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Friday, 15 June 2012

Cornwall - Draft

This is the draft or rather part 1 of my recent Weekend Writing Challenge: Locations effort. I grabbed "Cornwall" from the offerings but it's by a long way incomplete as it seems to've turned into somewhat of a longer piece than normal. Still. Here's P1! 

The cool, salty sea air swept Captain James “Jim” Stevens hair back, waving in the wind echoing the long grass surrounding him along the cliff top. He breathed it in, slowly and deeply, as if taking long gulps from a hearty local ale. It enlivened him like a healing elixir. Not just the air but the din of waves crashing against the rocks below, fizzing away as the water retreated only to renew it’s assault seconds later. Gulls swooped, screeched and dived all around. When he had first returned from France they terrified him to the core, making him jerk his head towards the unexpected screams and bringing on cold sweats and shaking hands. He was sleeping more. That and Nurse Yvonne Lotte, Yvie to her patients, had spent hours sitting with him so that, over the months, he’d become far more accustomed to the Cornish wilderness. Now he couldn’t picture anywhere else. The hustle of his London life, former job and his wife, all gone. The mud, sodden trenches and dying comrades of the Somme too. It all seemed somehow imagined.

‘Best get back Corporal.’

                He was still a stickler for rank regardless of the end of his role in the war. He was still a member of the British Army and if anything was worth doing, it was worth doing properly. Captain Stevens wasn’t to know that Corporal Evans had wandered down the path and was smoking with a couple of other men.

‘Corporal Evans?’ confusion and panic tinged his calls and Stevens’ pulse increased as he gripped his wheelchair tightly. He raised his voice ‘Corporal Evans? Are you there Evans?’
‘Sorry Sir,’ Evans coughed as he jogged back from the others, tossing his cigarette over the cliff edge, ‘I was just…’

Before he could finish Stevens cut him off ‘Never mind boy. Never mind. It’s time to go back. I, I need to go back.’

Evans was a good man and, although it went unsaid, a good friend. If the Captain needed to get back then he never asked any questions, he knew that whatever the reason it was reason enough.  As Corporal Evans pushed him along the path Stevens heard two vehicles pass nearby, scattering the stones across the gravelled path as they headed around the fountain and up towards  the grand entrance of  Hathaway Hall.

‘More ambulances?’ a sombre Stevens enquired of his colleague.

‘Afraid so Sir. Afraid so.’ Came Evans’ rueful reply. ‘Poor bastards.’

                The two shared a moments silence deep in thought and memory as orderlies ferried body laden stretchers back and forth whilst nurses helped those more mobile up the granite steps and into the beautiful manor house. The stunning building once resplendent in Edwardian pomp was to be a temporary residence for some, a final resting place for others. Their time for reflection ended with the slamming of the ambulance doors.

‘How close are we to the house Evans?’ Stevens’ choked tones betrayed the pity he felt for his fellow wounded and, in part, for himself. ‘How do I look?’

‘Like a damned smart office of the British Army Sir, as always.’ came the reply from Evans almost without thinking. ‘Let me just straighten you up a bit…..,’ Evans folded back the collar on Stevens’ shirt and aligned the lapels on his dressing gown ‘…..and you’re done. Top notch Sir. Top notch.’

Evans had become adept at lying. Stealing a deep breath and occasionally fighting back the odd tear whilst giving away nothing in his voice. If truth be told he was glad that he’d never known the Captain before they both arrived in Cornwall. His head was, as always, shrouded in bandages from the bridge of his nose to his hair line. Despite the warming sun which cascaded down on the two of them Stevens, unlike Evans’ bronzed face and tanned arms, was a pale and gaunt figure. The left side of his face was a maze of deep scarring where a German shell had torn the flesh from the bone. The right side showed no direct sign of the explosion but his hollowed cheek and greyed skin portrayed a man who now lived half way between this world and the next. Evans knew it and, deep down, so did Stevens.