Author Topic: A Soldier's Tale  (Read 1915 times)

Offline Brummie

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A Soldier's Tale
« on: September 15, 2009, 05:42:08 AM »
(This story is told in flashback. Set in the early 1950s)

                                                       A Soldier's Tale

     "This time yesterday i was thrilled to be in Birmingham but today it's a different story. I have to wait an hour to board a train out of here. And that's an hour too long. In an American's eyes your New Street Station is a lousy place to spend time ,even an hour.
     No ,that's being unkind ,i guess. Even back home in the States i wouldn't hang around a railroad depot for pleasure. Leastways ,not in the mood i'm in right now. Its not very comfortable sitting on a wooden platform seat with my knees pressed together underneath an attache case making a wobbly writing desk.
     Still ,i found a stub of pencil in my pocket and perhaps time will pass quicker if i write down everything that has happened in the last twenty four hours or so.
     You see ,i'm not exactly a stranger to Birmingham because i spent a whole lot of my off duty time here back in 1943 and 1944 ,only a few years ago. I was with the US Army and ,taking things as a whole i had a swell time in England. Most English folks treated us real nice.
     I used to feel kinda ashamed the way some GIs made pests of themselves but me and my particular buddies hadn't used to do things like that. I mean ,bragging and sassing passers by.
     We didn't throw our money around neither ,and i guess we didn't go much for girls. At least i didn't. Why ,even back home i was always shy wwhen girls were around.
     No sir ,girls never meant nothin' to me until i met Jenny righyt here in Birmingham.
     Two or three of us went to a dance one Saturday night ,and it was in the bar where i first saw Jenny talking and laughing with a bunch of GIs. Right at the start i figured she was a fast type. Not the sort of dame i thought i'd fall for ,my old man being a minister and all that.
     Still ,there was something about her that got me though ,as soon as i saw she was a swell dancer and her smile was quick and warming somehow. Guys were falling over themselves to dance with her ,buy her drinks and gave her cigarettes. I couldn't take my eyes off her.
     I never thought she'd even notice a fellow like me. Especially with all that competition. Being kinda careful with my money ,the way pop always told me to be ,i had a pretty big wad of cash in my pocket. I went to the bar to buy a beer. I glanced up and saw her looking my way. When she came over her smile was warm and friendly.
     "Hello Buddy".She said."Buy me a drink and then we'll dance ,Yeah?".
     Until then i'd never liked to hear English girls talk that way. She spoke with a fake American accent but the way Jenny spoke it was alright.
     Her smile dazzled me and i guess my heart was on my sleeve from that moment on. I pushed through to the bar and collected another drink. I danced with her twice that night ,she told me her name and how she worked long hours in a factory. Thinking over what she had said i didn't blame her for letting her hair down on a Saturday night. I saw her a few times at the same dance hall and she would always come over for a drink and a talk with me. We had a few dances together too.
     One night i asked could we go some place else and she told me OK. Boy ,we sure went places after that and did i burn up some of my dough!. It was worth it to me to see her happy. I felt i was being pretty good for her morale.
     One day over at the camp they told us we would be joining the boys in France.This was shortly after the D Day landings. The next day i took Jenny to a jeweller's shop. I wanted to get her something to remember me by "just in case".
     That seemed to make her sad for a while but what i brought her cost me plenty and after a while she perked up a little. Maybe it was because she felt sorry that i'd got to go where the real war was. Maybe she wanted to say thanks for the fun i'd given her. I even wondered if she'd fallen for me like i had for her.
     Anyway ,that night was the first time she let me love her completely. Going back to my camp afterwards i knew she had given me the most wonderful night of my life.
     I didn't see her again. I'd gotten her address from her so i could write to her the first chance i had after reaching Normandy. I called her "Jenny Honey" and told her that i loved her and that i was alright so far. I thought of her most of every day and hoped there would be a letter from her in the next mail.
     It was four months before she wrote and what she had to say made me very guilty. She was going to have a baby. She said it was as much her fault as mine. She missed me a lot and would i send her some money as she would have to give up her job soon.
     I knew i had to do the right thing by Jenny ,and by my old man too. He wouldn't like to think his son would leave a girl like that and do nothing. I made arrangements with the Army to send her most of my pay. I wrote letters to her often. Once or twice i won a wad in a crap game and sent her that too.
     Then came the letter to say that she had a son. I was really hurt when she told me she didn't want to see me again ,and that what was done was done. If she had ever loved me she didn't know. She said i was to write no more but to keep the money going for the boy's sake.
     A few days after the letter i had a hunk of shrapnel in my stomach and after a spell in hospital i was shipped off back to America.
     The war ended and i recovered to resume working in my general store. My two sisters had run it whilst i was away and they were glad for me to take it over from them. For quite a while i could not just drop everything and dash back to England. Business was very good and i was able to branch out a bit and i still kept sending the money. Its only now ,seven years later that i've been able to get back to England.
     Yesterday at about this time i reached Birmingham. As soon as i had fixed myself up with a room ,i was very lucky there ,i went to Jenny's address. When i knocked on the door there was no answer.
     I tried again this morning and an elderly lady opened the door. The woman eyed me curiously. I asked if Jenny was home.
     "No 'er ain't". Her voice ,in the unmistable Midland accent ,was not unfriendly and i could see that she wondered who i was.
     "Would you be her mother?". I asked.
     "Bless yer ,no. I live next door and i do her jobs and mind Joey while 'ers workin'".
     While the old lady was talking i felt strangely elated. That accent still fascinated me and i had a sudden conviction that everything was going to be alright. It was like coming home again.
     "If Jenny's not home yet i'd like to wait until she comes".
     The old lady smiled."You've got a long wait comin' then. 'Cos 'er don't leave work till half past five tonight and by the time she gets home it'll be turned six".
     The old lady must have seen my face drop at the news.
     "Tell you what Mister. You come in my house and 'ave a cup of tea ,kettle's on"
     Her old face crinkled into a sudden grin. Her invitation was as warm as it was unexpected.
     "Yes Ma'am". I replied.
     Later over that cup of tea i was telling her i was from America and that i was an old friend of Jenny's. There was a sudden rattling of the street door latch. "That's Joey now" said the old lady rising from her seat. "He's hardly tall enough to loose himself in. He's come home for dinner. Most days he has dinner at school".
     As the old lady left the room i was tense. I was about to see my son ,Jenny's son ,Joey.
     In the next room i could hear his high and childish voice. I was too wound up inside to distinguish the words. He came in with a rush and stopped dead as he saw me sitting there. He looked a fine little chap. He was healthy ,well cared for and had a roughest mop of blond curly hair. My voice was husky as i said "Hello".
     He didn't answer. Half hidden behind the lady's skirts he seemed to be wrapping himself around her legs. His hands looked strangely white when they were up to his face as one bright blue eye peeped through his small fingers.
     "Well ,i never did see such a shy child". Said the lady.
     She pushed the child with mock roughness toward me. "Say how 'do to the gentleman ,Joey".
     Joey's pale face blushed awkwardly.
     With an effort i got to my feet. "Thanks for the tea. I guess i'll call round this evening".
     I put half a crown on the table. "For Joey". I said and tried to ruffle his hair but the boy managed to dodge me.
     I bade the old lady farewell and came right here ,via my lodgings ,to New Street Station. I won't go back this evening and i'll send no more dough to Jenny. The only Birmingham i'll be glad to be in will be the one in Alabama.
     The thing is i'm an Afro American.         


Offline Lord Jim

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Re: A Soldier's Tale
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2009, 06:33:39 PM »
Why do you use the lower case "i" when most 3d graders know that is incorrect? And as for your story, the author should not conceal a critical fact from the reader and spring it in the last sentence without expecting the reader to be greatly disappointed. Like Raymond Carver, when I see a writer using tricks, I go the other way.

Offline Spell Chick

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Re: A Soldier's Tale
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2009, 07:23:27 PM »

I enjoyed the story and it is overall, well written.

Unlike the previous person, I was not overly dismayed at the last sentence.

I realize this isn't a critique board, but if I might help you with getting your work read.

The story needs to be engaging and you have done that part. I enjoyed the story itself.

However, there seems to be a bit of difficulty with typing it out.
I'm not sure how much experience you have with computers/typewriters/keyboards. It is customary to put the comma next to the word and then the space. This makes it possible for you to use your spell check feature more easily since the computer recognizes this.

It is also sometimes helpful to bring readers into your fold to put an extra line of white space in between the paragraphs. This is not necessary, but it does make it easier to read when on the computer.

Keep up the good work. I think the technical stuff is far less important than your obvious gift at story telling.
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Offline eric

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Re: A Soldier's Tale
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2009, 08:09:16 PM »
For those who don't know this, we do not normally have any sort of overtly negative criticism on the Gallery, it is for sharing not critique.

It's a nice story, reads rather well.  

I just have a thought about your last line, Brummie, and that is that it "tells" us that the narrator is  African American.  I would think it might be more successful if you can "show" that in a more subtle yet more vivid image, for example the child remarking on his arm as he reached for the door or so on.  Similar stories have been told, but "showing" more through concrete images will help your tale stand on its own.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2009, 08:12:01 PM by eric »

Offline Brummie

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Re: A Soldier's Tale
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2009, 06:12:41 AM »
Hi. Thank you for the comments. Regarding the lower case "i" thing. Letter writing or story writing has never really been my strong point regarding grammar. My education was the normal British Primary and Secondary Modern type. I did not go to Uni or Further Education after the age of 16. I'll try to remember your points in future.
Regarding the last line I did not want to write the dreaded N word or "Black American" because of Political Correctness regarding being racsist. I thought Afro American would be slightly more PC.
On the whole some of your comment say that it was not a bad attempt for a first timer.   

Offline Lord Jim

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Re: A Soldier's Tale
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2009, 05:17:15 PM »
My comment regarding the last line had nothing to do with race. Please, I don't want to talk about this anymore.

Offline Lew Charles

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Re: A Soldier's Tale
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2009, 09:44:56 AM »
'Ow do, me mon? New St. station ay changed much, 'as it.  :) I'm not trying to be controversial here, but I think 'negro' would probably be the right word for the times - I might be wrong.   
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Offline eric

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Re: A Soldier's Tale
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2009, 11:17:53 AM »
That also has nothing to do with what I was saying. 

Offline Smurf

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Re: A Soldier's Tale
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2009, 06:16:25 PM »
I think the issue with the last line has nothing to do with terminology, it's about witholding information from the reader that is key to the story and its impact.

I have to say though, that I think the story is brilliantly written just as it is from an impact point of view. I was led down a certain path, thinking he was going to see his son, then sucker punched by the revelation that yes, there was a son, but that he most definately wasn't the father, and all in the way the pieces of relevant information were sparingly presented while being hidden amongst plenty of scene setting.

Not to say the presentation couldn't be brushed up as has already been mentioned, but that kind of thing can be learned, if you're of a mind to, Brummie. The ability to tell a story well, in an engaging manner is much, much harder to learn. I'll look out for more of your postings!


« Last Edit: October 07, 2009, 06:18:43 PM by Smurf »
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