A Story by Peter Rogerson

Wars come and wars go and the men who fight them sometimes have no idea why...


He had fought in wars.

He had stained many a field in many a country here and there and everywhere with his blood.

He had left part of one arm in the mud of Harmony. He had lost an eye in Evidore. Somewhere in Muscany kids at play still tossed his shin bone back and forth and hopped and skipped to the chalked squares it landed in.

Now he was in a grand bath chair. He couldn't walk, so he needed a bath chair, and a grand one at that, it had to be. He was a brave warrior!

His grandchildren came to push him out and about in the gardens where flowers bloomed in summer. He welcomed them, of course he did, though secretly he was happiest when one of the nurses took their place and spent an idle afternoon in the gardens with the warrior and his bath chair. The nurses didn't talk to him or try to humour him but just pushed, stony faced like they ought to be.

Sometimes his great-grandchildren came to tease him and push him far too quickly round corners and made him collide with fences, giggling and hooting as they went. He wasn't so happy then and wished he had the strength in his limbs to stand up and show them who was boss with a good old-fashioned clout. Clouting had always been his language, and then the bath chair had come along and that had to be that.

He wasn't so keen on those great-grandchildren and told himself that the blood had been diluted by the generations and there was little of the good stuff left, that which hadn't been spilt in wars.

"Great-grandfather," piped a voice from just behind him, and he groaned inwardly.

"Yes?" he asked.

"Where did your arm go, great-grandfather?"

"It was lost in the wars, son."

"What wars, great-grandfather?" asked the voice and he clucked irritably. Didn't they teach these kids any history any more? Was it all down to him, to fight and then explain why?

"The wars in Harmony, son," he replied.

"What wars in Harmony?" came the inevitable question.

"The one against a desperate foe, son," he replied.

"What was it fought for, great-grandfather?" came the next inevitable question.

And the very sod of it was he didn't know. He supposed that he'd never known. There had been a war and he'd signed up to fight and that had been that. It was no concern of his what it was fought about. Decisions like that were made by other men, big men, sitting in offices or hiding in bunkers. There had been some quarrel, he assumed, some dispute over a mighty matter that would always be beyond his ability to comprehend. It was his to fight, not understand why he was fighting.

He'd been the Universal Soldier, and that had been reward enough.

"If you lose your arm, great-grandfather, it might be a good idea to know why," piped up the voice just behind him.

There was a hateful logic there. He knew there was, but how can you explain to the very young how important it is to go out into the world and fight? How can you talk of manly deeds and great nobility and all that stuff?

"It was a duty, son," he replied, weakly.

"A duty to lose an arm, great-grandfather?" asked the innocent voice.

"A duty to defend what's right and destroy what's evil," he said. "A duty to go amongst the savage foe and teach them who's boss!"

"Even if it means losing an arm, great-grandfather?" asked the voice.

He nodded. "Even if it means losing an arm," he agreed.

"And why did you lose your leg, great-grandfather?" the voice persisted.

He had known that question was coming and he clucked again, irritably. Why did they have to ask why? He didn't know why! He'd just gone there when the sergeant had pointed the way and taken his rifle and sword and great big heavy boots, and flailed into battle like he was supposed to, beating or being beaten.

He'd lost his leg in Muscony in a skirmish with a dreadful foe, and if it hadn't been for his mates he'd have bled to death. He almost had bled to death, for goodness sake!

"I almost bled to death," he mumbled. "I almost lost almost all of my life-blood on a field in Muscony as I fought against a terrible enemy."

"But why, great-grandfather?" persisted the irritating voice. "It seems a bit unfair, to exchange a whole leg for ignorance!"

"I wasn't ignorant, you brat!" he thundered. "I know I was in a war, for goodness' sake! I know the foe, that they ate babies and raped women morning noon and night, like dreadful foes always do! I did my duty, and I did it well!"

"Yes, great-grandfather," replied the chastened child.

"So you see," he rumbled, "so you see you can play wherever you like in freedom and ask daft questions because I was out there, bleeding and almost dying, fighting the foe that would have gobbled you all up if it had won!"

"And your eye, great-grandfather?" asked the child, quietly so as not to cause too many more explosions in the old man.

"That was Evidore," he muttered. "I lost my eye in Evidore. I was fighting..."

"… a dreadful foe?" suggested the child.

He nodded. "A dreadful foe," he agreed.

"And you gave half your sight for freedom?"

He nodded again. "I gave half my sight for freedom," he purred.

"From the dreadful foe?" asked the child.

He nodded again. "From the dreadful foe," he concurred.

"The same one who bought your house last week, great-grandfather, and planted new things in your garden, who painted the window-frames nice and white and who goes to my school to be my new teacher?" asked the child.

He didn't know. He ought to know, but didn't. There was too much he didn't know.

"The one who stole your leg and your arm and half your sight and came to teach us why?" sighed the child. "The one who brought me here today to see you, the one my mummy's going to marry next month, the one you tried to kill?"

A tear, then another, he didn't know, he'd never known, why had they never told him why?

And why had he never asked?

© 2015 Peter Rogerson

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Added on October 13, 2015
Last Updated on October 13, 2015
Tags: grandfather, bath chair, injured, wounded, fighting, soldier, wars, ignorance, grandchild


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..