The International Writers Magazine:About a soldier and father
Gemma Williams is left behind
ducked into his gleaming car, which shone like a glass of red
wine on a sundrenched day. As I settled into the secure passenger
seat for the usual "How was your day?" chat, he turned
to me. A face so often lit up with laughter, was painted black,
not a trace of a smile on his mouth or softness in his eyes. A
few moments of silence then he said it: Ten days.
Ten days turned to nine, nine became eight and soon it was The
The drive there
was agonizingly silent. Soft melodies droned in the background but I
couldnt hear them. I am sure we must have tried to chat, but I
cant recall it. The only sound worth my attention was his profound
breath inhaling and exhaling, as I tried not to contemplate the fact
that this could be the last time I would hear that comforting sound.
The drive could not have been more than an hour, but I am sure I sat
in that car for an eternity, as it wound its way towards the inevitable,
torturing my mind with possibilities,.
It was a small, sterilized space, echoing of a hospital room. That meagre
place, so plain, so ordinary would be the room to take my father from
me. This room should be grand; massive pillars reaching to ancient Gods,
plain chairs should be covered in exotic material, the dusty floor coated
in gold; the room should have at least equalled the immensity of that
moment, the enormity of my father being stolen from us.
An information board flashed, telling us The Plane was on
time, due any moment. It flashed at us jovially, as if it were a flight
to a holiday destination, as if we should be happy that the flight to
take him away from us was on time. The room was filled with whispers,
no one daring to speak fully- as if our voices may anger some dragon
The plane was tiny, appearing to my sodden eyes as a toy plane- but
this was far from a boys game of soldiers. Men and women clothed
in desert combats came piling in - a muddle of grimy beige, dirty browns
and ill boding cream skin looking worn and tired, eyes giving
the impression of a soul somewhat diluted, carrying with their heavy
bags a sense of those who did not, could not return. I tried to be glad
for the families they were returning to, for the freedom they were being
granted again; but I as I hugged and kissed my dad goodbye I was overcome
with a selfish sense of wishing one of them could go back in his place.
I watched with a mixture of inspiring awe and heart breaking misery
as my father shot us a false yet reassuring smile and walked away, courageous
as ever, laden with heavy baggage to the unavoidable unknown.
I kept hoping maybe it was all a big joke, a big mistake
now dad would run back out towards us, smiling, and we would go home
together and continue to do all the little things we contented ourselves
with, oblivious. But we walked out that door and got in the car just
the three of us, stifled tears stinging because they wanted to flow
wildly; to exclaim to the world the great injustice done, but we had
to be brave for each other, our hero being gone.
So we drove back through those winding roads towards the empty shell
of our home, while he flew out There.
Afghanistan, the word reverberated throughout my soul, haunting my dreams
and my waking thoughts, shaking me with terror and apprehension to my
© Gemma Williams December 6th 2004
Gemma is a Creative Writing Student at Portsmouth University
This is a true story
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