Smoke Rings in Guernsey

By 21st July 2012December 9th, 2019No Comments

The soldier
stubbed out the cigarette
with the heel of his face
reflecting boots and quietly
watched the boy; shoulders hunched,
holes in the elbows of his jumper,
a cane fishing rod in his hand and
eyes fixated on the water

just occasionally the eyes focused
on a single piece of flotsam, but not
once did the boy turn his head and
meet the eyes of the soldier; who
by now had moved to within six feet
of his side. “Are they biting today?”

The boy
remained silent. “ I have a boy back home,
he likes fishing too. We used to go together,
but now he also fishes alone.
May I sit?” The boy shifted slightly,
appearing a little uneasy
“I’m supposed to hate you.”

The soldier
remained impassive except
for a sharpness of pain in his
blue eyes and an escaping
sadness of a drawn out sigh.
But it didn’t escape the boy,
who raised his head a little.
“ What’s your boy’s name?”

“ Gunter,
his name is Gunter, after my father.
And your name?” The boy lowered
his head again. “Do you miss him?
My father is away; he can’t come back
to the island, because you are here.
That is why I am supposed to hate you.”

The soldier
sat down beside the boy,
his long legs reaching down
the harbour wall. Heedfully he lit
a cigarette and with practised ease
blew smoke rings into the air
between them. “Yes I miss him.
It is hard no, to be separated.”

The boy
followed the smoke rings
with eyes as grey as the sea;
till they disappeared into a nothingness.
Is that what hate is a nothingness?

“It’s Alan”
the boy responded,
slipping the fishing rod
into the soldiers free hand.

Not a fish was caught; in
that tangible afternoon,
when son and father
sat on the quayside, eyes
levelled on the horizon,
sharing the loneliness
and distance of war.

Jan Hedger

Author Jan Hedger

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