March of ides

March of ides - Neil Cross


By Neil Cross

Only the empty bunker heard his indignant snarl. “So English, think you can move your armour in under the white flag?”

As the convoy moved along the cutting, he focused on the lead C8. Even at this distance, he fancied he could see the men laughing and smoking through the dirty windows. They’d be in artillery range soon enough. Then he’d get on the Lorenz, breaking radio silence, ceasefire or no ceasefire.

He sighed, speaking sorrowfully to himself without any hint of accent. “It will end as it always does and there’s nothing you can do about it. ” Really, he shouldn’t even think like that. At this rate, he’d end up sounding like a fake M.

“You should just grin and bear it.” She’d said maternally.

Saying things like that, since borrowing The Book of English Idiom, from the library.

He should tell her that you don’t sound more English, just because you say…These things have a habit of working themselves out, a lot. And anyway, from where he was standing, the opposite was true, and The Game, the best example of it.

He adjusted his gait. Placing his feet so they were near as damn-it parallel. He might be in plain clothes, M would say civil, but he’d had military training, and as someone had written. You can take a man out of the army but not the army out of a man.

Refocusing the heavy binoculars, for what seemed the twentieth time, he remembered he was supposed to have a glass eye. He’d told fake Franz or was it fake Hans? Some cock and bull about shrapnel. Unfortunately, somewhere in the spiel, he’d forgotten which eye was supposed to be the good one. It didn’t matter. Eyes, glass or otherwise, were things that only had relevance when you were face to face. If anyone got that close, he’d be for it anyway.

Was that a movement in the trees? The others watched him, as he pretended to watch them. Let’s face it, they’d probably forgotten they were supposed to be playing. One thing, for certain, they weren’t worrying about his ocular inconsistencies, or his funny accent.

Not that these were his biggest worry. Why, for the love, had he said he was from Bern? He felt, such a swizz. It was a lie, which could be so easily exposed.

He hardly knew which country it was in, let alone where the telegraph office is in relation to the town hall. What would he do if his contact was a, dyed in the wool, Bernavarian, wanting to relive old times? Asking him: of the three flower shops in the square, which was that of his pretty cousin? He was doomed. Control had said as much. He in turn, insisting, this time it would be different. Confident as always, with his mastery of the mother tongue, he could fool anyone.

As the Morris entered the cul-de-sac, he dropped the glasses, folding down his collar, reached into the canvas satchel.  The Luger, flimsy and insubstantial in his hot palm.

Purposefully, he moved to the point opposite where Charlie, was most likely to appear. The driver of the khaki vehicle, just visible behind its bulbous nose, waved and smiled. He crossed, for a moment just concentrating on the steps needed to get him to the other side, as per the code. Unfortunately not spotting Tommy, machine gun at the ready, squatting behind the untidy hedge.

To his back, Tommy mocked. ‘I spy a fake Englishman.’ Followed by the shrill stuttering bark of the Bren Gun.

He in turn pivoted on one leg, groaning enthusiastically.  Before collapsing at the knees, to fall in slow motion, until he was lying face up, on Mr Chatting’s lawn.

Yep; just as I thought. Dead again, same as always.

Never mind that the machine gun’s magazine is fashioned from a cornflakes packet, or that the solid looking weapon, was fashioned by Tommy’s big brother. A burner from a gas cooker and the handle of a drill, substituting the Bren’s air-cooled barrel and short ergonomic stock.

As he lay, guts mingling with the grass cuttings, he wondered, not for the first time, why he had mentioned, Mum had been a spy, in the war. It was because of that momentary lapse into boastfulness, that he’d never been picked for Tommy’s side and meant, therefore, he would never get to be, on the side of the action men.