Friday, 3 December 2010
“So no pasaran means they shall not pass?” Jack said leaning forward so his great-granddad could hear him.
“Yes, it was a phrase of defiance against the Fascists. It started in the Spanish war and lots of us used it to boost our morale when we landed in Normandy in 1944,” Harold croaked watching Jack’s pen dance across a notebook. He was pleased that Jack wanted to record his thoughts and deeds. Youngsters today needed to know the lessons of the past.
“Make sure you don’t tire Harold young man, he is ninety you know,” a carer said placing a hand on Jack’s shoulder.
Jack shrugged her hand away. “Yes I do know that - he is my great-granddad.”
A fake smile slid off her face like melting ice-cream. How dare this kid be so rude, little shit looked a bit dark skinned to her too.
“Ok, only a few more minutes we have to get him fed and washed,” she spat and marched away.
As Jack wrote Harold watched the carer pick up cups and straighten cushions in the day room. She was unremarkable apart from a pock marked face, very short hair and a tattoo which made Harold’s stomach churn in disgust every time he saw it.
Her neck was defiled by a swastika.
The first time he noticed the tattoo it was just sticking up slightly from her collar so he couldn’t be absolutely sure but he’d been ninety nine percent. He’d seen that outline so many times during the war and in his dreams ever since.
When she turned up in a lower neckline he’d seen it in all its foul glory. It throbbed with a life of its own as a vein in her neck delivered putrid blood to her pea brain.
Harold had stared transfixed as the horror of the DD landings trampled blood- shod across his memory. Friends blown apart before his eyes, the stench of shit blood and vomit, inhuman screams of pain curdling his senses.
Harold had at first hoped that she was just very stupid, but last week he’d overhead something that had chilled him to the core. She’d assumed he was sleeping and was on the phone as she sorted his washing.
“Yeah bloody Paki’s deserved it coming on my street thinking they own the fucking place, a few burns will teach ‘em a lesson.” She folded and sorted as if she were talking about the weather.
“Yeah I helped...what did I do?” she lowered her voice, “I’ll tell you...I only poured the petrol didn’t I? Then Gazza lit the thing...went up like a fucking bonfire,” hatred chuckled from her depths. “Serves ‘em right... there ain’t no black in the Union Jack.”
Later after Jack had gone Jez came over and whispered in his ear, “Come on you old bastard, let’s get your filthy arse wiped. Half-cast grandson gone home eh?”
As she bent to release the brake on his wheel chair Harold mustered all his strength.
His walking stick shot out and she fell heavily. Her head smacked down on the marble hearth, and an almost black rivulet of life-blood trickled down her neck blotting out the swastika.
“No Pasaran!” Harold hissed, “No Pasaran!”