Most men get bold and uninhibited with drink . They become jolly and a levity of spirit is sometimes welcome when not overcooked in which event they are bordering on the bellicose and annoyance
There are others who become maudlin with drink., morose and are best avoided .
But there yet others who become estranged and remote; haunted by some story from their past; Perhaps something remorseful, of a love lost or unrequited; something which lies just beneath the shroud of secrecy; something which they live with during sobriety but can only find expression for in intoxication.
And when they drink the story becomes like a prisoners ball and grips their being with unrelenting intensity.
This obsession not to relate it, becomes too unbearable and they will tell the story quite unscrupulously and uninhibitedly to a stranger,
Is it is also why they drink too much.
And this to a large extent was Mr Roberts story.
And the fact that his story seemed redolent of the exotic and vaguely the criminal;, thisI found irresistible and made me listen to the whole thing through. It was also the sense of seduction of being lured into hearing something, which you otherwise mightn’t , that captivated my attention.
So partly, I confess, because I was being told something I perhaps shouldn’t know, and partly because he was now in that disposition that interesting drunks occasionally have ; the knack of telling a story with a flowing exuberant style , which is not theirs in sobriety-. That was my predicament and my privilege when I met him that evening. And I now listened.
It had nothing to do with relieving the teller of a great burden of guilt. Maybe it was all a fiction. But he told it with a conviction, which was so compelling that made me suspect that maybe there really was something truly harrowing- harrowing of a personal nature hidden under the layers of normal social discourse, that quite captivated me .
He told it like one who had rehearsed it and told it many times. It could have been a one-man show in the theatre.
It was a November evening and all the group whom I’d develop some familiarity with and a fondness for, were together in the back room of Annie’s bar .
They were all much older than me and they held these assemblies as they did in the old town hall decorum; someone sang a song and he then had the privilege to call another member of the group to perform. It was called his noble call.
Someone had just asked Lilly O Dea to sing..
Lilly was, an elderly local songsters of some modest local fame. She was undoubtedly once quite beautiful but the effect was ruined by her overly long hair which was an unruly grey and suggested to you that she had persevered to retain her youth but had done so in vain. And the result was slightly unbecoming.
- Sing the white cliffs of Dover – said Brian
- Ahh go away – she said bashfully, but some how you knew she was neither affronted nor discouraged, and least of all bashful.
- Oh yes do, oh I could sing itonce… She said ruefully.
- And still can – said Brian, who was an old thespian, who dressed in a florid bow tie and a hideous green scarf. And sometimes sunglasses lest his fans should mob him on the streets, which was unlikely as he never performed outside the town Hall., other than once in a travelling circus, when he volunteered to assist the clowns in some farce , tripped over the circus ring and broke his nose to the great hilarity of the audience. Some said cruelly it was his finest hour.
- Oh Yes !! he announced peevishly- he had assumed the role of musical compere –and frowned dramatically as ifoffended.
- - Once, they came from all over to hear her- he said inan emphaticgeneral way ; both admonishing and hectoring. Then just as dramatically the majestic stage persona changed and he said with a gleeful vigour;
- So , ladies and gentlemen , put your hands together ..And give a warm welcome to our very own … Lilly O Dea .
A silence descended like a frail curtain and with little other persuasion Lilly started to sing in a soft wistful distant voice, her hands trembling with an emotion from another time .
she started to singThe sound was like a frail bird somewhere in a lonely bush at twilight
- There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see
I'll never forget the people I met….
Braving those angry skies…
It gathered a little more timbre as she went along but , you worried if withher heavy sad heart her health might give at any moment .
The little community started to sway gently in unison with the melody, and you knew that in the sombre rhythm there was a collective memory - something which they shared together during the war years.
Something of which the hardships and privations of the war had imposed upon them; which they shared –and something I was at some distance from, and reminded me that I was also an outsider here.
And that’s when I noticed Mr Roberts . I new he had served in the Far East during the warand that he was considered friendly but sometimes a little odd. Something had happened to him during the war, and it made him like that, they said.
And he caught my attention now as the song went soulfully along like a steamboat sailing away from the quay in darkness of night
He was sitting alone at the end of the counter staring away, as the song concluded
-There’ll be bluebirds over
-The white cliffs of Dover
-Just you wait and see
There was a momentary silence followed by arousing applause and it seemed to shake Mr Roberts from his reverie. He looked back in to the room as if he’d been away and his eyes looked dazedthe way some people do when theyremove their glasses, bewildered; that look people have when they alight from a train expecting to meet someone.
He seemed vague and indecisive but there was about him something ponderous and intent about him;His committal to convivialitywas incomplete and he obviously preferred to sit alone .
His once fine features, now heavily jowled , suggested a life of dissipation . He was beyond pride, or pretence and had obviously let himself go to seed earlier that he might .
Now the singer called on him to sing
- A Noble call - Billy-
It was Brian, who had taken his green scarf and was using it as a sort of curtain between acts.
-. Oh go on sing. Billy, you must !! – Said Lilly, blushing and glowing inwardly from the warmth of the reception shed just received .
-No No maybe later.
Roberts waved a distracted hand, dismissive; and for now disinterested.
- - Later so , he said
- What about yourself Brian –The Trumpetor..
- Oh Go on Brian –
- Oh I don’t know if I can remember …
- ‘course you can
Brian shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. The audience seem to need him and the show must go on he seemed to be saying.
He waved the scarf with a flourish and threw in on a chair. Heharrumphed to get the tone.
-Let me see so . He paused ; -
Oh he’ll do it
--Oh all right so , all right , a bit of the Trumpeter
- Oh ! The Trumpeter – he does a lovely job of that
- Oh I adore it
He waved a flapping rubber hand, coughed a phlegmy throaty sound and with a dramatic gusto sometimes which infuses hitherto bashful men he bellowed out the first bar with a thunder which brought the audience to order with a little start.
- Oohh .. Ahhh Trumpater ahhh,, what areyou a sounding now!!
The voice was that of an ageing baritone, a little tremulous from age, yet dulcet and reminiscent of an old piano with yellowing ivories. His face was a little flushed from the strain..
Dissatisfied with his disappointing start he apologised –
- It’s been a long time. then with a renewed vigour he bellowedmore boldly than was necessary. But the volume deadened the ear to any loss of pitch .
-Trumpeter, what are you sounding now?
-(Is it the call I'm seeking?)"
You'll know the call,"
said the Trumpeter tall,"
Trumpeter, what are you sounding now?
-(Is it the call I'm seeking?)"
You'll know the call,"
said the Trumpeter tall,"
When my trumpet goes a-speakin'.
I'm rousin' 'em up;I'm wakin' 'em up,
Mr Roberts now turned to me, and seemed to emerge slowly as if from a fleeting dream..
He smiled and shook his head .
- Ahh yes ! - -It reminds me of the war he said ,- All those lovely songs .. Vera Lynn .. Keep the Home fires Burning The White cliffs of Dover.- easy to sing , but they has a touch of class all the same …
He trailed off as if in a private reverie of fond loss, and I moved down the bar to join him, as a gesture of solidarity to outsiders. For we were both outsiders now, I realised .; I , less than him. , but we shared that collegiality that strangers sometimes do . Because they are strangers . He ignored the singer and called another drink . Gesturing to my glass, he signalled the barmen to pour me another pint.
- You were lucky , you were all very lucky to be spared the war , it’s a bloody wicked affair..
He seemed about to leave it at that . I knew he’d served with the British Forces in the Far East . My father had served in Europe . North Africa , and the Middle East , so his involvement held for me more than just a passing interest . I gave it some thought before I took the liberty and I asked him where he’d served. I knew that he was aware of my fathers involvement.
- I was stationed in Burma- he said and ordered another whiskey to go with the bottle of beer.
His voice was soft and suggested that he was well read. It was distinct and yet beneath the determined balling drone of the baritone in the background who had clearly failed to attain the vocal summits which the song demanded . The tuneless chaos offended the least sensitive musical ear. I could see that Mr Roberts endured more than me , the frequent of the loss of both pitch and key. But I could see he was displaying formidable restraint. He winced , composed himself and seemed to slowly settle in to his story
I got that sudden uneasy feeling that I was already part of his narrative. It wasn’t a just a piece of an image he was reflecting on ; I could sense that there was a whole story there by t his ponderous hesitation . The pauses came now with precise punctuation.
- Yes – I was stationed in Burma,, - he seemed to reflect .
- Oh a lot of them were very decent types, the officers you know. The men were like myself. The training was hard, but I was young and I was fit.
He seemed to look away, away from this room, away from the singing; away to some distant part of his mind, which he hadn’t recently visited.
He then leaned his chin forward into his cupped hand,. And he continued
- But there was one bastard there. An officer. Captain ..well lets call him Smith .He looked sideways as if momentarily assessing me.
He trailed away and stroked the bar counter in an artistic way. It was the first time I noticed the delicacy of his hands. They could have been those of violinist,. Intelligent , expressive; and still somehow elegant despite the liver spots..Again , that pause . It was like those unsung notes in a lament . The ones left unsung , often holding more enchantment than the vocalised .
-Well Smith .. Yea ..lets call him Smith … he had it in for me like all the other Paddies . All during our training he had it in for me. I was the best shot in the squad, but that wouldn’t do him,
I think he hated me more for even that –
The long finger trailed a snake on the counter, from head to tail with a slow exactitude. He belched softly and he said ‘ bless my soul’ - and just for that instant there was a trace of an English accent. A little betrayal perhaps, but the effect was as if to suggest that another persona within his psyche had taken over and this lured me deeper into his slow, deliberate narrative .He continued.
- Anyway one day a web belt went missing; it was only a web belt.
- Of course no one owned up to losing it but I knew he had his suspicions about me. So when no one owned up he ordered the military police in .So they came into the billet one night about four in the morning, and Smith was with them,
- He ordered all our lockers to be checked; all the beds be turned out..
- I knew I was all right, but next thing they come to my bunk and turned the mattress over –
- There to my horror was the web belt.! I can still see it on the steel springs as if it were today!-
His head was bent as if a collusion were developing and I found my head leaning towards his. I was conscious of the appearance of our necessary intimacy but inclined towards him anyway.
His voice was softer; almost sibilant now but as clear as a bell. He paused and scanned the group, seemed to consider what he was about to reveal before and his brows shot up suddenly ; askance And he said;.-
-How it ended up there I don’t know ‘pon my soul ! - but Smith put me on a charge and I was hauled up before this court of investigation. I was charged and found guilty.
- So for the next week he had me out in fatigues and cleaning pots, peeling spuds –And I not guilty at all.-!!
He tapped the bar counter. Three little precise taps. As if to suggest the memory was old but the bitterness was unresolved and of forgiveness – there was none . He’d done this before. He continued -.
- He came round every few hours when I was either stooped over the pot, or scrubbing dishes and washing pans
- To insult and demean me in front of the other offenders.
- All right Pat?? He says –
- Steal her Majesty’s property would you; I’ll show you a bit of British discipline.
He did a little pantomime of the action.
-That was Captain Smith – we’ll call him that. That wasn’t his name.. It wasn’t enough to have me degraded like a dog - he wanted to turn the other detainees against me as well. That was his way – devious to the last. Wilful. Vengeful !!
That was Smith all over , the bastard ! Anyway I began thinking about how the web belt got there and wasn’t as plain as a pike staff when I thought about it. Smith put it there himself – that or one of his little hench men , The bastard I thought , but what could I do . We were being mobilised in a few days,
But as if that wasn’t enough, he got me on the range a day or so later and accused me of losing a round,
- I had five direct hits; - I was the best shot in the squad. A grade one marksman .Grade One.! But no- he insisted that someone else had hit my target by mistake, so where was the missing bullet,
-There was no missing bullet; but he had me charged again. This time he made me clean out the latrines.
That was the worst.
When the lads came in to the billet in comes Smith with them and he starts at me again , this time in front my own buddies.
`-Well now Paddy do you think you’re getting the gist of military discipline-
‘ Course if I had my way I’d have all you lot I’d have you cleaning shit all bloody day-every dam day ..That’s all you’re good for you lot - Roberts - a cleaner of shit.
-Now do a good job there Roberts , so my boys can have a decent wash and shave ‘
–Again it was to turn the boys against me. Then he poked me with his swagger stick. That was the infernal part – that and trying to turn my own squad against me.
Oh Jesus, but the mocking ! And calling me Pat. or Paddy, Poking me with his swagger stick !
- By Jesus I hated him !!; Christ I hated him .God forgive me but I truly hated him with a passion.
-The boys could see it was all wrong and even they turned against Smith. I got on well with them you know.. But Smith was an upper-class snob. And all our boys were working class like me. Maybe I had a small bit more education .. but .
He shrugged, paused and seemed to be formulating the precise chronology of events . My curiosity was intense, and intense in an unseemly way. I wanted him to move it on but I knew this story had a pattern and a tempo. I had to wait . It was almost like changing scenes in an amateur drama when the actors remain on the stage, while the pops are changed backstage .
The aria had finished and the noble call had come round again.
- Billy – This time – the noble call please !
- Ave Maria , said one. They were swaying gently all along the wall to a song that was expected, but not yet begun ; their mood now was like one collective entity united in the convivial town hall spirit
- The Drinking Song , - go on Billy!
He waved his artistic hand dismissively , as if it were a wand , or a conductors baton. Gentle but emphatic.
-In a while In a while.. he said , softly and then turning away he ignored them completly .Mr Roberts waited for them to settle and he continued evenly;
-All through the Burma campaign I thought about ways of getting Smith. It was the only thing that kept me going sometimes. God forgive me but I hated him worse than the enemy. Not all the officers who were shot were shot by the enemy , you know .!! I thought of that too.
And the fighting was brutal you know . Bloody brutal . Hand to hand combat leaves its mark on men. Bayonet charges were frequent. The Scots liked them ‘cos it was said to demean the enemy. ; But I did it too; we all did. And there’s nothing worse than killing a man in combat with a knife. Nothing !!-
A strange and sudden sense of the vivid events seemed to sweep over him like a dark cloud ; as if he had a sense of self loathing or revulsion ; or remorse , but he waved the graceful hand again , shook his trembling jowls as if to dismiss any melancholy or even regret at the memory.
- Any way ; we had lost in Burma – and we had to scoot – That was hard to take – we had no support ; that was 1942 and we knew our part of the war was over –
- Stillwell was our man . A decent type of General. Cared for the good of his men . What was the point of allowing slaughter in the face of certain defeat . Well he led the force across the border into India ; we were defeated . Stillwell was downgraded as a general back to Colonel . And the rest of us were scattered all over .I ended up in New Deli .
So I was on I was on leave on leave. Furlough- we called it in the forces, wondering where they were going to send us next; the truth was they didn’t know..
- New Deli was quite different then , and a group of us went out for a bit of a tear – nightclub- bars and clubs- had just started up to cater for soldiers. Especially for the Americans you know . No strip tease clubs you know or anything like that. But more western . And there were women . If you wanted . Well I used to drink a lot at the time; round the clock if I was on leave and it would go on for days. And I was on one of these binges then.
- Well I had got separated from the boys. And I was wandering down the street, wondering if I might go to one of those late night places. There was no question of going home . But early or late didn’t really matter to me when I was on a skite. I more or less had to keep going to keep the heeby- jeebies away . I’d go on like that for two weeks and I wouldn’t bother eating for days either. I always managed to shave somehow and I didn’t have the boozers face in those days so you wouldn’t even notice I was a drinker. I could have had a long chat with you and you wouldn’t have even noticed, only I wouldn’t remember any of it.
- Any way there I was in the middle of new Deli half in the jigs and then !! And then Jesus !! I saw him across the street.
- I couldn’t believe it,!
- There he was the bastard - red eyes. He looked different out of uniform - smaller somehow. But there was no doubt about the walk . The swagger of him. He couldn’t see me of course, so I crossed the street and followed after him just to be certain . Already the plan was coming to me .Even then!! .- It was him. Smith ! ; No doubt in the world I followed behind him on his side. No mistake now ..
- His height made it easy for me to follow so I crossed the street again at a distance. And I followed him.
- . He stopped outside a club which I’d noticed earlier. It was a sort of a club mainly frequented by officers, but if you looked anyway half descent they let you in.
- It had these baths –and a swimming pool; A massage was available , but that could mean anything. you know … girls were always available at a wink
- I watched him go inside.
- I walked up and down outside my heart was racing now, I waited about fifteen minutes or so and then went inside. Jesus I needed a drink real badly then I can tell you . But even that could wait now .
- I went in . - There was this oriental type inside and he sidles up to me and he says .. Ye wan a swimming- and I sort of looked at him and nodded. These places catered for all types and there was that sly look in his slanted eyes as if I was looking for a girl. But I pretended not to notice. And they could spot an accent you know so I just nodded ; yes –
- A half crown got you in to the pool and baths ,
- you had to sign this kind of register thing to get in .And as he went off to get me trunks and towels I looked at the register . There , as I looked at the book was a signature I knew well – R Smith – Capt.
- So I signed beneath Smith’s name – Jones W Lnc. Cpl.
- Now I had to guess where he would go .
- . Not for him your fancy women. So it was either the steam rooms or the baths or the pool ;I guessed the pool . -
The pool was about 100 yards long and the whole place was thick with steam. There were a few bathers at in the far end. Foreigners mostly. It was near 12o clock it closed at half past
- I slid into the pool and as I did someone came running by and saluted me. Whoever it was couldn’t have really seen me but I started to panic again.
-It was quite shallow at my end and grew deeper towards the other end.
- I was fit and a good swimmer.
- There was Smith through the steam just sitting on the edge of the pool , splashing his legs .
I nose dived and swam under water right up to where he was just splashing .kicking the water.
- I eased my self gently along the side the pool. I watched him. Having his jolly good rollick , I thought
-And he didn’t see me till the last second. He didn’t recognise me at first and when he did, this look of terror came over him. Physically I was much bigger and fitter than him, and now we were alone. The other bathers had left the pool for the dressing rooms . All you cloud hear was the hollow echoes at the end of the pool.
- Smith made a lunge for the pool rail; but I was too quick for him
- With all the strength I had , I gripped him and lifted him back into the pool head first before he could even utter a sound .
- I plunged his head under the water. His legs and hands were flaying like hell; I held him down for a minute or so then I lifted his head out just so he could take a gasp. I pulled his face up close to mine - ‘ Remember me Reggie Boy – Remember Roberts the shit cleaner ..!! Remember Reggie old boy !! then I shoved his head down again; his hands were grapping at my waist , even..even .. my balls.I kneed his head with a quick jerk , but it didn’t break.. You’d know .
- I kept bringing him up and down just so he could see me and I could see him- I knew he was getting weaker , the power was going from the legs , his hands ..but he could splutter and gasp. But I wanted him to see his death coming. And as he gulped and gasped for air I grabbed his hair and held him so that just his eyes were above the water. And I could see the fear of a man going to die in his bloated face. He gasped and I said again – remember me old chap- He tried to shout but there was only a gasp left in him.
- .I held him close and made him plead with those red eyes and then I said
- - - say hello to them all in hell , Reggie old boy !! And pushed him down. And this time there was no struggle. He was dead .
- I know a dead man when he’s dead .He just went limp, and I let his limp body drift down - down down !!! Like a doll - Then I panicked again and just to be sure I dived down as his body was just hanging there I strangled the bastard again , really good , and a quick flick of the neck like we were taught - no sound just the feel of the neck snap under water .this time it snapped alright …
-God forgive me but I wanted to see those bulging eyes again so I pulled his head up again . Just for a moment and looked into the eyes that had persecuted me so much. And this time there was nothing in the dead eyes . And I just let him sink .
And though I said a prayer in his ear before he went away, I never regretted one moment .I knew I was as doomed to hell as he was; But I could feel no remorse at all -
- I swam gently back to the steps and came out of the pool.
- There was that same sly; look on the oriental face,
- Good swim Lance Corporal? – he says
I dressed quickly and went out. The air was almost as oppressive outside as it was in the pool; The night air was stifling – it was just before the monsoon season. And the sweat was rolling off me. Partly because of that but I could feel the drink horrors coming on. I went to an all night place I knew where some of the boys went. I stayed up the whole night drinking gin. But its often the way when you’re on a skite , the drink just slows the legs but not the head ,but at least it keeps the horrors away.
- I met up with the boys in the morning. There was a buzz of excitement going round the camp. We had got our orders for repatriation. The Queen Mary was coming to bring us home. At least that was the word .everyone was celebrating . The booze flowed , and by God did I drink. But I couldn’t get drunk .
- All day I waited for news of Smith. None came that day or the following day, and I was relieved at first . Then I began to worry.
-I stayed sober all the next day , which I can tell you was no joke , just to hear they had found Smith. But everyone was in high spirits. And there was partying and more drink during the next few days. I waited each day for roomer; news of Smith but there was no word – No word about a missing officer- Very strange I thought . Surely to God there had to be an explanation. I asked the boys casually, you know if any of them had seen him. No. The word was that some of the officers were arranging their own quarters for the trip home. He was probably trying to get some special accommodation for himself on the liner, because you see the ship had been all but stripped down to take the large numbers. Knowing Smith they were saying, he’d probably wired his father to tell some big nob in the admiralty to leave him a cabin . You know a civvy cabin , because they had taken out the decorated cabins to make room for the thousands of us coming home . But it would have been Smiths style to have his own cabin - Come home in style don’t you know. I waited around as we all did , listening to all the info from the morning briefings
To my amazement there was no mention whatever of Reggie-that was his name .Oh I said that .Yes …
I came back to London we were all sent back to Crookham – my barracks
There was talk of us being taken in by another regiment for the big build up for the allies invasion; that would later be D-day. But we were a disgraced outfit. Some of the regiments had heard of the bayonet charges in Burma and they didn’t really want to have anything to do with us.
-No we were never called back to the field; the army had considered our mission a failure – which it was.
I didn’t want to come home – there was a lot of resentment towards us because we had joined the British Army
After VE day there was really no celebration for us.; that depressed me too ,.
After we were demobbed I got a job on a construction site , and kept drinking all the time I could .
All the time I kept thinking about Reggie . How was it that they never reported the missing officer,
It began to haunt me. I couldn’t get him out of my head. I kept seeing him in my dreams. Then I’d wake up in a sweat. It was torture . I was even hoping they’d come and just arrest me ..
It was insufferable Again I was drinking a lot . All the time really . But you wouldn’t have known.
Eventually I went to a priest in the confession and told him all about it.I was boozed at the time , but he listened – a decent man- an ex army Chaplin.
He seemed to think it strange that the unit never reported an officer missing. He asked me was I drinking a lot and I said I was – but I could drink . .I don’t know whether he believed me or thought I was mad.. He said the Burma campaign was a terrible ordeal for us - he said . He could only imagine , he said .But what about the ..well was it murder . I wanted him to tell me . I wanted him to tell me to confess. That’s all I wanted . But no . He said I should think about giving up the drink even for a while and maybe I should see a psychiatrist . He could arrange that . And he did .fair play to him . By the time I saw the doctor I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital to dry out .
And when the hibby geebies passed me the psychiatrist examined me again.
He told I was maybe suffering from delusional pathos – whatever that meant – he said it happened to a lot of soldiers after the war .
Jesus that was no comfort . Was I mad , like insane asked him.. ?? No No It would pass he said .
It was worse than knowing that I killed him , this idea that I didn’t . And if I didn’t, who was it .
Well I began to drink all the time and I just couldn’t work or do anything now , Jesus the bastard was killing me now .!!!
I went back to the priest again and I told him I wanted to know. Could he find out for me? No he said he couldn’t do that. But he suggested I might write to the unit and ask about the captains whereabouts. There would be no harm in that. I might find the explanation quite simple . And my agony would be over . Jesus Chrisst !!! What did they think . They must have thought me mad .!!
I went between one lot of clergymen to more psychiatrists and got no where . They kept admitting for the drink .
And then I gave it up. Completely .No more drink for Billy. For two years; but it wouldn’t go away..
They kept telling me it was a delusional something – every one of them. They gave me blue tablets and green tablets , and I took an overdose hoping to God that would end it .
Then one Christmas I got a card from the regiment , as I did every year , but what do you think. !! This time it was from -‘ Regie and the boys’ .Fourth Squad , Number Three platoon –Signed by Reggie ,.
Oh god the thing began to torment me so much I wanted to die. Why did he wait so long. He knew . But what did he know ? And I began to think maybe it wasn’t really Reggie at all.- that I killed … but it was it definitely was .. The signature in the baths and all.
The pain of it all was driving me to distraction. I can tell you if I could go back in time to that moment, I wouldn’t have gone near that club.-
Again the sonorous pause ; finger trailed the snake ; , the elegant hand flicked in a whiplash movement , deft and graceful, as if to dispatch the sombreness he’d imposed .
Well I just wait till they find me. I killed him. I was sure. I am sure . Whatever the psychiatrist or the priests said ; I killed him. I can still see his blue face going down in the pool and his body going lifeless rolling over like a doll. I can see the bulging eyes and God forgive me but I remember saying the prayer , and I sending him to hell , That’s why this is now !! - because I sent him there to rot in hell. !! Jesus Christ I meant it I meant it !!
And now I ‘m trapped.
Slowly , he inclined his head away from me and through his squinted eye -He didn’t want an answer to what he was about to ask .
.Do you believe in hell ??
I do .. This is it for me now. And when I die . Well I don’t know . But one thing sure-I’m not one for meeting trouble half way - let it come if its coming and be damned .
But I’ll wait . Death can take its time . You never know . There could be worse to come …
And then again there might be nothing at all.
Well that’s it .
Maybe this was to be my hell ..I really don’t know anymore
My goodness , look at the time ; you’ll have one more and we’ll go.
John good man ..- a Paddy and a piper , and a pint..
Doesn’t time fly.. !!
He’d finished his story on this perplexing optimistic note.
I was a traveller on this journey back in time with him. I had conspired to be the prompting voyeur , and that was my guilt.
And now many years after hearing his story , I believe it. But I cant explain any of it.
But as to his attitude to death and the inevitability of a hell awaiting him . Even worse than the one he went through now, or as he said brightly in the end - maybe nothing.
Nothing at all . You could consider his attitude heroic or just bar room bravado.
I asked someone about him later and he said ‘ those boys in Burma , you know , they went through pure hell - ’ Not a mention of insanity of any kind. I’d hoped to hear of some obscure behavioural aberration in his history . But there was none . He was a mild mannered gentleman who enjoyed his whiskey and a glass of beer , and sometimes sang with the voice of a trained baritone. Pitch perfect and exact timing . It was a pity he didn’t pursue a career in music they said. . He was far too good for the local operatic society.
A waste of a God given talent
Most men get bold and uninhibited with drink . They become jolly and a levity of spirit is sometimes welcome when not overcooked in which event they are bordering on the bellicose and annoyance