Bill Meilen
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THE ARMORER

 

A strikingly huge land, beautiful in a way, but nowhere I would prefer to be. My family has just the right sort of pull to have me posted where the action is, yet here I am in the safest place on earth, riding shotgun on a bunch of ruddy disarmed Jerries! Rising, he went out onto the end platform, to stand eyes riveted to the face of his chronometer.

The men on the flatcar leapt to attention and saluted against the wind as he made his appearance. Hamish wafted a paw to his glengarry. “Carry on, men.”

As the engineer opened the whistle he heard doors banging open and the shouting of Vet Guards as they plundered into the sleep of their charges.

“Bloody good show,” murmured Hamish as his batman stepped out onto the end platform. “Everything seems to be right on schedule this morning, for a change.” He accepted a cup of hot sweet tea that glowed a deep orange in the chipped enamel mug and savoured the thick condensed milk smack of it. “That’s because I have started to boot a little ass about here. Splendid drop of Sar’major’s, must say. Kind o’stuff you might poison wild dogs with.”

“Thank you sir. Made it just the way you likes it, I did sir. Can’t beat the old cuppa char,” the batman responded, second banana in a daily act.

The Captain stood on the observation platform watching the endless sea of grain sweep by, absently sipping at the scald of tea. It was a fresh morning, with a sky that stretched from horizon to horizon, a great azure bowl dotted with galleons of cumulo nimbus clouds. It is the biggest sky I have ever seen, but the flatness of the land is aggravating. I must get to the mountains. Banff. Stay at Banff Springs Hotel again. May see the ghost. He thought for a moment of the lovely hotel in its sylvan setting, and the quiet walks around the lake. That chance may never come again. He suddenly became aware of the loom of his batman, and looked around. The man was obviously waiting for something. Old, creaky men irritated him with their smells of dust.

“Why are you hanging about like a bad smell, Dyer?”

The old soldier croaked uneasily and held fast onto a handrail. “We was wonderin’ what it was that you would like for breakfast, sir.” Croak.

Hamish tugged down his service dress tunic and twirled at his heroic blonde moustache. “Ah. Breakfast. Frühstuck! How’s that for a bit of German? Are there any of those grand Newfoundland kippers left, Dyer?”

Dyer perked up. “Of course sir. Quite a few brace left in the icebox, sir, as you sometimes likes ’em for breakfast. Put ’em aside meself, for those times you might develop one of your penchants, sir.”

Hamish Sutherland grunted. He was thinking about women again, and it was pleasant as a morning thought. “Splendid. The noble kippered herring, it is. With oatmeal, well-buttered toast, and a single soft-boiled egg—with delicately sliced white bread and butter cut into wee soldiers. Carry on.” He wafted a lairdly paw and the old man shuffled away.

Hamish sighed, watching the waving grain race by. Slowly he slid back into a fantasy about his second cousin Morag, until he took a mouthful of unstrained Ceylonese tealeaves, which did nothing to improve his morning. Angrily he hurled the teaslops into the air. They hung for a split second in droplets, caught in a mitt of wind, which delivered them back in a six-inch grouping onto the front of Hamish’s very last clean service dress tunic. Hurling

 

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