way through the shoppers, office workers, builders and students all passed them by, oblivious to the significance of the meeting that had occurred. A significance only Jack and Ray knew from the history that existed between them. A history going back all the way to the Second World War.

They arrived at the main door of the Royal British Legion Club. Jack pulled the door open and let Ray in. A woman was there to greet them on the front desk. She looked at Jack and smiled. He had been regular as clockwork, turning up on the same day for years; longer than she had ever worked there anyway. Her face shone with pity, but both men missed it as they proceeded into the bar.

The lounge was small, quiet and surrounded by comfortable couches and wooden tables. Other members sat smoking, drinking and minding their own business. Pride and honour decorated the chestnut coloured walls. Memorabilia was pinned everywhere; mostly black and white pictures containing faded memories of both World Wars. Above the carved mahogany plaque, which marked previous Club Directors, a framed picture of The Queen was mounted to mark her Coronation in 1953.

Jack left Ray to find a seat, went to the bar and ordered two pints of lager. The barman, a new employee who had only taken the job to help pay for his college education, poured out two pints of flat lager, headless with spillage running down the side of the glass. "Can you manage them both?" he asked.

"I doubt it son. Can you bring them over?"

"Sure thing. You want me to bring them both over to your table?"

"Of course," Jack said, frowning at the barman. He was clearly still on his apprenticeship when it came to customer service, he thought.

He went over and rested his cane against the table and took a seat next to Ray. The barman followed, and placed both pints together on the table in front of Jack, who handed him a creased five-pound note. He snatched his change from the barman's hand to make sure he got the point.

"Young upstart," he mumbled into his glass, and took his first sup of lager.

"You always were a moan Jack," Ray smiled, lit a cigar and sat back in the cushioned seat.

"Sure, compared to you I was a saint!" Jack said. What about that time just after we were conscripted? Oh what a song and a dance you made when you realised you had to have your lovely locks cut off before we left for France." Both men laughed. They recounted the trip to France in June 1944. They had landed at Queen beach on the sixth day, and fought Nazi Germany together. Both men were in their early twenties. Jack was only a year older than Ray, who had always held a more authoritative position throughout their friendship. He was a natural leader, and it served him well in the Army.

Their discussion took them on a journey only they could understand. They had defended their nation with pride and honour, against a tyranny they wanted no one else to have to face. 'Once a Borderer, Always a Borderer' was the Battalion motto, and they had lived by it, for all it stood for. It was in their minds while they fought around Caen until the town finally capitulated, and then they advanced north through Belgium and into Holland, to the Rhine and then Bremen. And it was while in Bremen the conversation took a downturn. For it was there Jack and Ray had become separated after being caught in an ambush. A bomb had exploded near to where the two men were passing with their Battalion, and seven men were killed instantly. Once the dust had settled, two were found to be missing - one of which was Ray.

He told Ray how he grieved before even returning home to Britain. He explained how he had fought to deny his best friend - his brother - had been captured, or worse. He told him the nightmares he had endured for months after, and even to this day he found sleeping a task. When youths set off fireworks in the street near to his home, it brought back horrendous memories of that day, the war never straying far from the front of his mind.

"Everyone was devastated Ray," Jack said, his head bowed and a tear in his crystal blue eye. "The whole community took it hard you know. One of their own never coming back; I told everyone you had died so as to spare them the angst of not whether you were alive or not. And what about what it did to Mother - you never saw how she struggled. All she wanted was for her two boys to come home safe. When she saw my pain, it was as if I might have been killed as well. That's what killed her Ray, the uncertainty, and the mess she saw it made of me."

Ray though about this for a while. He thought of himself growing up alongside Jack under their mother's wing. Their father died down a coal mine five years before they were called up to fight, the anger his death produced moved them to fight, and they devoted themselves to the Army. Never did they consider it might lead to death.

"Look Jack, I'm sorry okay? I really am. We're both in our twilight here though, let's enjoy what time we have left eh? I miss Mum, I really do, but we'll all be together soon enough wont we?" Ray said trying to lift the discussion's tone into a semi-laughable occasion.

"Sure thing," Jack answered, and he took his second pint to the halfway mark. Ray hadn't touched his since they arrived, but Jack wasn't bothered. He was just delighted to see his brother after all these years. He glanced at the ashtray on the table. Their discourse had lasted for two King Edward cigars, and the tray overflowed with ash.

Talk moved to happier times when their father was still alive. Family holidays, school trips, and a friend of Mavis MacDonald who lived next door. She would let the boys kiss her for a candy stick, and Ray always made sure he had a healthy supply of 'Granny Sookers'. The two men laughed as they recalled their old Sergeant. His shiny boots were always one size too big for him, or so they appeared. 'Sergeant Flip-Flop' they used to call him when his back was turned. He wasn't considered the hardest man in the Military for nothing.

Neither man noticed Jack's wife enter through the door on the far side of the room. She stopped, and watched them talk from afar. The barman went across to meet her. He asked her questions and pointed over to Jack and Ray. She explained to him quietly why Jack was there, and he apologised. She left him red-faced, to tend to some thirsty veterans who were gathering at the bar.

She approached the table they were sat, still unseen by either man. By the time Jack noticed her, he had begun to tell Ray about the five grandchildren he was now proud to say he had. Although he was too old to play football with them, he could still tell them stories about his heroic brother whom he fought proudly alongside in World War 2. He sat back uneasily as she invaded their space, disrupting the happy recollections they were sharing after almost sixty years in the wilderness. His mind was brought sharply back into the reality’s focus. He looked at the table in front of him, on it were three empty pint glasses and three full ones. He looked at the ashtray - it was empty.

Jack stood up slowly and buttoned his coat. He kept his head bowed; the stares from everyone else in the bar bearing upon his slight frame. He didn't want Mavis to see the tears welling in his vacant eyes.

"59 years ago today Mavis," he said to the floor, and she put her arms to take hold of him.

"I know Jack," she said. "I know."

Published in This Is It Magazine, May 2004.