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The Piano

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

WW2 Narrative Flashback - collaborative class write

Looking down at my fingers now, I realise how old I am. The grey, wrinkly hands still work the same as they always did, the song from the piano sounds the same as it always did, but my life has changed so much with the passing of time. Whenever I play, I see vignettes of my life. Sometimes I want to look through the window, other times the images are unwelcome.

I miss her. My soul still aches for her every single day. But, she's gone and I know that.

I can still feel her, sat next to me playing. Those were such happy times. Bessie was my wife, my best friend, my soul-mate. How lucky I was to have met such a woman.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on her. It was VE Day 1945 and the whole country was celebrating. I had gone to a dance in the church hall and that's when I saw her. Dressed in a red and blue tea dress with her curls tumbling down her back and a smile that lit up the room, no man could take his eyes off her. I watched her giggling and dancing all night too nervous to approach her but then she smiled right at me and walking over, I managed, "DDD Do you want to dance?"

" I thought you'd never ask," she smiled. I could sense the lads nudging each other at my good fortune from the edge of the floor as they looked on. I was so proud.

Bessie is not the only one I've lost along the way. So many are dead now, some long gone, but that was because of the war. It was May 1940 when Sam and I were deployed to Dunkirk. I can still hear the roaring of the tanks and spitting rattle of machine gun fire. We'd been separated from our unit and it was chaos, impossible to carry out what they'd taught us in training. I'd not known fear like it - no-one could have prepared us for the reality of those days. We were losing, badly. So many men had already fallen and you didn't know if you would be next. But, we went on. We had to follow our orders.

Running with my rifle strapped across my back, grenades hooked in my belt, I joined Sam. He was hiding behind what was left of someone's house. Pressed up against the cold wall, I could feel the vibrations of enemy fire. The Jerries were on the attack, and we were outnumbered at least 7 to 1. I knelt down, reached in my belt for a grenade and signalled for Sam to fire. Now was the time, he could cover me before I threw my grenade. Then it happened. Pching! Sam fell to the ground; he had been hit. I ran over to him, my stomach filled with dread. Over his right side was a single bullet wound and as I lifted his body, I saw a gaping hole in his back. His blood ran hot over my fingers. No, no. I knew but didn't want it to be true. I remembering fumbling for my first aid kit, but I knew it would be no use. The life seeped out of him right before my eyes.

My tears fall on the piano keys, still playing our favourite tune. As I get older, I seem to remember more of my childhood.

We didn't have much and I used to envy the other children at school when it came to birthdays. They used to show off their new yo-yos, fancy toy cars and spinning tops and I never got presents like that. We just couldn't afford it. Ours was a happy home though and my friends would let me borrow their toys.

When I was a young lad, a new toy shop opened called 'Woodworks' and it was on the route home from school. I used to stand at the window every afternoon with my friend Bill, marvelling at the contents in the window. There was one toy in particular that I yearned for.

It was a beautiful, hand-carved hobby horse with a shiny black mane. It was the perfect size and I longed to ride it, but for now it was enough just to look. The day I turned 7, on the walk home from school, that beautiful horse wasn't there anymore and I felt miserable, knowing I'd never see it again.

I trudged in through the front door and my parents were waiting for me in the kitchen. On the table was a strange, long cardboard box, tied with a blue satin ribbon. My parents grinned at me expectantly. I used to gallop around on that beautiful horse all day long, Giddyup, Giddyup.

" Giddyup, Giddyup!" I hear Tom's footsteps along the kitchen floor. He's riding that very same horse. I gave it to him for his birthday a year ago.

"Grandad, what are you playing? Why are you so sad?"

"It's an old favourite,Tom. Come up here and play a duet with me." I smile at him and wipe a tear from my eye. As he clambers up and snuggles next to me, I feel a warm glow inside again. Time marches on, it has to, and I have to move with it.

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