“Johnny’s coming home!” Vera wants to shout it to the world!
She tells anyone who will listen, the street echoes her footsteps as she knocks on every door!
“My boy is coming back, coming home!” “When, when?” they all ask,
“As soon as they release him!” she shouts,
Stopping outside her own front door she pauses for a second taking a deep breath then dashes upstairs to Johnny’s room!
Carpets are brought outside and beaten, and through the open window the sound of Vera’s beautiful voice can be heard singing from one end of the street to the other!
Johnny is on the train coming home his mind feels like wet clay!
“Put it to one side, deal with it in your own time”. The M.O’s voice echoes and re-echoes in his head, along with the dying screams of his comrades!
A crack of gunfire, no, just someone opening the carriage door!
He would like to go to sleep, somewhere very quiet and dark!
He feels self-conscious like never before! Where is my life, who am I now?
One disjointed thought joins another like a worm slithering through his skull!
The train is slowing down pulling into a station, this is it!
He grabs his kitbag and heads for the door.
Mum will be waiting, must hold myself together he thinks!
Emerging from the station he looks back over his shoulder, old habits!
Johnny follows the lane’s familiar twists and turns and in less than ten minutes reaches his street!
His footsteps resound on the cobbles, how he hates the sound, how he hates a lot of things these days!
Nothing makes sense anymore after being in Iraq! Where are you Blair? Still on holiday!! His fists clench thinking of comrades lying face down on the ground in their own blood!
Bodies blown to smithereens their bodies scattered to the wind!
Death and destruction at the madmen’s whim!!
A door opens stopping his tortured thoughts, “Mum, oh mum he sobs where were you?”
His body is dying again, he’s in his room listening to a ticking clock,
Sunlight streams in through the cracks in the curtains bringing a bright reprieve!
Guilt gnaws at his gut like a cancer, I shouldn’t be here, Sam, Dave, Tony and Brian,
Where are they? Are they sitting with angels or lost in hell?
Fragments of remembered conversations he had with them flit through his brain only to be forgotten again in his void of despair!
Johnny is suddenly aware of a lovely smell he opens his eyes to his mothers smile!
“I’ve brought you a whisky son”. Sam reaches out his hand to touch the face he loves,
“I miss you Mum, miss you!” “ I’m not going back, don’t believe in it any more!”
An hour later Johnny falls into another troubled sleep,
“Johnny, someone to see you!” Opening his eyes very cautiously he focuses on a face, must be in the next world he thinks! The beautiful face beside him breaks into a smile!
“Thought you could forget me did you?” It was Valerie Johnny’s childhood sweetheart; “No I never have!” he said,
Their hands clasp in remembered friendship, Johnny feels her presence settle over him like a soothing balm, peace at last!