Tuesday, September 17, 2013

battle for the isle


The bell of St Ninian's Church only rang once. Only that one time. I wrote down as much as I could remember, and from time to time fragments arise and I recount events to anyone close. We held Holm's Height with relative ease, the ports were ours, and Fauchin House yielded a wonderful lighthouse view as Commander Compton's headquarters. Stores, gun powder, warm clothes, and firewood were well-stocked at strategic inland caves, lees that were faithful defenders of frequent gales. But there was mass desertion as men grew weary of long lonely vigils, some drowning as they tried to escape, swimming against heavy waves in despondent madness.

There were no women on the outskirts. They huddled far inland, hidden in cellars, some deserters hiding in dugouts under the cellars, women arising from shadows to bring in white undergarments and diapers off of clotheslines that managed to avoid wayward cannonballs shot from the coast. Strong winds sometimes tore those clothes away, men on lookout with glasses watching underwear on a lift sail in the sky above and out to sea, a reminder of the loneliness. Compounded with the sheer dryness of no pints of beer to be had, morale was at an all time low. We were strong but there was still no beer, no whiskey. Rumor spread quickly that Father Mackenzie knocked off the last of it, men in small groups looking down at their torn shoes, repeating that it was alright then, it was just and proper it was, Jamie.

Somehow we made it through that terrible ordeal, war ended, a treaty was signed by men with soft hands and powdered faces, all eventually quieted down, no more flying underwear, peace at last, young men wearing their uniforms for weeks afterwards to impress plain-face girls in their villages. The whiskey and beer arrived on a Sunday morning, contracted by fine swirly writing on the last page of the treaty, rattling over the main bridge in a convoy of unmarked carriages directed by right-of-way serious men, and landing on sandy shore, bobbing in cushioned crates by boat. And the church bell rang at last, peeling the clouds away in glorious E-Flat, revealing heavenly lathered mustaches throughout the island Sunday afternoon.
I, for one, wept.

6 Comments:

Blogger Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

Without whiskey, they were surely doomed. Alas, I have been there.

9/17/2013 11:07 AM  
Blogger Tess Kincaid said...

Beautiful write, Phil...cheers!

9/17/2013 11:07 AM  
Blogger Helen said...

You had me - enthralled - after line one! I have just now picked up my flute, blowing a long E-flat ~ such a lovely note!

9/17/2013 11:51 AM  
Blogger Jinksy said...

And your last line must be the conclusion to every battle...

9/18/2013 9:51 AM  
Blogger Karen S. said...

Oh what a lovely Magpie you have spilled for us this week. It surely came alive in a jig for all.

9/18/2013 11:52 AM  
Blogger ~T~ said...

A poignant commentary on the plight of wartime laundresses. What did they get in the treaty?

9/21/2013 11:31 PM  

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