Maggie was confused. She acknowledge that she was in a semi seated position upon her hospital bed, but the sensation it gave her was something of a detached reality. Her nightie and bed clothes felt strange against her skin, the lighting of hospital room she languished in seemed far too bright. It was too white, too odd and profoundly surreal. The lack of smoke and flies perplexed her, and her cough, oddly, seemed chronically out of place. Looking around about herself, the heavily bandaged stump of her lower leg came as a surprise, and when she opened her mouth to talk, her voice was not that of the sound of the voice in her head. It was too high pitched, and strangely too feminine. Not yet fully aware that the person she now seemed to be was herself, she wondered where her rifle and bed roll were.
An ache crept over her, yet it was out of place. Those men, her friends, the men she had shared the fires of hell and trenches with. The men she had been an equal to, hard and capable and as tough as men could be seemed to call to her in her absence. Most of all, she felt too clean, too well scrubbed, too well feed. Gazing at her hands, the lack of callouses and scars, and ingrained dirt made no sense to her. Regardless of mindset, here she was, recumbent upon pristine white sheets, with a woman a generation older than herself, somehow familiar and talking to her, added to the depth of internal confusion. The lady’s words were gentle, and yet she did not hear them for what they were, rather her interpretation of them were out of place and time. But her mouth felt clean, and tasted of mint. The thirst and hunger she was experiencing made no sense.
With the speed of Jesus carrying the cross to Golgotha, Maggie slowly came back into herself. She was no longer a man. She was no longer lost on a track beside a burnt out upturned truck, there was no smoke, the cruel tearing at her heart of loss regarding those mates that had perished in the scrub abated, and guilt at this cascaded over her, within the space of seconds, she began to wonder who she mourned.
“Maggie! Maggie dear, are you alright?! There was an urgency to the woman’s voice, the unknown, yet somehow familiar, words of the woman seated beside her bed.
Slowly realising that this woman was actually her mother, she said. “Yes Mum, I must have fallen asleep mid story. I’m fine. What’s wrong?” the hospital bed beneath her made sense at last.
“You have been coughing horribly, and you look absolutely terrible. I couldn’t rouse you, and it was as if you had fainted. Are you sure you are ok dear?”
“I’m fine Mum.” Maggie answered, still not feeling anywhere near fine at all. “It is probably the medication and the fact that my head has felt light since they removed my halo. Could you get me a cup of tea please, only black with no sugar this time.”
Not entirely certain Maggie was telling the truth, Mrs. Trout stood, stared at her daughter with concern and confusion, and departed.
It wasn’t until Mrs. Trout was halfway down the passageway that she realised that Maggie had never drunk black tea in her life, and moreso, that every coffee, milo, or cup of tea she had ever consumed in her all of her years had always been accompanied by no less than two sugars.
Maggie began to cough again. The harsh smoke still filling her nostrils and raked her dry harsh throat. Looking around, her eyes still felt grainy, her hands felt too soft, and she was oddly no longer lean and hard.
Closing her eyes, she focussed deeply in on herself. She slowed her breathing, and focussed on the odd flashes of light picked up through her closed eyes. Her body, now relaxed and comfortable around her, left her mind to focus on all of the tiny things she sensed. With the metaphor of Anton’s voice echoing at the rear of her consciousness, she let her perceived awareness of all take her away from the remnants of the story that still held vague sway upon her.
Believing she had entered Maggie’s room as silently as the grave, Mrs. Trout gave a start.
“It’s okay Mum, I just have my eyes shut.” said Maggie, her eyes flashing open as she spoke. Extending a hand, she gingerly took the scalding mug of black tea from her mother. Not waiting for it to cool, Maggie took a large mouthful of the horrid black brew. Burning her throat, as she did. Absurdly, the pain it caused her gave her comfort. Smelling the tea whilst tasting it, she could also ever so slightly smell the smoke of a campfire behind it. Only then did she smile.
Mrs. Trout, confused and unhappy at what she saw in her daughter, decided that it was time for her to move along, and get on with what further chores she had planned for the rest of the day. Her routine, being what it was, Mrs. Trout stood, and leaned across the bed, gently kissing Maggie on the top of the head, telling her she loved her, and that she would be in in the morning, she thought she could smell a lingering hint of smoke. Smoke in the nature of that of a bush fire. Thinking herself mad she ignored it, and quietly left Maggie with her black tea.
Unfortunately I am penning this from my hospital bed, I was admitted Saturday just gone. Whomsoever is in charge of my ongoing health is yet to let me know how long I will be in for this time. As most may be aware, I had intended on shutting down this blog space. However, returning to this place, this world of words and horror and solstice, I have found that my return to my wee blog has provided me with an escapism I had not foreseen, and an immense sense of relief and familiarity. It has the sense of achievement somehow, finishing a chapter, and then bringing it to you, here, and now, as though there is a normality to my being and surrounds. As false as that may be.
Aside, and I would be positively astounded if anyone has read this far, if you click upon the picture above, something will appear.
My very best to you all,
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