When the lights go on again…
Sometimes it was hard to remember they were POW’s.
But not often.
without missions, the reality of their position bleeding through the protective
layer of missions and sabotage, the day ticking away with mindlessly relentless
tedium. A day for sprawling in the
recreation hall, or on the benches outside.
Doing nothing, thinking nothing, minds crumbling under the huge vacuum of
forced inactivity. Time to do the
minutae, time to polish boots, mend some socks, anything to escape the reality
of a POW camp.
A record lay on the battered old
gramophone perched precariously on a rickety table.
It scratched a few times before the needle took properly to the groove,
gentle lyrics whispering out of the warped metal speaker.
Light, lilting, lost, hopeful and strong all at the same time. Mourning
what was lost, promising a future they all worked for, slow, almost lazy notes
wrapping around them, brushing against their minds, bringing thoughts of home.
When the lights go on again
LeBeau stared down at his hands, seeing
a flag in shreds, a country fallen under nazi jackboots. Home. Did he even have
a home? Would he, after the war? He leaned his head back and stared sightlessly
out the window at the clear skies above. Would
there be anything left of France after the war to go back to?
Her back had been broken in the Great War, her youth left shattered and
dying on Flander’s fields. Would
she survive another? Patriotism
seemed so easy when you couldn’t see what had become of your homeland.
Tales filtered back, the hangings, the Vichy collaboration.
Sometimes it was so hard to believe when your home was so far away.
Sometimes it was so hard to believe when you heard of your own people turning
against themselves, so hard when you remembered black uniforms and boots
marching through the heart of your home. So
hard when the land that you loved seemed nothing but a forgotten dream. But he
had to believe.
He had to…
And rain or snow is all
Newkirk paused against the wall, cigarette dangling from oblivious fingers. It was odd, here, in the middle of Germany, he was safer than family back home in England. No German bombers, no air raid sirens, no cowering under the table. He wondered how his sister Elizabeth was holding up in Stepney, how his aunt was doing in Liverpool. Thank god the kids were safe at least, good old Bessie had shipped them to the country when the worst of it started. She’d stayed behind, doing her part for the war effort. Daft woman, she should have taken to her heels with the kids. Wouldn’t though, not her way. She’d kept her chin up, knowing her, waved the kids goodbye and gone off to do her duty. Taking over for the men while they were at war. Working at the factories, keeping England going. Working at those same factories the Krauts were bombing, strong limbs and ever smiling face locked in a rictus of death under a pile of rubble…
He didn’t notice when he crushed the cigarette in his fist.
When the lights go on again
Kinch tossed a baseball idly in his
hand, watching the spin of it, feeling its weight land in his palm, mind leaning
back and strolling through long-lost times. Ahh, good old Detroit. He remembered
as a kid, watching those huge steel carriers as they made their way to port from
across the lake. The smell of
manufacturing heavy in the air, wearing it like a second skin.
Ducking out to watch the Tigers at practice, his hand curling around the
chain link fence, breath stilling in his throat, watching them, thinking someday
he could do that, be like that, racial slurs fading to the background, hearing
the dull thwack of ash on leather, dirt flying into the air from a stolen base,
laughter in crowded rooms, delicious smell of family meals wafting down the
stairs as he pushed his way home through the crowds of workers, hands in his
pockets. Good times.
He hoped he could have them again.
Then we’ll have time for things
Carter’s hands drifted to stillness,
resting lightly on the boots he was polishing, mind in another place,
remembering sun-kissed hair and a smiling face, beautiful with a tiny spray of
freckles across her nose. The guys
down at the soda streams in the drugstore, the ones that knocked over his ice
cream and laughed as he cleaned it up, they’d called her plain, but to him she
was the most beautiful creature alive. And
when she smiled at him it was like the entire world was painted in gold.
He should have asked her to marry him before he left.
It didn’t seem right though, war wasn’t a place for that sort of
thing. But after the war, oh boy,
after the war when he could stop fighting and go back to working in the
drugstore, maybe helping out home a little at harvest time…then would be the
After the war…
Hogan leaned back against the door,
letting the music wash over him. Songs of hope, of longing, he let it filter
through him, but never touch him. He
couldn’t afford to. Day after day, the same slog, the same faces, the same
wanting. Wanting for it to be over.
Wanting to go home. Wanting to walk out and be free again and not have to pander
to simpering Germans, not have to fear the bullet in the back, not have to try
again and again to make something right in a world that all too often seemed to
have gone mad. To just take a
powder, take time off. Let it all out, let it all go, to cry, scream, he
didn’t know what. He just knew he
couldn’t afford to. He was the commanding officer, the one the men looked to
for their answers, the one who had to hold it all together and be the rock the
others held on to when it all got to be too much.
He couldn’t afford to want or need or
But he did anyway.
When the lights go on again
When the lights go on again (All over
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