Bert signed up on his birthday. He was sick and tired of the looks people gave him, the whispered comments, the shopkeeper’s glare.
So he signed up as soon as he could.
And they marched a lot, and they scrubbed a lot, and there was shouting and six months later he found himself shipping out for France.
For a few weeks, they were behind the lines, billetted in a chateau, but soon enough the message came, as the days lengthened.
And then it was trench rations, and billy cans, and snobbing boots and waiting.
And then, one morning, there was no more waiting to be done. And the order came. And over they went.
And a few minutes later, Bert was staring at the sky and thinking.
He could see a lot of mud, splashes of mangled barbed wire with what he hoped was cloth hanging off. There were people, too, or bits of people, groans and the sound of mud bubbles being blown.
And Bert thought of his mum, as he try to hold his insides inside. Stuck in a crater, leaking from his middle, he thought of his mum and his sisters and of his uncles. And the shopkeeper. And all the hands he hadn’t held. And he hoped they’d remember.
He hoped they’d think of him in time to come. Hoped they’d remember him, laughing, brave, remember what he’d given. He hoped they’d take a moment every now and then to think of him.
He hoped, most of all, that they’d remember him by having a self-aggrandising oaf get photos of himself taken while playing tug-of-war, so that he could become prime minister one day.
Yes, he hoped that most of all.
And then Bert died.