Turning around I saw Sid kneeling at the back of the deck with his rifle balanced on the rail. He was firing at the men behind us who had by then reached the end of the walkway. Slowly and calmly he fired three rounds, picking his shots until that ghostly and horrifying clink that all soldiers fear told him that he was out or ammunition. True to form he curled himself back down under the rail knowing that he didn’t have anything more bullets. He just looked at me and said “that’s it, Sir.”
But I didn’t hear him. As the last few rounds came our way from the harbour wall I didn’t notice them either. I’d looked down for the first time at my men on deck. Longshot had had his arm around Glynn’s body when he was struck, the side of his face torn apart by one of the larger rounds used by heavy gun, Lenore still in his hand. Next to him, leaning across Grubber and Tyk’s bodies, Swanson was strewn at an awkward angle, his head twisted back and his mouth and eyes agape. I stepped over to him to close his eyes and as I did I saw Collins, the fingers on his left hand and his neck and jaw blown off. Across the deck from him, Baldy lay motionless face down. Bacon was folded over Baldy’s legs, his left hands caught under his torso and his right hand up on the rail, locked at the elbow. He had been rolled over when L2 swung the trawler out to sea. And there, next to my feet, where Sid had placed him before moving to the back of the boat, Pretty Boy sat propped up against the back of the wheelhouse.
There was only Sid, L2 and I still breathing.
Turning to Pretty Boy’s body I knelt down and then sat on the deck beside him, leaning back against the wheelhouse. Looking behind us I watched the faint flashes of light from the muzzles peter out and then cease altogether. Then I put my arm around Pretty Boy’s shoulders. The sky had started to clear and I hadn’t noticed. The starlight shining down on deck made the bodies glisten in an eerie purple-black hue – the blood of my men indiscernible from water of the sea.”
“Wow Granddad! How come you never told us about this before?”
“You never asked.”
“So you’re an actual war hero, Granddad!?”
“No, Anthony. No. I’m not.”
© Stephen Fahey