14 – THE BLACKBIRD AND THE THRUSH

14 – THE BLACKBIRD AND THE THRUSH

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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THE LIFE AND LOVES OF ANNIE GRABLE - 14

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Memories just wouldn’t stop replaying old truths in Annie’s mind. It was the next day and she was treated to an exhibition in which one thrush and one blackbird seemed to be eyeing each other up and down with a mixture of fear and distrust in their avian eyes. It sort of reminded her, one bird and another.

Her mind retreated once again into the relative certainties of the past.

She was in Ralf Davidson’s car, he was sitting in the front seat next to mother, who was driving. It had to be like that because there wasn’t enough leg room in the back for his shattered, useless leg to be anything like comfortable.

You’ll like him,” said Ralf to me as mother drove us to Brumpton where he was to meet with an art dealer. “He’s young, like you, and his father was killed during the great war just like yours was. The only difference is his father was on the other side.”

The blackbird and the thrush...

He glanced at my mother who had jerked almost instinctively when her late husband was mentioned. By then it had been almost eighteen years since the cessation of fire at the end of that dreadful war but it might have been yesterday as far as she was concerned.

He came over here shortly after the war ended,” explained Ralf, “a child, an infant in his mother’s arms, a refugee. He has only known this country, but he is aware that he is German by blood, though it means little to him. You will like him, though.”

How could I like anyone with my father’s good British blood on his conscience?” I asked.

Annie,” he said gently from his seat in front of me, “just as you have no knowledge of your father save what your mother has told you, he has no knowledge of his kinsfolk save what his mother has told him. And stories told in anger aren’t always exactly representative of reality. So isn’t it best to let bygones be bygones, eh and decide things from your own experience?”

Wait until you meet him before you pass any judgement,” said Mother unexpectedly. And it was a big thing for her to say. She still lived her life under the mind-numbing shadow of her one true love being hit by a stray bullet.

But German, mum!” protested Annie, shocked by what seemed very much like an unexpected defence of a bitter enemy.

We’re all human beings,” she told her daughter firmly, “and just because we’ve been born under different flags doesn’t make us any the less human. I learned that from Sammy.”

The blackbird and the thrush...

I’d never heard of any Sammy. Mother had never mentioned anyone with that name before and here she was talking of him as though we were all familiar with him, as if he was an old family friend.

Who’s Sammy, mum?” I asked. I was using the contraction mum instead of the far more formal mother more often these days.

Bert, that’s your father, Annie, had friends and the kindest one of them all was a young black fellow called Sammy. At least, I think that was his proper name because, truth to tell, back in those days it was hard to tell when a young fellow was joking or when he was serious. That’s the way they were before the war. Sammy went to fight with my Bert, went all the way to war in France, and the bugger of it was he came back home, scarred but alive. You were still a baby and I was three sheets to the wind still when he called on me to say how sad he was about what happened. But they hadn’t known there were any enemy near them when Bert got hit by a stray bullet. Sammy said he died outright, but in contradiction he told me that Bert’s last word was my name. I think, whichever was true, he was being kind.

Anyway, he said with Bert dead he was alone and miles from anywhere, they’d both been separated from the main body of their unit, and as he stumbled along he said he came upon a boy, weeping. It was a German boy, injured and frightened and dying, and Sammy stayed with him until he passed away. He said no-one should die on his own and the young chap being German didn’t make a blind bit of difference because we’re all the same no matter what flag we fight under. He was a good man, was Sammy.”

And it’s a German boy we’re off to see,” put in Ralf, “but he was not much more than a baby, like you were, Annie, when the war ended. His mother sought refuge here and was somehow accepted, maybe by blood or maybe for gold, who knows? Whatever happened, he’s been brought up as an Englishman and has no trace whatsoever of anything but a good old local accent! He’s going to help sell some pictures of mine. He owns a gallery and it’s becoming the in-place for those with more money than sense to visit. ”

Annie settled back to digest what she’d been told. These days even old things sounded brand new, like Sammy. Then, in a very different age,

Knock...knock...knock…

That was the window. Surely not Mr Thrush? But no. Framed in that window was the image of a smiling Letitia, and with her, standing just behind her and looking more nervous than any young man has the right to look when his life isn’t on the line and the sun’s shining, stood a bronzed young fellow she might have fallen for herself eighty years ago.

Granny,” called Letitia. That’s what she called her, not great granny but plain and simple granny. Annie could only just make out the sound of her voice, so she reached for her window pole and painfully opened the top window. And it was painfully, what with the protests from just about every muscle in her arms, but she succeeded.

I won’t come in, Granny,” Letitia smiled, quieter now that the window was open, “the last thing you want is to join the queues in Heaven as a result of this pandemic by getting close to us!”

Annie smiled at her. Letitia knew all about her views. “Not Heaven,” she cackled, “but maybe some other place the religious nuts haven’t thought of yet!”

I knew you’d say that, Granny! Anyway, I called for you to meet Imran. He’s the coolest guy in the Universe and he’s at Uni studying something to to with the stars and such like.”

Astrophysics,” grinned the lad, “anyway, I’m pleased to meet you, Letitia’s granny.”

Great granny if you want the full title,” smiled Annie, “I hope you’re going to make an honest woman of her!”

Or I’ll make a dishonest man of him!” laughed Letitia, “anyway granny, we happened to be passing and just popped round so that you could get an eyeful of my own piece of masculine candy! I promise we’ll be round for your birthday next week! What will you be? Too old to count?”

A hundred and two, and not finished yet!” she retorted, “and don’t forget you’re not too old to have your bottom smacked!”

Neither is Imran, and he rather likes it,” sniggered Letitia, winking like the naughty girl she wasn’t.

And the young couple had vanished in a puff of history, like young people can.

I might have liked Sammy,” she thought as she watched them go, “he sounds like a nice boy, and yes, mum’s right, we’re all human under the skin no matter what flag’s flying over our crib when we’re born. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with people. We seem to need to be tribal. We seem to need flags.”

It was Ralf who broke into her reverie.

We’re here, Annie,” he said, “Your mother’s been here with me before, but I wanted you to see the centre of my little exhibition. Annie, do you remember that first daub of mine that you admired, right back at the beginning?”

The garden? The trees? It was beautiful.”

So you said at the time. Well, I’ve painted another version of it, but in the autumn with leaves falling and fruit on the trees. And I’ve put you in it.”

I’ve seen it, Annie, and it’s beautiful,” said Muriel quietly, slowing the car down ready to turn left.

I wanted you to be naked, but she wouldn’t let me,” grinned Ralf, “now hush a moment, we’re here and your mum needs to find somewhere to park.”

© Peter Rogerson 13.05.20




© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on May 13, 2020
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Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 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..

Writing