A better place in Hell....

Published by: OFP on 19th Apr 2017 | View all blogs by OFP

 

 This was going to be submitted to the SFH publication but got sidetracked. I get to London often at stupid o'clock and see loads of street people. But some are diferent and stand out to me. 

If I watch long enough, without gawping, I notice the old patterns. Boots inside your bivibag, two ground sheets, and even how they settle their rucksacks in on their hips and always start off walking on their left foot.... 

It can be a long way home.  I was lucky and sometimes, that's the only difference 

 

Some swearing and such.

 

 

 

 

Next to him, the radio squelched out over the speaker as he applied bandages to the wound in a frenzied panic.....

 

 

‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR ... CONTACT... MORTAR ... WAIT. ... OUT...’

‘KILO SEVEN SEVEN,... REDMAN FIVE FOUR... MOVEMENT EAST OF PICADILLY RIDGE... BE ADVISED WE ARE ENGAGING WITH FIFTIES ... EIGHT-ONES AND FIFTY-ONES OVER....’

‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR... KILO SEVEN SEVEN, LOC-SAT OVER....’

‘KILO SEVEN SEVEN... REDMAN FIVE FOUR.. CAZ-REP ... ONE TIMES P-ONE THREE TIMES P-TWO.  REQUEST PRIORITY CAZEVAC OVER.....’

‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR, KILO SEVEN SEVEN , CAZEVAC INBOUND YOUR POZ... ETA ONE HOUR, SAY AGAIN, ONE HOUR... PLEASE HOLD ON... OVER.’

‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR... CONTACT ... RPG... WAIT OUT.....’

‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR, KILO SEVEN SEVEN, SIT-REP OVER.....’

‘KILO SEVEN SEVEN, ... STANDY BY... OUT...’

 

‘REDMAN FIVE FOUR, THIS IS BRANSON FIVE SEVEN...... FAST AIR YOUR LOCATION FOUR MIKES. ... TANGO, FIRING POINT BRAVO,  .... EAST TO WEST... OVER....’

‘Jesus Christ.... those cunts are dropping it close.....' a growing roar overtook him and a white heat overcame his senses....

 

 Dave twitched slightly in his sleeping bag. The cold of Leicester Square replaced the heat of HelmAnd as he woke up.  The blood he was holding  back in his wounded groin had become urine. He had pissed himself again.

He shook his head and tried to clear his mind.

‘Fuck!’  he muttered as he assessed his existing reality.

Despite the cold, he changed out of his wet trousers and underwear and stuffed them in a carrier bag. He would have to go down to Traf Square and wash them out in the fountain.

‘Take care uh yerrr kit, laddies and yerrr kit ‘ull take care a you..’  the echo of Staff McCallan’s advice, burned into him a decade ago at Catterick Barracks set his course of action without any conscious thought or decision...

“Staff would be proud” he thought as he surveyed his belongings and packed his ruck in the doorway of the office block. He folded up the cardboard he had used as a ground sheet and set it on a bench nearby.

 

He hefted his ruck onto his back and shook it into it’s familiar place. The weight mostly resting on his hips and the shoulder straps more for balance than lifting.

The Pret opened in another five mikes, he thought.  He mentally allocated 10% of his entire net worth for a 99p coffee. He would wait until a queue formed and then go in. Knowing that once a week but no more, some kind soul would buy his coffee.

                                                                                                    

He assessed the mess that his life had become.

 ‘Not my fault,’ he thought.       

‘Got to get past the bad dreams and then I’ll be fine..’

‘Get a place in the shelter, then get a job, and then fucking get on with my life....’  he thought through the plan he had made for himself but had yet to be able to implement.    

He looked at his surroundings, smiled and whispered the squadie mantra to himself...

...' All I really want is a better place in Hell'                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

 

Comments

29 Comments

  • stephenterry
    by stephenterry 2 months ago
    Living with dignity
  • Sandra
    by Sandra 2 months ago
    A vivid jolt for those of us who've never been there.
  • Seagreen
    by Seagreen 2 months ago
    ...and for those of us who feel not enough is done for those that have.
  • Pinkbelt75
    by Pinkbelt75 2 months ago
    Brilliant.
  • John Alty
    by John Alty 2 months ago
    Excellent, gritty, writing.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 2 months ago
    We don't know the half of it, do we.
  • SecretSpi
    by SecretSpi 2 months ago
    Tough and poignant, to understand how much that's been drilled into him is still intact.
  • Squidge
    by Squidge 2 months ago
    Only you could write this stuff, Prop. Powerful. Society has a poor way of repaying those who've fought to keep us safe.
  • Tony
    by Tony 2 months ago
    Sobering insight to 'be' that person - not just to observe him as we might normally do.
  • Newbie
    by Newbie 2 months ago
    Thought provoking.
  • Amarantha
    by Amarantha 2 months ago
    'Not enough' sums up the burden of this: the most powerful blog against the hell of war I have read on The Cloud, Prop.

    While the young in their bedrooms play games of death and destruction, the old remember the real thing.
  • OFP
    by OFP 2 months ago
    kinds words. Thankyou all for them and for reading.

    This one wasn't submitted by me to the SFH anthology due bad luck and worse judgement on my part. But it may still achieve it's goal. Maybe it's a metaphor of hope for the homeless.... not what was intended but maybe a wrong turn or two to get to the right place in tne end.


    If you are touched by this, or even if you are not, then remember it's original intention was to benefit the homeless.

    Next time you are at a Pret or any such similar, have a look around you, reach across the great divide of awkwardness and set a cuppa down next to someone who looks like they need one. Just the thought that someone thinks a nice thought may be enough to get them through a bad day.

    Go easy
  • BellaM
    by BellaM 2 months ago
    It has bothered me for a long time that so many ex-servicemen end up like that. Well written, Prop.
  • Giselle
    by Giselle 2 months ago
    Intense, Prop, as usual.
  • Amarantha
    by Amarantha 2 months ago
    What is the SFH anthology?

    I remember not too long ago when protesters in Guy Fawkes masks were occupying the steps of St Paul's Cathedral; defecating within the precincts but never once offering a homeless person within a mile so much as a sniff of their Starbucks coffee.

    It's easy to sympathise. Much harder to empasthise.

    y
  • OFP
    by OFP 2 months ago
    There is a charity which is known to me as Stories for Homes, a collection of short stories compiled by charitable souls and published for the benefit of a homeless charity.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with the protesting classes.

    I missed the opportunity through my own negligence to offer this bit for consideration so I threw it up here with the hope that it may generate some small personal responses of kindness for those who may be in a place to offer such.

    These are real people, the ones I've seen and have no agenda other than survival. Nothing at all to do with the retards who jump about....

    Thing is, you don't even have to engage with them. Just set a cup down next to them. They're not going to sell it for heroin or crack. It is a simple kindness which can bring a nice warm feeling on both sides of the transaction.
  • Vox Populi
    by Vox Populi 2 months ago
    Top drawer, OFP.

    Thanks for sharing it with us.
  • Raine
    by Raine 2 months ago
    Potent, Prop. What Sea said. Thanks for sharing.
  • Jenni Belsay
    by Jenni Belsay 2 months ago
    Thanks for this, Prop. Powerful story, as are your comments above.
  • Jill
    by Jill 2 months ago
    Powerful, potent and all of what has been said above... Also a piece of writing which truly shows your personal depths, Prop.
  • AlanP
    by AlanP 2 months ago
    It is one of society's problems that old soldiers are not required once they are no longer required. I think I can spot them and whereas I will never give a druggy money, I generally think that the squaddies on the street will not let themselves sink so low, so I will give them a couple of quid. Of course a couple of quid solves little or nothing, but what's to do?

    My oldest friend in the world's son is a sergeant in 42 Commando (RMC). He has done some pretty dark stuff; I have the clearance and he knows I do, so we can talk. He joined late. Before he joined he trained as a plasterer - and he is rather good at it. He has done a couple of walls for me. Last time I saw him I asked if he could return to plastering when he comes out. He said he couldn't see how.

    And that, I think, is the problem.
  • RichardB
    by RichardB 2 months ago
    So thought-provoking I don't think I can find the words to comment constructively, beyond my amazement at how much resonance you pack into so few words. I suspect that only an old soldier could have written this.
  • OFP
    by OFP 2 months ago
    AP, if/when your Godson leaves ranks, make sure he joins the RMC association. Two mates of mine, half my age, were former RMC Canoe Club. Their reintegration to 'society' has been difficult but with moments of hilarity. The incident where the crack head burglar who managed to get between one of them and his infant daughter was a Warhol moment ... Cops were great. But that's not the norm.

    So, Et Al, go buy the SFH anthology and buy a bum a coffee... It could have been me....
  • Debi
    by Debi 2 months ago
    Oh Prop. I so wish you hadn't missed the deadline. For anyone interested in Stories for Homes, this is the website: https://storiesforhomes.wordpress.com/ Check out the Stories from the Front Line tab. Prop - if you can personalise this in some way - without using real names, of course - so that it doesn't read like fiction (though I know it isn't) we would certainly put it on the site, either there or on the Real Life stories tab.

    The site needs to be updated as the decision for volume 2 has been made now. There will be 55 stories in the next anthology - e-book out in Sept and paperback in Nov - and a further 29 will be appearing on the website. For anyone interested, the first anthology is still available. All royalties go to Shelter.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stories-Homes-Amanda-Block-ebook/dp/B00E8767XU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492720684&sr=8-1&keywords=Stories+for+Homes

    Go easy, Prop.
  • Seagreen
    by Seagreen 2 months ago
    Please do it, Prop. This, for me, is what it's all about.
  • OFP
    by OFP 2 months ago
    Do what I can. It's a great cause. Not too bothered about getting published so my name might get dropped but yes. I shall see if I can figure out what will work for you and offer it up.

    Best,
  • Gerry
    by Gerry 2 months ago
    The man is wounded in his manhood - his groin - and is humiliated in his manhood - he pisses himself. You lay no emphasis on this, but you don't need to. We get it in a subliminal way. Very subtle. And his training rescues him. That too is telling, as is his dark squaddie humour - the smile and the whisper.

    This is every bit as good as everyone says it is.
  • Monica Handle
    by Monica Handle 2 months ago
    It's all there, isn't it? The PTSD, the gnawing fear of failure, the disconnect from the everyday of others. Very, very nicely written.
  • Caducean Whisks
    by Caducean Whisks 2 months ago
    Taut and to the point. Bravo.
    Something about walking a mile in another man's shoes.
    I have a couple of homeless ex-soldiers in my will-it-ever-be-published non-blockbuster novel.
    Hope I've got it right.
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