\"You're 26,\" his mother snorts, \"you're too fucking old for the army.\"
\"It's the Marines, not the army. There's a difference. I've wasted my life stagnating in this shit hole of a town for what? To be paid off, end up on the dole, alone and without a penny to my name?\" Craig replies angrily.
She rolls her eyes at the display of anger. A defensive gesture if ever there was one.
\"I'm goin', there is no chance of you changing my mind on this. I want to serve and there are better prospects for me in the forces than around here.\"
\"... You're goin' to end up as cannon fodder, have you forgotten what happened to your brother?\"
His back stiffens at the mention of his older sibling. The anger flares in his eyes as he struggles not to explode at her over protectiveness. It takes him a few minutes of strained silence to get his fury under control.
\"... You can either support my decision, or you can leave and I'll join anyway. Your. Choice!\"
He watches as the tears fill her eyes and trickle down her face. She stands, walks through the hallway and out the front door without another word. He sighs heavily, that could have gone better.
Pulling out the letter Craig reads over it again. One week left, then he reports for duty, ready to start his life as a trainee Royal Marine Commando. Smiling, he remembers the statistics he had read when signing up; 1 in 3 trainees don't make it through basic.
I can't wait for this, the first challenge in my life, he muses to himself.
Craig was about to take on a challenge that does in fact, break most men. The Commando training is one of the longest and toughest basic infantry courses in the world. Thirty-two weeks of intensive fitness work, land-based infantry tactics, water-based warfare and more. After this he would choose a specialty - he had his eye on mountain warfare and sniper specialty, assuming he obtained his Green Beret and Commando status, if not, well, he didn't want to think about that.
He spent the week organising someone to care for his home. Clearing out the freezer and fridge, and saying his goodbyes to friends and family. He would be virtually cut off during the training and didn't want to leave too many without at least a few words of goodbye.
The days pass unbearably slowly, the council knew he was going into the forces and had set up for his rent to be taken from his account after the second month he was away which was a relief to Craig. His neighbours had agreed to look after the house and air it out occasionally during the time he was likely to be gone.
Walking towards his best friend's house, Craig reflects on the previous few days. Some of his friend's were supportive, others, those selfishly thinking of the effect on their lives, yelled and stamped their feet like children and more than one told him to \"fuck off and die\".
The strangest thing is he didn't care. Those who reacted so badly, he dismissed as the dead weight in his life; the people so unambitious, so self-absorbed that they cannot be happy for him. He is getting his life together and looking to forge a career, whereas they would look to anchor him and keep him in the same depression inducing cesspit for the rest of his life.
His mother, he understands. Her reaction, he accepts. Craig's brother had been maimed by an IED in Afghanistan, the depression of not being able to return to active duty, eventually he hung himself.
Craig sighs as the memories of finding his brother, Colin swinging by an electrical cable wrapped around the tree in his mother's garden, try to overwhelm him. The purple face; the feet still jerking; but most haunting, was the blissful expression, hanging is a horrible way to go, so how he could have preferred that to a life always tortures his remaining brother. Craig stops and leans against a fence, taking deep breaths to suppress the tears that threaten to flood from him.
Regaining his poise, he carries on and rounds the corner, walking up the driveway to Joe's house.
He opens the door and steps through the entry, closing the door behind him.
The house is three storeys high, the first floor - the ground - consists of just the front door, a little storage space under the stairs, where through some inconcievable feat of packing, Joe has managed to cram 30-odd years worth of gardening tools and what can only be described as crap.
Up two steep flights of six stairs each, there is the landing for the main part of the house. On the left is a door which leads to a hallway. The hallway branches off to the kitchen, a small toilet and the living room. This is where Craig heads to.
\"Joe, where the fuck 're ye? Hello, bawbag, are y' even here?\"
He hears thumping from upstairs and bounds his way up to the third floor. Into another hallway which leads to three bedrooms and a shower/bathroom. He checks the first room... nothing.
The second... Still nothing.
\"I am the second coming... I am the Messiah... Jesus lives in me.\"
Now this puzzles Craig since Joe is as Darwinist as they come. Pushing open the door to the third bedroom, his confusion becomes utter consternation as he spots his friend wearing a white bed sheet over his head like a shawl, his arms are wrapped round his knees as he teeters backwards and forwards.
\"I am the second coming... I am the Messiah... Jesus lives in me. I can turn water to wine and I can heal the infirm with but a word. Praise me, praise me, Praise me\"
\"Joe, have you cracked yer fuckin' head on a rock?\"
Joe stops his chanting and looks at Craig, \"Hi Craig,\" he waves enthusiastically and Craig raises his right eyebrow. \"I dunno,\" his brow furrows as he tries to figure out what he's doing. \"I got t' paint this room before I move, the last thing I remember is... Ummm, closing th' door 'n' the rest is a blur... Craig, how the fuck 're ye? When did you arrive?\"
\"I've been here for five minutes and just been talking to you,\" he steps into the room and is hit by the paint fumes. \"Bloody idiot, have you been paintin' wi' th' fuckin' windows shut?\"
\"I am the second coming... I am the Messiah... Jesus lives in me. I can turn water to wine and I can heal the infirm with but a word. Praise me, praise me, Praise me. Craigy, been here long?\"
Rolling his eyes, Craig fights through the fumes to the window and unlatching it, swings it open. He then picks Joe up and guides him downstairs to settle on the couch.
Joe blacks out and Craig walks back upstairs to finish painting the room, chuckling to himself the entire time.
When finished he sits down and uploads the video of Joe's paint intoxication to YouTube. Then just before leaving he sets up Joe's laptop and loads the video on screen, leaving a note telling him to press play.
Back outside, Craig heads straight home in a fantastic mood. He'll see Joe tomorrow, no doubt. Then it will be only another two days until he reports for duty. Roll on Monday, he thinks as he walks away, grinning.
© Copyright 2016 M K Brown. All rights reserved.