“Tell us about the time Grandfather was in the war, Aunt Elva.”
Aunt Elva was visiting. Dinner was finished and tea was being served in the study. Aunt Elva had made it known that she expected no special treatment during her visits, but Mother had made certain that the Good dishes were used tonight, despite Aunt Elva’s assurances that it was not necessary. The same assurances had been made during an earlier visit years ago and the Everyday dishes had been used. The result was a Christmas gift that year of a donation, made on the family’s behalf, to the local donkey rescue centre, instead of the black walnut William and Mary sideboard with acanthus leaf motif that Mother had been dropping hints about. Subsequent visits saw the best China on the dinner table.
Aunt Elva gathered her thoughts, as evidenced by the slight increase of wrinkles in her otherwise flawlessly aging forehead. “Your grandfather is a Brave Man, a very Brave Man, and he wanted to try and help out his country, as every Brave Man should.” Aunt Elva peered directly at each of her listeners before continuing. “He thought about what he could do to help his country and decided that fighting was the skill that he was most blessed with.
“It was a dreary afternoon when he set out on his mission. He was specially dressed and mentally prepared for what lay ahead. Specially suited up, he navigated with cunning and with the help of his compass and his very wits eventually arrived at his destination. It was a long, hard trek and he was tired.”
“But how long did it take Grandfather to get there?” Fern asked, her eyes wide and staring.
Aunt Elva smiled benignly at her niece and answered the little girl’s question. “He was nervous, you see child, and because he was nervous his sense of direction, which was normally very good, led him astray a few times. He was, after all, undertaking something that men of a weaker constitution would balk at, yes, even run in fear at.” Aunt Elva stopped again to take a quick inventory of the emotions of her audience. With a barely perceptible nod to herself, she continued.
“After a few wrong turns he stopped to take a small sip from his flask, the one his father had given to him, and to regain his sense of direction. He marched on and finally arrived at the designated location.
“Before charging in, he carefully took in the scene before him. There was chaos, no doubt about it. And men, milling around looking shocked and lost. War does that to people, it is an evil evil beast and must be kept well-fed in order to survive. Fortunately for War, people are ignorant and continue to provide banquets. The casualties are dreadful. Your grandfather took all of this in and finally made his move. He charged into the oddly organized bunker before him, pushing dazed men out of his way. He burst into the building and saw immediately what he needed to do. It was a very tense situation and a dangerous one too.”
Aunt Elva paused again to catch her breath and to calm herself. Her father’s story continued to upset her deeply, long after the events she was describing had taken place. She closed her eyes for the briefest of moments and when she opened them again she saw that her nieces and nephew were all staring expectedly at her.
“What happened then?” Fern was leaning forward, holding her toy bunny so tightly a real rabbit would have been ready for the gardener’s stew pot.
“He gathered his courage and stormed over to the man in charge. You could tell he was in charge because he had the most medals and was ordering everyone else around.”
“Yes, and then?” Even Constance, who normally took her role as Eldest Sister very seriously and with great gravity, could hardly contain herself.
“Well, they sent him home. Although your grandfather is very brave, he is also very silly. And much too old to join the army. I would imagine, though, that he’ll be back down at the recruiting centre next week, trying again.”
Copyright Kelly Evans