When the partly buried World War Two bomb blew up, all I was aware of was the flash of brightness and the beginnings of a roaring sound.
After that I was out like a light.
I suppose I was dreaming, Or maybe the reminiscences came in those gaps between dreams when your thoughts are awry and disjointed.
I remembered how excited I had been to buy the Old Mill Farm house, the derelict ruin that was going to be my retirement project. My wife Suzie had told me that when you give up working the last thing you should do is take on a massive project, especially a physically demanding one, but I didn’t agree. The prospect of spending days and weeks alone rebuilding and renovating the tumbledown building was exciting and challenging. It was like a time capsule that had stopped in 1960, when the last owner had died, leaving it unowned and unoccupied for decades, because the huge cost of doing it up would be more than its eventual market value.
But I had reasoned that I wanted to do it up for myself, for me and Suzie to live in, so the labour costs for repairs weren’t an issue.
My wife Suzie has a bad heart, she has to avoid shocks, and she tends to take things easy, doing sedentary things such as reading, watching TV and chatting to friends on the phone. She’s always telling me I’m impulsive and I was a fool to have bought the place. But, frankly, I don’t go fishing or play golf, or drink in the pub, in fact I haven’t really got any hobbies, so that now I’d left my job, I had nothing to do, and I’ve always hated being unoccupied. “You’ll be the death of me, George,” she had said more than once, shaking her head gloomily. “Stubborn as a mule.”
However, now I could admit to myself that she had been right.
I had been a fool.
That was my Suzie. When we were young and first married she was up for any old challenge, but now she was a stick-in-the-mud. “You know I’ve got a bad heart, George,” she’d say to me. “I have to avoid having shocks, I have to make sure I don’t get any surprises. I like things calm and casual, no challenges. Any shock and I could drop down dead, just like that!”
Cutting down the ivy that was growing all over the front of the place had been a job-and-a-half. Then getting rid of all the vegetation had exposed what looked like a blockage in the drains. I thought of how I’d been trying to dig away the soil around the stack pipe, swinging the pick axe to break up the hard chalk. One moment my axe had split the white crust open and then, before I’d fully taken it in, the large domed metallic object had been revealed, but it was too late to stop the swinging arc of the pick axe.
When I woke up I panicked, forgetting where I was and what had happened. There was something heavy on top of me, everything was dark, but to my relief I was able to move my arms and legs, and by a process of wriggling, the bricks and rubble that were covering me shifted gradually, and I found that I was lying on my back and looking up at the stars in the night sky. It was quite beautiful, and I realised how lucky I was to be alive. A lot of time must have elapsed, because I remembered that when the bomb had gone off it had been early afternoon.
I saw that there were large vehicles and trucks on the site, and the house I had loved so much was now just a huge mound of rubble. There was a floodlight focused on the ruins and men were shouting to each other, but I was so dazed and confused I couldn’t take it all in.
I managed to get to my feet, scrambling out of the rubble then clambering over it. The sensible thing to do, of course, would have been to go up to the men and asked if they could call an ambulance to check me over. But I felt all right, and I had the overwhelming urge to go back home and see Suzie, to apologise for doing such a stupid thing and telling her that she had been right all along about buying the old farm house.
Suzie! By now she’d have been told I was dead, and the shock could have had a devastating effect! It was vital I got home to tell her I was okay, and to apologise for giving her such a fright.,
Stupidly, I walked the half mile back to my home, a modern small house on an estate just outside town. I felt light headed and confused, unable to think clearly, just wanting to get inside and reassure poor Suzie, who even now might be swooning from the shock of my likely death. The sooner I reassured her that I was safe and sound, the better.
Once I was in the hallway, I just yearned to go upstairs to bed and sleep. But first I had to tell Suzie I was okay. As I came closer I heard voices in the living room, and paused before entering.
“They’re still looking, but the chances of him being alive under all those tons of rubble are pretty much nil.”
I recognised the voice of Charlie, my next door neighbour and friend.
“Why the hell did he buy the bloody place?” she demanded, her voice full of anger. “He’s always been a stupid stubborn bugger. It pretty much serves him right.”
“Well, look at it this way,” Charlie replied. “His life was insured, so was the old house that’s been blown to smithereens. So you’ll get a nice big lump sum, and now you won’t have to tell him about wanting a divorce. I know you were dreading it. In fact it gets better – you’ll even get a widow’s pension, at least until we get married. We’d better wait a few months, for the sake of decency.”
“Yes, I was dreading telling him,” she agreed reasonably. “He’d never have understood – he hardly realised we had grown apart over the years.”
“He was my best mate, but poor old George was a bit dense, I have to admit,” Charlie went on. “Hadn’t got a clue about us, when our affair had been an open secret with half the neighbourhood.”
“As you say, it has all worked out for the best,” she agreed, her voice more upbeat now, less aggressive. “I suppose I’ll miss him a bit, like you miss an old pair of slippers. But I’ll soon get over it, Especially with your help, Charlie.”
I walked into the room, still feeling lightheaded, not quite believing what I had heard.
“George!” Suzie yelled.
Her face went pale. Her hands shot to her chest. She fell forwards.
“Help me! I c-can’t breathe!”
(Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay)