#2 Old Jack
Welcome to the second edition of Story Press. For those of you who missed the first, click here or the button below to jump in from the beginning with a short story inspired by the life and work of Wolfgang Lettl, the absurdist German painter who served as a communications officer for the Nazis in WW2.
This week, I share with you a shorter piece: the story of Jack, a veteran remembering his past.
#2 Old Jack
Somewhere in the country, there stands a man in a supermarket known locally by the name Old Jack.
Old Jack is a hundred years old but he looks a million. His skin is dripping, distorted wax. His arms are twisted like the boughs of a willow tree. His face is weathered and has a flaxen tone, an aged apple with all the juice sapped away.
Rooted to the ground, he wears a look of confusion as he stares beyond the wine rack in front of him.
Passers-by mistake his behaviour for that of a man withered by the adversary of Time. A woman whispers to her son who has one hand on the trolley and the other pointing at the old man.
‘Stop staring at Old Jack. It’s rude, Connor!’
And then when Connor keeps staring, she continues: ‘Stop it, he is old. Show some respect!’
Old Jack, however, couldn’t give two tosses of a tuppence for them. He is a real traveler and he’s traveled a great distance.
Old Jack is governing his tempestuous Spitfire over the Channel, the Browning .303 machine gun clamouring between the delicate clouds and the rose sky. Its roar makes him laugh. He knows now that he would never have been at such peace with the world as in those moments. At the time, he just enjoyed it.
In the furore of war, Old Jack powers through the gale of life.
Below he sees the thin white caps dressing the blue sea. The odd seagull slinks above the waves, wings abreast. It is the evening now, and the sun, refusing to give way to the night, clings to the horizon like fingertips to a cliff’s edge. Aberrations of light caper on the glass in front of him.
Jack paints the image of the sky and the sea and dresses it with the graceful features of the woman he is to make his wife: Eliza. Eliza’s thick dark hair intertwines with the clouds in the same way the lean shadows of his plane do. In the course of an acute turn to the east, Jack looks down at the water. There lie Eliza’s eyes in the sea, in the depths of the blue of the sea. The white caps move of their own accord and they encircle the brightest blue and he feels that she can see him, that she is watching him.
The hum of the motor and the sharp, ephemeral vibrations jolt Jack to sensibility.
A tear trundles.
His hand is shaking but he twiddles the careworn ring on one hand with his forefinger and middle finger.
Eliza died many years ago; he cannot remember what she looked like when she died. Sometimes he sees the face of the woman he was to marry as he had known it in the War.
But now, as he thinks of her, he sees only a prismatic flare of reds, blues, and turns of white: the palette of that day in the Spitfire.
Thank you for joining me this week. Do click the link below to share. Next time, we will travel to a different war, Vietnam, in the imagination of a child who never went there.