Tuesday, 3 September 2013


DAY #2

Originally I wrote this as a lighthearted piece, but decided to sleep on it before finishing up. This deeper, darker story came from assorted dreams last night, so I'll save the lighthearted tale for another daily challenge.   

Photo: © Cassie Tillet


There was a time when, bound for the coast, their numbers were large enough to fill several trains with the noise of youth.  From steaming railway, they had filed obediently onto waiting boats.  Only at the gentle rising of the waves had their chatter abated.  Men, whose only concern should have been what to wear for the next exuberant dance, now shared the exact same fashion and growing fears. 
    The sight of a broadening French coastline alerted both young eyes and heart.  After months of training, planning and speculation, here it was; this big, important day about to happen.  At a single order, the battalion of eight hundred and twenty three men re-checked all equipment, gripped their rifles tightly to their chests and prayed that they would know tomorrow.  From silent prayers, the beach exploded into noise with their first footsteps.  Invaluable, disciplined training offered their only hope.  Pick your spot…stay low…don’t run straight, but DO run fast…may God be smiling down upon you.

    June, 1994.  The last four living souls of 184 Company sit in silence, once more upon French soil, relieving memories half a century old that can never fade with time. As clear as always, faces of former friends appear upon weary, ageing minds.  The best method has been learned through time; remember them smiling…remember them at their last dance…two rums too many…far too loud…trying to chat up the new barmaid…the smell of their tobacco…the particular tones of individual laughter.  But never focus on Juno Beach.  Those thoughts are always for the unconscious night; never for the glaring light of day.
   English and French media have been milling around the area for days.  Brass instruments are receiving a final spit of polish.  A mayor’s speech is being memorized.  Interviewers apply final layers of makeup, ready to address a waiting television audience.  The noise around the media crews nears fever pitch. Directors shout into microphones as important camera angles are discussed.  Deadlines are planned to the nearest millisecond.  There was little doubt; it was to be a big, important day.

For the last four survivors of 184 Company, the bench offers a respectful refuge from the growing noise.  The time to answer banal questions and smile politely for cameras will undoubtedly come.  For now, there need be only silence.    

© Kev Milsom (2013)

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