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November 27, 2023
"Mes de los Muertos"

Silk, fluttering to earth, moonlit

By Ian C. Smith

Silk fluttering to earth, moonlit

Craving tales of heroic derring-do from my father instead of his carping resentment over my complete absence of respect, when he told me of his wartime incident I buttoned up insolence, all ears. A reservist in Britain's dark fenland airfield guarding the North Sea coast -- eerily empty when I walked them decades later -- he and his soldier chums were instructed to watch for the airborne enemy.

He spits on them, snarls insults in guttural German after they refused to buy his initial accented English, demands ein zigarette as the wind bends Norfolk marsh grass. Trembling with excitement, fury, homeland hard hit, my father, joined by those chums, marches his prize at rifle-point around laneways to the nearest police station. There, the English officer lowers his arms, laughs like Laurence Olivier, congratulates them on their unwitting roles in this rehearsal.

My father, heart he will leave to science suffusing his face with blood the way it did when I acted up, said he almost pulled his trigger, utterly taken in. Wondering if that thespian officer realised how closely death perhaps hovered, I also considered the planning, attention to detail, his parachute landing.

If my father shot the officer would our lives have been changed? They couldn't be much worse due to his inadequacy as a post-war immigrant to Australia, that withering sunburnt landscape, his failings reaching back to before this time, casting shadows as long as those in Drysdale's paintings.

Recognising a fellow trouble-seeker, I believed the fallschirmjager imitator deserved a scare himself, for overacting. Scornful, I imagined my father's gormlessness. If only my scarred heart had acquired some wisdom earlier. Had I probed for further anecdotes about his experiences, both wartime, and beyond that to his own youth, even if feckless like mine, it might have eased this disquiet.

Article © Ian C. Smith. All rights reserved.
Published on 2022-05-30
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