Today’s title for my blog in my 30 day 30 blog challenge is ‘Hidden’ which is certainly easier than yesterday’s which was gender. I must say I wasn’t very happy with what little I wrote yesterday but I did feel perplexed on how to tackle it; maybe I am not so good at writing true stuff, factual stuff, maybe I’m better with imaginative writing. However, that’s part of the challenge, to try things I wouldn’t normally do or write about. I can’t say any of them has been really easy, it’s been a push, even with things I have written and bee pleased with. So, day 14, almost halfway there
“You don’t say much do you?” the man who was sitting in the chair where he always sat in the staff room, took out his pipe and looked at it.
“Um, no,” not unless I have to or want to, and now I don’t really have to and I certainly don’t want to.
“More of a singles man than a team player maybe?” the Major, as he was known to the other teachers, poked at the bowl of his pipe with the wooden end of a match before striking it and lighting the damned stinking thing. No wonder there was such a foul fug in the staff room.
Actually I’m neither a singles nor a team player, I abhor sport. “Play much yourself do you,” Mike said dragging his eyes from the crossword. “Sport I mean, do you play?”
The Major looked offended and puffed harder but the tobacco was either too damp or the bowl too full. “First fifteen when I was your age, that was before the war, the damned Kaiser’s war I mean,” he said and puffed some more, waiting for Mike to ask about his service. I have not the slightest interest in you or that damned war that took my father’s youth… and health Mike might have added to himself, but he didn’t want to think about Dad. “It was at Wipers that Jerry snipped my wings,”the Major said.
“Were you in the RFC, sir, Royal Flying Corps, you know?” Mike asked, dragged into the conversation by the chance of a story. His friends always made excuses and left when the old buffers in the Dog and Pineapple started on their own war stories; Mike’s pals rarely talked about what they’d done in that foreign field, even Adam rarely mentioned anything other than the funny stories. Mike found the old timers’ yarns interesting; one day, when he’d got himself out of teaching, he’d get down to writing his novel, maybe that would be set in those damned times.
“No, Wipers did for me, Hill 60, say no more,” the Major slapped his leg and began an account of how he almost single-handedly had blah blah blah and Mike’s eyes glazed over. He recognized a load of bull when he heard it. “So where were you, Scott, in this latest game?” By game did he just mean the six years of hell that had torn the continent apart, and as for what went on in the Far East…? Mike had friends who had returned in 1946 as shells of the men they once were. No-one who’d given those years would call it a game. “You did take the King’s shilling?” the Major continued. “What were you, a fly boy?” implying that someone like Mike couldn’t possibly be in the two older services.
Mike was tempted to lie and say he was in the 8th Army or had served under Admiral Sir Fiddle-de-Dee Whatnots, instead he lied and said he had a desk job. He wasn’t surprised that the Major’s lip curled. He was used to it but it was still hard to maintain the pretence, to keep the truth buried so deep it would never come out.
“What was it, gammy leg? Bad back?”
The impertinent old fool!
“No, sir,” Mike replied politely but anyone who knew him would see the steely glint in his eye. “I had TB, as it happens, but I served my country as a pen-pusher. Someone had to push the pens, keep the pencils sharpened, and the paper neat and tidy. I was also in charge of changing the type-writer ribbons, and testing the type-writer bells – they couldn’t be off-key you know, bad for moral.”
“Are you being sarcastic?” the Major was puffing furiously, his face red, his eyes bulging.
“Of course not, sir, as I say, someone had to do it. I gave up a promising career as a cinema organist to become a pen-pusher. However, many of my duties were of a confidential nature, and I cannot reveal how many erasers were issued or the quantities of ink per page allowed, so you’ll forgive me if I say no more.” Mike looked back at his newspaper. The truth would never be revealed, not by him at least; what he had done would be concealed, and if he could he would erase it from his memory. He looked at the Major who was gazing at him in astonishment, his elderly gin-soaked brain cells turning over what Mike had said. “Any good at crosswords sir? I’m stuck on this clue ‘haul on a limb for a jape‘… any ideas, sir?”