Jonathan – We were so young, and it was all a lot of fun, at least at first. People were always dying but it was never anyone we knew.
Marian – Charles, Ellie, stop struggling and please listen! I asked him to tell us this story for a reason. You need to be respectful.
Jonathan – They are fine. I like children, always have. Maybe not to play with, maybe not to talk to, but definitely to watch. They approach life a little differently. A little better, I think.
Marian – Thank you. I love my children, even when they annoy me. But, please – tell me about the war. I was too small to understand anything, and neither Charles nor Ellie were alive, of course. It’s important to remember and this trip has so long to go.
Jonathan – I don’t know much about the war. That’s for commanders and generals, and for politicians and historians to argue about. They have said that the Battle for Manchester won the war for the British, and they have said that our failures there can take responsibility for the later loss of – my God and my queen, forgive us – of London. And I suppose both could be true. But I knew none of that, and when I read the books I don’t see anything that I knew or anything that I experienced. My war was boredom, lice, hunger, alcohol, women, the terror of planes flying overhead, unexploded bombs, exploding bombs, collapsing buildings, fire everywhere, smoke so think you couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. I remember a day where it seemed that all I did was fire the AA gun into the sky, but most days we just waited, and very often we would move around for reasons I could never fathom. Nothing was explained to me. I wrote to my father every day, and maybe six months into the war I received a bundle of unopened letters and a message saying that he had died from lymphoma. How does someone die of cancer in the middle of a war? It didn’t make sense to me in the environment that I was in at the time, but of course for a lot of people everything was normal, or close to, so of course people could die from cancer or road accidents or heart attacks or falling down stairs or anything, really. None of it made any sense to me, but there it is. That was my war.
Marian: Please, Ellie, stop biting your brother. Oh, thank you for sharing. Thank you. We have hours to go, and I am sure you could say more. Please. For the children. Even if you think they aren’t listening.
Part of the Railroad Perfection series