(900 words) “Covered in shit, not in glory, that was the reality. The trenches … well, you can’t imagine the stench of them, and wet – water everywhere. They never seemed to dry out, even in summer. Then they’d stink even worse, like a toilet with piss all over the floor. “Our boots would be soaked and the socks our mums had insisted on giving us – in bagfuls – would be wet through, too. We’d laughed at them – ‘why are you giving me all these bloody socks? I do know how to wash socks, you know!’ – but you know what, when push came to shove, dry socks were like bloody gold dust out there. “And then Fritz would start shelling us. We’d be huddled down in the mud whilst the sky lit up, just like fireworks. Every now and then you’d hear a scream and you knew some poor sod had just bought it.
“Pulpit duty Sam!” called Major Jack Larson. It was August 1915.
Shit! I lowered Ransome’s biography of Oscar Wilde.
Nicotine-stained fingers tossed me a small envelope containing white powder.
“OK, Mani. D’you know the area?”
“Yes. It’s dangerous.”
Ten long years of civil war; Everywhere was dangerous.
Ten metres away across the dark, moonless sand, a lone sentry stood. Behind me, black parachutes, like water holes in the desert.