sitting in the damp smelling canteen, my hands (still bitter and red from the cool wind outside)
trembled violently as they lifted the aneamic tuna sandwich from it's plastic casing.
"where is everyone?" i thought aloud, as i often did, preferring to talk to myself than anyone
else and not expecting an answer.
taking a long weary slug from my half empty hip flask i heard the sound of a strangely familliar
"they've all gone" came the answer from the shadow behind the door.
"simon....?" i hesitated a moment "..is that you?" a short ringing silence pierced my ears.
"how did you know it was me?" he laughed sarcastically, his grinning face emerging
into the light. "i could have been anyone..." his voice trailed off.
"how come everyone's gone already?" i questioned with a solemn and expectant countenance,
still not sure of exactly why i felt so uneasy with the idea of the place being empty of
life. it wasn't as unusual as you might think, many a night i worked untill everyone else had
left, but it wasn't that late and something about it just didn't seem quite right.
"well i couldn't say exactly where they've gone, but pretty much everyone left not long after
i got here" his casual expression was calming.i thought a moment longer, trying to collect my
fractured work shodden mind into some kind of order.
an unfortunate consequence of my career was that often life was much easier when taken with
a nip of jack daniels (a trick i had mastered in the faulklands).
lifting my flask to my lips once more i realised it was empty already, i would have to face the
rest of this conversation alone.
"speaking of which..." interrupting the silence "what the hell are you doing here simon?"
it had just occurred to me, in a solitary moment of clarity, that simon had been AWOL for
nearly two weeks now. as we spoke, at least two troops were scouring the lower east side
and southern most ends of the caple creek forest searching for him. he had gone missing during
a night training excersise and at first most of the troop, myself included, expected him to
show up somewhere unexpected, no doubt in some kind of attempt to scare the wits out of the new
recruits. it was only after the first full week that i thought something might be out of
"just thought i'd drop in for a visit, see how you're doing." he searched for what it was he
was really trying to say as his finger traced the rim of a polystyrene cup
"looks like you're still hitting the booze a little too hard to be carrying that piece around
with the safety off, if you ask me" he said in a flippant, non chalante, typically simon-esque
now i was angry, he just dissappeared without a word and then rolls up expecting everything to
just carry on as normal. as soon as anybody with rank caught sight of him he'd be done for.
the penalty could be anything from dishonourable discharge to backstreet barracks justice
for this swarthy deserter.
"what do you know? don't start talking down to me from your high horse. i might have the odd
drink but at least im here, at least i do my job! where were you? off galavanting, laughing it
up were you? well i hope you had a great time, because when jimmy and sparks find out you're
back after the little stunt you pulled, you'll be lucky if they don't kill you! and don't
expect me to come to the rescue again, im sick of pulling you out of the **** pit!"
simon looked at me shocked, i'd always been there after his stupid pranks, taking half the
blame, carrying him. no more, i was tired of walking around with his dead weight slowing me
"whats got into you?" he whispered, still horrified by my stern expression. "you and me, thats
how it's always been. i screw up you save me, you screw up i save you...." he almost looked
like he might cry, but i couldn't back down now.
"name one time when you've saved me simon, just one time" i challenged him. "did you save me
when we were in training together? no, thats right, you sabotaged my locker just before first
inspection and had me put through six hours in the middle of winter putting on my kit, marching
out onto the parade square and taking it off again" i paused as i sifted through years of
torture trying to find the most treatchourous of simons previous misdemenours.
"or maybe, the time we had war games and you thought it would be hillarious to put a live
round in my rifle, someone could have been killed! but did you care? no, you thought it was
great fun to watch sparks wailing like...like...well i don't know what like, but i know
you werent taking any of the beasting i got"
looking at simon now i saw exactly why none of what i'd just said mattered in the
slightest. when it came down to it i loved him. he was wrekless and foolhardy, but no matter
what i tried to tell myself i couldn't help feeling responsible for him.
crossing the parade square arm in arm we saw lights in the distant windows of the housing
quarters, which was odd enough in itself, as i was the only one who lived there through the
weekends, but there was something else too.
"is that music?" i turned and looked thoughtfully at simon.
"you've really forgotten, haven't you?" he said, searching my face. "it's your birthday Becca,
the section are having a do for you" his expression was stern but sarcastic.
stunned at the realisation of having forgotten my own birthday i decided we should pick up the
pace. i must have been about an hour late at least.
the door snapped shut briskly behind us and i was greeted by the cheering of many a merry
soldier, who hugged and petted me warmly, wishing me a happy birthday.tears welled in my
having been here for over an hour (waiting for me) most of them were already merrier than
father christmas, which was fortunate for simon as nobody seemed to notice him. i still
couldn't believe the guts simon had, i mean, to walk in there and risk being seen after his
little stunt, it would have been almost admirable if he werent such a prat.
"maybe you should take it easy bec, thats your fourth you know, or had you already lost
count?" for someone so wrekless with his own life, simon was becoming a real killjoy.
"it's my party and i'll drink if i want to..." i sang at him through the neck of a half empty
"bec, do you see anyone else acting like that?no, you're drunk and you're making a damned fool
of yourself" he growled. why was he being so boring?! jesus, he was staring to sound like my
"you know what simon?" i said, lightgeartedly.
"maybe you should have a drink and while you're at it take a ****ing chill pill. you're so
bloody boring, no wonder nobody bloody wants to speak to you!" as harsh as it was, it was
inescapably true. the more hours that passed the more obvious it was that simon was not simply
going unnoticed, he was being blatantly ignored.
"thats it, you're going home" simon pulled at my arm.
"oh am i now? thats funny, because last time i checked i was a grown up, oh well...."
i paused, taking a deep breath as i stared at simon contemptuously and threw myslef to the
floor in a child like tantrum.
the look on his face now was not one of concern or anger, but one of total and utter disgust,
but what happened next was even more unbearable.
i noticed once my fits of laughter subsided that i was apparently the only one who was in on
the joke. a crowd now stood around the edges of the room watching, some were sloping out of the
door trying to avoid eye contact. the music was gone now and nobody was cheering for me.
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