Thursday, August 17, 2006

Photos From The Attic - Part One

C'mon Grandad, the tape's running.

Yep yeah, okay. How does you know that things is recording? How can you tell, like, it's a comp-pooter and there ain't know tape inside it? What if I be telling you all this and then you suddenly discover that this comp-pooter things ain't doing what you thinking it was?

Trust me, Gramps, it's taking down every word. Once you’ve done it I can play it back to you, so you know for sure it's doing its job. Now, tell me more about this photo I found in the attic, please.

Yep yeah, okay. Are you really sure?

Look, let me rewind it, then you...

C'mon Grandad, the tape's running.

Yep yeah, okay. How does you know that things is recording? How can you tell, like, it's a comp-pooter and there ain't know tape inside it? What if I be telling you all this and then you suddenly discover that this comp-pooter things ain't doing what you thinking it was?

Trust me, Gramps, it’s taking down ever...

There, are you happy now, Gramps?


Yep yeah, okay. I believe you. I think. Well, let me see now, give us here that photo, boy, and I’ll be telling you about that time. A dark time it was.

Why was it dark, Grandad?

Yep yeah, okay. Let me tell this story, son. You want to get them there good marks in your school class, don't ya? I see that head a-nodding, but I want to hear you say it to me Billy.

Yes, Gramps, I want to do well at school.

Hmmm. Good to hear that, Billy, good to hear that. Now, back to that photo. Yep yeah, okay, I recall that day clear as a bell. That there is Jack Marriott, him’s Johnson, I forget his first name; the one on the far right we called Skipper, on account of his father being in the Merchant Navy and that there is me. A lot younger then, yep yeah, sure was. I can't remember who took that shot, but I can place it.

I was twenty-three, just turned it, when I was called up. Serve my country – something you won't have to do lad, something you don't want to have to go through. Made me the man I am today.


In what way?

Yep yeah, okay, don't be in-rupting me now! Where was I? Yep yeah, okay, I recall where we were hiding out when this was taken. It's difficult to make out, but this is the back of a jeep, the green camo-flarge cloth acting like a second skin, a barry-er 'tween us and the...

Looking back now, I wonder how he survived, what he must have been through. Mother always said that if you could look her father in the eye you’d never recover from the horrors reflected in them. I used to avoid looking, pushing my eyes to the floor when he engaged me. I keep rewinding the tape, listening to the way he started every sentence with a "Yep yeah, okay", how he spoke in his own distinct way. His choices for the pronunciation of words – comp-pooter, for example – made him sound like a Slavic immigrant or a child. I think he used it as a hiding place, to give an impression of his "lame-brainedness" (mother’s term) or "stupidity" (his step-wife's term; affectionate I'm sure) so that he wouldn't have to relive those sickening shocking experiences, be asked about them. Yep yeah, okay: protective, defensive; collusion between my Grandad and his brain, a safety feature of his human psyche. He never trusted again. Let down once, didn’t want to be burned again, to be scarred, let down and failed. It's all there in his speech, relayed all those years ago for my school project.

Yep yeah, okay – my Grandfather's safety net.

... the back of a jeep, the green camo-flarge cloth acting like a second skin, a barry-er 'tween us and the enemy. We felt protected by it, even though we knew that it could be compromide, that it wasn’t going to stop the dark hand of death from laying them bony fingers on our shoulders, should time come. Yep yeah, okay. Which it did, later. This photo, taken just before, moments it was. I'm suprised it's endourred, given the force we experients; the shaking, the battering of stones against our skulls and dirt showering us from all directions. That's why I’m deaf in he...

I think of him at that moment, animated by his memories. I was fourteen when I made that tape. It's as if it were yesterday; the bees lazily bumbling past my ears as we sat by the flower-beds, their humming like static on the recording. I was using my old computer, some kind of grey, faceless box, which to my Gramps was like something out of a science fiction novel; to me it's dated, old media – clunky and heavy like the caresses of an young, unskilled boy upon a woman's breast. There had to be more going on behind those eyes I avoided than anyone knew, there simply has to be.

I look at the photograph from the attic, stare at it intently, yet I still cannot plumb the depths of my Grandad's thoughts, to see what he saw. To me it's four smiling men, huddled together, displaying a camaraderie that isn’t forced. There is genuine love captured here. It's the same love that you can pick up on as Grandad's voice overflows from the tinny speakers of my portable player. What I don't know is how it came to be that only two of them returned from the war. They were meant to be away from the front, just learning the ropes.

I know that, had the tape survived the past years and not been damaged by rain, the slightly acidic water pouring through a hole in the roof tiles – thankfully not spoiling the faint photographs contained within a cardboard box stored only feet away from the deluge – then we might have known more. Perhaps.

What I struggle with most is that I can't remember anything he told me that day. Not one single word of it.

This story is continued here

2 comments:

purplesimon said...

The start of something. Just a start.

It will definitely get continued. Just not sure when.

purplesimon out...

lryicsgrl said...

Hi Simon,

I came here, as I was blog snooping, and saw that you are available for writing, so to speak. So, here I am. On the ready, to read a short story, one to be continued, or not.

Interesting.....is this an American? Sounds like it to me.

lzygrl out.......