Drawing by Judith Wolfe

Edward Gay OLD MAN


    An old man dressed in Op Shop clothing, worn through woollen dress pants and a faded polyester ski jacket, shuffles down the main street of Devonport.
    He approaches a cafe. Young people are seated outside drinking coffee and chatting amongst themselves... They do not notice him.
    The old man stops in front of the cafe and turns away from the young people. From this position he has a perfect view of the entire main street. The mothers with their push chairs. The businessmen hurrying to their offices. The occasional youth on their way to work or school.
    The old man turns his gaze directly across the street. There he sees a fashionable glassware shop. Glassware imported from Venice, Italy, and chinaware imported from England is on display. Housewives browse and dream, fantasising about possible dinner parties. They finally leave, purchasing nothing.
    Above the glassware shop is the empty RSA building. The old man notices the large black letters printed on the sash windows. RSA.
    His mind begins to wander, to drift back in time. Nostalgically he remembers drinking with war buddies. The war. The laughter. The guns. The black and white French postcards of naked women. The bombs. The dead.
    Tonight as he sleeps in his one bedroom flat, which is all he can afford on his veteran allowance, he'll wish his old buddies a good night. The same old buddies that ghostly parade around his bedroom at night in full battlefield dress. They ask for a match, they compare pictures of sweethearts waiting back home, they lose half their face to a sniper bullet. And they die slowly... painfully, in a disease ridden, rat infested, faeces filled trench.
    The medal is in the mail. The body is in the bag. The widow waits with her knitting. Crossing her fingers, while continents away, in a forgotten field, the small white cross is erected.


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